LG Electronics Super Blu BH200 Multi Format HD Disc Player

With the current stalemate between Blu-ray and HD DVD, and most studios exclusive to either one format or the other, the only options for the HD enthusiast would seem to be to sit on the fence, take sides, or pull out the old checkbook and buy two players.

Waiting it out means that missing out on the best quality sources of high-definition movies. Choosing a side limits your selection of titles. And buying both is not only expensive and inconvenient, it means that you may be stuck with at least one pricey boat anchor in a year or two.

LG Electronics has what it hopes is a better idea. The new LG Super Blu BH200 ($999) dual format player is available.

Dual Configuration
The new Super Blu HD200 is a little less macho looking than its predecessor. Its sleekly stylish, high gloss exterior looks the part of a high-end design.

When the player is first switched on, the touch sensitive controls on the player's front panel are lit by halos of blue (natch) light. My fears of a Vegas-by-night light show mercifully vanished as these blue lights disappeared after the player was warmed up and ready to accept a disc, leaving only the readouts in the front panel window illuminated.

There are large, backlit logos for both Blu-ray and HD DVD. When you pop in a disc, both of these logos pulsate while the player is figuring out what flavor of recording it has been asked to digest. Once it decides (which takes about 30 seconds), the appropriate light stays on. There's also an on-screen indication as this process is occurring.

Around back you'll see one significant omission: The BH200 does not have multichannel analog outputs. Your audio output options are HDMI, a TosLink optical digital port, and two-channel analog. The HDMI output of the player is HDMI 1.3. The power cord, a two-lead, non-polarized cable, is removable.

The BD playback on the BH200 is currently BD-ROM Profile 1 version 1 only. The player has an Ethernet (LAN) port for connection to the Internet. There's also built-in memory (amount not specified) for both BD and HD DVD, which may be used to store downloaded content. Alternately, such information may be saved on a USB flash drive connected to the player's USB port.

The player therefore meets the hardware requirements for Profile 1.1 or even Profile 2—profiles required to make full use of the BD-Java features beginning to show up on some discs. All it appears to lack, at present, is the appropriate firmware. LG Electronics suggests in the manual that these profiles "could be supported through updating the player's firmware later." As with any next-gen disc player, I would not assume that this firmware is a given when making a purchase decision—note the use of the word "could." But hopefully it will come soon.

Dual Operation
I also had no problems with disc loading times. There's no lightning speed here to compare with DVD loading on standard definition players, but the results were typical of the best standalone HD players I have tested in both formats.

There is no current option, however, that we found that enabled 1080p/24fps playback with the 24p-capable displays we used. According to LG, the player switches automatically to either 24Hz or 60Hz, depending on the source material and the capability of the display as determined by the HDMI handshake. But two different 24p-capable displays we tried that indicate the incoming frame rate in the on-screen information menus (the Sony VPL-VW200, review pending, and the InFocus Play Big IN82) showed that the LG was feeding them a 1080p/60 signal. This was true whether the player's resolution was set to Auto or 1080p.

The BH200 also offers several video controls in a User mode. And there's also a Default mode, which engages the player's Qdeo video processing and bypasses these adjustments; I used Default for all of my testing.

There are four settings for the audio outputs: PCM Stereo, PCM Multi-Ch, DTS Re-Encode, and Primary Pass-Thru. The effect of these settings will depend on the source format, but the output you get from the player isn't always what you'll expect. More on this in a bit.

COMPANY INFO
LG Electronics USA, Inc.
(800) 243-0000
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