It offered substantially better color fidelity and resolution, with approximately 400 dots per line (the standard measure of analog video resolution). This means the format could, in theory, deliver a better picture than broadcast analog television; but in practice, when viewing material recorded off-air, little improvement over standard VHS was discernable.
To view the better picture, a direct video connection to the monitor was required, ideally an S-Video connection. Older television sets tended not to support this, negating much of the improvement in picture quality.
Home S-VHS decks never became popular outside of Japan, probably mainly due to their high cost, lack of prerecorded content, and the lack of visible performance improvements in playing off-air recording. S-VHS camcorders did become popular for high-end amateur work, as it allowed for at least second-generation copies (necessary for editing) to be made at a reasonable quality.
It is not unusual to see the term S-VHS incorrectly used to refer to S-Video connectors, even in printed material. This may be due to S-VHS being the first exposure many people had to the S-Video connector.