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Region-free HD DVD to debut in Europe 'next month'

Just in time for Toshiba's HD DVD-equipped Qosmio G30...

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HD DVD may come to Europe earlier than expected, with an initial, low-level roll-out due in April, Reg Hardware has learned. Such a rapid launch after this month's US debut of the next-generation optical disc format is apparently possible because of a lack of region-coding in early pre-recorded media and players.

The first HD DVD-equipped system to ship in Europe will be Toshiba's Qosmio G30 notebook, which the company launched today. So Toshiba claimed, at any rate. Officially, the company did not say when the machine will ship, though insiders put the release in the April timeframe, they also suggested media would be available at the same time.

The debut of pre-recorded HD DVD media looks set to be a low-key affair, however. Toshiba confirmed the G30's built-in HD DVD drive will not check for region encoding, allowing it to play HD DVDs bought in the US and elsewhere, company officials said.

How come? Early HD DVD releases are almost entirely back-catalogue movies which the studios are less concerned about co-ordinating local release dates than they are will films that have yet to make it onto home-oriented media. Then, maybe, region coding will kick in.

That said, Toshiba insiders also suggested locally supplied HD DVD content would also be available in the April timeframe - one of the reasons, they implied, why the company has chosen to ship the new Qosmio at that point.

Interestingly, Sony hinted last Autumn that Blu-ray Disc would abandon region coding, at least as far as games go, though there's been no indication that the policy put in place with the advent of DVD would not be extended to next-generation optical disc formats.

Both the HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc camps are expected to make major announcements at the CeBIT show in Hannover, Germany this week.

The G30, meanwhile, builds on previous models with the incorporation of an HDCP-compliant HDMI output port and a 17in 1920 x 1200 TruBrite LCD screen ready for 1080p HD content. The display is driven by an Nvidia GeForce Go 7600 graphics chip with 256MB of dedicated video RAM. The notebook has a 2GHz Core Duo T2500 processor on board, 1GB of DDR 2 SDRAM, an 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi radio and Bluetooth 2.0.

It has twin analogue and digital TV tuners, and a Dolby Home Theater-certified audio system based on Dolby virtual speaker technology, Dolby Pro Logic II decoding and Harman Kardon speakers. ®

toshiba g30 qosmio hd dvd notebook

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