At a press conference today at CES 2007, LG introduced the first player capable of playing both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. The words on the drawer of the player read "Super Multi Blue Player," but the model number is simply BH100. The player will be available as early as the first week of February at Best Buy and Circuit City among other outlets, according to the company, and will cost $1,199. At least for now, this announcement appears to be the most significant news at the show.
In case there was any doubt of the unit's capability, the company's press event included a demo of one player showing a custom demo loop labeled with a Blu-ray watermark and a second player showing the same loop with an HD DVD watermark. The company's reps even bravely performed a live demo of playing first an HD DVD disc and then a Blu-ray disc, skipping chapters, and so on. At one point in the conference, the LG representative changed discs, which took about a minute, although the spokesperson claimed a short, 25-second load time.
The player can deliver up to 1080p output resolution at 24 and 30 frames per second via HDMI, but future-conscious buyers might lament that the HDMI version is just 1.2, not 1.3. The LG also has Blu-ray Java compatibility. All of the standard A/V outputs are present, including 5.1-channel analog audio outputs. The spec sheet also mentions all of the requisite audio formats, including the lossless Dolby Digital True HD and DTS-HD formats, implying that the player decodes those formats internally and can send them out via HDMI in PCM format and via the analog 5.1-channel outputs. The unit can also play DVDs but not CDs. The back panel of the demo unit we saw did have an Ethernet port labeled "LAN," which I assume allows at least firmware updates and possibly some interactive features. Update: LG has confirmed that the BH100 also lacks the ability to access the HDi interactive layer found on some HD DVD discs, meaning that their advanced interactive features, like picture-in-picture commentaries and bookmark sharing, won't be available. LG also said that it could not add HDi via a firmware upgrade.
I was skeptical at first of the company's ability to deliver a player, but this demo and the early release date appear perfectly legit. The release of LG's player opens the door to other companies marketing a combination player (Samsung?), finally bringing some sense of security to buyers interested in investing in next-generation DVD discs. Of course the price of the BH100 is out of reach for most buyers, but if the falling prices of DVD players are any indication, their successor players might become somewhat affordable in a couple years. Of course, we're looking forward to reviewing a BH100 as soon as possible.
The company also introduced a $1,199 computer drive, model GGW-H10N and available around the same time, capable of playing HD DVDs and playing and recording Blu-ray discs at up to 4x speed. It can also read and write DVDs and CDs.