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November 15, 2005

Table of Contents

The DVD Writer: 18X DVD Recording--Why Bother?
Panasonic Repositions AJ-SDC615 16:9/4:3 DVCPRO Camcorder With Lower Price And Magic Bullet Suite Included
Strategy Analytics: Blu-ray Disc/HD-DVD Battle Highlights Digital Home Fault Lines
Matrox DualHead2Go Offers New Way to Add Multi-Display Support
Imation Readies HD DVD and Blu-ray Optical Media Formats
TigerDirect.com Now Offers RIDATA Brand Products
Alienware Expands Mobile Workstation Line with New Notebook Systems
InterVideo DVD Copy 4 Makes File Conversion for Portable Video Players Fast, Easy
ARCHOS Debuts Gmini 402 Camcorder

The DVD Writer: 18X DVD Recording--Why Bother?

Good grief. Just when recordable DVD hits the accepted speed limit we find a couple of joyriders stepping on the gas. Manufacturers already have tremendous difficulty delivering consistent and compatible lower-speed products and we know that next generation Blu-ray is due out in the spring.

Driven by plummeting sales margins and a futile game of one-upmanship between the "plus" and "dash" camps regardless of consumer demand, DVD writing speed ratings have already climbed rapidly. But, for all the effort and marketing hype, increases beyond 8X (reached in 2003) amount to, at best, only a few minutes saved when writing full discs. For example, some of the fastest units I've time benchmarked take 7:45 (8X ZCLV), 6:16 (12X PCAV) and 5:17 (16X CAV). Under optimum conditions I expect 18X (CAV) to come in at around five minutes. Big deal.

Confounding even these small gains has been a parade of compromises, technical challenges, system limitations, and cavalier attitudes. Due to differences in the physical disc formats as well as the efficiency of the writing methods employed, real-world results vary up to 20% among same speed-rated recorders (including those from the same manufacturer). In fact, there are cases where slower rated units take the same or less time to write a disc than their higher speed counterparts. Are we to expect even the same from the new 18X offerings?

In addition to these differences, recorders employ a variety of active bailout strategies that, when writing conditions warrant, allow them to slow to below their user-selected speed. While this is often necessary to maintain writing quality the need to do so diminishes the argument for high-speed operation since there's no guarantee. Nowhere is this more apparent than in multi-recorder duplication (an area which legitimately benefits from fractionally higher performance) where entire systems are slowed if a single recorder in a chain backs down. Here, I've found that it's better to aim lower rather than gamble on a faster speed setting that could end up taking much longer to complete a job. 18X can be predicted to be even less a certainty.

We all know that computer performance impacts recording time. Fragmented hard drives, improper system configurations, background tasks, and network interference all conspire against smooth high-speed operation. And hardware bottlenecks can be particularly frustrating. Consider disc-to-disc copying. Most DVD-ROM drives can't read discs fast enough to keep up with current 16X writers while 18X read capability doesn't yet exist. Lossless linking rides these rapids but writing times suffer.

Adding insult to injury will be the scarcity of 18X-capable blank media. My informal survey of disc manufacturers suggests that none are gearing up to accommodate this increase so 18X writing will be limited to a couple of qualified brands of 16X-rated discs. And, hardware and media tolerances are so tight (as are political alliances) that even these chosen few will likely vary among recorder models.

How quickly optical discs can be spun has long determined the practical limit for their reading and recording speeds. Industry experience shows that beyond 10,000 RPM any minor performance benefits achieved are greatly outweighed by increased user physical safety concerns, annoying sound and vibration levels, diminished reliability as well as higher product cost. In order to achieve 18X operation, DVD recorders will exceed this accepted threshold. The DVD Forum hasn't articulated its position but I'm told that as far as the DVD Alliance is concerned, 16X is as high as official DVD "plus" specifications will go. Thus it appears that 18X recorder manufacturers, and their customers, will be on their own.

Hugh Bennett (hugh_bennett@compuserve.com), an EMedia contributing editor, is president of Forget Me Not Information Systems (www.forgetmenot.on.ca), a reseller, systems integrator and industry consultant based in London, Ontario, Canada. Hugh is the author of Understanding Recordable & Rewritable DVD and Understanding CD-R & CD-RW, both published by the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA).

