The Blu-ray dream took a step closer to reality this morning, when Taiwanese giant BenQ unveiled a couple of Blu-ray disc drives that will land on UK shores later this year.
In a sun-drenched corner of Covent Garden, BenQ (which claims to 'Bring Enjoyment 'n' Quality' to life) let us play with its BW1000 internal half-height Blu-ray drive (pictured), and a prototype of its EW100G external Blu-ray drive.
Both are aesthetically very pleasing. We really like the brushed-metal look of the BW1000's drive tray, its square-ish eject button, and the three LED indicators that light up to inform you what type of disc has been inserted (BD, DVD or CD).
We'll bore you senseless with the clever technology inside the drives in a moment, but we'd like to point out some of the cooler benefits of Blu-ray (and HD DVD) first. As well as looking a lot sharper and more detailed than DVD movies, Blu-ray flicks will let you pull up menus without having to stop your movie. This means you can navigate through a list of chapters while a scene continues to play, and you can even play Java games on your TV while your other half enjoys a chick flick. Also, Blu-ray is picture-in-picture compatible, so you can view multiple scenes simultaneously.
As for the more geeky stuff, BenQ says its drives have a load of clever technology inside. Most significantly they use a single optical pickup unit (OPU). Unlike some drives that use multiple OPUs for firing either a red or blue laser, the BenQ drives' single, twin-firing OPUs make for a more efficient, less power-hungry system.
The EW1000G and BW1000 also use Walking OPU technology. Unlike the constant linear velocity (CLV) or constant angular velocity (CAV) method of writing data to a disc, BenQ Walking OPU ensures your BD disc can be written to at its maximum rated speed.
Finally, both drives feature Solid Burn technology, which automatically optimises writing quality, therefore ensuring maximum compatibility between different drives. Plus there's a precision tilt control system (PCTS) that moves the angle of the laser to fire more precisely at the ever-undulating surface of a disc.
That's a lot of complicated technology, but all the consumer has to remember is that Blu-ray drives will let you store up to 25GB of data on a single disc (compared to just 4.7GB for a standard DVD) and enjoy moving pictures that look a shed-load more detailed than anything you've seen before.
It's just as well really -- you'll be paying £599 for the BW1000 when it hits shelves at the end of August and around £650 for the EW100G this November. We'll take a closer look at both shortly before they arrive. -RR