Call this a preview of even better things to come...
The fact is we have had the LG GGW-H10NI Super Multi Blue drive in our hands for a couple of months now, however we did not know in full what to do with it. In one hand, the GGW-H10N is the most advanced optical drive you can get for the PC today, with the capacity of reading and rewriting Blu-ray discs, reading HD DVD discs, and handling all other standard media tasks with DVDs and CDs.

Sounds good so far? Well, the problem with the GGW-H10NI is in part what makes it great.

LG amused us with the announcement of a hybrid optical drive capable of handling both next-generation formats back in January during this year's CES trade show. However, the GGW-H10NI did not appear in store shelves until June for a staggering $1,200, which of course reduced its appeal to a more select few willing to pay the premium for this first generation wonder. Furthermore, only one month later, during July they announced an improved drive that would sell for less money, slated for release in late September (it's now October so obviously it has taken them a bit longer, but it should be out any day now).

But just like Steve Jobs blatantly put it recently when he announced price cuts for the iPhone: "that's what happens in technology." Today, the GGW-H10NI is still available for a reduced price of $850, while many are still waiting for its successor, the GGW-H20LI which will carry a more appealing price tag of $500.

Now, the GGW-H10NI is a great drive on its own right, but because things move at a such accelerated pace with first generation hardware, you may as well consider this a hands-on preview of what is to come in the coming weeks and months.

The most notable characteristic of the GGW-H10NI is its ability to read both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. Since this next-generation format war is not quite the deadlock many expected, it is important for optical devices such as the GGW-H10NI to support both. As things stand now, Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema support both formats while Universal, and Paramount are exclusive supporters of HD DVD. Supporting Blu-ray we have Twentieth Century Fox, Sony, Lions Gate, and Disney. In other words, at this point neither side is near from actual market domination for calling it a day.

On the hardware front, for a while the availability of Blu-ray players seemed to be greater and because the Sony Playstation 3 comes standard with a Blu-ray optical drive, the sales quickly snowballed for this side. However the average cost for a Blu-ray player is significantly higher than that of a (standalone) HD DVD player.

The prices of blank media used to follow a similar pattern, but in recent months Blu-ray has caught up. Currently a single 1X 15GB HD DVD blank disc costs between $10 and $15, while a 2x 25GB Blu-ray disk costs between $13 and $20. Then rewritable 25GB BD discs start at around $15 and go up to $20, depending on the brand and where you buy them. Gigabyte for gigabyte, it would seem that Blu-ray is giving HD DVD a run for its money in the data burning department for now, but we don't want to go too deep on that volatile price scheme.

Without a doubt, the GGW-H10NI will make the move to high-definition easier as it supports both competing formats. For this quick review we are just going to measure the performance of the GGW-H10NI burning DVDs and Blu-ray discs as we await the release of the second generation PC drive in the coming weeks.