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Panasonic's player has wide view

Matsushita's brand makes 9in screen DVD portable

Panasonic, aka Matsushita, is having a mad month during the silly season here in the UK. Now it's taken the wraps off its latest portable DVD (digital versatile disc) player, to reveal a compact model with a whopping 9in LCD (liquid crystal display) screen.

The screen, the major feature of the new player, is just large enough to claim the title of largest display on a portable player. Its nearest competition comes from Sharp, which plans to launch a player with an 8.7in screen in Japan on 24 August.

Other rivals, such as Pioneer and Sony, have 7in displays on their machines. It is also considerably larger than the 5.8in screens that have graced Panasonic's portable DVD player line-up since the company launched its first model, the first in the world, in early 1998.

The player has another 'world's first' feature — it is the only device so far able to play back DVD-RAM rewritable DVD discs. Most players are not compatible with DVD-RAM because the discs are enclosed in cartridges, requiring special drive mechanisms. Matsushita is backing the format and is also selling a DVD-RAM video recorder for domestic use.

But DVD-RAM is fast becoming the minor player in the battle of the formats, especially since DVD+RW's biggest backer, Sony, caved in and released a player that instead supports DVD-RW.

In addition to DVD-RAM, the player is also compatible with DVD-Video, DVD-Audio and several CD-based formats, including Video CD. The device can also play DVD-R discs, although Matsushita only guarantees this feature will work with discs recorded on its own DMR-E20 recorder. It may work with discs recorded on machines made by other manufacturers but, because the format is new and the first machines are just coming on the market, the company is not claiming full compatibility.

Other features include a built-in TV tuner, an internal rechargeable battery that provides enough power for two-and-a-half hours of DVD playback, and support for DTS (Digital Theater Sound) and Dolby Digital. The device weighs a gram less than one kilo.

Matsushita plans to put the player on sale in Europe sometime before Christmas this year. The player is expected to retail for around £630.

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