LG may just have arrived at the party a little too late with its Super Multi Blue combo optical drive. Stepping foot on neither side of the high definition format war, LG adopts the kind of thinking that resolved the petty squabble over competing DVD writing standards once upon a time, and has released drives such as this, that support both Blu-ray and HD DVD.
This particular unit is mostly a ROM drive as opposed to a writer, although for a premium it is possible to get a unit that writes to high definition discs too. But very much in the favour of this device is that it can pretty much read anything. Blu-rays are read at up to 6x, HD DVDs up to 3x, DVDs up to 16x and CDs up to 40x. It can also write to DVDs and CDs.
It comes in a smart retail box with instructions, cables, screws and some Cyberlink software that we’ll come to shortly. The drive itself is black and crowded with logos over its front fascia. It’s SATA-only, and to install it was simplicity itself; our test PC picked it up immediately.
To get the high definition playback moving, we installed Cyberlink’s Hi-Def Suite that also comes with the device. This features PowerProducer for authoring, PowerBackup (self explanatory), Power2Go (an instant burning application) and PowerDVD, the latter of which is primed and ready with high definition support.
It should be noted that, as with DVD drives, by default you can alter the regional coding for Blu-ray discs five times before it permanently becomes locked to one region. Again, we’re coming to that shortly.
Firstly then, we tested the drive with a few HD DVDs, and these gave us few problems. Start up times weren’t quite at DVD levels, but soon enough we were admiring the crispness of the output. Blu-ray wasn’t as straightforward, as the software insisted on running a nigh-on 70MB update – which it uses your Internet connection to download – before our test discs would even work.
Even then, the drive defaulted to the American region A, meaning our British disc wouldn’t play and we simply had a warning screen telling us to get the right playback device. A bit of fiddling around PowerDVD activated one of the region changes, but it wasn’t clear what you were supposed to do.
Still, once over those hurdles, the performance of the drive was pleasing and worthwhile. It works best, we suspect, in a system with a more specialised DVD burner as well, but LG’s solution is a versatile and well put together package. The problem is that with the demise of HD DVD as a format, it may not be the most logical upgrade to opt for, with a specialised Blu-ray drive likely to prove the more satisfactory long-term investment.
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