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Panasonic Repositions AJ-SDC615 16:9/4:3 DVCPRO Camcorder With Lower Price And Magic Bullet Suite Included

Panasonic Broadcast has announced the repositioning of its highly-popular AJ-SDC615 16:9/4:3 2/3" DVCPRO camcorder by reducing its suggested list price to $9,995 and including as standard Magic Bullet Suite software to create 24p motion effects.

The AJ-SDC615 boasts high-sensitivity 520,000 pixel, 2/3" 3-CCDs and a built-in IEEE 1394 interface for in-field direct transfer of digital component video to a laptop nonlinear editing system. Switchable between 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios, the 11-pound camcorder delivers 750 lines of resolution, a high 63dB signal-to-noise ratio, a high sensitivity of F13 at 2000 lux, and low-light shooting down to 0.1 lux (at +48dB) with minimal smear.

The AJ-SDC615 is equipped with a Digital Super Gain function, allowing noise-free gain in various capture rates, such as 30P, 15P and 6P (adding 6dB, 12dB and 20dB of gain, respectively). The celebrated Magic Bullet Suite software provides video professionals the tools to transform a video "look" to the softer, more organic look of film. It also includes 18 After Effects plug-ins that deliver a complete production pipeline for processing digital video footage for output to DVD, TV or film.

Beyond its 24p conversion tools, the Magic Bullet Suite delivers DV compression correction to remove artifacts; a library of 55 film treatments; customization of users' individual looks; film damage effects to accurately mimic film grain, splotches, scratches and projection artifacts; film-like dissolves; a letterboxer; and a Broadcast Spec. function to ensure that video colors meet broadcast parameters.

For more information on the AJ-SDC615, visit http://www.panasonic.com/broadcast.

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Strategy Analytics: Blu-ray Disc/HD-DVD Battle Highlights Digital Home Fault Lines

Blu-ray Disc now has enough momentum to ensure it becomes Hollywood's preferred standard for high-definition content, according to "Next-Generation DVD: Standards Battle Highlights Digital Home Fault Lines," the latest research published by Strategy Analytics' Connected Home Devices service.

The rival HD-DVD technology is likely to survive as a PC standard, but Blu-ray will dominate in the market for standalone players and recorders. According to this report, the standards battle reflects increased polarization between alternative visions of the digital home, PC community led by Intel and Microsoft on one side and Sony and the other consumer electronics majors on the other.

"For all the talk of a unified digital home, deep divisions still remain," notes David Mercer, Principal Analyst at Strategy Analytics. "Billions of dollars of revenue are at stake as PC companies battle with the consumer electronics industry for control of the digital home media server. DVD's replacement will play a critical role in determining the success or failure of each group."

The report highlights the importance of next generation game consoles in the outcome of the Blu-ray/HD-DVD conflict. The success of Sony's new PlayStation console, the PS3, will ensure the dominance of Blu-ray as a high definition video content carrier.

www.strategyanalytics.com

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Matrox DualHead2Go Offers New Way to Add Multi-Display Support

Matrox Graphics, Inc. has unveiled Matrox DualHead2Go, an external upgrade capable of adding multiple-monitor support to compatible laptop and integrated graphics-based desktop PCs that were previously limited to single screen output.

DualHead2Go is a palm-sized box that connects to the existing single monitor output (i.e. external VGA output) of a computer and appears to the system as a single ultra-widescreen monitor with native support for resolutions up to 2560 x 1024, which are twice as wide as standard resolutions. Using Matrox patent-pending technology, DualHead2Go splits the 2560 x 1024 Microsoft Windows desktop into a right and left half, each of which is then sent to two separate analog monitors allowing users to easily upgrade their workspace setups to experience the productivity benefits of a DualHead desktop.

