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Toshiba's HD DVD recorder coming next month

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Toshiba Corp. will launch the first HD DVD recorder next month in Japan, it said Thursday.

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Toshiba's announcement of an HD DVD recorder comes as the first player for the rival Blu-ray Disc format is launched, and is sure to raise competition a notch in an already competitive market. Toshiba put its first HD DVD player on sale in Japan in March.

The RD-A1 is much like existing digital video recorders but with high-definition support. There's 1T-byte of hard-disk storage space for day-to-day recording and the HD DVD drive allows consumers to store TV shows they wish to keep.

The hard-disk storage space is enough for about 130 hours of digital HD terrestrial TV and a dual-layer HD DVD-R disc will be able to store about 230 minutes, or just under four hours of programming, Toshiba said. Blank discs will cost around Ľ4,500 (US$39) in Japan.

Prominent among the features of the RD-A1 is its support for 1080p (1,080 lines progressive) video output, which was missing on Toshiba's first generation player, and had been seized upon by Blu-ray Disc backers as a reason to buy their machines.

The recorder won't come cheap, with a price tag of Ľ398,000 (US$3,467).

In launching the device Toshiba cannot technically claim to be first with a high-definition video disc recorder. Sony Corp., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (Panasonic), Sharp Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. put Blu-ray Disc recorders on sale in their home markets of Japan and Korea in the last few years, but the players have in reality been little more than marketing exercises.

These recorders are based on early generations of Blu-ray Disc technology and can't play any of the Blu-ray Disc movie titles going on sale from this week. They also use an earlier generation cartridge media which won't fit into the new players that will soon be on sale.

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