- A Blu-ray drive that reads and writes all current optical formats except HD-DVD
- Cannot also read and write HD-DVD
Although the Blu-ray versus HD-DVD format wars have yet to reach a conclusion, business users are likely to find the Blu-ray format more attractive due to its higher capacity: a single-layer Blu-ray disc stores 25GB, compared to 15GB for HD-DVD. The Super Multi Blue GBW-H10N internal Blu-ray disc rewriter from LG Electronics is a multi-format drive that will write Blu-ray discs at up to 4x (143.9Mbps) as well as writing and reading all of the DVD and CD formats. Dual format Blu-ray/HD-DVD drives may well appear in future, but the GBW-H10N is Blu-ray only.
Although business users may only wish to use this drive for high-capacity optical storage, it is HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) compatible and can be used to play commercial high-definition movie discs, digitally. However, the drive alone isn’t enough for this task. In addition, the operating system, graphics hardware, graphics drivers, playback software and display must all support the necessary HDCP-encrypted handshake. Even now, such HDCP-compliant components are relatively rare and many new PCs do not include them. According to the drive's manual, HD movie discs can be played in ‘analogue’ mode without the need for a fully HDCP-compliant playback chain, but with some loss of quality.
Although some recent drives have featured shorter cases only 170mm in depth, the Super Multi Blue measures a full 204mm. In all other respects, it closely resembles other CD/DVD drives. The only features on the front panel are a disc eject/load button and a small hole to access the emergency manual eject. There’s also a single, green LED indicator that flashes during any disc activity.
There’s not much space on a drive front panel for styling, but LG has made a bit of an effort by using both matte and transparent elements. All too often in the past, drive manufacturers have not identified supported formats on the front panel, but here there’s a clearly visible Blu-ray logo on the front of the disc loading tray along with DVD and CD logos, so there should be no confusion over which disc types can be played.
The rear connectors look familiar, with two-pin digital and four-pin analogue connectors both physically present, although the drive instructions say these are not active. Next to these connectors is the usual three-way drive select, then a 40-way IDE connector and finally the standard AMP four-pin power connector. An 80-way, high-bandwidth IDE cable is supplied with the drive, although at only 28cm from the second connector, this may prove to be a little too short in some systems. A software CD, one blank single-layer BD-R disc, four fixing screws and a multilingual paper manual are also supplied.
These new optical formats require burning and authoring software that supports them. LG supplies a suite of CyberLink software on the software CD-ROM, including Power DVD (a version of the movie playback software that supports HD), Power Producer (a simple authoring package), two disc-burning utilities — InstantBurn (which supports packet writing) and Power2Go — plus Power Backup (a utility for backing up files to Blu-ray disc).
The CD also contains a beta of CyberLink's BD/HD Advisor, a utility for checking that a system has the features required to support high-definition formats. The BD/HD Advisor can be downloaded for free from the Blu-ray and HD-DVD support section of the CyberLink web site.