DualHead2Go harnesses the capabilities of the system's existing GPU or integrated graphics for acceleration of all 2D, 3D and video rendering. There is no image distortion and no scaling to the original raw pixels generated from the existing graphics accelerator. By using DualHead2Go in conjunction with the built-in display of a laptop, users can benefit with up to three displays of independent information at a time. The wide range of desktop computers with only one video output can now be upgraded to dual-display without requiring users to open up the shell of the computer or install new graphics drivers.

The DualHead2Go is bundled with Matrox PowerDesk SE; a suite of window management software offering users a range of operational modes, utilities and display configurations for optimal management of windows positioning and message pop-ups.

DualHead2Go is compatible with a wide range of laptop models. Desktop PC support for DualHead2Go is limited to certain PCs based on integrated graphics. A complete list of compatible systems is posted on the Matrox Web site and will be regularly updated to reflect new system support. Additionally, a free DualHead2Go online compatibility utility is available allowing users to pre-validate that their system is compatible with DualHead2Go prior to purchase. Visit http://www.matrox.com/graphics/dualhead2go for complete details.

Available in mid-November 2005, DualHead2Go - Dual Analog Edition, has a suggested retail price of $169USD. This product will be available from authorized resellers worldwide or, in North America and Europe, directly from Matrox at http://shopmatrox.com.

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Imation Readies HD DVD and Blu-ray Optical Media Formats

Imation Corp has announced it is finalizing the development of both HD DVD and Blu-ray optical recordable media, with plans to utilize its proprietary hard coat protective disc coating in the development of both formats. The durable, scratch- resistant hard coating is designed to protect the valuable memories and data that users will save on advanced optical discs.

With the rapid expansion of High Definition Television (HDTV) broadcasts and increasing use of high definition recorders creating valuable content, Blu-ray and HD DVD optical media provide the high capacity required for the vast quantity of information created in these new high definition formats -- formats that allow users to record crystal-clear superior images as well as benefit from vast computer data storage capabilities. Imation plans to begin shipping both HD DVD and Blu-ray products starting in the early part of 2006. Imation is a member of the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) and DVD Forum.

Throughout 2006, Imation plans to launch the BD-RE (rewritable) and BDR (recordable) 25GB single layer and 50GB double layer Blu-ray formats. Also in 2006, Imation plans to launch the HD DVD-R (recordable) and HD DVD-ReR (Re-recordable) 15GB single layer and 30GB double layer HD DVD formats. Specific dates of availability and pricing will be announced in early 2006. For more information, go to http://www.imation.com.

Imation Corp. has announced it is finalizing the development of both HD DVD and Blu-ray optical recordable media, with plans to utilize its proprietary hard coat protective disc coating in the development of both formats. The durable, scratch-resistant hard coating is designed to protect the valuable memories and data that users will save on advanced optical discs.

With the rapid expansion of High Definition Television (HDTV) broadcasts and increasing use of high-definition recorders creating valuable content, Blu-ray and HD DVD optical media provide the high-capacity required for the vast quantity of information created in these new high-definition formats--formats that allow users to record crystal-clear superior images as well as benefit from vast computer data storage capabilities. Imation plans to begin shipping both HD DVD and Blu-ray products starting in the early part of 2006. Imation is a member of the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) and DVD Forum.

Throughout 2006, Imation plans to launch the BD-RE (rewritable) and BDR (recordable) 25GB single layer and 50GB double layer Blu-ray formats. Also in 2006, Imation plans to launch the HD DVD-R (recordable) and HD DVD-ReR (Re-recordable) 15GB single layer and 30GB double layer HD DVD formats. Specific dates of availability and pricing will be announced in early 2006. For more information, go to http://www.imation.com.

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TigerDirect.com Now Offers RIDATA Brand Products

Advanced Media, Inc., Ritek USA, manufacturer and marketer of the popular RIDATA brand of recordable CD and DVD media, electronic storage products, and digital media accessories, announced it has entered into an agreement with leading Internet retailer TigerDirect.com. The agreement makes available the entire line of Advanced Media's RIDATA brand products through TigerDirect.com. Customer support and shipping will be handled by the on-line retailer.

