updated 11:50 am EDT, Wed October 31, 2007
Toshiba Vardia HD DVD
Toshiba this morning stepped up the video format wars by releasing the Vardia RD-A301, the company's first digital video recorder which can record to HD DVD discs. The device includes dual digital tuners that will capture live, unprotected HDTV in its native MPEG-2 format and convert it to H.264 for use on HD DVD-R discs that can be played in most HD DVD players. The use of the format also lets Toshiba enable burning HD movies to regular DVDs for the first time: a new HD Rec feature fits two hours of video on to a single-layer DVD with a full 1080 resolution and 5.1-channel surround sound, the company boasts. A 300GB hard drive fits up to 159 hours of video where only 39 hours would have been possible on earlier hardware.
The A301 also sports an analog TV tuner and an i.Link (Firewire) connector for capturing footage from camcorders or VHS tapes. The Vardia relies primarily on HDMI for video output; CEC support over the link lets the new model automatically control newer HDTVs and set the input to the recorder when switched on with the remote. Toshiba intends to release the HD DVD recorder in Japan by mid-December with D4 output for delivering analog over HD; a US release was not announced and would require a switch from D4 to component as well as ATSC tuners to pick up American HD broadcasts.