So, the rumours were correct then. LG has unveiled its ‘Super Multi Blue Player’ (or, more prosaically, the BH100) which can play both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs.
It’s going on sale by the end of March in the US, with a retail price of $1,199. It supports 1920x1080p HD resolution, has touch sensor buttons – I’m wondering if this has been ported over from the Chocolate mobile phone – and supports HDMI Out and Optical / 5.1CH out. It has a single tray too, so owners won’t have to think about which slot to pop which discs in.
It’ll also play regular DVD discs, but NOT audio CDs. “We decided not to include the CD this time,” said Dr H.G. Lee, LG Electronics’ president and CTO. “It was an engineering decision to make it simpler. We felt for most consumers it would not be a limitation.”
Possibly more worrying is the fact that the player doesn’t support the full range of HD DVD interactive features, again due to hardware limitations. However, Lee is confident that the Super Multi Blue Player (I love that name, they should junk the actual title) can solve the current confusion surrounding competing HD formats.
“Most consumers feel they are confused, and they are not really sure what format player they would like to buy,” he said. “So naturally they are reluctant to purchase players or the DVD content. The growth of this exciting new technology is much slower than it could be, and that’s a concern for everybody in the industry. LG has been a member of the Blu-ray Disc Association, and we’re still very active in that camp, but some time in the last year we decided and recognised that the two formats are here to stay, and there won’t be a unification of the formats anytime soon. So this is our approach to solve at least part of the problem.”
There’s also a companion product, the GGW-H10N (right), which is a Super Multi Blue drive for computers. It’s also coming out in Q1 2007, and will cost the same price as the player, $1,199.
The PC drive will be able to read AND write Blu-ray discs, although only read HD DVD discs. It’ll also be a bit more powerful than the player, and able to read audio CDs, and access the full interactive features of HD DVDs.
Other details: the BH100 takes around 25 seconds from putting a Blu-ray disc in to seeing the first menu screen, which Lee reckons is the fastest startup time for any Blu-ray player available today.
There’s no network or serial port for budding home networkers. Lee was asked if LG will be licensing the technology behind the Super Multi Blue to other manufacturers, or if there’s any secret tech inside that would prevent rival firms trying to make their own version.
“We have not been engaged in any discussion with any other manufacturers about potential licensing, but we would be very excited to see more manufacturers join our approach,” he said. “Licensing? We really haven’t thought very much about it, but it would be a straightforward business decision. I don’t know of any particular intellectual property inside that would stop other manufacturers from trying to develop it on their own, or having a licence from LG.”
Finally, LG gave an insight into the price point, saying they wanted to make the combi player no more than 20% more expensive than “premium Blu-ray only players”.