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The Blu-ray movement has well and truly begun. We're seeing an increasing number of Blu-ray laptops, desktops, standalone movie players, and now the first Blu-ray drive for use inside a PC. As well as being able to play Blu-ray movies, the GBW-H10N's main claim to fame is that it's the world's first 4x drive, meaning it can write up to 25GB of data to a Blu-ray Disc at 18MBps -- far quicker than the 4.5MBps achievable with 1x drives.
The GBW-H10N looks like any ordinary internal optical drive. It's beige (a black front bezel is available), sports a tray-loading mechanism and connects to your computer's motherboard via an IDE-cable (included). As a result it's extremely easy to install, provided you have a passing knowledge of computer hardware and a willingness to take the sides off your PC.
The GBW-H10N's main draw is its ability to play Blu-ray movies. For this, LG recommends a graphics card on par with or more powerful than an Nvidia GeForce 7600 GT or ATI Radeon X1600 with 256MB of dedicated onboard memory. The company also recommends a computer running a 3.2GHz Intel Pentium D or equivalent, 1GB of RAM and 60GB of space for Blu-ray Disc authoring.
In tests, the GBW-H10N worked very well, but there are some things to note before you buy it. Your display needs to be high-bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP) enabled if using a DVI or HDMI interface, otherwise movies won't play. It's possible to play movies using a non-HDCP graphics card and monitor combination, but movies that are protected with HDCP will not run. Nice and simple, then.
Being a reader and writer, the GBW-H10N is able to create Blu-ray Discs -- in the same way as a CD or DVD burner can. It's a single-layer model, meaning it can write 25GB of data to compatible discs -- roughly five times more data than an ordinary DVD, but only around three times more than a dual-layer DVD drive. It's therefore ideal for making large file backups -- you can squeeze around 6,400 MP3 music files or 36 DivX movies on to a single disc.
LG includes a single 25GB write-once BD-R disc and a bundle of Cyberlink software in the package to help you make use of the drive straight away. You get Cyberlink Power2Go and Instant Burn for writing to Blu-ray Disc/DVD/CD, Power Backup for creating backups, PowerProducer for authoring and PowerDVD, which despite the name can play Blu-ray flicks as well as DVDs.
The GBW-H10N is very quick. Being a 4x speed drive (most are 1x or 2x drives) it can write to Blu-ray Discs at nearly 1GB per minute, which isn't bad for an optical format. At this rate it filled our 25GB test disc in 22 minutes 18 seconds, which is miles quicker than the 45 minutes you'll have to wait when filling a 1x drive.
The GBW-H10N has the same major drawback as any new, high-demand device -- price. This drive will set you back £478, which, while cheaper than the £1,000 you'll pay for a Samsung BD-P1000, is still an awful lot of money.
We also didn't like the fact that the GBW-H10N isn't compatible with dual-layer discs. The next wave of Blu-ray writers will support 50GB discs and higher, so you may feel a tad peeved at only being able to write to 25GB discs. The only caveat here is that future firmware upgrades may let you support 50GB discs, but LG couldn't confirm this at the time of writing.
Bizarre as it may sound, this drive isn't particularly quick when it comes to writing to more conventional disc formats. It'll burn DVD-R and DVD+R at up to 12x, but CD writing only works at a slothful 8x, which you'll hate if you burn many audio CDs.
The GBW-H10N is faster and cheaper than any other standalone drive we've seen, and comes highly recommended for anyone itching to upgrade their current PC, or build a new one with Blu-ray playback capability. Be warned though -- it doesn't come cheap.