Sony launches portable hard disk video player

Sony announced Monday a hard-disk drive based handheld video player and said it plans to put the device on sale in Japan before the end of this month.

The Vaio PCVA-HVP20 contains a 20G-byte hard-disk drive and has a 3.5-inch (8.9-centimeter) TFT (thin film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) that occupies about half of the front of the unit. A navigation joystick and three buttons sit under the display and provide all of the controls needed by users, according to a photo issued by Sony.

The video player is designed as a hardware extension of Sony's GigaPocket software, which is installed on some models of the company's Vaio computer line and allows users to record TV shows to and play them back from the computer's hard-disk drive, said Shoko Yanagisawa, a Sony spokeswoman in Tokyo.

A video transfer manager application bundled with the player handles file transfers between the PC and device, which are accomplished via a USB 2.0 (Universal Serial Bus) connection.

Playback of GigaPocket, MPEG1 and MPEG2 files is possible on the device and the software will also convert Windows Media Video and DV AVI files to MPEG2 files before transfer thus allowing them to be viewed, said Yanagisawa. There is, however, no support for playback of MP3 audio files.

The device can also be hooked up to a television set via the standard audio-video connector so that video can be viewed on the TV set's larger screen.

Unusual for a Sony product, the video player has no Memory Stick slot, because it was designed with the PC based GigaPocket application in mind, said Yanagisawa, adding that subsequent models may feature a slot depending on customer feedback.

The hard disk can accommodate up to 31 hours of programming, when recorded in GigaPocket's long play mode, while the rechargeable Lithium Ion battery lasts approximately four hours, Sony said.

The video player is positioned as a Vaio peripheral designed for use with GigaPocket. Sony is only guaranteeing compatibility with its PCs and specifies Vaio computers as the supported platform. Technically, the player should work with most other PCs, but it's a case of buyer beware as technical support is not available for users of non-Sony machines, the company said.

Dimensions are 84 millimeters wide by 120 millimeters tall and is 28 millimeters deep and the weight is 300 grams.

The video player will go on sale in Japan on Nov. 22 for around ¥50,000 (US$455). There are no current plans to sell it overseas, said the spokeswoman.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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