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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