By now, most people would have an inkling of what is Blu-ray and HD DVD. At the very least they would have heard of them mentioned somewhere, maybe while shopping for a new television. Or perhaps they have set their eyes on Sony's next console: the PlayStation 3 and its integrated Blu-ray drive. They might also know that these two competing formats aspire to be the next big thing after DVDs. Some might even follow the juicy details about the impending clash in this repeat of a previous format tussle; both trying to become the universal optical media standard for the near future. A small minority has actually used one. We are now fortunate to be one of them.
Yes, it is here in our labs, a Blu-ray drive manufactured by Hitachi-LG Data Storage and marketed under LG's brand. Boasting a breakthrough Blu-ray writing speed of 4x (for BD-R media) together with backward writing compatibility with all existing formats, this drive is seemingly set for the high definition era, where movies will be in sharper, clearer and generally in more detail than you ever wished.
So what's the fuss about this new Blu-ray format? First, capacity has been increased from the present 8.5GB limit on dual layer DVDs to a whopping 25GB for a single layer Blu-ray. Dual layer Blu-ray discs are double that capacity at 50GB. This is done by the use of blue laser diodes (hence the name), which have shorter wavelengths compared to the red ones used in current DVD technology. This results in greater data density, since the blue laser can be focused on a smaller area. It's like writing with a finer pencil; you can simply write more given the same sheet of paper. That's the abbreviated version of how Blu-ray has greater capacity over the DVD and should be all the information a casual user needs to know. You can refer to this informative entry on Wikipedia for its origins back and all the developments since if you prefer the long version.
While the jury is still out over whether Blu-ray will triumph over its competitor - HD DVD, which also uses blue laser technology but differs most crucially in capacity - the much awaited Blu-ray drives are slowly entering the market after numerous delays and setbacks. LG, a reputed manufacturer of optical drives has taken its first steps into the Blu-ray era with this new drive, the LG GBW-H10N. Here's a look at the drive: