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CES: Panasonic to unveil thinnest Blu-ray drive for laptops

Blu-ray squeezed to 9.5mm

Panasonic has developed a Blu-ray Disc drive for laptop computers and plans to unveil it at January's Consumer Electronics Show, the company said today.

The drive is 9.5mm high, which is a standard height for many slim-line laptop optical disc drives. By squeezing the drive down to this height it should be easier for laptop makers to fit into their standard machines without the need for a redesign of the computers.

Panasonic has already begun offering samples of the drives to laptop makers with the hope that the companies will build it into new PCs.

The drive supports 2X writing to single-layer BD-R (write-once) and BR-RE (rewritable) discs and 1X writing to dual-layer discs. Reading of both Blu-ray Disc formats is at 2X. Additionally the drive can read BD-ROM discs, read and write to DVD-RAM, DVD-/+R, DVD-/+RW, CD-R/RW discs and read both DVD-ROM and CD-ROM. Panasonic didn't disclose a price for the drive.

Blu-ray Disc is competing with HD DVD to become the de facto replacement for DVD. In the video market both offer a high-definition picture and audio quality well above that of DVD but most consumers have stayed away from both formats until a clear winner emerges in the format battle. In the PC market, the high cost of drives and plummeting cost of hard-disk drive storage has also meant that both formats remain relatively unused.

Between the two, Blu-ray Disc has the advantage in terms of capacity. A single-layer BD-R disc can accommodate 25G bytes of data while a single-layer HD DVD-R can hold 15G bytes but the difference isn't so simple. However despite Blu-ray Disc's superior capacity the blank media is also more expensive than HD DVD media.

Panasonic is scheduled to hold a news conference at CES in Las Vegas on January 6 at which the drive is expected to be unveiled.


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