Click to viewWe got the LG BH100 in the mail yesterday. It does what claims to do — be the very first high definition disc player that is compatible with both Blu-ray and HD-DVD. But don't wave the white flag in the format war quite yet. Our first grope reveals a few flaws that keep me from recommending this player as the ultimate peace keeper in the HD format war.
Right off, I'll tell you that the rumors that the HD-DVD compatibility is half-assed are absolutely true. One of HD-DVD's strongest points is its interactive menus and video features, like the ones we wrote about in our Fast and the Furious HD-DVD review. This player didn't support the menus on this movie, and some of the special features, like being able to repaint a race car in the movie, were only found when I manually skipped to the chapter. Even then, the only thing you can depend on is that the movie will play. Which may be enough for many, but not enough for those who want the most from both formats.
Secondly, I could not get the player to engage its 1080p mode via HDMI with the Sony XBR3 I'm testing. 1080i was all she would do.
But beyond that, she did play both discs. And the boot times were in the 30-40 second range for both HD formats. That's a step in the right direction compared to many of the 1st gen disc players that took about a minute. Strangely, the boot times were around 30 seconds for DVDs, too. A little long, but this is still the only way to get both formats in your home with one piece of gear. (Until those dual format discs pick up.)
Generally, if a player like this works, its quality is good enough for 95 percent of the population. But with a price tag of 1200 bucks, before tax and shipping, I had to test the player's visual qualities. Without an adequate HD synthetic benchmark, I used the tried and true HQV test DVD that gives quantitative scores for a DVD player's video processor quality with clips that aggravate jaggies, noise, moire, and frame rate cadence. The disc is the equivalent to Marine Boot Camp, so when the player scored a 55 out of 130, I wasn't too dissapointed, but I was not impressed, either. By reference, the XBox DVD player scored a 40. So, the LG is "OK".
This is a weird thing to bring up for a set top box review, but did you notice how gorgeous the case is? the matte-finished aluminum top proudly displays compatibility logos, and 5 buttons, for power, eject, play/pause, stop and menu that with softly glowing halos. On the front, there is merely the disc tray, the monochrome LCD and the glowing LG logo. It's basically the cleanest set top box I've ever seen. There is a flaw in this design: With the buttons on top, you're forced to put the BH100 in the top of a shelf, or be stuck using the remote. Seems fine. But like the PS3 and its rounded top, the BH100's design seems to scream to be at the top of your AV stack. Either way, if Chen were here, he'd try to stick it in his pants.
Extras: The player came with a bunch of crappy RCA and component cables, a nice universal remote,and a polish cloth. But no HDMI cable, the jerks.
Here's the official LG release. I've got full screenshots and angles, including the back panel, remote, and accessories, in the gallery.
Would I buy this? I'd can't recommend it if you're a videophile, or already have an XBox or PS3 to use as a player. Remember, the cost of the box is actually more than one of those cheaper 2nd gen Blu-Ray players + an HD-DVD player. And you're not getting the full shazaam when it comes to the HD-DVD interactivity. So, I'd personally pass, unless you have a very strong aversion to having two HD disc boxes instead of one. Just wait. There'll be more of these.
Previous BH100 Coverage [Gizmodo]