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In a previous thread, Plato90s and I were arguing about Sony's new "VAIO Digital Studio" system, or PCV-RX490TV. This is a 1.7GHz machine with a TV tuner, an 80GB hard disk, and a DVD-RW drive.

I just had lunch with someone who knows a lot more about this technology than I do, and I suspect, more than Plato90s. I asked him about three things.

First, about the "encoding" that Sony does in hardware and Apple does in software, exploiting the G4's vector processing: Plato was right and I was wrong, that is in fact the MPEG-2 compression. I was also wrong to say that Apple does it in twice the time it takes to play the movie; actually it is half the time. Hardware generally does this a bit faster but not a lot faster, and does not get the same quality that Apple gets with software.

Second, about the CD-RW format. As I thought, it's a question of how many consumer DVD players will play it. The format is newer than the DVD-R used by Apple, and probably is compatible with fewer models of DVD player. My friend also pointed out that media cost may be an issue; Apple sells DVD-R at $10 per disk, and DVD-RW is likely to cost a good deal more than that. On the other hand, if you don't like your results you can try again without buying a new disk.

Third, the question about burning a DVD movie in real time. My friend agrees with what I have been saying, which is "not any time soon, not with any known technology." The problem is the burn time. He thought that with 1.7GHz and superwhizzy MPEG encoder you might, conceivably, just barely, be able to make the encoding time and the burn time add up to no more than real time -- but to do that, you'd have to let both processes completely take over the machine, one after the other, and there would be nothing left over for writing anything to the hard disk -- let alone editing. He thought you might be able to watch TV on the screen while burning, but nothing else.

So it would be a matter of streaming TV to the HD, and then doing any editing you might want to do, and then compressing and then burning. It comes nowhere near real time, and the system therefore bears no resemblance at all to a TiVo/Replay box.

Going back to comparison with Apple's DVD-burning G4 system, the open questions are the degree of compatibility with consumer DVD players, and quality of the movie when compressed by Sony's hardware. Only testring, not specs, will answer those questions.

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