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Sonicblue cues up new ReplayTV device

The company's latest digital video recorders include updated software for easier use and their modems can be used with standard phone lines.

Sonicblue's latest ReplayTV digital video recorders began shipping to retailers on Monday and should be available shortly, according to the company.

DVRs are similar to VCRs, but instead of storing shows on a tape, they are stored on a hard drive. Sonicblue maintains a service that allows subscribers to pause live broadcasts, pick shows to record in the future, jump past commercials that are stored on the hard drive, and send shows to other ReplayTV units over the Internet.

The ReplayTV 4500s are the first DVRs from Sonicblue to be available in retail stores since the company bought ReplayTV last year. The DVRs will be available from The Good Guys, Amazon.com, The Wiz and Tweeter. Sonicblue Chief Technology Officer Andy Wolfe said that retailers may have the DVRs on their shelves by this weekend, if not sooner.

The ReplayTV 4500s are similar to the already available ReplayTV 4000 models, but the new machines include updated software for easier use and their modems can be used with standard phone lines, so more consumers can send shows to other ReplayTV owners, albeit rather slowly. Previously, consumers could only take full advantage of the capabilities of the ReplayTV 4000 if they had broadband access.

Sonicblue's ReplayTV DVRs have been at the center of a lawsuit over copyright infringement. Several large media and entertainment companies filed a lawsuit last year against the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, claiming that the commercial skipping and distribution capabilities of ReplayTV DVRs infringe on copyright laws.

Sonicblue managed to have an order overturned on Monday requiring Sonicblue to write and install software to monitor the viewing habits of its subscribers.

The ReplayTV 4500 will be available in four models, with different recording capacities and prices. The 40-hour DVR costs $450, the 80-hour $750, the 160-hour $1,250, and the 320-hour $1,750. The new DVRs will be the first units from Sonicblue to require a one-time $249 lifetime subscription fee for the service.

Owners of the ReplayTV 4000 DVRs will not be required to pay the subscription fee, and the software on their DVRs will be upgraded to the version used on the 4500 devices, according to Wolfe.