LG BH100 Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD Player

Maybe it's me, but lately it seems like there's been a glut of World War II-related movies hitting the screen. Clint Eastwood alone cranked out two in the past year, and he's 77! A key theme in many of these flicks is that war closely resembles hell. If that's the case, then the same must apply (on a less crucial scale, of course) to video format wars. Having to buy two separate, expensive machines just to take advantage of the full range of high-definition disc releases - if that situation isn't hell, then it's certainly hellish.

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If, like me, you're not too thrilled about the current format war, you'll be happy to know about the LG BH100 Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD player, a $1,200 combo model that can handle both formats. The company calls its unique, peacemaking machine Super Multi Blue. Sensing consumer desire for such a product, LG set out to make it real by creating a dual-lens/dual-diode disc drive with red and blue lasers. One of the BH100's lenses is used for HD DVD and standard DVD, which have data embedded at similar depths on the disc. The other one, meanwhile, is used for Blu-ray Discs, which pack data close to the disc surface and thus require a lens with a different focal point. As far as the player's dual laser mechanisms go, blue is used for both high-definition disc formats, and red for standard DVDs. LG also worked closely with chip-maker Broadcom to develop a custom solution that could seamlessly switch between the HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats in a player with a single disc drive.

But before you nod out in a blissful blue haze over the prospect of having to buy only one high-def disc player, there's something else you should know about the BH100: It hasn't been sanctioned as a full-fledged HD DVD player by the DVD Forum. To earn that status, a player needs to provide HDi interactivity - features like picture-in-picture for onscreen video commentaries, as well as the ability to download additional content over the Internet. LG's Super BH100 not only lacks those features, it won't even display the menu screens from HD DVDs! (No such limitations apply to its handling of Blu-ray Discs, however.)

A few other BH100 peculiarities need to be addressed up front. Although the player can extract 1080p-format signals from both HD DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, it delivers them in that resolution only at 24- and 30-Hz frame rates. Basically, this means that if your HDTV can't accept a 1080p signal with a 24- or 30-Hz refresh rate over an HDMI connection (many can't), then the 1080p option won't be accessible in the BH100's setup menu and you'll be limited to 1080i or 720p high-def output. And though the player's HDMI connection worked fine with an Anthem AVM 50 preamp that I used for testing, LG has confirmed that the initial run of BH100s had problems passing signals via HDMI to Denon and Pioneer A/V receivers (an issue that's reportedly been fixed for the current production run; LG is also planning a firmware upgrade for units already in the field).