So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Microsoft Xbox 360 HD DVD Player
- Superb image quality, Elegant design, Simple to install, Easy to Use, Low cost
- Nothing to speak of
The Xbox 360 HD-DVD Player performs beautifully, is easy to install, intuitive to use and is the cheapest way to experience HD-DVD playback.
Price$ 249.95 (AUD)
With the launch of the Playstation 3 just around the corner, the format war between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD is about to jump up a notch. The integrated Blu-Ray player in the Playstation 3 is expected to be a major driving force for the Blu-Ray camp, creating an immediate install base of thousands of units in Australian homes. On the opposing side, Microsoft has released their HD-DVD add-on for the Xbox 360 at a price far lower than other stand alone HD-DVD players such as the Toshiba HD-E1 HD-DVD Player. Easy to install and ready to use in seconds, the unit performs well and comes bundled with an Xbox 360 multimedia remote control.
The unit was a breeze to set up, with the whole installation process taking us just a few minutes. However, this may not be the same for all users. Xbox 360 owners who are connected to Xbox Live recently received a dashboard update which included support for the HD-DVD attachment. Those that are not connected will experience a slightly longer install time as they will need to update their dashboard with the provided software disc, but even this only adds a few extra minutes..
The unit connects to the console via USB 2.0. It has two regular USB 2.0 ports, as well as a mini USB "I/O" port, which is used to connect it to the Xbox 360. It also a clip on the back which supports the Xbox wireless internet adapter. The reason for this is that the adapter usually occupies the rear USB port of the 360, but since the HD-DVD drive now uses it, the adapter needs to be moved. As an added bonus, since the drive has two USB ports, there is now a spare port that wasn't previously available, offering extra support for USB devices.
Using the HD-DVD drive from the Xbox 360 dashboard is very simple. When you connect the player to the console, the on-screen button that previously stated "Play" changes into a disc split into two halves. Selecting the top half will play a game or regular DVD and selecting the bottom half will play a HD-DVD. It is important to note that, at this time, no Xbox 360 game supports the HD-DVD drive and there are no current plans for this to happen. This is where Playstation 3 has an advantage over the Xbox 360 since all their games are shipped on Blu-Ray discs, offering increased storage capacity.
The image quality of HD-DVD playback on the drive was stunning. We tested it on 1080p and a 720p panels and both looked exquisite. Our test film was Mission Impossible III and both the action scenes and the slower scenes looked excellent with no playback problems. Overall, we were highly impressed with the image quality.
We also ran the video commentary and noticed a slight pause whenever it would switch to different sections of the disc. However, we also noticed this on the Toshiba HD-E1 HD-DVD Player, suggesting that it is an issue with the format and not the player itself. Overall, we were blown away by the image quality and believe most users will be more than satisfied.
PC and Mac support
The Xbox 360 HD-DVD player can also be used on both PCs and Macs via a standard USB connection, although with mixed results. Straight out of the box, the player is recognised in both Windows XP and Mac OSX operating systems as a DVD Player. We tested this and were able to play DVDs without any drivers on both systems. At this time, there is no way to play HD-DVDs on the Mac with this drive but on a PC, it is another story. There are reports of enthusiasts using very specific Toshiba HD-DVD drivers and the Japanese version of WinDVD 8 Platinum to run HD-DVD movies. The US release of WinDVD 8 (which we also use) does not support HD-DVD playback at this time but the updated version is currently scheduled for some time in February, so we will have to wait and see. While PC play back isn't the primary purpose of this unit, it is added functionality that some readers may find as exciting as we did.
The design is in keeping with the Xbox 360 aesthetic and as such, the player looks right at home next to the console. There isn't much else that can be said about this device. It plugs in with no problems at all, works perfectly and is an extremely cheap option for HD-DVD playback. Now all we need do is sit back and see which format wins the war.
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