While delayed until mid-April in the US, Toshiba has announced that they've started shipping their new HD DVD player, the HD-XA1, to the Japanese market.

Toshiba Corporation today took the home video experience to the next, high definition level, as it started the Japanese roll out of the world's first commercially available HD DVD player. The new player, HD-XA1, delivers high definition images and crystal clear sound, bringing home entertainment to a new level.

Toshiba's HD-XA1 is the first player to support the HD DVD format approved by the DVD Forum, the international association that defines and promotes DVD standards. HD-XA1 supports playback of pre-recorded HD DVD, offering consumers stunning digital high-definition picture quality far surpassing that of standard DVD. Sound is also enhanced. Along with L-PCM 5.1ch audio, HD-XA1 supports the clarity and realism of three next generation surround-sound formats, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD, and sound sources can be output to audio systems via the player's HDMI output or multi-channel audio output. Support for up-conversion of standard DVD to a resolution of 1080i or 720p through HDCP capable HDMI output allows consumers to enjoy current DVD libraries with output resolution scaled to their HDTV or HD displays.
Until April 27, HD-AX1 will come bundled with two complimentary HD DVD titles: "Resident Evil" and a Japanese film, "Moonlight Jellyfish". More information can be found here. Add a comment
CDRLabs has taken an in depth look at Memorex's new 16x DVD±RW, the MRX-500N. Based on the NEC ND-3550A, the drive is capable of 16x DVD±R, 8x DVD+RW, 6x DVD-RW, 8x DVD+R DL and 6x DVD-R DL writing speeds and has a maximum DVD read speed of 16x. The MRX-500N also includes features like 48x CD reading and writing speeds, 32x rewriting speeds and an impressive software bundle from Nero.

In this review we'll take a look at the features found on the MRX-500N and then see how it compares to some of the 16x DVD±RW drives from the competition. Does Memorex's new drive have what it takes? You'll have to read the review to find out.

Memorex MRX-500N 16x DVD±RW
As usual, if you have any comments or questions about this review or the Memorex MRX-500N, please post them in the forum using the link provided below. Add a comment
The long wait is finally over! The Blank Media Tests section of the forum is now open for use. We hope that this new section will allow users to share their results with various media, drive, and firmware combinations. The only thing we ask is that you read over the Rules & FAQ before posting write quality scans in our new section. If you have any comments or questions, please post them here.

On a related note, we've also bumped the default attachment quota up to 10MB. If you need more space than this, we offer a subscription service. Along with ad free viewing, you get a much larger attachment quota. Add a comment
Mitsubishi Chemical has announced that they've started producing their new 8x DVD-R DL media. These discs are expected to hit the Japanese market by the end April. Here's part of their press release, translated from Japanese using Babelfish:

Mitsubishi chemical media corporation (head office: The Tokyo Minato-ku, president: Otsuka heavily virtue), this time, in the world for the first time 8 time fast entry corresponding single sided 2 layer DVD - the R for DL disk, we start sale from the April last third.

As for the disk which this time is sold, 8 time speed which until recently is speed of approximately 2 times that of the item * data entry of 1 becomes possible. In addition, continuing also the data of large capacity in 1 disk by using the record type DVD drive which corresponds to this product, it can write, the disk after the writing in conforms to the standard which overtakes playback compatibility at the time of the existing playback private DVD player and DVD driving of the personal computer.
Mitsubishi has not announced pricing yet but as you can imagine, these discs won't be cheap. If you'd like to read more, their entire press release can be found here. Add a comment
Ulead has reportedly dropped Blu-ray Disc support from the latest version of DVD MovieFactory. According to The Register, the software did not have full Blu-ray Disc verification before it shipped.
Media software maker Ulead has dropped Blu-ray Disc support from the latest release of its DVD MovieFactory video capture and disk-mastering application - even though the software has only been shipping for just over a week.

DVD MovieFactory 5 went on sale on 20 March complete with BD-R support. Today, Ulead said it would be yanking the direct BD recording module from the application and would remove the software's BD authoring support. HD DVD authoring and recording will remain available to users, Ulead said.
The article also points out that Ulead has tried to cover their tracks by removing all mention of Blu-ray. Unfortunately, they've done a poor job of doing so. If you'd like to read more, head on over to The Register. Add a comment
Panasonic has announced that they will be shipping their first Blu-ray Disc player, the DMP-BD10, in September. Here's part of their press release:
Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company today announced the upcoming availability of the company's first Blu-ray Disc player, the DMP-BD10, available this September.

