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Panasonic Communications, a division of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., has announced the world’s first Blu-ray disc (BD) optical drive for slim and lightweight laptops. In fact, Panasonic’s BD drive is also the first slim drive that supports high-definition video discs.

The Blu-ray disc drive from Panasonic can boast with 9.5mm height, which provides makers of personal computers easier ways to integrate it into their thin-and-light notebooks. But despite of small sizes, the new drive is compatible with three types of optical discs (BD, DVD, CD) and provides rather powerful functionality. It supports reading and writing on four types of BD media (BD-R, BD-RE, BD-R DL, BD-RE DL) and reading of BD-ROMs. In addition, it is capable of reading and writing on seven types of CD/DVD media (DVD-RAM, DVD±R, DVD±RW, CD-R, CD-RW) and reading of DVD-ROMs and CD-ROMs.

Now available to PC manufacturers, the new sample 9.5mm high BD drives were created by combining Panasonic’s own technologies such as the low-profile, 2-lens actuator and spherical aberration compensation mechanism as well as an optimized optical design for CD, DVD and Blu-ray disc laser.

HD DVD, the format that competes against Blu-ray as a potential substitute for DVD, can currently boast with the drive that has 12.7mm height.

Even though the development of a 9.5mm high-definition optical drive seems exciting, its practical necessity today is under question. Nowadays the vast majority of thin-and-light notebooks are equipped with chipsets that feature built-in graphics adapters, which have no high-definition video acceleration capabilities. As a result, Blu-ray or HD DVD movie playback on such computers will have to be performed by central processing unit (CPU). Even dual-core CPUs can barely handle high-definition video decoding; moreover, microprocessors consume maximum amount of power during decoding, which makes it nearly impossible to watch a whole high-def movie while in a plane. In addition, small notebooks are not equipped with high-quality full-HD (1920x1080) screens.

The samples of Panasonic’s BD drive will be exhibited at the 2008 International CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics show, to be held from January 7, 2008 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in the United States.

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