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LG and Toshiba work the Net with DVD/HDD combos

LG and Toshiba work the Net with DVD/HDD combos

Live from CEDIA
Network access is finally making the migration to TVs and now, thanks to competing units from LG and Toshiba, to set-top combination DVD/hard disk recorders. The Toshiba RD-XS54 will be available within the month for $699, and it adds an Ethernet port to the 250GB hard drive/DVD recorder combo. It can interface with your home network to perform a variety of tasks, including streaming live or recorded content to a PC (copy protection permitting), uploading custom menu backgrounds for DVD recordings, and remotely scheduling recordings via e-mail. Owners who invest in two units can share programming between them. The unit also includes a FireWire input and uses TV Guide's free EPG for scheduling programming.

LG, meanwhile, was providing more details on a product that the company first announced at January's Consumer Electronics Show. The LRM-519, available in October for $499 after a $100 rebate, has the same basic configuration (Ethernet , DVD, 160GB hard disk) but employs a Windows Media Center-like interface to offer a very different selection of features. First off, it uses Media Center's EPG, which costs $9.99 per month, $99 per year, or $250 for a lifetime subscription (interestingly, the same EPG is provided for free with a Media Center Edition PC). Unlike TV Guide, the Media Center EPG doesn't rely on flaky cable connections and is compatible with satellite boxes. The LRM-519 can also send nonncopyrighted content to a PC, as well as access photos and music stored on a PC. In addition, it has a pair of USB ports that can take thumbdrives to read or record music and photos and, even better, connect to external USB 2.0 hard drives to increase the recorder's storage capacity. When I asked LG's rep about the limits of this feature--I imagined connecting a USB eight-port hub and 500GB hard disks to every port--he grew a little wary and mentioned that they hadn't tested that capability yet.

The LG looks like the more versatile unit, and the two cost about the same after you factor in the cost of LG's lifetime subscription, but interestingly, it can't edit out commercials--much like TiVo-based units such as the Humax DRT-800. Unlike TiVo recorders, the LG doesn't have remote programming capabilities, although there's no reason LG/Microsoft couldn't add it via a firmware upgrade.