Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Breaking News: MiniDisc Not Dead!


Though speculation has been wild over the last six months that the MiniDisc format may be dead, it was not one of the development sections cut by Sony in their last round of slicing. And now there's unofficial news of a brand new unit, the MZ-RH1, which has leaked out of a German retail site.

However for €350 this unit adds little to what we can already go out and buy. It's got USB 2, but the transfer rate of the MD media itself will limit that. There's a clock and at least some Mac compatibility, but likely only what exists in current units. The display is on one of the edges of the unit, which may make sense for some applications. But this means that the controls are as small or smaller than the current generation of units. This is a major UI faux pas.

On a unit designed for recording I want large controls for record, pause, and lock, with distinctive tactile feedback and no opportunity for error, even when operated blind. MD units are just about the opposite of this.

There are two rumoured software enhancements, which could prove to be just wishful thinking. The first is that the unit will remember that manual record has been set, even when powered off. The second is that auto-track marking can truly be turned off. Both of these are essentially bug fixes and should no doubt be implemented.

They're going mad over at Engadget, mostly on the level of "MD rocks" versus "MD sux".

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