Panasonic unleashes new DVD recorder line

Panasonic has started shipping to Australian customers a high-end DVD recorder that offers network connectivity -- but the product does come at a premium price.

The DMR-E500H is the first DVD recorder that can be remotely programmed from PCs or mobile phones and enable people in different rooms to watch the same recording, according to the company.

Panasonic hopes the DMR-E500H will help spark interest in the company's latest ideas on networked devices, said Ichiro Kawamura, general manager of Matsushita's Panasonic AVC Networks Co.

The DMR-E500H has a 400G-byte hard disk that can store up to 709 hours of recording in extended play (EP) mode. It is available now and sells for $3,299.

The product is geared towards higher-end users; Panasonic will initially produce only 3,000 units per month, the company said.

The DMR-E500H has an Ethernet port that allows consumers to view MPEG4 video and JPEG photos stored on the recorder on their PCs. Multiple recorders can also be linked by LAN, so that a DVD playing on one machine can been viewed in more than one room. In Japan, people using Panasonic's online video recording service can program their recorder through their mobile phone.

The DMR-E500H has a maximum speed of 64x when recording in EP mode from a hard disc to DVD-R, allowing it to record a 60-minute program in 56 seconds, which Panasonic claimed is the fastest in the industry. The recorder has a maximum speed of 40x when recording in EP mode from hard disc to DVD-RAM.

"The DMR-E500H means network convenience combined with a home server," said Shunzo Ushimaru, director of Panasonic's corporate marketing division.

Panasonic showed four other models in its Diga brand, of which the DMR-E500H is a part. The other models will go on sale in Japan starting Oct. 1 and sport combinations of features that the company hopes will push its market share in DVD recorders in Japan from 35 percent in 2004 to over 40 percent in 2005, Ushimaru said.

The high-capacity of the disk drives, along with the other advanced features, makes all of the new recorders relatively expensive for the price-sensitive U.S. and European markets, according to Ushimaru. Panasonic has no immediate plans to sell the other models outside of Japan, he said.

One of those other models, the DMR-E250V, has a 160G byte hard disc, as well as DVD and a VHS decks. Many people want a convenient way to digitalize their VHS tapes, according to Ushimaru. Since the DMR-E250V can record VHS tapes to its hard disc or its DVD drive, it should be a popular product, he said.

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