Blu-ray and HD DVD Face Off Page 3
The best way to think about this product is as a Blu-ray player that happens to play HD DVDs. I say it that way because it doesn't have full HD DVD implementation (hence the lack of HD DVD logos). So, it will play HD DVDs, but you don't get any of the interactive content, like the menus that come up over the movie and so on. In their place (and the only way you can access any of the extra features on the disc) is a pop-up menu system that the player creates. It only lists title, chapter, and track length. To access the extras, you have to scroll through the different titles and chapters on the disc and blindly pick whatever one looks like it's the right length. It's disappointing, but, according to LG, it would have taken months to get all the interactivity to work, and they wanted to get the product to market as soon as possible.
Picture quality with Blu-ray and HD DVD were both excellent, the equal of the single-format cousins. No next-gen player starts up a disc particularly quickly, and the BH100 isn't faster or slower than any other.
Another oddity is the lack of a 1080p/60 output. Instead, you get 1080p/24 and 1080p/30. This is just plain weird. There is no way to force the issue, either. If the BH100 and your TV can't talk to each other in a matching 1080p dialect, all you'll get is 1080i. Many TVs will accept these scan rates without a problem, but not all. If your TV doesn't, you'll just have to accept 1080i and hope your TV can deinterlace and pick up the 3:2 sequence properly.
DVD playback is highly mediocre. The colors are slightly desaturated, and the image is rather soft.
As far as being able to do what it intends—as in play both formats—the BH100 of course succeeds. Just that is impressive. But, if you're looking for the ultimate, perfect disc player that is free of quirks and idiosyncrasies, this isn't it.
If you'd like to read an expanded review of this player, log on to www.hometheatermag. com/discplayers.
The Winner? No, Just Losers
Why am I not excited? A combo player isn't going to end this format war. In reality, it will just prolong it. The best outcome would be for one format to die. With a combo player, the life of the losing format will just drag on and on. Sony will never make a player that plays HD DVD, and Toshiba will never make a player that does Blu-ray (unless their own format is long dead and gone). Until the average consumer can buy the cheapest player on the market and rent a disc without looking at the label ("What do you mean this disc won't play in my player?"), neither format will gain mass acceptance. Regardless, this is going to drag out over years, and there is no possibility that either format (or both combined) will grow as fast as DVD. If Sony, et al, and Toshiba are lucky, they'll grow faster than VHS.
A New Hope
At CES 2007, Warner Brothers announced Total HD discs. According to their press release, it will have single- or dual-layer versions of both formats on opposite sides of the same disc. With any luck, we'll see them by the end of the year. This simple method is an excellent way to let consumers buy players and discs without worrying about formats—that is, as long as Warner can convince every other studio to produce the discs. Yeah, right. Even so, it will certainly help, but it's still not an absolute solution. But perhaps this compromise is the only solution we'll ever get. Gotta love it.
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player:
• Has a 1080p HDMI output
• Upconversion of standard-def DVDs is excellent
• Overall, this second-generation unit is a big improvement
Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray Player:
• Dolby Digital Plus output via HDMI
• Plays DVD-Audio
• A great choice for audiophiles
LG BH100 Blu-ray/HD DVD Player:
• For the price of a Blu-ray player, you get compatibility with both formats
• Physically, the unit has great aesthetic appeal