Pioneer announced a return to the VCR category for the first time in almost 20 years, with the introduction of a combination VCR and DVD recorder, which joins a family of DVD recordable products announced for the 2004 lineup.
In other introductions, Pioneer showed a Pioneer-branded "media receiver," designed to connect with the company's plasma display monitors. The box, which connects to Pioneer plasma screens through a cable connection, will house ATSC, NTSC and QAM tuners and will include a unidirectional CableCard slot for compatibility with digital cable services across the country. The box is scheduled to ship this fall with both new Pioneer plasma panels and separately for people who want to upgrade their current plasma TV monitors. Pricing will be announced later, and an Elite version is in the works.
The Pioneer media receiver will also house a range of inputs and outputs, including two HDMI inputs with HDCP copy protection and IEEE-1394 with DTCP for D-VHS signal sources only.
The media receiver will be equipped with Pioneer's Passport onscreen programming guide.
The company showed two plasma panels that will ship with the media receiver, and told of plans for new models to be announced at the CEDIA Show, featuring screens coming from Pioneer's existing factories and the recently acquired NEC factory.
The plasma panels included the 43W-inch PDP-4345HD (1,024-by-768 pixel resolution) and the 50W-inch PDP-5045HD (1,280-by-768 resolution). Pricing will be announced later.
Meanwhile, Pioneer opted to introduce the combination VCR/DVD recorder (based on the DVD-RW/-R formats) as a dubbing tool to help VHS home movie buffs more easily convert their taped-based home video libraries to DVD discs. It features one-button transfer of in-the-clear VHS tapes to DVD. The model DVR-RT500 ($499, September) includes a digital still-photo viewer and will playback MP3 or Windows Media Audio CDs.
Another DVD-RW/-R recorder combination is the DVR-520H ($799, May), which incorporates an 80GB hard disc drive for digital video recording (DVR).
Model DVR-320S ($499, May) is a new standalone DVD-RW/-R deck that features a front-panel IEEE-1394 connector for DV camcorder editing and dubbing. New to Pioneer's DVD recorders was the addition of a "Chase Play function," which enables users to pause, rewind and to playback a recorded file as it is being recorded.
Previously, the capability had been found only on hard-drive-based DVRs and DVD recorders based on the competing DVD-RAM rewriteable format.