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LG Blu-Ray writer burns 4x media at 6x speeds

First INQpressions LG GGW H20L
Thu May 15 2008, 13:09

Product: LG GGW H20L
System Requirements: Intel Pentium D 3.2GHz or Higher, Windows Vista (x86, x64), Windows XP with SP2, RAM 1GB, HDD 30GB or more, 60GB for Blu-ray Disc Authoring, Serial ATA
Price: $399.99, £152.94 - research price, Ebuyer UK

A FEW MONTHS back Toshiba officially pulled out of the HD-DVD market ? all hail our Sony overlords ? we now hear you cry. Prior to that LG had already successfully produced TV set-top boxes capable of playing both High Def media formats, along with optical drives of a similar nature for the PC. We reviewed one of these wonders way back in June of 2007. When we saw that LG formally unveiled its successor, in the GGW H20L, at the end of January we decided to call the beast in.

alt='ggwh20l' LG GGW H20L

Coming from the HLDS factory (Hitachi LG Data Storage) with a 49% LG / 51% Hitachi split, competing with the likes of Pioneer and Sony is the second device of this lineage. It’s an internal PC drive that can read both Blu-ray discs and HD-DVD, besides writing to the former. Just as before, it’s used and featured in more of their popular ranges ? notably the set-top box, BH200.

First of all, we noticed they’ve cosmetically altered the appearance somewhat of the new drive, in addition to awkwardly changing the eject buttons positioning. They’ve now hidden it inside a silver bar, just below the caddy and nowhere near where it can be found on a regular drive. It’s removed so far from the norm, it is very difficult to locate blindly, which can be troublesome at 3am very bleary eyed. We get they’re trying to make a normally bland product more stylish. Changing something as dependable as the location of the eject button from yesteryear isn’t the way to go.

Shipping in the retail box is a Verbatim 2x BD-RE ? a rewritable Blu-ray disc. A curious choice in disc we thought, when the drive is capable of so much more. Surely the accompanying media should show off the drive's full ability? Also dropped in to the box is the same utility CD as before, with software qualifying the PCs playback of dual formats.

This is along with a CyberLink PowerDVD high definition suite for all the other needs ? where playback only supports two channels, leaving others out cold. The drives interface is predictably S-ATA, just as the GGW H10N predecessor was. Although oddly enough the Indian IT press where the drive was more recently announced, quoted an E-IDE version also being available. LG confrimed this to us, even though its US website shows the drive with an ATAPI option.

You might have noticed the suffix at the end of the LG model number is “L”. Don’t rub your eyes ? yep, that’s right, it has built-in Lightscribe. According to LG, it’s the first Blu-ray burner to hit the market with this now enabled. Apparently, BD LS discs are on the horizon and on their way soon. They also confirmed this version is preferentially being sold in the UK and throughout Europe, although the N - non-LightScribe - might still crop up somewhere on the planet.

Since the drive initially shipped there have been three firmware updates, some might say this is an alarmingly high number in such as short space of time. Not so we believe, when we dug deeper they’ve only really addressed the addition of more known disc formats, improved upon writing strategies and fixed some minor glitches.

We asked LG if newer Blu-ray profiles would be updatable via firmware, thinking of the emerging standards and the future of the format. This line of thought was promoted by those who bought the first generation of Blu-ray players that will not be able to access the features of the latest and newer movies around. Sadly, this leaves them out in the cold with a majority of extras addressed on the discs now and in upcoming future releases provided solely for the newer profiles. The answer that came back was a tad confusing. It looks like the drive may have to rely on playback software to take care of this matter, although we’re not entirely sure LG understood the question.

The following is a list of media capabilities by the GGW H20N and various writing and reading speeds. Although we’re not one to just blindly list random specs, significant improvements have been made and warranted the list being shown here. Besides the obvious, which will make for a surprising read later on ? they’ve worked on the CD and DVD writing. Last time around they only reached the meagre heights of 16x on Compact Discs and 8x on Digital Versatile Disc. For a decent all round replacement drive those needed to have been addressed, so we’re glad they’re were.

Compatible Formats
- 25GB / 50GB (Ver.1.2)
BD-ROM DL - 25GB / 50GB (Ver.1.2)
BD-RE SL - 25GB / 50GB (Ver.2.0)
BD-RE DL - 25GB / 50GB (Ver.2.0)
BD-R SL - 25GB / 50GB (Ver.1.2)
BD-R DL - 25GB / 50GB (Ver.1.2)
HD DVD-ROM SL - 15GB / 30GB (Ver.1.2: except 8cm disc)
HD DVD-ROM DL - 15GB / 30GB (Ver.1.2: except 8cm disc)
DVD-ROM (DL) - 4.7GB / 8.5GB (Ver.1.1)
DVD-RAM - 1.46GB/side, 4.7GB/side (Ver.2.2)
DVD+R (DL) - 8.5GB (Ver.1.1)
DVD+RW - 4.7GB (Vol. 1 / Ver.1.3, Vol. 2 / Ver.1.0)
CD - CD-ROM Mode-1, Mode-2 data disc
CD-ROM XA, CD-I, Photo-CD Multi-Session, Video CD
CD-Audio Disc, Mixed mode CD-ROM disc (data and audio),
CD-Extra / CD-Text, CD-R (Conforming to “Orange Book Part 2”: read & write)
CD-RW (Conforming to “Orange Book Part 3”: read & write)

