By Rob Wright
One of the criticisms of the Xbox 360 when compared to its chief competitor, the PlayStation 3, was that it didn't include a built-in high definition DVD player. This was an unfortunate result of Microsoft launching its console a full year earlier than the PS3. Microsoft eventually released a companion HD-DVD drive for the Xbox 360, and it's a fine addition to the platform. The drive looks similar to the Xbox 360 but is about half its size, connects to the console through a USB port, and can play all HD-DVD movies and discs. The drive also has two additional USB ports, and a spot for the Xbox 360 Wireless Adapter.
The Xbox HD-DVD looks something like a scaled-down Xbox.
The Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive has no A/V ports, so it can't connect directly to a television; an Xbox 360 console is required for all TVs, including HDTVs. The good news, though, is that the HD-DVD drive can connect to your PC (an OS X Mac, too) quite easily. If you have a decent display, then HD-DVDs look impressive on the small screen.
The drive offers 1080i resolution (1080p with a VGA connection or the Xbox 360 Elite's HDMI connector) and comes bundled with the Xbox 360 Universal Media Remote and the HD-DVD version of Peter Jackson's "King Kong." The movie's clarity and picture quality are amazing, especially the eye-popping special effects sequences that feature computer-generated visuals. While the Xbox 360 console has been plagued by overheating, assorted hardware issues and high failure rates, the companion HD-DVD drive is smooth and efficient. It's easy to set up, and delivers true HD picture quality.
Microsoft recently reduced the Xbox 360 HD-DVD player by $20 - its current MSRP is $179.99. The unit also comes with a rebate offer for five free HD-DVDs, good through February, 2008.