Should you buy HD DVD or Blu-ray? "Why choose", said LG as the company launched its Super Multi Blue range in the UK last night, the world's first HD DVD and Blu-ray players. "You can have both."
Although Samsung recently announced its own Duo HD BD-UP5000 combo disc player, LG's BH100 Super Multi Blue player and its GGW-H10N Super Multi Blue disc drive will be the first dual-format products to hit store shelves.
The new BH100, already available in the US, is a sleek black box with a single drive tray and pretty touch-sensitive buttons. It's capable of playing back both HD DVD and Blu-ray titles in full 1080p and features HDMI (1.2), component and composite video connectivity around the back. Standard DVD playback is also supported and LG hopes to entice DVD owners with the BH100's 720p and 1080i video upscaling talents. No 1080p, sadly.
"[The BH100] is arguably the most significant product to enter the home entertainment market this year", trumpeted Daniel Aziz, marketing manager for audio/visual at LG electronics UK.
PC enthusiasts, meanwhile, can look forward to the world's first dual Blu-ray rewriter and HD DVD-ROM, the GGW-H10N Super Multi Blue. Available at the end of April, this black internal drive uses LG's proprietary Optical Pickup technology to support Blu-ray disc write/playback, HD DVD playback and DVD/CD write/playback.
The best of both worlds?
"There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace and the consumer is suffering," added Daniel Aziz. "The format war not only divides customers, but also manufacturers, the film studios and the software providers. LG Electronics has looked at the customer needs for high-definition and, as a result, has produced the world's first dual-format high-definition players."
On the surface, combo players like the BH100 should make the HD disc war largely irrelevant for consumers, enabling them to buy the movies that they want regardless of format. The Blu-ray Disc Association has long made a compelling case for buying Blu-ray. Regardless of the technical battle between the two formats, the BDA has an envious content advantage - seven out of eight Hollywood studios currently support it.
But HD DVD is far from dead in the water and it has hit back with boasts of better interactive content. Microsoft's HD DVD Evangelist Kevin Collins has a lot to say about it here . Blu-ray might be outgunning HD DVD in terms of software sales, but the battle isn't yet won.
With a combo player like the BH100 Super Multi Blue, the idea is to give you the best of both worlds. Our first impressions at this launch, however, suggest that this isn't quite the case. While this debut model (available to buy at the end of May) supports all of the interactive functions based on Blu-ray's BD-Java platform, it can't access rival HDi-authored content on some HD DVD titles nor take advantage of the online functionality.
So it's not exactly a full-blown Blu-ray player and a full-blown HD DVD player in the one handy box.
"LG has created its own menu system which will access the key functions of HD DVD such as audio and chapter selection," says LG's Aziz by way of an apology.
You'll also have to pay around £1,000 for the privilege of owning this full Blu-ray compatibility and so-so HD DVD support. In comparison, a PlayStation 3 and Toshiba's HD-E1 player will set you back around £700, leaving you a clear £300 left over to buy some pricey HD movies to watch on them.
LG will undoubtedly follow the BH100 model up with a better, more efficient (and cheaper) version 2. Until then, look out for tech.co.uk's review of the BH100 and its PC drive equivalent on the site soon.