When I recently gave a couple of interviews for the BBC concerning the next generation DVD formats, I said that I was very confident that we’d see hybrid drives and players that will play both HD DVD and Blu-ray discs. I also said that I hoped there would be announcements to this effect at CES. If only all my predictions came true so quickly, because the very first press conference at CES 2007 did just that!
As usual LG hosted the first press conference of the show – 8am on Sunday morning no less! LG had a lot to say about its growth in the US, especially its improved market share in mobile phones. But the big story was that LG was unveiling its Blu-ray/HD DVD hybrid products. Yes, that’s right, products. Not only does LG have a hybrid player for consumers, but it also has a PC drive that will happily utilise both new high definition multimedia formats.
The BH100 or Super Multi Blue player as LG liked to refer to it, could well be the answer to consumers’ prayers. The fear of buying into the wrong high definition optical format has been worrying technology consumers and even early adopters for quite a while now, but with the BH100 it means that you can buy one player and either type of disc. Aside from the fear of whether a single format will win, the other downside to the competing standards is that some movie studios have chosen to support only one, but this too is no longer a problem with the BH100.
LG demonstrated the BH100 live on stage in front of the World’s leading technology journalists – there was so much interest in LG’s Super Multi Blue devices that the room was packed to capacity and some journos were actually turned away at the door. To show off the capabilities of the BH100 we were treated to a snippet from Batman Begins on HD DVD, the disc was then ejected and replaced with Superman Returns on Blu-ray. It took a minute or so to switch from HD DVD to Blu-ray, but the transition was pretty seamless and very convincing, especially since there’s only a single tray.
It’s not all plain sailing with the BH100 though. For a start it’s clear that LG has been a Blu-ray supporter for far longer than it has been an HD DVD supporter, since although the BH100 will play both Blu-ray and HD DVD formats, it doesn’t give you access to all the interactive features that HD DVD offers. This is a shame considering that Blu-ray doesn’t even offer any online interactive features yet. It’s also worth noting that the BH100 doesn’t support CD playback, so if you’re using your current DVD player to play your CDs, the BH100 may not be the best option.
With an estimated retail price of $1,199, the BH100 isn’t much more expensive than a standalone Blu-ray player, but it’s probably still a bit too pricey to attract anyone but early adopters right now. But the fact that the BH100 actually exists means that we should see cheaper hybrid players start to appear.