The Ultimate Couch Potato Device?

While computer makers are still struggling to find consensus for the recordable DVD format, with the front-running rivals DVD-RW and DVD-RAM duking it out, a few consumer electronics products incorporating DVD-R are beginning to appear. Last week, Toshiba announced its introduction of the RD-2000, which it describes as "the world's first combination of hard disk drive and DVD-RAM video recorder" for recording TV programs. The new recorder is planned for sale in the Japanese market only, starting December 22.

Toshiba claims that integration of a 30GB hard drive and a 4.7GB DVD-RAM drive in the RD-2000 allows for storage capacities of up to 33.5 hours of video images and supports editing between the hard drive and DVD-RAM. With the new combination, Toshiba proposes that users save programs to the hard drive temporarily and use the DVD to build program libraries of scenes selected from the hard disc.

According to the company, the RD-2000 can record up to a maximum 33.5 hours of video images: 29 hours to the 30GB hard drive and 4.5 hours to the 4.7GB DVD-RAM (at a transfer rate of 2Mbps). Add two-channel Dolby Digital PCM audio (sorry, no 5.1 yet) and the total drops to 26.5 and 4 hours respectively.

Viewers can select from four recording modes for storing video with two-channel audio: standard play mode (4.6Mbps) which can provide up to two hours of storage on a DVD-RAM disc; long play mode (2.2Mbps); manual mode (manually selectable from 2 to 9.8Mbps in 0.2Mbps steps); and "just mode," where the transfer rate is determined according to the remaining capacity of any disc in the DVD-RAM drive, regardless of hard disc capacity.

And, like products from ReplayTV and Tivo, Toshiba says that the RD-2000 can play back a program from the hard drive, pausing or replaying any section, while the program is still being recorded. "Viewers who arrive home while a program is being recorded can thus watch it immediately, without having to wait for the recording to be completed," explains the company. Also included is extensive editing software for transferring video to the DVD-RAM disc.

The RD-2000 will go on sale in Japan for 270,000 yen, or around $2,500 USD and records in the NTSC MPEG-2 video format. Toshiba says that the product's internal tuners support recording of BS and CS digital broadcasts which will soon start in Japan using four input terminals. Playback of DVD-Video, DVD-RAM, Video-CD and music CDs (including HDCD) is also supported. Toshiba also notes that the RD-2000 supports the Content Protection for Recordable Media (CPRM) standard approved by the DVD forum.