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LG GBW H10N: Economy Blu-ray drive

LG's Blu-ray disc drive offers a more cost-effective way of introducing the Blu-ray format into your home. It even records onto 25GB Blu-ray discs

While we're excited by the arrival of the high-capacity Blu-ray disc format, the exorbitant price of dedicated players is a big stumbling block. But there's a way around it that doesn't involve breaking the bank, although it will still leave a dent.

LG's latest Blu-ray disc drive, the GBW H10N, is an optical storage device that lets you read, write and erase data using Blu-ray discs. This means you can store and play high-definition movies, or over five times the data of a normal DVD. The GBW H10N will be available in two formats -- as a component for your PC and as a free-standing device, which will offer the same technology housed in a casing for storage underneath your TV.

LG claims this is the first Blu-ray drive capable of burning at 4x speed using Blu-ray recordable discs, although rewriteable formats will be stuck at 2x speed. There's a protective 4MB buffer for Blu-ray writing and a 2MB buffer for traditional disc writing.

However, this speed specification comes with a compromise, as you won't yet be able to use the maximum storage potential of Blu-ray's hallowed 50GB dual-layer format. Instead, the device will only write on single-layer 25GB discs, although future firmware upgrades should eventually allow dual-layer discs to be used.

LG's Super Multi-Blue Technology means the drive is backwards-compatible with all existing formats giving it a three-in-one versatility that will accept CD, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD-RAM and Blu-ray discs.

Presently, the drive is available for Windows XP and Windows Media Center Edition PCs only. Mac OS X isn't Blu-ray compatible yet, but that should change in the future.

The GBW H10N is out this month and will cost around £499. This certainly isn't cheap, but it's a steal compared with standalone Blu-ray players such as the Samsung BD-P1000 or the Panasonic DMP-BD10, which are expected to cost around £1,000. -RA