Sanyo unveils hard-disk based voice recorder

Sanyo Electric has built a 1-inch hard-disk drive into a voice recorder and will put it on sale in Japan in early March, the company said Friday. The gadget will become the latest in a growing number of portable electronics products to feature a miniature hard drive after digital cameras, PDAs, music players and cell phones.

The company is using a 5G-byte capacity drive from Seagate Technology in the HDR-B5GM to give the device a maximum recording time of 693 hours in the lowest quality MP3 recording mode. There are four quality modes and recording time drops to 57 hours when using the highest quality of the four, said Sanyo in a statement.

The device also supports Windows Media Audio (WMA) and MP3 playback and can double as a music player. In addition to the hard-disk drive, there is also an SD (Secure Digital) card slot and the recorder can copy files from the card to the hard disk and thus free up the card for re-use.

"We wanted to give customers a device that can be used for various things," said Ryan Watson, a spokesman for Sanyo in Tokyo.

The HDR-B5GM measures 45 millimeters by 94 millimeters by 19 millimeters and weighs 93 grams. It has a rechargeable lithium ion battery, the life of which is 7.5 hours for recording and 8.5 hours for playback in the lowest quality mode.

Several hard-disk drive-based music players currently on the market, including Apple Computer's iPod, offer a similar voice recording function. Sanyo draws a distinction between music players and voice recorders, which it says have built-in microphones, speakers and a microphone input socket, and is claiming a world first with the HDR-B5GM.

It will go on sale in Japan in early March and will cost around YEN 53,000 (AUD$655), said Watson.

In contrast, the 4G-byte iPod Mini costs about YEN 28,000 and the 5G-byte IRiver H10 costs about YEN 33,000. Both are based on 1-inch hard-disk drives and offer a voice recording function although are primarily designed as music players.

Sanyo will sell the HDR-B5GM overseas although no plans have been set, said Watson.