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Sharp, a leading consumer electronics company, reportedly said on Wednesday that it would release the world’s first high-definition TVs with embedded Blu-ray optical disc drives that can playback and record BDs. In Japan and the U.S. the new Sharp Aquos DX will be available by the end of the year, while in Europe similar products will emerge sometime in 2009.

The new Sharp Aquos DX-series HDTVs will feature liquid-crystal displays with 26”, 32” (1366x768 resolution), 37”, 42”, 46” and 52” (1920x1080 resolution) diagonal sizes. The devices will feature two digital TV tuners so that it would be possible to watch one channel while recording another on a Blu-ray disc. The Blu-ray disc recorders of Aquos DX will also record associated metadata that is sent with the TV show.

The new HDTVs will support H.264/MPEG4 AVC encoding format that allows to record high-definition videos more efficiently: up to 11 hours of video in 720p (1280x720, progressive scan) resolution can be recorded onto a single 25GB Blu-ray disc. Earlier Blu-ray disc (BD) burners recorded video data using MPEG 2 HD decoding, which is far less efficient.

Prices for the Sharp DX-series will range from ¥500 thousand ($4990) for the 52” model to ¥170 thousand ($1690) for the 26” HDTV with BD burner integrated, according to IDG News Service. Surprisingly, the premium for having a Blu-ray disc player and recorder inside a Sharp Aquos DX HDTV is just from ¥10 thousand to ¥20 thousand ($100 to $200).

Considering the fact that 25GB Blu-ray media now costs $8 - $12, it is possible that demanding users will use the recording functionality of Aquos DX. But the vast majority of owners will definitely appreciate built-in Blu-ray disc playback functionality much more as BD players are still pretty expensive.

Tags: Sharp, Blu-ray, Aquos

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