The RIDATA brand currently includes: CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, Double Layer DVD+R, Dual Layer DVD-R, and DVD-RAM optical discs; CompactFlash, SmartMedia, MultiMediaCard, SecureDigital, CompactFlash PRO, MultiMediaCard PRO, reduced-size MultiMediaCard PRO, 150x MMCplus, 150x MMCmobile, Secure Digital PRO, and mini Secure Digital PRO flash memory cards, as well as adapters and reader/writers; USB EZ drives; and assorted media accessories.

RIDATA-branded products are also available at selected brick-and-mortar retailers, through RIDATA distributors, and at other online outlets. About TigerDirect, Inc. TigerDirect, Inc. (a subsidiary of Systemax Inc.) is part of an integrated system of branded e-commerce web sites, direct mail catalogs, and relationship marketing companies selling PC hardware, related computer products and industrial products to consumers and businesses in North America and Europe.

www.tigerdirect.com
www.ritekusa.com

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Alienware Expands Mobile Workstation Line with New Notebook Systems

Alienware has expanded its award-winning notebook line by introducing two new mobile systems featuring Intel Centrino mobile technology: the MJ-12 m5700i and the MJ-12 m5500i. With this launch, Alienware is making its first major push into the commercial notebook space, giving creative professionals a wider variety of choices when it comes to the ideal mobile workstation.

The new notebooks offer a versatile balance of performance and portability making them the ideal solution for any day-to-day audio, video, content creation, graphics, or design application. In addition to delivering next-generation mobile advancements, Alienware's new Intel Centrino-based notebooks are available at very appealing price points--the MJ-12 m5700i starting at $1,499 and the MJ-12 m5500i starting at just $1,049. The new mobile workstations include:

  • MJ-12 m5700i--Offering multiple graphics options, including the NVIDIA GeForce Go 6800 graphics card, dual SATA hard drives in RAID configurations, and Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition, the MJ-12 m5700i is a platform for running demanding audio, video, graphics, animations, and design applications on the go. The NVIDIA Quadro 1400 card will soon be available on this system. The MJ-12 m5700i also showcases a 17" wide-screen LCD with ClearView technology that provides users with ample workspace and a crystal-clear display.
  • MJ-12 m5500i--The MJ-12 m5500i balances the capabilities of high-performance mobile graphics, Intel Centrino mobile technology, and DDR2 Alienware-qualified memory with a highly mobile design that weighs 6 lbs and features a 15.4" wide-screen LCD. In addition, the MJ-12 m5500i features a new Alienware innovation, Graphics Control Technology, giving customers the flexibility of switching between the advanced capabilities of graphic solutions like the NVIDIA's GeForce Go 6800 graphics card. The NVIDIA® Quadro 1400 card will also be available soon on this system. "

www.alienware.com

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InterVideo DVD Copy 4 Makes File Conversion for Portable Video Players Fast, Easy

InterVideo Inc. has announced that its DVD Copy 4 software can be used to convert unencrypted videos for high-quality playback on portable devices such as the iPod, Memory Sticks and mobile phones. DVD Copy 4 combines all of the tools users need for video duplication, conversion and reproduction in a single solution. With simplified copy, conversion and burning capabilities, DVD Copy 4 is designed for consumers who want a fast, easy way to protect and share their personal CDs, DVDs, video, music, photo and data files as well as road warriors, mass-transit commuters, and others who want to enjoy their multimedia files while on-the-go.

Equipped with a fresh, new intuitive wizard-like user interface, consumers can quickly convert files on their hard drive into a DVD formatted disc, the DivX format, the new iPod's native format, or the 3GPP/3GP2 format for mobile phones. DVD Copy 4 also supports the Sony PSP Video Format, enabling movie enthusiasts to copy their favorite video clips to Sony memory sticks and play them back in the popular Sony PSP video console. For the three-step copying process, users simply select the source, the drive destination and the video output format. Files can be copied as a DVD, DVD Image, Video CD, Super Video CD, WMV, DivX Avi, 3GPP or 3GPP2, MP3, MP4 (PSP) or WMA file.

