capsule review

LG GGW-H20L Blu-ray Drive/HD DVD Reader

At a Glance
  • LG Electronics GGW-H20L

    PCWorld Rating

    LG offers a dual-format drive for high-def discs at a very competitive price.

For those who don't want to choose between Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, the format-agnostic high-def optical drives from LG continue to provide a convenient option. The $400 GGW-H20L--the company's second-generation Blu-ray Disc burner and HD DVD-ROM reader--delivers on its promises of functionality and performance. Even better, it does so at a significant savings over the company's $1199 first-generation drive.

The GGW-H20L is the first Blu-ray Disc burner to support 6X speed for writing to BD-R. That's up from 4X on the GGW-H10N, and up from 2X on the early Blu-ray Disc burners from Plextor, Sony, and Pioneer. In the PC World Test Center's evaluation, the drive's performance reflected its boosted specs even on slower speed-rated media. (According to media manufacturers, 4X media first ships at the end of 2007; 6X media won't come until the first quarter of 2008.)

On our disc-mastering test, we saw a 22 percent performance improvement by the GGW-H20L over its predecessor (itself a speedy performer compared with other Blu-ray burners we've tested), shaving nearly 6 minutes off the times we clocked. The GGW-H20L required just 22 minutes to write 22GB of data to single-layer 2X Verbatim BD-R media. Performance on formatting and packet writing to rewritable BD-RE media showed a similar boost (even though that spec technically remains unchanged): The GGW-H20L was 23 percent faster than its predecessor at this task, taking 1 hour, 43 minutes (compared with the GGW-H10N's 2 hours, 14 minutes).

Like the first-generation LG drive, the GGW-H20L is a Serial ATA drive that can write to 25GB single-layer and 50GB double-layer Blu-ray Disc media (both write-once and rewritable discs), and can read but not write to HD DVD-ROM discs. The drive's high-def format specs include the aforementioned 6X for single-layer BD-R write speed; 4X for double-layer BD-R; and 2X for BD-RE single- and double-layer. It can also play both HD DVD and Blu-ray movies (assuming you have a system with HDCP-certified graphics and an HDCP monitor, both of which are required to play back copy-protected high-def content); the drive includes CyberLink's PowerDVD player software, as well as CyberLink's Power2Go (a DVD/CD burning utility) and PowerDVD Producer (a DVD authoring application).

Unlike the early Blu-ray Disc burners, LG's GGW-H20L makes no compromises in its DVD and CD features. Not only is this the first Blu-ray burner to feature Lightscribe Disc Labeling; it is also the first to hit 16X write speed for DVD-R/+R, and 40X write/rewrite speed for CD-R/RW. Those speed ratings mark a significant boost over the older GGW-H10N; that drive maxed out at 8X for DVD-R and +R writes, and 16X for CD-R/RW writes.

The noteworthy price drop from its predecessor--along with its fast BD-R and BD-RE performance and its format-bridging abilities--make the LG GGW-H20L an impressive package overall. LG is even delivering this dual-format drive at half of what the company now charges for its BH200 dual-format set-top player; and the drive's list price is competitive with or less than the prices of competing Blu-ray-only burners. Together, these points make this upgrade one of the best peripheral deals around.

--Melissa J. Perenson

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    LG offers a dual-format drive for high-def discs at a very competitive price.

    Pros

    • Very inexpensive
    • Supports both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD

    Cons

    • Can't write to HD DVD-R media
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