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Sony will next month ship what it claims is the world's first external DVD recorder that can also operate without a host computer.

Sony DVDirectThe DVDirect ships with a suite of Windows XP/2000 DVD authoring and CD burning tools. It hooks up a PC using a USB 2.0 link. The drive supports DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW. 'Plus' support also covers dual-layer media recording at 2.4x, single-layer recording at 16x and rewriting at 4x. DVD-R recording runs at 8x, rewriting at 4x. The drive contains 8MB of buffer RAM, with buffer under-run prevention technology.

The drive can also be connected to a camcorder or VCR for tape-to-disc recording real time. However, while the machine will encode video in MPEG 2 format - automatically creating new chapters every five, ten or 15 minutes, if you wish - it only supports DVD+R single- and dual-layer discs, which potentially limits discs' playback on domestic DVD players.

The DVDirect offers three recording modes: HQ, SP and SLP, which set encode video at a quality sufficient to yield one, two or six hours' of content, respectively, double that with dual-layer media. The unit provides a composite video, s-video and analogue stereo audio jacks.

Sony is pitching the product at owners of tape-recorded content who want to transfer that material to DVD, but don't necessarily want to store it on a PC first.

The DVDirect burner is expected to ship in the US in November for around $300. ®

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