The software's Autofit feature automatically determines how much compression is needed to produce the best-looking results for the output selected. DVD Copy 4 is also equipped with advanced customization capabilities that enable more experienced users to personalize their DVD/VCD content to suit their individual viewing habits and available space. With these capabilities, they can remove unwanted subtitles, languages, titles and chapters, or even merge titles from several different DVDs/VCDs onto a single disc.

InterVideo DVD Copy 4 is available now at InterVideo's web site, www.intervideo.com and Japan retail outlets, and will be available through leading US retail outlets including Best Buy, CompUSA, Fry's Electronics, and Microcenter within the next few weeks. Compatible with Windows 2000 and XP systems, the suggested list price is $79.95 USD for the full Platinum version.

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ARCHOS Debuts Gmini 402 Camcorder

At the Portable Media Expo and Podcasting Conference in Ontario, Calif., ARCHOS, Inc. showcased two new podcast and videoblog devices aimed at consumers who want not only to play back audio and video content, but create personal feeds as well. The new Gmini 402 Camcorder and AV 500 Mobile Digital Video Recorder with video capture accessory are the first portable media players to provide audio and video recording, editing and playback functionality directly on the device. The Gmini 402 Camcorder features a 20GB hard drive while the AV 500 is offered in 30GB or 100GB capacities and both are available today.

The Gmini 402 Camcorder features an integrated camera and camcorder for capturing still pictures and video, making it the perfect device for those wanting to self-publish and syndicate personal radio and video shows--podcasts or videoblogs. Podcasters and video enthusiasts can record up to 50 hours of personal video or 650 hours(1) of audio. The Gmini 402 Camcorder measures only 4.17 x 2.37 x 0.69 inches and is 5.64 ounces, fits easily in a pocket and displays video on a bright, 2.2-inch color LCD screen.

The AV 500 Mobile DVR features a 4-inch color screen and a hands-free camcorder accessory that allows for easy capture of everyday experiences, while both products enable easy editing of video files directly on the devices themselves. Videoblogging, the ability to deliver personal video content via blogs, RSS feeds and emerging TV over the Web, is still in its infancy as video capture devices with significant hard drive capacities were not readily available--until now. Analysts believe that videoblogging is in the midst of explosive growth fuelled by products such as the ARCHOS Gmini 402 Camcorder and AV 500 that empower consumers to easily capture, edit and share content.

Between 50 and 400 Hours of High-Quality Audio and Video Recording With the Gmini 402 Camcorder and AV 500, consumers can record personal video in the MPEG-4(2) format directly onto the device hard drive. ARCHOS is at the forefront of developing MPEG-4 as the standard for video blogging, resulting in content recorded in the highest quality with the highest level of compression, and the ability to play back on the widest array of portable devices, PCs and Macs.

The Gmini 402 Camcorder offers five different video settings for capturing at various resolution rates, and houses a CCD sensor for recording in low light. For low-resolution images, consumers can capture up to 50 hours of personal video, with high resolution resulting in 13 hours of video.

The ARCHOS Gmini line offers color screens, music and video recording, editing and playback, camera functionality, Microsoft PlaysForSure compatibility, PC and Mac integration, a USB Host port for transferring content directly to other devices, and a host of other features not found in traditional portable music players. The AV 500 Digital Mini Cam accessory features a built-in microphone for recording up to 3500 hours of audio and 400 hours of video hands free onto a 100GB hard drive.

The Digital Mini Cam enables high-quality video recording at VGA resolution (640x480) even in low light environments (1.0 Lux/F1.2). The Digital Mini Cam features a headband strap for attaching to a helmet, hat or head and is perfect for taking action video, such as snowboarding or biking, or professional activities, such as recording university lectures and military exercises. As a full recording device, the AV 500 includes video input ports that allow professionals such as broadcasters and camera operators to connect their own cameras and record hundreds of hours of video onto the device.

The ARCHOS Gmini 402 Camcorder is $369.95, while the AV 500 Mobile DVR is $499.95 and $699.95 for the 30GB and 100GB models, respectively. The AV 500 Digital Mini Cam accessory is $199.95. All products are available today at www.archos.com and through select online and retail outlets nationwide.

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