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PACE CHANNEL 5 RETUNER MODULE, £34.99

 

Whyís it here: You wonít need to ask if the picture from your VCR or satellite receiver went all wonky at the end of March. Itís not known how many people are being adversely affected by Channel 5 broadcasters, re-tuners should by now have visited more than 90% of homes reached by the transmitters, but thereís bound to be some people still experiencing problems on the fringes of the reception areas. The interference is mostly confined to Channel 37, which is used by around a quarter of the countryís C5 transmitters; 37 is right next door to channels 36 and 38, which until recently were used as the RF output channels for VCRs and satellite receivers.

 

Any unique features: The whole concept is unique. Instead of re-tuning the RF modulator on VCRs and satellite receivers, the Pace module removes the source of the problem. It connects between the TV aerial and the rest of the components in the aerial chain. Inside the small black box thereís a frequency shifter, tuned to channel 37. It filters out the C5 broadcast, and re-transmits it on a higher frequency, on channels 65, 66, 68 or 69, well away from other channels, in most parts of the country. The module also contains a signal booster, which might help improve reception in areas where the signals are weak. 

 

How does it perform: Installation couldnít be simpler, just plug in the aerial leads , and the mains plug, and youíre in business. In South London, where we tested the device, the C5 signal was reduced by over 95%, a very faint and unstable vestigial image remained, certainly not enough to interfere with VCR or STV receiver output. The relocated signal was good and strong, but there was some very slight patterning on one of the output channels, the other 3 were okay. The booster brought in a few extra channels across the band, including a very strong signal for BBC2. Reception on the other four channels was completely unaffected

 

Our Verdict: It works. Certainly at our test site the Pace module would have eliminated the need for any re-tuning. However, Pace have been quite slow to get the re-tuner onto the market, and we suspect that lot of cases of interference have already been sorted out.  Moreover £35 is quite a bit to pay for a solution to a problem that by rights should be fixed for free, by Channel 5.

 

Pace C5 Re-tuner

Features            pre-set outputs on channels 66, 66, 68 & 69    

Sockets             coaxial female, coax male on flying lead, mains lead and plug 

Dimensions            140 x 45 x 75mm     

 

Picture Quality            *****

Build Quality              ****

Features                     **

Ease of use                 *****

Overall value              ***     

 

Competitors

C5B free retuning service (0500) 567327

SCART AV leads

Move to an area not covered by C5

 

Pace, telephone (01274) 532000

 

HEAD

PANASONIC NV-RX49, £550

 

Whyís it here: Whilst the 8mm format dominates the low end of the camcorder market, VHS-C is being kept alive by JVC and Panasonic, both of whom continue to develop some cracking machines. The RX49 is the latest Panasonic ĎSlimcorderí, a well-specified family model, thatís easy to use, has a good selection of creative facilities and a sensible price. VHS-C still has a number of advantages over its rival; cassettes can be replayed on any homedeck VHS VCR (using an adaptor module), audio soundtracks can be easily dubbed (though thatís not an option on this model), and tapes are relatively cheap.

 

Any unique features: Just one, a clever new idea called motion sensing. This works when the machine is in the record-pause mode. When the motion sensor option is engaged the machine will start recording as soon as there is any movement in the picture. This could prove very useful for keeping watch over your car, or property, and whilst it canít exactly see in the dark, with a low-light sensitivity of just 0.4 lux, it will produce a useable image with very little light. For budding Speilbergís there a 3-mode auto-exposure system and a set of digital picture effects, including black and white and sepia tint recording. It has a digital image stabiliser, and a powerful 17x optical wide angle zoom, thatís electronically extended to 25x magnification.

 

How does it perform: VHS and standard 8mm picture quality has come in for some criticism since the launch of digital camcorders. Whilst it is true that the new format is capable of near broadcast performance VHS-C recordings made on this machine, in good natural light, can still look pretty good. Colours are sharp and well defined, thereís very little noise in the picture and the image is very stable. In fact the image stabiliser is one of the best weíve seen, able to iron our almost all of the movement in walking shots, or recordings made from a moving vehicle. Mono audio is okay for speech and incidental sounds but thereís a fair amount of background hiss.

 

Our Verdict: Compared with a lot of compact 8mm machines this one is quite chunky, but it is exceptionally easy to use, the controls are where you expect to find them, and performance is about as good as it gets on VHS-C equipment. Itís a shame about the mono sound but otherwise this is a very likeable, and versatile machine, thatís ideal for family users and enthusiasts.

