Sharp develops technology for cheaper Blu-ray

Posted by Mark Raby

Osaka (Japan) - With Blu-ray Disc hardware notoriously more expensive than the competing HD DVD players, Sharp has developed a new technology to bring down the cost of BD recorders.  The new model will jump down in price a bit from current units that topple the $1500 mark.

All standalone Blu-ray recorders currently have a built-in TV tuner, which makes it possible to schedule recordings without the use of a TV, but it increases the cost of production.  Sharp's new BD-HP1, which goes on sale in Japan next month, is designed to connect to the iLink port commonly found in its line of Aquos LCD TVs.  Through a power conserving connection, the recorder is able to draw just enough power from the TV to grab the video, without needing to have the set turned on.

Sharp did not say whether or not the new recorder would work with a connection to another brand of TV.  The BD-HP1 will be able to record video to BD-RE discs, which can hold up to 25 GB of content.  That's enough for two hours of top quality HD programming, and up to six hours of standard definition content.

The unit is scheduled for a Japan launch of March 20, at an MSRP of 150,000 yen ($1260), cheaper than any other BD recorder currently available.  Blu-ray recorders have not yet made their way to the US, as consumers continue to be wary of the transition to the new format.  Less than half of the BD players sold in North America are actually standalone units.  The million-selling PS3 accounts for most of the Blu-ray hardware sales numbers.

Other HDTV recorders are also struggling with high prices.  The main one to come to the US is the Tivo Series 3, which can capture over a dozen hours of HD video to its hard drive, but is priced at $800.  The most common option right now is cable or satellite sponsored DVRs, which can record high definition video with a monthly service fee typically around $10, though the service provider retains legal ownership of the box.