Microsoft has finally released its HD DVD player accessory
for its Xbox 360 gaming console. The standalone HD DVD
player initially made its appearance back in August. Microsoft also released a dashboard
update to allow compatibility with the HD DVD player last month. Select
local and online retailers began selling the HD DVD player last week while
others have it available for pre-order. DailyTech managed to purchase
the retail HD DVD player from the local EB Games. As expected, pricing for the
retail unit is $199 before taxes.
The HD DVD player package contains the physical drive, power supply, USB 2.0
cable, Xbox 360 universal remote, installation disc and King Kong on HD DVD. Not included with the package are component or
VGA video cables that are required to experience high definition video
goodness. Nevertheless, users that purchase the HD DVD player should most
likely have their Xbox 360 connected to an HDTV anyway.
Unpacking the HD DVD player is pretty straightforward. The physical HD DVD
player is simply an HD-DVD drive in an USB 2.0 enclosure that matches the Xbox
360—white with chrome trim. Since the HD DVD player occupies the only rear USB
2.0 port on the Xbox 360, it has a built-in USB 2.0 hub to provide two
additional USB 2.0 ports. Additionally, the HD DVD player has a mounting spot
for the optional 802.11g wireless adapter.
After plugging the HD DVD player into the Xbox 360, the included installation
disc must be inserted. The installation disc installs necessary system files to
allow the Xbox 360 to playback HD DVD movies. When the installation disc is
finished installing what it needs, the Xbox 360 is able to playback movies
using the HD DVD player. Watching movies is pretty straightforward, simply pop
in an HD DVD movie and enjoy. The user interface for HD DVD playback is
essentially the same as playing back DVD movies.
As the Xbox 360 HD DVD player accessory is a regular external USB 2.0 drive, DailyTech
attempted to install it on various PCs running Windows XP Professional, Windows
Vista Ultimate 32-bit and Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit. All three operating
systems were able to detect the HD DVD player as a regular Toshiba HD DVD
drive. Unfortunately, Windows XP Professional refused to read HD DVD disks.
Nevertheless, after installing the UDF 2.5 file system driver, Windows XP
Professional was able to read HD DVD discs without issues.
Windows Vista 32-bit and 64-bit were able to detect the HD DVD player and read
HD DVD discs natively as the operating systems have native support for the UDF
2.5 file system. None of the operating systems tested were able to correctly
install the two “Xbox 360 Memory Units” that showed up with the drive.
Nevertheless, the drive functioned properly without the “Xbox 360 Memory units”
Attempting to watch an HD DVD movie in any of the three operating systems
proved to be a disaster. There are simply no HD DVD movie player applications
for Windows available to consumers yet. DailyTech tried Intervideo
WinDVD, Cyberlink PowerDVD and NVIDIA’s PureVideo decoder with no luck.
Supposedly, the Japanese release of WinDVD 8 has built in HD DVD playback
capabilities. However, DailyTech was unable to obtain a copy for
testing. Nevertheless, Intervideo, Cyberlink, NVIDIA and other DVD player
software companies should have HD DVD software players available once consumer
HD DVD drives for PCs become available.