Author Topic: AVReview LG BH100 Blu-ray/HD-DVD  (Read 1846 times)

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AVReview LG BH100 Blu-ray/HD-DVD
« on: June 7, 2007, 14:02:40 »
Conclusie review; close but no sigar, better wait for a better one

Review: LG BH100 Blu-ray/HD DVD player By John Archer

If like us you're sick and tired of the having your excitement at the arrival of high definition discs ruined by the interminable scrap between the rival Blu-ray and HD DVD formats, LG might be about to become your new best friend. For the Korean brand has boldly become the first brand to rise above the industry politics - and overcome some fairly significant technical barriers - to deliver a player that can handle BOTH of the warring HD disc formats. Wow. This has to be a dream come true, right? Er…

Things start sublimely well. For as well as the adrenaline rush inspired by the words 'Super Multi Blue Player' (LG-speak for dual HD DVD and Blu-ray compatibility) emblazoned across the BH100's disc tray, you can't help but lap up the deck's gorgeous design: a minimalist delight in its matt black fascia and metallic top panel. It's remarkably heavy too, suggesting uncompromising build quality inside and out.

Connections are okay, with all the staples of HD movie playback covered. Which is to say there's an HDMI, a component video output, digital audio outputs, and 5.1 audio line outs. But you don't get an Ethernet port for accessing any future online interactive features Blu-ray and HD DVD discs may carry, and the HDMI is a 1.2 version rather than 1.3, denying you such high-bandwidth 1.3 functions as the 'deep colour' extended colour palette, and digital delivery of the ultra high quality Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD 7.1-channel lossless audio formats.

The HDMI does have one nifty trick up its sleeve, though: it can ship out video from HD discs in a 'pure' 1080p/24Hz format. This matters because 1080p/24Hz is the format most films use when they're put on an HD disc, so if a deck can output 1080p/24Hz it doesn't have to add its own, potentially noise-inducing processing before handing the image over to a compatible TV.

Unexpectedly, though, you can only get 1080p out of this deck if it's found on the disc you're playing. The deck does carry upscaling processing to turn your old DVDs in to high definition, but this only offers 720p and 1080i options. Still, this is hardly a deal breaker; 1080i is perfectly acceptable for upscaling purposes. But sadly we now come to a couple of things that actually could put the mockers on any thoughts of buying this potentially ground-breaking piece of kit.
First, despite its claims of multi-disc format versatility, the BH100 isn't into music, refusing steadfastly to play DVD-Audio discs, SACDs or even CDs. Second, the deck can really be slow to recognise an HD disc - we noted waits of around 30 seconds before the BH100 was satisfied it knew what sort of disc it was being asked to deal with.
Third and horrifically worst, the BH100 is not compatible with HD DVD's 'HDi' functionality. In other words, it won't access the majority of an HD DVD disc's interactive features - including, unbelievably, many start-up menu screens!

Sometimes you can access some of an HD DVD's features via a tedious row of chapter and title options the LG generates along the bottom of the screen, but this is far from comprehensive and is also hamstrung by the fact that with no labelling of what feature each title section contains, you never know exactly what you're going to get when you choose one. Kind of like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, but nowhere near as tasty.

The BH100 will, at least, play the movie track on an HD DVD disc. But the 'next generation' disc experience is about way more than that.We asked LG if some kind of firmware upgrade may be in the offing to fix this clearly unsatisfactory situation, but apparently there's not going to be one. Ouch.

Thankfully the BH100's Blu-ray playback suffers no such shortcomings. It played fully every Blu-ray disc we could lay our hands on - up-front menus, interactive features and all. Which means it's hard to escape the feeling that this was originally a Blu-ray player that's had rudimentary HD DVD playback shoved clumsily in at the last minute.

There is some good news to report though, namely that the deck's picture quality is actually good - not world-beating, but definitely quite a bit better than we'd expected it would be for a debut dual format deck.

Pictures look extremely sharp and detailed, for starters, delivering emphatically that 'snap' and clarity that's high definition's trademark. You can, for instance, make out individual pores on Tom Cruise's face during the opening sequence of Mission Impossible III on HD DVD. If you want to.

The BH100 also delivers strikingly rich and natural colours from its two HD source formats, along with convincingly deep black levels, leaving old standard definition DVDs frequently looking flat and drab by comparison.

On the downside, fast-moving objects in a picture can look a touch soft, and the picture is more prone to dot crawl than premium one-format decks from Panasonic and Toshiba. But in performance terms we guess these are pretty small prices to pay for being able to play your choice of HD DVD and Blu-ray discs in a single machine.

The problem for the BH100 is that a likeable performance with HD DVD and Blu-ray discs is only a part of its story. We also have to consider its £1,000 price tag - a hefty sum that could alternatively buy, say, an Xbox 360 plus HD DVD drive and a PS3 for Blu-ray needs, and still leave you with plenty of change for a healthy collection of games and HD movies.
We dare say there are people who will pay over the odds for the LG's one-box convenience. But before you do, given the deck's half-baked HD DVD talents, there's one more question you need to ask yourself: do I really want to spend £1,000 now on a machine that doesn't really do what it says on the tin, or should I wait for one that does? We certainly know what our answer would be…
Price: £1,000
More info: LG Electronics
Size: 430x79x250mm
Weight: 4.1kg
Connections: HDMI 1.2 output, Component video output, Optical/coaxial digital output, 5.1 audio outputs, Stereo audio outputs, Composite video output, Service port
Key features:
Plays Blu-ray and HD DVD discs
Offers 1080p/24 output if available on a source disc
720p/1080i upscaling of standard DVDs
Can decode the 5.1-channel cores of Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD
JAVA compatible
DVD+R/RW playback

Plus points: Waves two fingers at the whole HD disc format war; looks great; support for 1080p/24 output; decent picture quality with both formats
Minus points: Doesn't play HD DVD interactive features; including most disc's start-up menus; no CD playback; slow disc loading; slight motion softness; expensive

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