Write speed / Read speed
16x / 12x Max
DVD+R (DL) - 4x / 8x Max
DVD+RW - 8x / 10x Max
DVD-R - 16x / 12x Max
DVD-R (DL) - 4x / 8x Max
DVD-RW - 6x / 10x Max
DVD-ROM - N/A / 16x Max
CD-ROM - N/A / 40x Max
CD-R - 40x / 40x Max
CD-RW - 24x / 40x Max
BD-R - 6x / 6x Max
BD-R (DL) - 4x / 4.8x Max
BD-RE - 2x / 2x Max
BD-RE (DL) - 2x / 2x Max
BD-ROM - N/A / 6x Max
BD-ROM (DL) - N/A / 4.8x Max
HD DVD-ROM - N/A / 3x Max
HD DVD-ROM (DL) - N/A / 3x

One of the more significant differences over the previous model is the price. When we looked at the GGW H10N last year, it was £600 on release, where as the new drive is now just £152.94 ? a dramatic change. We do have to point out that those prices were from our own research as LG does not pass out costs to press, they don’t want to be accused of price fixing. This is despite offering RRP on their website in other parts of the world.

While we’re on the subject of the GGW H10N, there’s a bone we’d like to pick with LG. The drive boasted 4x Blu-ray disc writing, which was really one of its USP. At the time the media wasn’t around for us to test, so we did the best we could and had to take their word for it. In the process of reviewing the new drive, we went back and benchmarked the old one for a comparison with the now available 4x discs. To our shock and dismay it could not write at that speed, even after we flashed the drive to the latest and greatest. Tsk, tsk.

We used for benchmarking the very latest Nero CD-DVD Speed, a standard tool for testing optical drive speed and its overall performance. We tried both of the current shipping 4x media around, Verbatim and TDK, which produced the same results within single layer BD-R. The drive itself was installed on a current Asus motherboard, running x32 Vista powered by an Intel QX6850.

Nero CD-DVD Speed test ? 4x 25GB BD-R Blu-ray media

Now, as promised here is where it starts to get interesting ? being able to burn at 6x on 4x BD-R discs.

The screen shot above was taken from benchmarking on the TDK media, chosen for no real specific reason. As you can see the media is recognised immediately as 6x and is burnt so accordingly, much to our delight. The test ramps up from nearly 3x to eventually reaching 6x as the drive specifications outlay, taking just 21:45 mins ? where the previous drive took 45:14 mins, at only 2x. We posed the question to LG ? How is this possible, overburning on Blu-ray? No answers have yet been forthcoming, even after well over a month of asking and frequent promises of a response. Even the likes of discs manufactures appear a wee bit puzzled too.

Nero CD-DVD Speed test ? 4x 50GB BD-R Blu-ray media

On the dual-layer benchmark, we only had access to TDK BD-R discs and not Verbatim this time around. Nero's CD-DVD Speed only obtained 4x writing and no greater, as that was the ceiling anyway. Still, the drive did only take 45:03 mins to complete a 50GB disc burn at a constant speed ? where the previous one took 90:24 mins at just 2x.

We tried all the 2x speed media around, it wrote at just 2x speed. But we've shown that the 4x speed based blu-ray media can be used to write data to the disc at 6 speed.

Before you ask, email, post comments, flame or attach notes wrapped around a brick thrown through our windows ? 6x burning only works on 4x media. We tried various other Blu-ray discs of a variety of speeds and manufactures, all wrote at the exact speed advertised and no more. We have had this drive for some time now, with the major delays in publishing being down to access to 4x media and answers from LG in both the UK and Korea being the main contributor.

Many other sites pumped out reviews of this drive, none appears to have tested on 4x media or even drawn the right comparisons with its predecessor or have been anywhere near as thorough on the review or discovered anywhere near what we have.

Obviously, no other title on the planet so far has covered this because they're all useless and only The INQ has employed the right person for the job - me. [You're sacked, Rob. Ed.]

In terms of the other tests, we managed to create a CD at 40x. The predecessor could only muster 8x DVD writing, which we surpassed with a 16 speed result. Both BD-RE on single and dual layer topped out at 2x, even if we tried 4x discs.

Playback of a Blu-ray film has improved slightly in our tests in ramping up to the equivalent of 5x, not reaching the 6 as stated. All in all, some great improvements over the earlier generation have been made; mostly notably inside the Blu-ray burning.

In Short
With the High-def wars truly over, the final straw that broke the camel’s back being Warner Bros’ decision to cease making HD DVDs and going solely with Blu-Ray, is a drive like this truly necessary anymore? Perhaps still to image your remaining HD DVD films then convert and burn them to Blu-ray instead. Our guess is that you won’t see another generation of this drive with dual formats from LG. It still however, has a place for the time being and is rich in other ways too.

The Good
Dual format reader, price compared to GGW H10N

The Bad
6x Blu-ray disc burning at 4x

The Ugly
Perhaps an unnecessary beast with the format wars now over

Bartender's Report


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