Xbox 360 HD-DVD Drive

The first thing to note about the XBox 360 HD-DVD drive is the price. Microsoft's $200 solution is much more affordable than our $900 Pioneer Blu-ray drive, thanks to the fact that it's only a reader, not a recorder. Top it off with the fact that this is an external device that is easily portable and requires no drivers to be installed to use, and we have quite a compelling product.


The HD-DVD drive eats up one USB port on the 360 but gives you two more in return

The USB 2.0 connection provides plenty of bandwidth for movies, as no decoder is expected to handle 300+ Mbps video on any HD codec.

In the box, in addition to the drive itself (which looks like a mini Xbox 360) we get a remote, USB cable, power brick, and an installation disc. In order to use the drive with the Xbox 360, the installation disc must be placed in the 360's DVD drive (not in the HD-DVD drive).

After the software has been installed, the system will need an update from XBox live to bring Microsoft's HD-DVD player up to the latest version (the update won't be installed until the HD-DVD drive installation disc has been installed). After that, we can start using our HD-DVD drive with the XBox 360.

Playing an HD-DVD is done the same way we would select a game to play. When both a game and an HD-DVD are in the drive, we can select between the two:

The HD-DVD drive can't be used for games on the XBox 360, and is only really useful as a movie player; this is one of the downsides of selling the drive as an add-on.

From our navigation of the menus, watching movies, and playing with fast forward and rewind, we can easily say that the Microsoft HD-DVD player and the Xbox 360 do a good job of handling the content we've seen thus far - at least as well as our PC platforms. Since you're not really expected (or able in many cases) to multitask on your 360, CPU utilization doesn't really matter so long as the player doesn't drop any frames.

We didn't encounter any dropped frames in our HD-DVD tests on the 360 and things like fast forwarding/menu navigation felt the same as it did on our PC testbeds. The time it takes to play a movie was also comparable to our PC testbeds (light years faster than Toshiba's first-generation HD-DVD set-top box). Note that the Xbox 360 also uses GPU acceleration to playback HD-DVDs, in this case the GPU acceleration is handled by the ATI GPU in the 360 itself.

As an HD-DVD player, the Xbox 360 does just fine, but what sort of a PC do you need to get a similar experience? That's what we'll find out next.

Index A Look at PC Performance: The Test
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  • Stereodude - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    [url=http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=328&type=...">http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=328&type=...]PC Perspective[/url]showed a much more dramatic reduction in CPU usage with an E6300, 7600GT, and the Interpreter. Seems things aren't quite lining up between the two reviews. Average CPU went from 82.8% down to 41.7% Only by using an x6800 and a 8800 GT* were similar results obtained in this review. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    Could be the USB interface is demanding more of the CPU. Unless two sites use identical hardware, you can't really compare the results and call one more accurate. Given that the HD-DVD for 360 is currently available at $200 (the internal drive used on that other review is apparently pre-release hardware), the results we show are at least indicative of what people looking to take that route will experience. I'm sure once Derek can get a PATA drive he can look at performance differences. Reply
  • DerekWilson - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    I havent' read their review, but we did see ~41% with the x6800 8800gtx/gts.

    We didn't test the E6300 + 7600 GT with the interpreter, but i would think we'd see higher than 82.8% ...

    As always, it's not really useful to compare numbers from multiple sites, as we likely used different motherboard, ram, sections of the movie, etc...
    Reply
  • DNW - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    Questions:

    (1) You need just the HD DVD player, not the Xbox, correct?

    (2) The back of the HD DVD player appears to have 3 connectors. Are these all USB connectors? If so, you hook up your the HD DVD player to your computer, and your computer to your television, correct? Does it matter how the computer is output to the TV? Is video-out sufficient, or do I need DVI, or HDMI etc.

    (3) What are the computer system requirements? I am asking because on one of my HDTV's, I have an old computer built 2-3 years ago from whatever spare parts I had laying around. Is this critical? My TV supports 1080p. Is getting that resolution dependent upon the computer?

    (4) The HD DVD player appears to come with a remote control. Will I use that remote to play/stop/start/pause/etc the DVD's, or will all that be done through the computer? In other words, is this a computer component or a home theatre component?

    For under $200 plus the cost of a Netflix subscription, I would like to 'get my feet wet' with high definition dvd's. Even if I use this configuration for just a few months, it will be worth the rather insignificnat investment required. I just want to make certain I understand it before I make the purchase. Thanks!
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    1) just need the HD-DVD player.

    2) It is also a USB hub AFAIK... the mini connector hooks into the computer.

    3) you'll need a CPU at least as fast as the E6300 and a graphics card that can do some hardware decode acceleration if you want to avoid choppy playback and dropped frames. you'll also need usb 2.0 support (480Mbit), a graphics card that can output 1920x1080 @60Hz either over DVI or component (analog). A top of the line computer from 2 or 3 years ago will probably not cut it.

    4) the remote controls the XBox 360, not the HD-DVD player.
    Reply
  • totalcommand - Saturday, December 16, 2006 - link

    The fact is with the right H264 encoding HD films can easily be fit on DVD-9 discs with minimal loss of quality.

    The companies are just trying to create a new market by increasing format size, but it's really unnecessary unless we want 6hr+ of film on our discs. Not to mention, with a new market, they get new copy protections like HDCP, which lets them infringe on our fair-use rights.

    It really doesn't matter that Bluray has a 20Gb advantage over HDDVD - we don't need that extra space right now.
    Reply
  • DerekWilson - Sunday, December 17, 2006 - link

    some sort of "newness" is required -- standard DVD players can't play HD formats, as the players don't have the ability to decode H.264 ... Either we were going to get new players that use current DVD media or new players with new media. Since its a very good idea to future proof the design, more size is better -- and it just makes sense that if we require an update to player hardware we might as well also update our media to hold more data.

    the horrid drm and copy protection schemes are not a problem with the media as much as the MPAA -- had we stuck with standard DVD media, the industry could just have easily forced those wanting to play HD video on DVDs to adopt AACS -- because this is required in the data on the disks and the players -- not the physical media itself.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, December 16, 2006 - link

    "Right now" is the key. All things being equal (and I'm not saying they are!), having more capacity is better. We'll see which one wins our long term, but there's a good chance the consumer has already lost. Reply
  • trueimage - Saturday, December 16, 2006 - link

    How are you "enabling" and "disabling" HW Accel... All I see is a checked hardware acceleration box that is greyed out. I have no idea if it is turned on or not, and I certainly can't uncheck it...
    Reply
  • Renoir - Saturday, December 16, 2006 - link

    You can't enable/disable while playing a video. Stop playback and then the checkbox will no longer be greyed out. Hope that helps. Took me a while to figure that out myself :-) Reply

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