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Sharp unveils its first Blu-ray Disc recorder

Sharp unveils its first Blu-ray Disc recorder

Sharp Corp. will put its first Blu-ray Disc recorder on sale in Japan in December, it said Thursday.

The BD-HD100 will be the third recorder on the market to support the Blu-ray Disc format, which is one of two blue-laser based formats fighting to become the de-facto optical disc standard for high-definition video content. The first recorder was put on sale in April 2003 by Sony Corp., while Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (Panasonic) began selling a model in July. Machines supporting the other format, HD-DVD, are not due on sale until next year.

The Sharp player offers several functions not available on the two current Blu-ray Disc machines including a hard-disk drive, twin optical drives and HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) output, said Miyuki Nakayama, a spokeswoman for the Osaka company.

The hard-disk drive has a capacity of 160G bytes and can be used to record about 19 hours of high-definition programming. This is over six times the amount of HDTV that can be stored on a single-layer Blu-ray Disc, therefore making it more convenient for day-to-day recording.

In one of its other unique features, Sharp has taken a current problem with Blu-ray Disc technology and turned it into a feature. The machine has twin slots on the front, one for Blu-ray Discs and one for DVDs. This allows copying of content, as long as it's not copy-protected, between a DVD, Blu-ray Disc and the hard-disk drive, said Nakayama.

While this multi-way copying is new, twin drives are not. Matsushita's recorder also has two optical drives inside it but they are hidden away behind a single slot. A complex loader mechanism sends discs to the appropriate drive and only allows one disc to be loaded at one time.

The arrangement is one of necessity because Blu-ray Disc and DVD are based on different color lasers, and drive heads that incorporate lasers for each format are yet to be commercialized. Sharp and Matsushita get around this issue by using two drives while Sony uses a single drive with two read-heads.

The HDMI output jack on the back supplies an uncompressed digital video and audio signal in a single cable and is being promoted as an interconnection standard for HDTV-compliant devices.

The machine can record onto rewritable single-layer BD-RE discs, which have a capacity of 25G bytes, but won't record onto or playback dual-layer 50G-byte discs. It can also playback DVD-Video, DVD+/-R, DVD+/-RW, DVD-RAM and several flavors of CD.

Sharp plans to put the recorder on sale in Japan on Dec. 9 at a price of around ¥320,000 (US$3,050), said Nakayama. That's a little more expensive than the Panasonic machine that went on sale earlier this year for about ¥300,000 although that machine doesn't feature a hard-disk drive recording function.

Production has been set at 3,000 units per month, said Sharp.

Sharp first showed the player at the Ceatec exhibition in Japan in early October this year when it was labeled as a prototype device.

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