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Toshiba Corp., a leading supplier of consumer electronics and also the main driving force behind the HD DVD standard, has showcased its first HD DVD recorder RD-A1, which will be available in the third quarter of the year in Japan and may also reach other markets. Apparently, Toshiba’s new device is again based on Intel Corp.’s chips and, in fact, cannot record using codecs for high-definition video.

HD DVD Recorder without High-Definition Recording

Toshiba’s RD-A1 integrates two digital TV-tuners to receive the full range of HD broadcasting sources – terrestrial, broadcast satellite (BS) and communications satellite 110° (CS) broadcasts – while another dedicated tuner handles analog broadcasts. The RD-A1 can record two broadcasts at once, one digital broadcast and one analog. Unfortunately, the RD-A1 cannot actually record videos in maximum resolution possible, which means that users will only be able to record content in standard definition.

Click to enlarge. Image by PC Watch

The RD-A1 HD DVD recorder from Toshiba features 1TB hard disk space, which allows users to record video, however, a noticeable drawback of the RD-A1 is that the device cannot record video maximum resolution and encoding it using MPEG 4 AVC (H.264) codec. According to the firm, the RD-A1 can record video in MPEG 2 format and then perform up-conversion from standard definition video, which means that “image quality may not match that of an original high-definition source”.

Theoretically, MPEG 2 supports even 1080i (1920x1080 interlaced) resolution with 30 frames per second, however, in that case, it requires 80Mb/s bit rate, which suggests that every second of recording requires 10MB of storage space, meaning that even 30GB dual-layer HD DVD disc can store only a little more than 40 minutes of video. Meanwhile Toshiba claims that “single-layer 15GB disc […] can record up to 115 minutes of HD broadcasts”, while “a dual-layer 30GB disc […] doubles that performance to 230-minutes”, which points at standard definition for DVD discs (720x576 pixels, 30fps). Perhaps, it is possible to record HD MPEG 2 videos using RD-A1, but a typical one-hour TV show will not fit even onto a 30GB disc.

Intel Inside

The company said that RD-A1’s design is “optimized for high quality video and audio output” by a special dual-layer body featuring a 1mm main case and a metal sub frame. The recorder stands on special aluminum pillars designed to damp vibration and enhance high sound quality. The same attention to detail carries through to chief components. The RD-A1, according to Toshiba, is the first recorder to adopt a high-speed, high-performance 297MHz/14bit video encoder, making it possible to deliver HD quality via analog output through the D terminal and component terminal. High grade parts typically found in high-end audio products are also used in the RD-A1, the company indicated.

Click to enlarge. Image by PC Watch

But at the heart of the RD-A1 there is again Intel Pentium 4 chip, which processes all the operations of the device and also allowed Toshiba to create the player without developing special purpose chips. While this helped the company to increase its time-to-market, it also boosted the price of the device significantly.

Click to enlarge. Images by PC Watch

Given that the recorder features three tuners along with hard disk drive and HD DVD optical drive, its case is pretty large and weighs 15.2 kilograms.

Coming Soon

Toshiba said its RD-A1 can record HD DVD-R, HD DVD-R DL (dual layer), DVD-R, DVD-R DL, DVD-RAM and DVD-RW discs. Naturally, the device can playback different types of HD DVDs, DVDs and CDs.

The RD-A1 is scheduled for roll out in the Japanese market from July 14. The recommended price is ¥398 thousand (approximately $3420).


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