the recent launch of the Xbox 360 HD-Drive
in the UK, Microsoft aim to bring High Definition
movies to the masses. With the Xbox 360 HD-DVD
drive retaiing for a mere £130 it certainly
appears to be the ideal "value for money
solution". Even when factoring in the additional
cost of a Xbox 360 Premium this
works out less than many standalone HD players
which are currently selling for around the £450
drive itself is slightly larger than the
Nintendo Wii and is finished to identically
match the main X360 unit. There is a reassuring
weight to the drive and it can be used
either vertically or horizontally just
like the main 360 unit. When the pair
are mounted horizontally with the HD player
on top, no air flow is restricted.
well as bundling the HD version of "King
Kong" with the unit, you also receive the
Xbox 360 Universal Media Remote (pictured above),
as you can see above this is a more substantial
version of the tiny remote you used to receive
with the X360 Premium pack. Another added benefit
to this larger remote is that it can control your
TV as well as a Media Center powered Windows PC.
Checking the Xbox site for the remote "code"
to control my Dell 37 inch HDTV LCD i was disheartened
to find it absent, however if you hold down several
buttons you can manually scan for the correct
frequencies and after some trial and error I was
pleased to find it supported the Dell panel. Information
on this remote (you can also purchase seperately)
is available over
of you already familar with the Xbox 360 will
be pleased to hear that the power supply that
comes with the HD DVD player is considerably smaller
than the behemoth of a unit that comes with the
X360 (picture above).
drive slot mechanism is smooth with a reassuring
"clunk" as it enters the fully closed
position, for those interested the unit is a Toshiba
drive, but ill delve into this more later in the
drive is a USB2 solution which uses up the single
USB2 port on the rear of the machine. Thankfully
Microsoft have thought this out well and the HD-DVD
drive also has a two port USB2 hub, so for those
of you, like me, who have a wireless adapter,
you simply plug the HD DVD drive into the rear
of the X360 and then attach the wireless connector
to the rear of the HD drive. They even generously
have preattached clip on fittings for the wireless
connector making it all look very neat and tidy.
those wondering if USB2 is a fast enough solution
to handle High definition material, the answer
is simply "yes". HD DVD data transfer
peaks at around 30mbps and the maximum bandwidth
of USB2 is well in excess of this. The image above
shows the other side of the USB lead that plugs
into the unit, it is the standard "small
fit" connector like you see on many other
devices such as digital cameras, MP3 players and
HD DVD powers up when the X360 is switched on
so you don't have to deal with individual power
buttons when wanting to view High Definition movies.
Even when the Xbox 360 unit is turned off, the
unit is in a "sleep" state and if you
hit the eject button it will open. It is pretty
much the perfect operating solution and it is
clear to me that Microsoft did extensive research
and development as all those frequently annoying
little operational "quirks" appear to
first boot up, users are asked to boot from an
included installation disk to update their 360
to add HD-DVD capabilities. For those wondering,
the X360 HDD is not required as the update is
firmware based. After this is finished the X360
dashboard will look slightly different. Boot up
time is extremely fast at around 9-10 seconds
which makes it dramatically faster than the Toshiba
drive I tested last month.
more astute amongst you will notice that the drive
door icon is now split into two, the top half
circle representing the built in drive and the
bottom circle the HD-DVD drive. This is intuitive
as the usual selection methods apply to launch
games or HD-DVD movies at the press of a button.
You can also totally bypass this and just manually
press the eject button on the unit, close the
tray and the HD-DVD player automatically loads.
Ejecting the disc will return you immediately
to the dashboard. It is also worth noting that
if you eject the disc during a movie and return
to it later, it will resume at the same place
within the film. Another nice touch.
are still bundling King Kong with the drive and
they really should get some credit for this, because
whether you like the film or not, it is a perfect
starting point to test the quality of the drive
as the mastering of the HD version is fantastic.
DVD version compared to the HD version is simply
night and day, it is a whole new experience and
it really shows how technology has advanced -
I used to think DVD was a great format! The picture
via the HD DVD player to the Dell 3707 HDTV LCD
screen (1080i) is really incredible. I would have
liked to test the HD-DVD drive to a 1080p supported
screen, however my order still hadn't arrived
at the time of the review. I will follow up at
a later date when the 60 inch screen arrives.
of you may not find the drive so appealing as
it does not offer HDMI connectivity, while the
console is capable of outputting a digital signal
the current lack of HDMI limits the 360 to output
1080p signals via component video or VGA. Currently
this is not a major issue as almost all screens
available in the UK accept 1080p over component
or VGA. Only movie purists will really be affected
it work on a Windows PC?
in the drive to a Windows XP powered PC shows
immediate detection of the drive. So far so good...
when a HD-DVD was inserted the drive did not mount,
however after some calls I received a special
UDF reader file - and after an install and reboot
windows showed the disc and all its contents.
the differences in standard DVD and HD-DVD are
apparent with 27 gigabyte of video files in the
now we have everything installed how do we go
about trying to get the movie to play? After many
failed attempts with various programs we turned
to our good friends at Cyberlink to help us out
and they were happy to send us the very latest
V7.2 HD edition of their wonderful PowerDVD program.
was exceptionally pleased to see that King Kong
played perfectly fine in PowerDvd 7.2 HD edition
without any problems! The quality as expected
as I may, it really is hard to fault the Xbox
360 HD-DVD drive, Microsoft have done an incredible
job of delivering High Definition movie content
at an extremely affordable price (£130 RRP).
Even when you factor in the additional cost of
a Xbox 360 the combined price is no more than
many standalone players available currently in
the UK (many of which will not handle 1080p).
If you already own a Xbox 360 and a HDTV, it really
is a no brainer, especially as the price of HD-DVD's
or via reputable powersellers
on ebay is no more than a standard DVD! (between
£15-£20 each). Add to this that discs
originating from the states play on UK machines
and vice versa and you can see how good an overall
solution this is.
only real negative would be the lack of HDMI for
movie purists, however considering the low price
and the exceptionally high quality of the images
as well as the fact that with a little effort
you can already use the HD-DVD drive on your Windows
XP based PC, I recommend this product without
only problem right now is availability as the
first batch that arrived in the UK sold out, with
the next order due to arrive near the end of January.
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