Xbox 360 HD-DVD Add-On: First Impressions

Those who pre-ordered HD-DVD add-on drives for their Xbox 360 through found a nice present on their doorstep today, and snagged instant bragging rights over everyone who didn’t at the same time. TMR Member “sNEIRBO” is one of the lucky few, and he took a moment to share his first impressions on what looks to be a must-have accessory for Xbox 360 owners:

“The first movie I watched was The Last Samurai (a Netflix rental). I can say this already –

The Xbox HD-DVD add-on is very small, the design accentuates the Xbox as well. The connection is incredibly simple – a USB connection between the Xbox and the Player and a power plug in. You have to install an HD-DVD add-on update to the Xbox (provided in the box) before the first use. As usual with all Xbox updates it was quick, simple and painless. To play an HD-DVD through the Xbox, they have now added a second step to the DVD location on the menu. You go down to the DVD Menu, you can then select either the built in DVD tray for the Xbox, or the add-on HD-DVD Player.

The HD-DVD is much quieter than the DVD drive built into the Xbox. During quiet moments in the movie you can not hear any drive noise. That’s a big improvement over the internal DVD drive.

As far a performance for the drive goes, it’s incredible to see. From the very first image on the screen – the FBI Copyright Warning – I noticed a drastic improvement in clarity and color saturation. When the movie started it blew me away. The picture is absolutely gorgeous. Colors are vivid, crisp, simply beautiful. This is the type of performance I’ve been waiting for out of my HDTV. I’ve had DISH Network HD service for a long time and I thought their video was good, it pales in comparison to what the Xbox HD-DVD Player is providing.

I personally think the audio is much improved as well. I have an older Sony Dolby Digital 5.1 receiver, hooked up to Bose cubes and a Bose passive subwoofer. Granted this is not going to take advantage of the 7.1 lossless sound, nor was The Last Samurai recorded in Dolby Plus or Dolby True HD, but what I’m hearing from this disc is much better than anything I’ve ever heard out of any standard DVD through my system. The soundstage seems to be more three dimensional than anything I’ve ever heard – either from DVD or my DISH Network DVR. There is an early scene in The Last Samurai when the conscript army Cruise is training confront the Samurai for the first time in the forest. The sounds of the Samurai before the attack seemed to be coming from all around my room, and not just from the speaker locations. There appeared to be sound coming from mid points all around me. Likewise, when the Ninja attack the Samurai village, the sound of the Ninja on the roof of Katsumoto’s house, sounded like Ninja running across my own roof. This is what I’ve been waiting for from my Home Theatre setup.”

Even though Playstation 3 and Blu-ray is still an unreachable dream for mere mortals, high-def home video has never been more affordable at $199. That is, if you already plunked down a fat wad of cash for an Xbox 360.

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