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December 5, 2006

Xbox 360 HD DVD Player

Filed under HDTV, Reviews, Xbox 360

I got an Xbox 360 HD DVD Player this weekend.

The external drive plugs into a USB port. Initially, I was not excited about a console with two drives. However, now I like the idea.

One of my main gripes about the 360 is how loud the DVD drive is. You better crank up the volume if you don't want to be distracted by the DVD drive. The HD DVD is quiet. I never noticed it, even during low volume scenes.

Another nice benefit of two drives: I can leave my games in the 360 while changing out movies in the HD DVD tray and vice versa. It means less trips to the console if you want to play some "Gears of War" in between episodes of "24", like I'm doing now.

The HD DVD disk themselves feel much more sturdy than a standard DVD. I read a while back that HD DVD would have a special "scratch-proof" coating. It is really hard to gauge if it is working at this point. But if it does, it certainly will make renting HD DVD a more pleasant experience than renting DVD's.

Speaking of renting, Netflix has both a HD DVD & Blu-ray "genre." You can setup Netflix to send you HD DVD or Blu-ray if they are available. I loaded up my rental queue with 50 HD DVD's. There is no extra cost to rent HD DVD or Blu-ray.

The video quality is excellent. I didn't see any video issues whatsoever. In fact, I could watch the movie from just 1 foot away on my 46" TV and *NOT* see any compression artifacts! Even the best OTA HD broadcast has compression artifacts that are easy to see from that distance. I could see the film grain ("Happy Gilmore"), but that is an issue with the source material, and not the HD DVD drive. From 9 feet away, the film grain was not noticeable. I didn't see any film grain issues with "King Kong."

Sound was the same as a standard DVD as far as I could tell...which is really good.

DVD's still look good on my set, but HD DVD looks even better...mainly sharper and better color output.

HD DVD has the ability to keep running the movie while interactive menus play on top of the film. It is useful for changing the audio track or jumping to a particular scene. Certainly not ground breaking, but DVD's can't do this. On a DVD, every time you select a different menu, the audio/video for the current menu abruptly stop and start on the new menu. With HD DVD, the transitions are flawless...it just makes the disk feel more polished.

HD DVD does not pause midway through a movie like a DVD does when going to the second layer of a dual layer disk. That pause was more annoying than anything, but I'm glad it's gone.

If you have a 360 and an HDTV, this is a no brainer...get this drive!

Comments (6)

Not to put too fine a point on it, but regular DVDs can change audio streams via the remote Audio Select function. A little note comes up telling you if you are in 5.1 ENG, 2.0 SPA, etc. It's not the next-gen interactive menu, though.

Agreed...DVD can switch audio tracks on the fly...but what I like about HD DVD is you can pull up a list of the audio tracks with descriptions on a menu that overlays on top of the running movie. DVD can't do this. It is a very cool feature for HD DVD's.

But is that worth it? DVD instantly switches without a visual break. If you switched on HD DVD in a crucial moment, you might need to rewind.

It's a miniscule nit to pick, but personally, I would consider this in the "different" category instead of "better" than current DVD. It looks prettier, but that's marketing for you.

Now re: resolution, extra content - I'm all over next-gen DVD formats, and this particular player is a great enabler for next-gen DVD. Did the player + 360 get close to base PS3 cost? You should get a PS3 so you can have a shootout.

I would assume HD DVD works the same as a DVD for audio switching using the "audio" button on the remote...I didn't try it.

The menu is not as distracting as you may think. The menu is translucent and it takes up a small piece of the left part of the screen. I would guess less than 20%...so you can fiddle with settings AND continue to watch/listen to the movie. Where using a DVD menu in a movie requires you to stop the movie, you can make tweaks with this mechanism without bringing everything to a halt.

IMHO, this is a cool feature that you will take advantage of because of the low impact it has on watching a movie.

I like the idea of the menu for discs packed with english stereo, english 5.1, english DTS, spanish, french, directors commentary, actors commentary...cycling through discs loaded with audio streams via the "audio" button is frustrating...it is hard to know what you switched to. I would prefer to pull up a menu that goes directly to it.

You really need to give it a try to see what I'm talking about. It is not what will make people want to switch to HD DVD, but it does make HD DVD appear better thought out than DVD.

My 360 cost $399 plus the $200 HD DVD put my cost at $599...same as the high end PS3 with it's Blu-ray drive.

But the difference is the PS3 is a worthless piece of crap...That may be a bit harsh, but I'm not impressed with the PS3 (or Wii) at all.

We're really picking nits now, but with current DVD you know exactly which audio stream you are picking wrt language/channels (English 2.0, French 5.1, etc). I'll concede that commentary tracks are labeled just "Director's commentary" and doesn't get any finer granulation than that.

Hating on PS3 is fine, byt Wii isn't trying to be the same as the other two consoles. It maxes at SD, but somewhat different and innovative controller makes for different games. I know my family would have an infinitely greater amount of fun all playing Wii Bowling, or Tennis, than watching me play Gears of War or Resistance, and I wouldn't let my kids watch those games anyway.

I think the franchises on Nintendo are more family-friendly, and for our situation that makes the Wii a "better" console, since we can all share gameplay. I know it is blown away by what the other two can do, but it's just not that big a deal.

I definitely want a Wii and another next-gen console. For me the difference between PS3 and 360 isn't enough to put one over the other, and it will basically come down to GoW vs. RFOM, and comparing driving games.

On my Sony DVD recorder, it does not indicate the source of the audio as you switch.

My point is not that HD DVD finally allows you to change audio easily, it is instead that HD DVD allows you to make choices via a menu system that does not force you to stop the movie.

It is a cool feature, and one that will certainly be exploited more in the future.

I played the Wii quite a bit this weekend...it felt like a warmed-over gamecube. I think the remote is WAY over hyped...after its uniqueness wears off, it is not very impressive. It's like the lever on a slot machine...at first it is fun to pull, but eventually you are just going to press the "spin" button.

I think Sony is in a lot of trouble with the PS3 (and I like Sony)...I should probably create a post where I bash PS3 and Wii, since this is a bit off topic.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 5, 2006 8:56 AM.

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