The LG GGW-H20L is a dual-format drive for high-definition 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 £200 LG 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 first-generation drive.

The LG GGW-H20L is the first Blu-ray Disc burner to support 6-speed for writing to BD-R. That's up from quad-speed on the LG GGW-H10N, and up from dual-speed on early Blu-ray Disc burners from Plextor, Sony and Pioneer.

In our evaluation, the LG GGW-H20L's performance reflected its boosted specs even on slower speed-rated media. (According to media manufacturers, quad-speed media first ships at the end of 2007; 6-speed media won't come until the first quarter of 2008.)

On our disc-mastering test, we saw a 22 percent performance improvement by the LG 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 LG 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 specification technically remains unchanged). The LG 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 LG 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 LG GGW-H20L's high-def format specs include the aforementioned 6-speed for single-layer BD-R write speed; quad-speed for double-layer BD-R; and dual-speed 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 LG GGW-H20L includes CyberLink's PowerDVD player software, as well as CyberLink's Power2Go (a DVD/CD burning utility) and PowerDVD Producer (a DVD-authoring application).

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Unlike early Blu-ray Disc burners, the LG GGW-H20L makes no compromises in its DVD and CD features. Not only is this the first Blu-ray burner to feature Lightscribe Disc Labelling; it is also the first to hit 16-speed write speed for DVD-R/+R, and 40-speed write/rewrite speed for CD-R/RW.

Those speed ratings mark a significant boost over the older GGW-H10N; that drive maxed out at 8-speed for DVD-R and +R writes, and 16-speed for CD-R/RW writes.

LG GGW-H20L: Specs

  • Write Speed BD-R (SL/DL) 4x BD-R (SL LTH)16x
  • DVD-R DL 4x DVD-RW (SL/DL) 6x DVD-RAM 5x DVD+R 16x?@ DVD+R DL 2.4x DVD+RW (SL/DL) 8x
  • CD-R 40x CD-RW 24x. Read Speed BD-ROM (SL/DL) 6x BD-R (SL/DL) 6x BD-R (SL LTH) 3.8x BD-RE (SL/DL) 2x BDMV (AACS Compliant Disc) 4.8x
  • HD DVD-ROM (SL/DL) 3x HD DVD-R (SL/DL) 3x HD DVD-Video (AACS Compliant Disc) 3x
  • DVD-ROM (SL/DL) 16x DVD-R (SL/DL) 12x
  • DVD-RW (SL/DL) 10x DVD+R (SL/DL) 12x DVD+RW (SL/DL) 10x DVD-RAM 5x DVD- 8x
  • CD-R/RW/ROM 40x CD-DA (DAE) 40x
  • 8cm CD 10x
  • Video CD 40x
  • Sustained Transfer Rate BD-ROM 215.79 Mbits/s (6x)max
  • HD DVD-ROM 109.65 Mbits/s (3x) max. DVD-ROM 22.16 Mbytes/s (16x) max. CD-ROM 6,000 Kbytes/s (40x) max
  • Write Speed BD-R (SL/DL) 4x BD-R (SL LTH)16x
  • DVD-R DL 4x DVD-RW (SL/DL) 6x DVD-RAM 5x DVD+R 16x?@ DVD+R DL 2.4x DVD+RW (SL/DL) 8x
  • CD-R 40x CD-RW 24x. Read Speed BD-ROM (SL/DL) 6x BD-R (SL/DL) 6x BD-R (SL LTH) 3.8x BD-RE (SL/DL) 2x BDMV (AACS Compliant Disc) 4.8x
  • HD DVD-ROM (SL/DL) 3x HD DVD-R (SL/DL) 3x HD DVD-Video (AACS Compliant Disc) 3x
  • DVD-ROM (SL/DL) 16x DVD-R (SL/DL) 12x
  • DVD-RW (SL/DL) 10x DVD+R (SL/DL) 12x DVD+RW (SL/DL) 10x DVD-RAM 5x DVD- 8x
  • CD-R/RW/ROM 40x CD-DA (DAE) 40x
  • 8cm CD 10x
  • Video CD 40x
  • Sustained Transfer Rate BD-ROM 215.79 Mbits/s (6x)max
  • HD DVD-ROM 109.65 Mbits/s (3x) max. DVD-ROM 22.16 Mbytes/s (16x) max. CD-ROM 6,000 Kbytes/s (40x) max

OUR VERDICT

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.

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