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Panasonic Unveils Flagship DVD Recorder

Looking to maintain its commanding U.S. market share position in DVD recording decks, Panasonic announced a new flagship fourth-generation DVD recorder, which adds a massive 120GB hard drive for personal video recording.

The combination DVD Recorder/Digital Video Recorder (DVR) — DMR-E100H ($1,199.95 suggested retail) — received a coordinated worldwide announcement that was orchestrated to show Panasonic’s leadership in the category.

The unit is the fourth model in the current line, joining the DMR-E50, DMR-E60 and DMR-E80H.

At the announcement here, Alberto Reggiani, Panasonic’s national marketing manager, said the company was able to accelerate unit production by a month to get the product to market in August. Panasonic’s worldwide announcement underscored its position at the top of the DVD recorder pile, at a time when a handful of competitors are attempting to wrest control of the critical U.S. market.

The DMR-E100H combination unit, which replaces the DMR-HS2 combo unit, adds 40GB more hard drive capacity than the previously announced step-down model, the DMR-E80H. It will play back both hard-drive recordings and DVD discs in selectable progressive scan or interlaced video output and will support 2-channel playback of DVD-Audio discs. However, it lacks a program listing service such as TiVo for the hard-drive video recording system. Users are provided with VCR+Plus to simplify the task of programming to find and record shows.

New in this unit are built-in slots for both SD and PCMCIA format flash memory cards. Additionally, the deck will record and play back MPEG 4 image and video data. MPEG 4 data can be recorded at the same time the deck records MPEG 2 data to the hard disk. Video clips also can be transferred to an SD Memory Card at high speeds for storage or for use on other devices. This makes the unit a companion for Panasonic’s portable eWear SD digital camcorder and personal video player, Reggiani said.

The MPEG 4 material can be recorded to a 4.7GB DVD-RAM disc at different rates, enabling 9 hours of video in Superfine mode, or up to 90 hours in Economy mode.

Also new to the deck are faster dubbing speeds between the hard drive and DVDs. In the EP mode, dubbing to a DVD-R from the hard drive is increased to 24x (2.5 minutes for 60 minutes of video) and 12x to DVD-RAM (5 minutes for 60 minutes of video).

For optical disc recording, the DMR-E100H accepts both DVD-RAM and DVD-R media.

Panasonic’s move gives the company a broad product assortment at a time when competitors such as Philips and Pioneer are pushing new models that use the rival disc recording formats DVD+RW/+R and DVD-RW/-R, respectively. At the same time, Toshiba, Sony and others have announced decks that offer multiple format capability.

Panasonic is betting that its system of using the highly flexible DVD-RAM format for repeated use and the highly compatible and affordable DVD-R format for write-once use will win out with consumers. Among its attributes, the DVD-RAM format can be used like a hard drive to simultaneously record and playback content, using a system Panasonic calls Time Slip.

The company also unveiled its first home-theater-in-box system with an integrated DVD recorder that outputs progressive scan or interlaced videos and plays back DVD-Audio discs in full 5.1-channel surround sound.