LG BH200 Blu-ray and HD DVD Player: Smooth but Slow

LG Electronics' highly anticipated second-generation Blu-ray and HD DVD video player is now shipping. The player does its job in properly decoding both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. But my early use of the player yields one initial, albeit significant, complaint: The player is pokey--at startup, when identifying whether you've inserted a Blu-ray or an HD DVD disc, when changing chapters, or when navigating disc menus.

The BH200 notably rights its predecessor the BH100's transgressions by fully implementing the HD DVD spec, which means you can properly and seamlessly view the fancy menus and extra content on an HD DVD disc. Furthermore, this player is the first to ship that supports the recently implemented Blu-ray Bonus View picture-in-picture functionality (part of what was once widely referenced as Blu-ray Profile 1.1).

According to LG, this player also has the hardware necessary to support Blu-ray's Internet-connected content, BD Live, when such content surfaces sometime next year. Not unexpectedly, though the player is what LG calls "BD Live-ready," it will require a firmware update in order to play BD Live content.

Although the $999 BH200 certainly busts down the barriers between Blu-ray and HD DVD, LG is charging a high premium for the convenience of having both formats in one box. That premium feels particularly high in a season still reeling from $99 HD DVD (granted, those models were only capable of 1080i, not 1080p output, as the BH200 is) and $350 Blu-ray Disc players. Already, Samsung has said its own dual-format player, due out this month, will be priced at $799. Given how volatile player prices have been lately, I won't be surprised to hear of a price drop on the BH200 soon after its introduction.

LG's Tim Alessi, director of product development, says the company is watching the pricing situation. "We still believe there's a convenience factor that will justify that premium. How much that premium will be remains to be seen."