Video presenters are designed to be plug-and-play systems, and have a single power lead, so there's no need to struggle with a pile of "spaghetti" around the back of the unit. In most cases, you simply switch on the power, put in a tape and leave the rest to the unit. All models have a single TV tuner, which means you can't watch one programme while recording others. Most work with an in-door aerial.
Video presenters are ideal as a school's portable video system. Most consist of a 14-inch set and VHS deck, although several larger units are also on the market. Remote control playback is a standard feature, but there are a number of differences between models. Some video decks will only record and play back at standard speed. Headphone sockets are useful for private viewing and listening, as is index search, which makes it easy to find programmes recorded on tape. Many models offer trick play features like still frame, but performance is variable.
There is great variation in weight, with some models weighing as little as 10kg. However, because they are easy to carry around, they are attractive to thieves.
Sony is the latest company to enter this market, with the KV-1410 (Pounds 499), which includes front AV sockets and NTSC playback, which lets you play tapes from the US, Canada or Japan. Sharp's VT-3700 (currently available at a special price of Pounds 429) is a single-speed model, which has front AV sockets, index search, slow motion and a child lock. There's also a handy repeat facility, which automatically replays a selected video scene or sequence. However, this model is about to be superseded by the VT-3705, which for an extra Pounds 21, also gives you the easy-to-use VideoPlus timer system.
The Saville SPR 14 (Pounds 350) is one of the cheapest models on the market and includes a headphone socket and auto-repeat. The company's SPR 20 (Pounds 459), is a 20-inch screen video presenter, which has long play, headphone socket and AV sockets. Most models have non hi-fi sound decks, but Aiwa's VX-S140 (Pounds 600), is an exception. But you cannot record stereo broadcasts, because neither the TV nor VCR has a Nicam digital sound decoder.
Goldstar's KIV-14V210 (Pounds 400) includes NTSC playback and index search, while Philips TVCR240 (Pounds 400), adds long play and a headphone socket to the list. Hanimex markets the VPR 54 (Pounds 475) and the Combi 2093 (Pounds 575). Both have AV sockets and an automatic repeat-play system. The Combi 2093 also offers long play and a 20-inch screen.
Contacts: Aiwa 081-897 7000; Goldstar 0753 691888; Hanimex 0793 526211; Philips 081-689 4444; Saville (Schools Vision) 01904 798979; Sharp 061-205 4255; Sony 0923 816000.