LG’s Super Blu BH200 has the distinction of being the world’s first—and likely only—second generation combo Blu-ray/HD DVD player. Does this even matter, given that Toshiba (the driving force behind HD DVD) is now moving away from HD DVD? Given the hundreds of titles already released in HD DVD, some of them available only in that format, we think it does. There’s no denying the appeal or convenience of a true do-all player. Elsewhere in this issue you’ll find my review of Samsung’s dual format BD-UP5000, and it didn’t take me long to delve into the LG to see what similarities and differences exist between the two. And after testing the LG as I did the Samsung, I’d have to say the pair could easily be called “Seoul Sisters,” as they’re more alike than different. But, they’re not twins— with the LG having its own appealing personality. The LG’s highlights include:
The BH200 is one of the first products to be equipped with Marvell’s potent new Qdeo video processing engine. As with other HD DVD certified players, the BH200 is equipped with an Ethernet port that allows Web-enabled content to be downloaded with select movie titles.
The BH200 sports both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD logos, indicating compatibility with both high resolution audio formats. However, the player does not come with multi-channel analog outputs, instead providing a conventional analog stereo pair. However, an HDMI 1.3 output can provide (as of now, anyway) high resolution stereo audio bitstreams to pre-amp/processors and A/V receivers equipped with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoders. A single optical digital output is provided.
A front panel USB port allows the player to access music (MP3, WMA) and photo (JPG) files from USB “thumb” drives.
The LG’s elegant front panel features a prominent pair of backlit white Blu-ray and HD DVD logos at startup, along with a quintet of backlit blue-ringed transport control buttons that remain lit during bootup, which takes a half-minute or so. With no disc in the player, the user is presented with the Home Menu with four large function icons (Movi e, Photo, Music, and Setup), only one of which (Setup) can actually be activated—why the other three are there is a mystery to me.
Within the Setup menu, I was delighted to find picture adjustment controls, although initially they’re grayed out as the unit comes with default Qdeo “best guess” settings activated. The User mode activated the picture adjustment options, allowing me to adjust contrast, brightness, color and tint, and other settings. But, and this is a big one, the LG won’t allow you to make picture adjustments while a test pattern disc is running. Instead, a high resolution photograph of smiling-faced children wearing multicolored clothing is displayed. If you want to make picture adjustments using a test disc, you’ll have to go through a maddening and time-consuming trialand- error process.
The player’s remote control has neither backlighting nor glow-key functions, but the layout is reasonably well thought out, although I would have preferred to see somewhat larger disc transport function buttons. Disc loading and recognition times are best described as leisurely, taking about 25 seconds for BD and HD DVD discs and about 20 seconds for DVDs and CDs.
Once I got over my disappointment with the LG’s peculiar picture adjustment limitations, my mood most definitely changed for the better once I evaluated the player’s performance with various test discs. I’d not heard about Marvell before, nor of their new Qdeo video processing engine, but after running through a suite of tough torture test patterns on Blu-ray, HD DVD and DVD discs, I was a very happy camper. Put simply, the LG player blew me away with its ability to handle even the most demanding deinterlacing and upconversion trials with aplomb.
The LG came through all of the tests with flying colors, virtually matching the results I observed with the Silicon Optix HQV Reon-equipped Samsung combo player. To my mind, this instantly elevates the Qdeo processing chip to the top rank of video processors currently available. One of the most difficult tests on the Silicon Optix demo discs is a 1080i, 24 frames-per-second film rate SMPTE resolution test pattern that features single pixel lines and rows, which moves slowly from side to side, along with a rotating white bar to check for jaggies. Here, the LG performed like a champ, detecting the cadence in an instant and properly outputting pixel-perfect delineation with no smearing, flashing, or other artifacts. The white bar was just as smooth and free of jaggies through the LG as it had been on the HQV Reonequpped Samsung. I tried a number of other test discs and found similar, excellent results. The LG was even able to read unpublished beta high definition test discs on Blu-ray RE (recordable/erasable) as well as on DVD-R, something that most players can’t do (LG’s manual doesn’t tout the capability, but I found it to be a bonus anyway).