Toshiba debuts latest HD DVD, hard disk recorders

Toshiba will in Japan launch this month two digital video recorders that combine HD DVD with high-definition hard-disk drive recording

Toshiba will launch this month two digital video recorders (DVRs) that combine HD DVD with high-definition hard-disk drive recording.

The RD-A600 and RD-A300 will go on sale in Japan at the end of June and are differentiated by the capacity of the hard-disk drive: 600G bytes and 300G bytes, respectively.

Toshiba already sells the RD-A1, a monster of a machine that combines both HD DVD and hard-disk recording but the new players offer more features, are about half the size and come with lower price tags.

Features available on both recorders include the ability to stream HDTV across an in-home network using the DTCP-IP content protection system to compatible equipment; the ability to record two HD channels at once; upscaling of DVDs to HDTVs and high-speed transfer of HD content between Toshiba recorders via an IEEE1394 link.

They both measure 43 centimeters wide by 38 millimeters deep by 10 centimeters high, which makes them fairly large but nothing like the RD-A1. The A600 weighs 7.6 kilograms, which is exactly half that of the A1, and the A300 weighs 6.8 kilograms.

Toshiba estimates the A600 will cost around YEN 200,000 (US$1,645) and the A300 will cost about YEN 150,000. Overseas launch details were not announced.

HD DVD, whose prime supporters include Toshiba and Microsoft, is still locked in a battle with Blu-ray Disc, which is backed by Sony, Samsung Electronics and Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic) among others.

Consumers have given both formats a cool response and many appear to be waiting until dual-format players become more common or one format secures a decisive lead over the other.

Earlier in the day the HD DVD Promotion Group said that 60 percent of dedicated consumer electronics players sold in the U.S. are for the HD DVD format. Looking at the market overall the Blu-ray Disc format is ahead thanks to its use on the PlayStation 3 games console.

But that's something that should be discounted, said Ken Graffeo, executive vice president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, who was at the Tokyo news conference. Universal is an HD DVD supporter.

"It's becoming clearer everyday that consumers buying the PS3 are buying it as a games console. They are simply not watching as many HD movies as Sony said they would and that's important for the studios." he said. "With four times as many consoles on the market, shouldn't Blu-ray be selling four times as many movies? They should be but they are not."

Graffeo's words, especially strong for a Japanese audience, go some way to indicate the battle to secure the lead in the high-definition movie disc marketplace is still very much alive and fierce.

The two new machines from Toshiba, with their smaller size and lower price tag than the RD-A1, also indicate that waiting to buy a machine will likely bring rewards for consumers.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service

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