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First HD-DVD recorder hits Japan in July

Toshiba hits back in war of the formats

Toshiba announced today that it will launch the first HD-DVD recorder in Japan next month.

The news comes as the first player for the rival Blu-ray Disc format is launched, and is sure to raise the stakes in an already competitive market. Toshiba put its first HD-DVD player on sale in Japan in March.

The RD-A1 is much like existing digital video recorders but with HD (high-definition) support. There's 1TB (terabyte) of hard-disk storage space for day-to-day recording and the HD-DVD drive allows consumers to store TV shows they wish to keep.

The hard-disk storage space is enough for about 130 hours of digital HD terrestrial TV and a dual-layer HD-DVD-R disc will be able to store about 230 minutes, or just under four hours of programming, Toshiba said. Blank discs will cost around ¥4,500 (about £21) in Japan.

Prominent among the features of the RD-A1 is its support for 1,080p video output, which was missing on Toshiba's first-generation player, and had been seized upon by Blu-ray Disc backers as a reason to buy their machines.

The recorder won't come cheap, with a price tag of ¥398,000 (£1,880).

In launching the device Toshiba cannot technically claim to be first with an HD video disc recorder. Sony, Panasonic, Sharp and Samsung have put Blu-ray Disc recorders on sale in their home markets of Japan and Korea in the past few years, but the players have in reality been little more than marketing exercises.

These recorders are based on early generations of Blu-ray Disc technology and can't play any of the Blu-ray Disc movie titles going on sale from this week. They also use an earlier-generation cartridge media that won't fit into the new players.

Release dates and pricing for the recorder in other regions are not yet clear.

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