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The battle between Blu-ray and HD DVD isn’t only being fought in the home cinema arena. Which format will become the de facto optical standard in computers is just as important to both camps, so it comes as no surprise that I have a Blu-ray writer sitting in front of me right now.
One of the advantages that Blu-ray had over HD DVD was that it was set to be a writable format straight out of the gate, and the Blu-ray consortium definitely came through on that claim. In fact the first Blu-ray writer to arrive in the TrustedReviews lab was back in July 2006 as part of the Sony VAIO AR11S notebook, but full size PC drives have taken a bit longer to appear.
The LG GBW-H10N looks pretty much like any other DVD writer apart from the Blu-ray Disc logo on the right side of the tray. The GBW-H10N will write BD-R discs at 4x, BD-RE media at 2x, DVD-R at 12x, DVD-RW at 6x, DVD+R at 12x, DVD+RW at 8x (media permitting) and DVD-RAM at 5x.
Of course you can also burn CDs, but bizarrely the GBW-H10N can write to CD-RW discs faster than CD-R discs – 10x compared to 8x respectively. Inserting a 52x CD-R in the drive confirmed that it would max out at 8x when writing. More worrying though was that the drive refused to even recognise a 32x CD-RW. The only slower CD-RW media I had to hand was an old 4x disc, which the GBW-H10N had no problem recognising and was happy to burn at 4x.
Considering that this is such a cutting edge bit of kit, I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed to find that it employed an EIDE interface as opposed to a SATA one. Most modern motherboards are cutting back on the amount of EIDE connectors in favour of SATA, so it would make sense for optical drive manufacturers to make the switch. At least LG bundles an EIDE cable in the box.
When it comes to writing data to Blu-ray discs, you’re going to need to have some time on your hands. Writing a 16GB single file to a write-once BD-R disc took near on 47 minutes, while the same test on a re-writable BD-RE disc took one hour 23 minutes – the time differential is down to the slower 2x performance using BD-RE media. If you’re going to burn masses of smaller files, you can expect even longer burn times. Writing 18GB of mixed files (digital images, MP3s etc.) took 55 minutes 25 seconds on BD-R and almost one hour and 40 minutes on BD-RE.