 

Panasonic NV-RX49

Features            wide-angle 17x optical zoom with 25x digital extension, electronic image stabiliser, 0.4 lux sensitivity, motion sensor, 3-more program autoexposure (sports, portrait, low-light), digital picture effects (negative, solarisation, sepia, black and white), auto/manual focus and white balance, backlight compensation. fader, image stabiliser, time/date recording, IR remote control, 5-pin edit terminal, power save function                      

Sockets                       AV out (phono), edit terminal (mini DIN), external microphone (minijack)

Dimensions                 270 x 130 x 65mm               

 

Picture Quality            ****

Sound Quality            ***

Build Quality              ****

Features                     *****

Ease of use                 ****

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors

Canon UC3000            £550

JVC AX660                £599

Sony CCD-TR330 £550

 

Panasonic UK, telephone (0990) 357357, http://www.panasonic.co.uk

 

HEAD

MITSUBISHI CT-28BW2BD WIDESCREEN TV, £950

 

Whyís it here: Mitsubishi are comparative newcomers to the widescreen market. They launched their first model -- a fairly ordinary 32-incher --  at the end of 1995; the CT-28BW2BD is their first 28-inch set with Dolby Pro Logic sound. This sector of the market is where the action is right now, but over the next few months we can expect to see even more competitive pricing and jockeying for position when the 97/98 model ranges hit the shops. However, for the moment at least Mitsubishi are setting the pace with the first 28-inch widescreen TV, with DPL sound, to sell for less than £1000.

 

Any unique features: Well, itís not exactly unique, but the big flat cabinet top is unusual, and itís got a bit of a large bum. Most other widescreen TV manufacturers have gone for curved, slimmed-down look, that reduces the impact of a large cabinet. To be fair, from the front it doesnít look too bad, but viewed from the side the cabinet back appears vast. It has to be, to house the large forward and sideways-firing ĎMultiportí speakers. Theyíre a major improvement on the squitty little unenclosed speakers used in many sets these days; thereís even a extra bass speaker, with a port on the back panel. It has good range of widescreen display options, including panorama stretch, and a novel caption mode, for squeezing in subtitled letterboxed movies.

 

An automatic teletext subtitle facility can be set to appear when the sound is muted, so you can keep up with the action if the phone rings. Three AV memories store picture and sound settings; M1 looks after any changes that are made whilst the TV is on, M2 and M3 store changes in a non-volatile memory, with adjustments for external source inputs, such as a VCR, satellite receiver or laserdisc player. The fastext decoder has four page number memories, assigned to each of the first 30 channel selections. If you fall asleep in front of the TV thereís an off timer, programmable in 10 minute intervals up to a maximum of 90 minutes. A set of front AV connections are located behind a hinged flap, below the screen. Thereís a headphone jack, composite and S-Video sockets, plus a pair of stereo line inputs, for temporary camcorder and video game hook-ups. The TV comes with a pair of compact rear speakers, and a glass-fronted cabinet, housing the centre front channel speaker.

 

How does it perform: The auto-installation system gets the TV up and running in just a couple of minutes. The simple and well-presented on-screen display system is easy to use. Picture quality is generally very good, colours are bright and clean, even in heavily saturated areas. In spite of some fairly extensive digital processing the picture is free of any motion artefacts. With a good strong signal thereís very little noise, plenty of fine detail and a good range of contrast. The big surprise, though, is the sound. Itís in a different league to most other NICAM and DPL sets on the market. Sound output is lively and well balanced, with an unusually solid bass. The Pro Logic decoder is responsive, equally good at handling loud dynamic sounds and subtle effects, which are accurately positioned within the soundstage. External right and left channel speakers are an option but the Multiport system makes them largely unnecessary in an average-sized living room.

 

Our Verdict: The speakers and sound systems supplied with many DPL TVs often lack power, robbing surround sound effects of their drama. The CT-28BW2BD is a notch or two above most of the competition. Itís still not as good as most separates or system-based surround set-ups, but if you havenít got the space for a lot of extra boxes in your living room, this could be the next best thing.

 

Mitsubishi CT-28BW2BD

Features            widescreen display, multi picture format (4:3, 14:9, 16:9, Panorama, cinema, caption), Dolby Pro Logic surround sound, NICAM stereo, pseudo surround, DSP, auto subtitles, auto set-up, 3 AV memories, off timer, fastext with 4 page number memories per channel, front AV inputs, stand and speakers supplied

           

Sockets             rear: 2 x SCART AV, centre channel speaker (2-pin DIN), surround & front stereo speakers (spring terminals). front: composite video and line audio (phono), S-video in (mini DIN), headphone (minijack)

           

Dimensions            710 x 505 x 895mm (with stand)

 

Picture Quality            ****

Sound Quality            *****

Build Quality              ****

Features                     ****

Ease of use                 ****

Overall value              ****

 

Competitors

Hitachi C28399TN            £1200

Philips 28W9631            £1400

Sanyo 28 WP1    £1000

 

Mitsubishi Electric UK Ltd., telephone (01707) 276100

 

CRITICAL CAPTIONS

Sound output from the Multiport speakers is channeled through narrow slits either side of the screen, and a larger pair of grilles on the sides of the cabinet

 

Front AV sockets, a headphone jack and a set of emergency TV controls are hidden behind a drop down flap, immediately below the screen

 

Rear panel connections comprise a pair of SCART AV sockets and a bank of spring terminals, for the rear channel speakers, and optional front stereo speakers, The centre channel speaker output is carried by a 2-pin DIN socket

 

The ergonomically-shaped remote handset has a set of controls for Mitsubishi VCRs, these are engaged by pressing a button on the side of the case

 

There are five widescreen display options, 14:9, 16:9, cinema, panorama and caption, as well as normal 4:3. They are selected sequentially, using the display button on the remote handset

 

---end---

” R. Maybury 1997, 2603

 

 

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