Computers: And now, channel-surfing by PC: Cliff Joseph goes into couch-potato mode on an Apple that offers built-in TV and video

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The Independent Online
IT HAS been clear for some time that computer, television and video are converging, and Apple's new Macintosh LC630 system takes the trend a step further by being one of the first PCs to include television and video functions as standard - Olivetti has just launched a PC-based system and Packard Bell has one on the way.

The computer part of the LC630 is based on a fast Motorola 68040 processor chip, giving it more than enough horsepower to deal with tasks such as word processing and spreadsheets, and even multimedia programs that include animation and video. It comes with a CD-rom drive as standard, so you can use all the CD-based software now available without having to buy a separate CD drive.

But what really makes the computer different is its built-in television tuner and its ability to record video signals from a VCR or camcorder. This allows you to play television or video in a window alongside all your normal computer programs, or to increase the size of the window so that it fills the entire screen.

The tuner can access 181 different channels, including Teletext, and its software can be set to remind you when a favourite programme comes on. Stereo sound comes from speakers built-in to the computer monitor, and there is a hand-held infra-red control that makes the LC630 the last word in couch potato tools.

But it is more than a novelty - many businesses need to monitor news services such as CNN or the financial information available on Teletext. The LC630 lets you to do this while you work, and the tuner's software cleverly allows you to copy information from these services and insert it straight into a word processor or spreadsheet.

It is also ideal for home video buffs, as it enables you to feed your own videos into the computer, convert them into digital format and store them on the hard disk for editing with video software such as Adobe Premiere.

The last trick up the LC630's sleeve is 'Video Out' - the ability to generate a video signal so that you can re-record the edited video back on to videotape, or play it back through a large-screen television.

Apple has achieved its aim to create the ideal multimedia computer for the home user. Nothing else in this price range includes so many built-in television and video features and combines them so well. With everything thrown in, the LC630 costs about pounds 2,000. But if you decide you do not want some of these features, you can buy the basic computer for pounds 1,250 and mix-and-match those bits that you want.

The only disadvantage of the LC 630 is that its image quality is not quite as good as that of a proper television when running at full-screen size. Apple acknowledges that the LC630 is not ready to replace the domestic television just yet.

It will not help you escape the television licence fee either - you need one in order to use the tuner.

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