Friday, November 10, 2006

XBOX 360 HD-DVD Drive





- viewed on a Samsung 40" LCD at 720p over VGA.
- Setting it up was pretty easy. Pop in the install DVD, connect up the drive when asked to, and away you go. Didn't use the included remote since I already have the Logitech harmony xbox 360 remote.
- Interesting that under the System|memory blade the HD-DVD player is listed along with the hard drive and memory card. It seems the drive actually contains 192MB of flash memory that basically looks like another memory card to the x360. My guess it is used to hold hd-dvd user persisted data like bookmarks (hitting B creates one while watching a movie).
- Picture quality is pretty stunning. I've watched about 70% of King Kong and it really shows off HD-DVD. It was smart to pick a modern film that uses a lot of digital technology so stuff like film grain isn't an issue. Lets put it this way. The wife and I have seen this already (own the dvd too). I asked her to take a look for a few minutes. It's been about 2hrs and she's still watching it, and we rarely watch a movie twice.
- I've never seen blu ray or hd-dvd before. I have seen quite a lot of broadcast HD content. I have to say this is quite a step up. Even during the busiest scenes there are no artifacts at all. That high bit rate helps a lot.
- The player is pretty responsive for the most part. What's nice is you can access all the menus and features without ever leaving the playing video. Everything is done with overlayed UI elements. Browsing chapters showed a slight pause. There is a bigger pause if you want to go back to the title menu.
- Not a lot of extras. No commentaries. Extras are implemented by this thing called U-Control. Hit "A" to toggle it on or off. When on a little icon shows up in the bottom right corner. While playing the movie it sometimes lights up and says "gallery art" or "picture in picture." Hit the enter button during this time and a little PiP window pops open to display the extra material. It's a pretty cool feature but I kind of wish it also had the traditional dedicated dvd like extras. What if I don't want to watch contextual making of footage in a little window but want to see it full screen? Plus you have to watch the movie to find out when all these hot spots occur. Also, the sound mixing is poor during PiP. The pip stuff is way too quiet and the movie is still too loud. At least the player is all done in software so it should be easy for Microsoft to upgrade it in the future.
- The top of the x360 didn't feel any warmer than when playing a game. The hd-dvd drive itself didn't even feel warm.
- The drive powers on and off in sync with the X360.
- It's very quiet while playing a movie.
- I pulled out my King Kong DVD and watched a few scenes for comparison. I can definitely see the general lack of detail blurriness due to the lower resolution and scaling. Also, the colors don't pop like the hd-dvd version. The dvd navigation is quite a bit more responsive especially going up to 32x speed. UPDATE: regular dvd's work just fine in the hd-dvd drive. DVD+R work fine too.

- For even more kicks I hooked up the drive to my laptop. I hit the eject to power it on. It had issues installing drivers for the memory unit:

The drive itself installed just fine as a dvd-rom drive (no drivers needed):

The drive is represented by two drive letters (in this case D and E). When I stuck in my king kong dvd it showed up fine:

When I stuck in the hd-dvd king kong it wouldn't read:


Oh well it was worth a try. It would be smart of Microsoft if they wrote a windows based player and drivers for this device.

Check out these nice hd-dvd vs dvd shots that kalvinmaui took

Getting the drive to work on a PC:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=8880622#post8880622

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