TThe LG BE06 is a stylish external Blu-ray drive that can be plugged into any PC with a spare USB 2.0 port.

The LG BE06 is undeniably stylish to look at too, with its glossy white casing and touch-sensitive eject pad. And it works equally well whether standing vertically or horizontally.

The old debate about whether to buy Blu-ray or HD DVD may have been replaced by a new one questioning whether Blu-ray will itself be able to compete with the online services of the future. Regardless of the outcome, you can expect to see a number of new Blu-ray drives coming out over the next 12 months.

What might distinguish drives like such as this LG BE06 and the Buffalo BRHC-6316U2 from their rivals is that both drives are external models. And, being external, it's a cinch to install.

The LG BE06 can be plugged into any PC with a spare USB 2.0 port - although you'll also need to connect an additional power supply, which does reduce the convenience.

The LG is extremely versatile. Those who got caught on the wrong side of the Blu-ray vs HD DVD battle will be pleased to see that they can read (but not write to) HD DVD media from the drive. It's nice that those with existing HD DVD titles can continue to view them for the duration of the LG BE06's life.

In addition, the LG BE06 is adept at playing back DVD- and CD-ROMs, so giving you access to the full range of formats. DVDs can be written to, and while the speeds don't quite compare to those of the very fastest standalone DVD writers, they do generally come close.

Only the quad-speed DVD-R DL/+R DL formats are significantly slower. The LG BE06 offers LightScribe, letting you print images and captions on to special DVDs. As with normal DVD writers, this is a nice feature for those putting together disc compilations, although the 20 minute-plus time needed to print images, and the lack of colour, will put off many.

Blu-ray write speeds are fairly generous. The 25GB write-once BD-R SL (Single Layer) format can theoretically be pushed to six-speed using the LG BE06. We say theoretically because it's not actually possible to buy six-speed BD-R media yet. Indeed, even quad-speed media is relatively rare (although this situation should change in the next few months).

NEXT PAGE: testing the Buffalo LG BE06