Blu-ray Disc is the next generation optical disc format that features capacity as large as 50 gigabytes on a dual-layer disc and will be capable of holding high-definition movies, tens of thousands of songs, and extensive capacity for extraordinary video games and PC storage. Blu-ray Disc has the support of more than 170 leading companies including the top studios and consumer electronics manufacturers.

"With the DMP-BD10, Panasonic proves its commitment to providing the best high definition entertainment experience for the home," said Reid Sullivan, vice president, merchandising, Panasonic's entertainment group. "Our goal is to focus on the total solution for an uncompromised high definition experience. In addition we want to ensure that the consumer experience is as easy as possible, so we've added EZ-Sync HDAVI control function to make it simple to connect and control multiple products, such as a Panasonic Plasma TV, Blu-ray Disc player and receiver. Plus, with the BD10 we respect the legacy content that consumers have in their entertainment libraries, including virtually all DVD and CD formats, as well as video and image formats."
Pricing has not been finalized yet. However, Panasonic expects the DMP-BD10 to go for less than $1500. If you'd like to read more, the entire press release can be found here. Add a comment
If you were thinking about getting an HD DVD or Blu-ray player, you might want to read this article at Businessweek first. Unless your TV has the right connectors, you won't be able to play movies at their full resolution.
The new content-protection scheme would be the first time any consumer electronics purchaser -- not just those who try to break copyright laws -- could be penalized. In this case, even if you have a perfectly equipped TV, content providers retain the right to automatically downgrade the picture quality because of piracy concerns. Current DVD releases like Batman Begins and Walk The Line include software to prevent unauthorized duplication, but still play normally.

New software included on both Blu-ray and HD-DVD releases, however, will automatically slash the image, making it only marginally better than current DVDs, unless consumers have a relatively new connector and cable called HDMI to hook up players to their televisions. Only one in 20 HD sets sold to early adopters over the past few years has the right version of the connector. Only 15% of new sets sold this year will include it, and deliver the full 1080 resolution capable of showing such detail.
Thankfully, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Disney, Paramount and Universal are not planning to use the new copy protection, at least on their initial releases. If you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
According to an article at DigiTimes, the demand for DVD burners is likely to exceed 100 million units this year.
Continual price drops for 16x DVD Dual burners have sped up the replacement of Combo drives with the global demand for all types of DVD burners this year is likely to exceed 100 million units, according to Taiwanese makers of optical disc drives (ODDs).

OEM prices of 16x DVD Dual burners currently are at US$30-32, only US$5 higher than those for Combo drives, according to the makers. As a result, the proportion of DVD burner shipments to global ODD shipments surpassed that of Combo drives beginning this quarter, the makers indicated, adding that the global shipment volume of DVD burners in 2005 is estimated to be 78-83 million units.
If you want to read the entire article, head on over to DigiTimes. Add a comment
Plextor America has (finally) announced the PX-750 family of drives. Available in both internal and external configurations, these new drives feature 16x DVD±R, 8x DVD±R DL and 5x DVD-RAM writing speeds.

Plextor Corp., a leading developer and manufacturer of high-performance digital media equipment, today announced the immediate availability of the PX-750 family of 16X DVD+/-R/RW CD-R/RW drives. The new product line expands Plextor's family of value-priced CD/DVD drives designed for mainstream computer users who want reliable, lightning fast performance, but don't require professional recording features.

The PX-750 is the first drive from Plextor to support DVD-RAM functionality for removable data storage applications. Unlike other optical media formats, special burning software is not required to write media on a personal computer. A user simply inserts a blank DVD-RAM disc and the system automatically formats the disc and assigns a driver letter. Users can drag-and-drop files, use the "save as" command, and remove the disc, which can then be read in any PC or desktop player with a drive that supports the DVD-RAM format. The DVD-RAM format offers up to 9.4 GB per double-sided disc.

"The new PX-750 series supports one of the features most requested by Plextor customers -- DVD-RAM functionality," said Pete Schwartz, vice president of marketing and business development for Plextor. "On a per gigabyte basis, DVD-RAM is less expensive than removable magnetic media, which makes it a great alternative for everyday data storage."
The PX-750A ($89) and PX-750UF ($139) are shipping now and have already been sighted at Best Buy stores. More information on both drives can be found here. Add a comment
DigiTimes has reported that Infomedia recently received certification from Philips for their 8x DVD+RW media. According to the article, they are only the third Taiwanese manufacturer to do so.
Infomedia, a second-tier maker of blank optical discs in Taiwan, on March 22 announced it has obtained certification from Philips for the 8x DVD+RW format, the fifth maker globally and the third in Taiwan following Ritek and CMC Magnetics.
The article also mentions that Infomedia will soon start R&D in next-generation blue-laser discs. If you'd like to read more, head on over to DigiTimes. Add a comment