Well, it appears blu-ray has won with the fall of another studio giving up on HDDVD. However you feel on the matter, it sure has lead to the fastest comoditization of players/burners of the new formats. My prediction is that by this next christmas, you’ll only see Blu-ray.
But to test things out, I picked up the nearly-impossible-to-find-online-and-is-$100+-more-when-you-do-find-it LG GGW-H20L at Fry’s this last weekend for $399 to give it a whirl. It plays Blu-ray movies. It plays DVD movies. It plays HDDVD movies. Ah, but this one also BURNS blu-ray. And it’s the first dual-layer blu-ray burner. So, the other night, I burned a 50GB blu-ray data disk consisting of 12 full DVD’s of my pictures – on one disc. Wow. So far I’m really happy with the drive. But a few interesting notes:
1. Right out of the box, the last step of the install procedure installs a tool to download the latest firmware for the drive and flashes the drive bios. And mine was already a full rev behind right out of the box.
2. It uses a slightly crippled PowerDVD suite to play movies (2-channel audio only – surround sound requires buying the full version). It works fine, but putting in a BluRay or HDDVD disc with the default install only pops up a dialog saying it needs to download a patch. The patch just happens to be over 60 megs. Neither HDDVD nor BluRay discs will play with the default software in the box. So, in other words, this drive didn’t even WORK as packaged. Worked just fine with the patch, but that was disturbing folks.
3. It took about 1 hour 20 minutes to burn a 50meg dual-layer Blu-ray disc.
4. 50gb Dual-layer Blu-ray blanks are $25, and single-layer 25gb are $9.99. So for data storage, unless you need the contiguous space, both DVD’s ($.04 $/mb) and even hard drives ($0.20 $/mb) are cheaper per megabyte than the blu-ray data discs ($.40/$.52 $/mb)
5. Scratch resistance and longevity – Data is stored on the TOP (i.e on the label side) of the disc. If you scratch the top, you destroy the disc. The video store I rented my movie from already had signs up educated their employees and customers to this fact. So, the youtube clips of folks using steel wool on the bottoms of the disc and they still playing are pointless, try scratching the top. I’m somewhat concerned by this fact, but am reluctant to blow $9 to find out exactly how resistant those tops are to scratching. I think we’ll find out in the next 6-8 months. HDDVD stored in the center – something that should have lead to better longevity and scratch resistance. We’ll see.
I’m just evaluating this drive so far, but I know I’ll be buying a High-def player now. The picture does look considerably better. But I might still take this one back and wait for the price to keep dropping.
And not bother with the HDDVD compatibility…