||ASUS Blu-Ray BC-1205PT QuickShot
January 04, 2008 Alan Dang
Summary: A quick look at the ASUS BC-1250PT Blu-Ray reader/DVD burner.
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Although the mainstream press continues to write about the uncertain war between Blu-ray and HD DVD as if it were going to lead to a complete failure of either, the rest of us know better. Unlike VHS vs. Betamax where technical issues prevented dual-format players, or SACD vs. DVD-Audio where the benefit was only noticeable to audiophiles with elite audio equipment, the HD revolution is one that is coming.
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In 2009, analog broadcast TV will no longer be available, and while there are those who will upgrade their existing TVs with one of the OTA ATSC receiver coupons provided by the federal government, many people will take this opportunity to buy a brand-new HDTV. With the prices of today’s displays, that brand-new HDTV is likely going to be larger enough to showcase the difference between regular DVDs and HD content. In addition, HD DVDs and Blu-ray are quickly dropping in price. It’s not hard to find movies at price parity. Right now, it’s actually cheaper to buy the Blu-ray version of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End than it is to buy the DVD version.
With that in mind, we are taking a look at the ASUS Blu-ray BC1250PT Blu-ray drive. For around $250 street, ASUS is promising a simple and single upgrade, taking your HTPC to a HD-HTPC.
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The ASUS drive is a fairly straightforward design. There’s no fancy slot-loading design, no chassis overengineering, or novelty features. It’s a standard 12X DVD-reader/burner with 6X DVD+/-RW writing, a 32x CD reader/burner with 24x CD-RW writing, and a 5X Blu-Ray reader. The usual flavor of buffer underrun technology is also added.
Nero DriveSpeed Testing
Burning CDs and DVDs were uneventful, although we use Taiyo Yuden media exclusively.
When I bought my first CD-ROM, I spent somewhere in the four digit range. With my second CD-ROM (a SCSI-2 Toshiba 2X drive), it was a “cheap” $800. I would ultimately end up moving to Plextor range for several generations of CD burners and DVD burners. Nowadays, you can find a very reliable DVD burner for a measly $50. Optical drives have become a commodity and with today’s CD-R and DVD-R media quality, the difference between a basic DVD burner and a high-end one is much smaller. For at least the last 5 years, I’ve been using Taiyo Yuden media exclusively. Why buy media in bulk when you can just wait for a promo or coupon and stock up at your local Best Buy?
As I was doing my benchmarks with the ASUS Blu-ray drive, I came to the realization that a lot of this was moot. Would I actually be grading the ASUS more harshly if it only read at “32x” instead of “48x”? In a world where I’d rather FTP or use an 8GB flash card to transfer files to a friend, would the savings of an extra 2 minutes on a DVD burn time make a difference? Not really. The reason you’d buy this drive is Blu-ray capability. Since the ASUS drive is purely a reader, the likelihood of you needing the drive for Blu-ray data discs is slim to none, and really it’s a question of whether or not the $250 is worth it for the ability to watch high-definition content on your PC.
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The HD HTPC debate
The real question is then: Do I get a Blu-ray reader and drop CD/DVD burning and save $50? Spend an extra $50 to get a combo drive that reads Blu-ray and HD DVD? Or just go with a PlayStation 3 for an extra $150 and get HDMI high-definition Dolby TrueHD support along with, you know, PS3 gaming support?
Going with a Blu-ray reader is the cheapest way to get into BD. Since CD and DVD burning are still important features to have, you can get by with a two-optical drive setup. With a new system, however, going with the combo drive makes more sense. You’re going to need CD/DVD burning anyway, and Blu-ray burners are still too expensive for casual use. That’s the easy comparison.
The HD-DVD combo drive is one that’s worth discussing. As it stands, Blu-ray continues to outsell HD DVD in the US by an almost 2:1 ratio. With the exception of Paramount and Universal, you can enjoy movies on Blu-ray, including the exclusive Disney, Sony Pictures, and Fox. The chances of Blu-ray going under are slim to none. HD DVD is still a technically strong format, and exclusive movies such as Transformers and the Bourne Ultimatum are just as fun to watch as the best Pixar or 007 movies. There’s a very real possibility that HD DVD and Blu-ray will continue to exist and thrive in the same way that the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii are all able to thrive. If anything, HD DVD is the format that is at greatest risk for dying out. Spending an extra $50 for the integrated HD DVD drive really makes sense as “insurance” against one format dying.
Admittedly, in my experience, PowerDVD and WinDVD are less reliable with some of the newer HD DVD titles. Likewise, if you’re already spending $50, the question is whether or not a stand-alone HD DVD add-on is an option. In the last holiday season, there were several promotions where it was possible to get a HD DVD player for about $100. While these standalone units only support 1080i, TVs with proper 3:2 pulldown will give you a complete reconstruction of the original 1080p image. Perhaps more importantly, these stand alone units are often eligible for the “5 free HD DVD” promotion...
Asus’s drive is one of the cheapest ways to enter the Blu-ray world on the PC. It offers good plug-and-play sensibility unlike the barebones Pioneer drive which lacks a Blu-ray software bundle. From that perspective, the ASUS BC-1205PT is an exceptional value. The only uncertainty is whether or not the HD DVD/Blu-Ray combo drive from LG for an extra $50 offers a better value. If you don’t already have a HD DVD player, it may.