RCA LCD TVs To Go - and Stay
by Jim Bray
RCA has a couple of interesting solutions to problems you may not have known
One of the conundrums of life is how to listen to your favorite tunes, or catch
the latest newscast, while slaving over a hot stove in the kitchen. RCAs
answer is its nifty little spacemaker under the counter AM/FM/CD/TV
unit that hangs out of the way below a kitchen shelf.
I played with the $449 model BLC524, which also includes a cool little LCD
TV screen that folds down from the units bottom, giving you just about
all the multimedia for which you could ask in the kitchen.
Oh, and it even has a remote control that - magnetically - clings to the side
of the unit when you arent using it. Neat!
Now, this is more a case of creative packaging than technological innovation,
but so what? Weve had an AM/FM Spacemaker radio in our house for years
and use it all the time, but Ive often wished I could play a CD or watch
TV while creating some culinary catastrophe - and now its possible.
As with most things RCA, this spacemaker is designed simply and is very easy
to use. There are a few buttons on the front panel and theyre clearly
labeled and very easy to figure out. The remote control includes channel and
volume up/down buttons and a numeric keypad for direct access.
About the only thing missing is a VCR or DVD player, but RCA has even thought
of that, thanks to a set of video and audio input jacks on the back of the unit.
You could also use this connector to hook in a security camera (in fact, thats
how the control is labeled on the front panel) to monitor the door or a sleeping
infant while youre cooking. A version with the DVD player already built
in is also available.
RCAs ease of use includes a guide menu for making adjustments to the
TVs color, tint, brightness, contrast and sharpness. The little thin-screen
LCD panel puts out a pretty good color picture, though at 5.6 inches its
Another thoughtful touch is the inclusion of CD-R and MP3 format playback with
the CD player, so you can play your homemade discs on the thing.
Sound quality is about what youd expect from such a utilitarian machine:
its okay but not as good as youd find in a dedicated stereo system.
But its fine for the application at hand.
The other solution is for those times when youre on the road and the
ankle biters in the back seat are driving you nuts. Its a handy, albeit
pricey, VHS player you can plop on the seat between them (it would work even
better on the floor if its flat and roomy enough) and encourage them to
veg out with some of their favorite movies or videos.
This big plastic hunk looks kind of like an arm rest, with handy handles molded
into it for easy grabbing, and for tying it down with the cars seat belts.
The VHS videocassette goes in the rear end (which faces the front of the vehicle)
and on the top theres a flip up panel that hides the LCD TV screen and
the VCR controls.
Again, its more a case of creative packaging and marketing than technological
innovation, but thats okay.
And since the unit runs on AC or DC power (the adapters are included), you
can not only run it from the cigarette lighter of your vehicle, but bring it
into the motel room with you and thereby add a VCR to your home away from home.
Fortunately, RCA has also included audio/video I/Os to facilitate such
Those I/Os also let you hook in a DVD player if you choose (RCA also
makes a DVD version of the unit), or you could attach a game machine or even
a second LCD TV screen. There are also headphone jacks so the kids can listen
to their awful music videos without inflicting them on you via the sets
built in stereo speakers.
The picture quality is fine for temporary use. I wouldnt want this to
be my primary TV, but it isnt designed for that anyway. For use on the
road, however, its a pretty nifty idea and, though $449 is nothing to
sneeze at, its a lot cheaper (and more flexible) than the systems you
can get built into some vehicles today.
And thats nothing to sneeze at.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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