Panasonic to launch Blu-ray Disc recorders in Japan in November

While Panasonic New Zealand launches new Blu-ray Disc player and LCD home cinema projector

Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic) will launch a pair of Blu-ray Disc recorders in Japan in mid-November that pack hard-disk drives and the ability to playback commercial high-definition movies, the company announced on Wednesday.

Panasonic's two players are the DMR-BW200 and DMR-BR100. The machines are mostly similar although the higher-spec BW200-model offers more than double the hard-disk recording capacity of the BR100 at 500GB versus 200GB. It also offers a few extra features such as an iLink (IEEE1394) connector, Ethernet socket and support for AAC audio playback from memory cards.

With the recorders its possible to copy content from hard-disk drive to Blu-ray Disc media at 4X speed and record two programs simultaneously, one to the hard-disk and one to the optical disc. The machines accept both write-once BD-R and rewritable BD-RW media at both 25G-byte and 50G-byte capacity.

When watching standard definition media, such as a DVD, both recorders will upconvert the signal to make it look better on an HDTV but only if the set is connected using the HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface). That restriction is because HDMI includes copy-protection support that's lacking on analog HD connections.

The recorders won't come cheap. The BW200 will cost around ¥300,000 (NZ$3,900) and the BR100 will cost around ¥240,000 (NZ$3,100) in Japan and are due on sale on November 15. Launch dates and prices for other markets were not disclosed.

They measure 43 centimetres wide by 8.5 centimetres high by 33 centimetres deep. The BW200 weighs 5.8 kilograms and the BR100 weighs 5.5 kilograms. In addition to the Blu-ray Disc formats they also support a laundry-list of other formats. For recording and playback: DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD-R DL and DVD-RW; additionally for playback-only: DVD+R, DVD+R DL, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, DVD-Video, CD Audio CD-R and CD-RW.

The machines aren't the first Blu-ray Disc recorders on the market and aren't the first machines to offer playback of commercial discs but they could be the first products to support both. The first recorders went on sale in Japan in 2003 but they were little more than marketing exercises and based on an early version of the format that didn't support the copy protection system used in recently launched commercial discs.

Sony is also planning to put a Blu-ray Disc recorder on sale in Japan before the end of this year. Few details are yet known about the product, which was shown in prototype form last week.

Panasonic New Zealand launched DMP-BD10, a Blu-ray Disc player that plays Blu-ray discs, DVDs and CDs, yesterday. DMP-BD10's Pixel Precision Progressive Processing for HD (P4HD) processes more than 15 billion pixels per second, says Panasonic. DMP-BD10 will be available in the end of September and the recommended retail price is $2999, according to the company.

Panasonic New Zealand also announced the PT-AE1000E, its first LCD home cinema projector with 1080p (1,920x1,080 pixel) native solution, at yesterday's launch. The projector will be available in mid-November. Pricing was not yet available.

Additional reporting by Ulrika Hedquist.

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