With some odd omissions and a high price tag, this is a high-end deck that badly needs a price drop
Good picture quality
Concept deserves credit
Missing some important features
Only limited HD DVD support
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If the format war between Blu-ray and HD DVD is putting you off buying a high definition disc player, you might want to take a close look at LG's latest piece of home cinema kit.
Also clumsily known as the 'Super Multi Blue', it's the world's first dual-format player, capable of playing both HD DVDs and Blu-rays (not to mention regular DVD-Video discs). Surely such a conciliatory technology is a must buy for the consumer who's unsure of which side to take?
Unfortunately, it's not quite as simple as that, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, there's the price to consider. At £1,000, the BH100 is actually more expensive than buying, say, a Blu-ray compatible PlayStation3 and a Toshiba HD-E1 HD DVD player.
You could buy both of these together for less than £750 - and don't forget that the PS3 does much more than just play back Blu-ray movies. Granted, two boxes take up more space than one, but aside from this minor quibble we can't see any real reason to opt for the LG.
Then there's the HD DVD playback to consider. While the BH100 does a decent job of playing back the movie parts of an HD DVD (we'll come to this later), it can't do anything with the extras. In fact, you don't even get to see a menu - it simply plays the movie when you slip a disc in.
You can skip chapters, change languages and switch on subtitles using the remote control, but accessing any bonus content is a definite no-no.
The Blu-ray section of the player works pretty much as you'd expect, although the lack of any sort of networking option means that the extra web content soon to be available through BD-Live will remain out of reach. It's one more area where the BH100 disappoints.
On a happier note, picture quality is excellent with both kinds of HD disc - as good as anything we've seen so far, in fact. There isn't any fancy image processing technology at work here, but it can output the full range of high definition modes. That means 1080p is an option, provided you have a TV or projector capable of accepting the signal.
The Last Samurai on HD DVD looks beautiful. Close inspection reveals a minuscule amount of noise around some objects, but sat at a reasonable viewing distance the chances of you noticing anything (apart from the lush greens of the landscape and the fantastic amounts of detail) are fairly non-existent.
Blu-ray is similarly spectacular, with Casino Royale - probably the best disc currently available in terms of picture quality - looking utterly gorgeous. The BH100 proves it can handle the full gamut of colour, with Bond's pursuit of the free-running bomber bursting out of our plasma screen with rich, vibrant reds, greens and blues.
At the same time, darker scenes retain plenty of depth and detail: the monochrome opening sequence in Prague doesn't descend into a shadowy, gloomy morass of blackness, but looks suitably moody and grainy.
Standard DVD playback is also impressive, and the player minimises noise fairly well as it upscales: the speckly noise in the LA evening sky in The Big Lebowski can be obvious on some DVD players, but here we barely noticed it. The strong, deep blacks are retained here as well, with the black and white photography of Good Night, And Good Luck looking every bit as atmospheric as we'd hoped.
Sound quality is also a big plus point. The machine can internally decode the best quality lossless formats like Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and linear PCM, and output them to a surround sound receiver via the 5.1 analogue sockets.
Obviously this limits the number of surround channels to 5.1 rather than the 7.1 both formats can offer. However, if you use the HDMI to link up to your receiver, you can only get 2-channel PCM or standard Dolby Digital/DTS surround sound.
Sadly, CD playback is not possible here, including those that store MP3, WMA or JPEG files on them. It's not a massive issue, but it does seem to be a rather bizarre exclusion.
Gets loaded quickly
Lastly, the BH100 is quite easy to use, despite having a very slow start-up (40 seconds) and disc-loading time (also 40 seconds - or about 20 with regular DVDs). The slim remote control has its buttons in logical places, and helps you zip around the clean menu screens with a minimum of fuss.
There are only a few basic options available for tweaking - your desired video output resolution, a few audio preferences etc, so there's nothing to get confused about.
But while the BH100 is a reasonably adept player, we can't help but keep coming back to that price and those missing features. For what you get here, £1,000 is simply too much money and even LG has admitted that the deck is only likely to attract a hardcore of early adopters.
Our advice is to wait. The price tag is bound to drop at some point, especially as LG's deadly rival Samsung has its own multiformat HD disc-spinner (one with a web connection and full HD DVD playback) coming later this year.
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