LG Promises New, True Hybrid High-Def Disc Player

We've been down this road before: Covering CES last January, BetaNews was the first to report that LG Electronics' long-promised hybrid Blu-ray/HD DVD disc player wouldn't actually be able to play the full content of HD DVDs, due to its lack of support for its iHD interactivity layer - the part that gives you menus and on-screen features.

LG originally promised a hybrid player as far back as March 2006. Now, at the CEDIA custom electronics show in Denver, the company is showing off a new prototype that it claims will play both iHD and BD-J interactive content, and will sell for $999.

The promised release timeframe for this round is October, and today's LG announcement made extra efforts to appear forthcoming and sincere. Still, the CEDIA show is targeted primarily at homebuilders, which include those who might buy home entertainment equipment to install in the new homes of premium clients.

So it is not a "launch" quite yet - which might not be bad news, especially for a company that redefined the concept of "launch" in 2006 to mean something that doesn't necessarily require forward motion.

LG's previous BH100 had already won major CES awards in January before those handing out the awards got a chance to read the spec sheet or try actually playing an HD DVD in one.

As BetaNews' Nate Mook reported from the CES floor last January, "We just spoke with the folks at LG to glean some insight into their newly announced Blu-ray/HD DVD Hybrid player and the response was disappointing. The big news: iHD is not supported at all, only Blu-ray's BD-J menu and interactivity system. This is a huge blow to LG's first effort, as iHD is one of the most important features of HD DVD. The hybrid player will only playback movie content on the disc; no menu system or interactive features will be supported. Also, the player uses only HDMI 1.2, not the new 1.3 standard found in the latest standalone HD DVD and Blu-ray players."

But to its credit today, LG went to great lengths to technically list as many of the format options it could think of, in an effort to forestall any questions it may receive about what the new Super Blu BH200 (note it's no longer "Super Multi Blu") might not play.

This time around, the company listed the following: Full 1080p resolution; 24 , 30 , and 60 frames per second support; MPEG-2, VC-1, and H.264 video (which should cover MPEG-4); MPEG1/2 audio, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, DTS and DTS-HD audio; and HDMI 1.3 output.

It may finally be the all-formats-considered high-definition disc player video aficionados have been hoping for. It is not a recorder -- that may be too much to ask for -- but it may not be limited to playing back only a limited percentage of high-def content. The big question now for LG is whether consumers will be willing to invest a thousand dollars, rather than buy a Blu-ray and an HD DVD player separately for less.

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