Sharp unveils its first Blu-ray recorder

Sharp unveils its first Blu-ray recorder

Sharp will put its first Blu-ray Disc recorder on sale in Japan in December.

The BD-HD100 will be the third recorder on the market to support the Blu-ray 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, while Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic) began selling a model in July.

Machines supporting the other format, HD-DVD, are not due to go on sale until next year.

The Sharp player offered several functions not available on the two current Blu-ray machines including a hard-disk drive, twin optical drives and High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) output, Sharp spokesperson, Miyuki Nakayama, said. The hard-disk drive has a capacity of 160GB and can be used to record about 19 hours of high-definition programming.

This is more than 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 allowed copying of content, as long as it's not copy-protected, between a DVD, Blu-ray Disc and the hard-disk drive, Nakayama said.

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 a time.

The arrangement is one of necessity because Blu-ray and DVD are based on different colour lasers, and drive heads that incorporate lasers for each format are yet to be commercialised. 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 25GB, but won't record onto or playback dual-layer 50GB discs. It can also playback DVD-Video, DVD+/-R, DVD+/-RW, DVD-RAM and several flavours of CD.

Sharp planned to put the recorder on sale in Japan on December 9 for about $US3050, Nakayama said.

Production has been set at 3000 units per month.

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