Hands-On Versatile Display for the Multimedia Classroom
Over the last year, weve had the opportunity to look at a number of presentation-type televisions. These are television monitors that can do everything a TV d'es, and can also accept and decode VGA input from PCs or Macs. The result is an all-in-one unit that sits in front of the classroom and can be used to show cable TV, videos, laser discs and DVD, as well as data from a computer source.
Most recently, we took a look at the Philips SmartCard 27 television. It has the look of any standard 27 TV that you might see in someones home, but it is capable of much more. Philips ScanCard II technology is able to convert VGA/SVGA inputted data from a computer to S-Video data. Therefore, it is easy to switch from showing your class a program on videotape to displaying a Web site from your PC. Clearly, this level of versatility can be useful in the classroom. It can save both time and money by eliminating the need for multiple display devices.
In the back of the unit, you will find a myriad of input and output jacks for just about every occasion. There are VGA in and out jacks for computer signals, as well as a VGA/S-Audio input for audio reproduction from PCs or Macs. Also found are the standard video and audio in and out jacks for VCRs and Cable TV, along with S-Video and S-Audio ins and outs for DVD or laser disc.
In our use of the unit, we found that it d'es live up to expectations in its versatility. A very easy-to-understand remote control makes switching from one source to another very simple. The VGA channel also has zoom and pan features. The TV has a smooth design and, with a 27 screen, would be easily viewable from anywhere in most classrooms.
Despite its versatility, the SmartCard TV d'es have a few shortcomings. Unlike other similar TVs weve seen with input jacks in the front and back, this unit has jacks only in the back. This can make quick plug-ins a little more inconvenient. Also, with only one regular audio input jack, the TV cannot receive true stereo from a VCR. The picture quality from video or DVD is pretty good, but things get a little fuzzy when viewing input from a computer. Text can be difficult to make out and images are somewhat grainy. Of course, part of the reason for this is the fact that the picture is blown up to 27, so it is a sort of trade-off.
Despite a few limitations, we found the Philips SmartCard 27 TV to be a very handy device. Its great degree of versatility is definitely an asset. Educators will find many uses for this multimedia display workhorse, and will find it surprisingly easy to set up. Several of my college professors had trouble operating a VCR, and even they would have no difficulty working with this unit.
This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.