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Panasonic Launches More DVRs, Now with BDXL, Still No US Release in Sight

Sections: 3D, HTPC, Source components, Video

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Panasonic has once again refreshed its lineup of Blu-ray recorder/DVR combos, adding support for the new BDXL format. Storing up to 100GB of data per platter on 3 layers, BDXL is not compatible with any existing Blu-ray hardware, nor are there any plans to use the format for commercial movie releases, but it’s certainly drawing the attention of the burn-it-yourself crowd.

Ranging from 500GB to 2TB capacity, Panasonic’s DMR-BWTx100 series includes support for Blu-ray 3D, and all models carry two digital tuners (compatible with Japanese broadcasts only) for off the air taping.

Here in the US, the DVR-DVD Recorder definitely had its small but faithful demographic of devotees, who didn’t seem to mind the on-the-fly encoding, or the generic menus these devices produced. They loved having an instant DVD collection at their fingertips from a box that fit into their equipment rack rack. This same group have been watching Japan with envy, asking, When is it going to be our turn for a Blu-ray upgrade? Well, the short answer is, Not any time soon. The bigger picture is a lot more complicated, and boils down to consumer habits.

In the United States, the vast majority of people never recorded things off of TV for archival purposes in the VHS days. They set their VCR when they went on vacation, and they’d just keep taping over whatever was there until that cassette wore out. In the late 90s, the DVR was introduced by TiVo and a few other companies, and some of the boxes came with a DVD recorder option that didn’t prove very popular. By the time most Americans had their first real taste of the DVR, it came from their cable company, and recorded programs only stuck around until they were watched or automatically deleted due to a full hard drive. Thanks to the explosion of TV on DVD over the last decade, even a lot of the former dedicated tapers just purchase the commercial product at the end of the year if it’s worth watching again.

Japan on the other hand, is the land of the taper. In part due to small living spaces, amassing a collection of commercial videos isn’t very practical for most people, and many people’s library are in constant flux, selling back to the used shops to get new titles. So archiving free broadcast content took off in Japan in a way it never did here. Furthermore, while a few standalone DVD players are offered in Japan, the market is ruled by high capacity combination DVR-DVD/BD-R decks. Since space is an issue, the new BDXL discs are uniquely suited for that market, where people will pay high premiums for blanks and use them in large quantities.

So will we ever see a DVR/BDXL recorder here? Sure, maybe, one of these years; the real problem is getting the price down enough to make sense. My advice for those aching for such a device? For significantly less than the cost of one of these machines in Japan you can have a custom HTPC built for you that you can add as many tuner cards to as you could want. Not only can it automatically transcode the shows you record to the format of your choice, but you can send your recordings it to your iPod, add hard drive space easily, and add new codecs and other capabilities at will. When it comes time to archive, you can burn whatever you need to right to a Blu-ray disc with the bells and whistles of your choice. Today’s HTPC can run as cool and quiet as any cable box, and if you use a case like the Antec Fusion it’ll blend in seamlessly with the rest of your rack.

Via: [Akihabara News]

Panasonic BD/DVR in Japan

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