XBOX360 in HD – HD DVD And More
I am excited, and I have locked myself in for the weekend to test out my XBOX360 with HDTV projector, a long with the next generation of home movies. The projector that I have borrowed is Mitsubishi Electronic HC5000. For now I only have three HD DVD movies, Poseidon, V for Vandetta and Serenity. The HD DVD Edition of Serenity seems to have been selling well, cause Play.com has been temporarily soldout for ages. Being Firefly addicted, the movie was of course the first one I ordered. I have ended up cancelling my order over at Play.com, and instead bought it in my favourite movie store downtown Oslo. As always I ended up talking with the guy in charge, and he told me that they were selling dusins of HD DVDs for every Blueray they sold. But he was quick to add, that this would slowly change from March 23rd. That’s when Playstation 3 will be released in Norway.
This review also has a second part, and that playing games in Full HD. And the first game to try is of course Project Gotham Racing.
The Mitsubishi projector is one of the best one on the market, and capable of giving the very best of pictures. The video resolution is up to 1920 x 1080 and the brightness is 1000 ANSI Lumens. The HD DVD module for XBOX360 on the other hand only have USB out, but a bigger problem is that the XBOX360 lacks a digital output. No HDMI, and not even DVI. Only analogue VGA! And the problems continue with all the cables that you can get for the XBOX, are bascially ment for a TV standing on top of your homecinema system and not for a projector. In the end I managed to put the XBOX in the middle of my homecinema system and the projector, giving me quite a big picture, but it could have been quite a bit bigger. I am not impressed…
Explanations: PAL is the current TV format (SDTV – Standard Definiton TV), and 720p is the screen resolution most HD-Ready flatscreen are equipted with. 1080p is what we call Full HD and what the projector is capable of. I still have an old analogue 28″ PAL TV, and will keep it till NTV starts their MPEG-4 AVC broadcastings this autumn.
What I couldn’t test was the new sound systems that HD DVD movies are carrying. Again, the XBOX is only capable of playing Dolby Digital 5.1. No support for Dolby Digital Plus and DTS HD. All the HD DVD and Blueray competitors have support for these two new audio formats. But then again, I don’t have a homecinema system supporting these new sound systems. Talking about sound, a few words about the noice from the XBOX360 must also be mentioned. The HD DVD add-on is pretty silent. But the XBOX360 itself gives out to much fan noice. It is actually so bad, that I guess that you can only watch action movies on it. Microsoft should come with a software update as soon as possible.
First movie out was Poseidon. A movie that I didn’t see at the cinema. Now I know why. Not to entertaining. Poseidon could be summed up as a “disaster movie”, like Dante’s Peak, Daylight, Armageddon, Deep Impact and Titanic.
As soon as I started watching it, the first thing that stroke me was that the amazing color depths and details the pictures had. The movie is available in 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p/VC-1A, a major difference from DVDs. It reminded me funnily enough of the time I went from Laser Discs (do you still remember them?) to DVDs. The movie started with some horrible bad data animations, but as soon as they were over, the new format came more to justice. The action seens in the movie became breath taking in Full HD. Objects in DVD movies were often blur, but you now experience a far better sharpness in the edges. Blacks terrific, and contrast nice and smooth throught out the entire greyscale. I have never seen anything like it! Think about it, we used to think of DVD as the perfect picture, just cause the source was digital. Well, that was yesterday …
On Saturday eve I watched Serenity, my favourite movie and a movie that I also have on DVD. The transfer of this movie is simply a testament to why you should invest in the latest playback technology for your homecinema system. Serenity looks so strikingly better on HD DVD than it did on standard DVD, that you’ll find yourself a true believer if you are not already among us early adopters. The colors, contrast, and clarity are spot on and the darker areas of the movie present deep blacks and easily defined movement in the shadows. The level of increased detail alone would warrant the upgrade to the high definition version, even if you already like me own a copy on DVD. Of technical information I will only mention that, as for Poseidon, the movie is made available in a 2.40:1 widescreen and 1080p/VC-1 video transfer. Run out and buy this movie on HD DVD!
The third movie for this review will be watched on Sunday, as some friends will come over and enjoy it with me. V for Vendetta is one of the more recent HD DVD releases. It is as the others, available in a 2.40:1 widescreen and 1080p/VC-1 video transfer. I haven’t seen this movie at the cinemas or DVD before, but I have enjoyed most movies that Natalie Portman appears in. This movie was not what I expected it to be. “V for Vendetta” fitted perfectly well with post-9/11 sensibilities. After having seen the movie, I googled a little bit about it. Some have called the movie an outright denouncement of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq, and that was the first thing I thought of as well. The film also borrows much from the past, with political rallies and symbolisms that bear an uncanny resemblance to Hitler’s public addresses. But let us not get political. I liked the movie, but this movie didn’t need to be in HD for me, it could have just as well been in the DVD format. V for Vendetta was quite different from the other ones in terms of panoramic views, but the picture quality was great through out the entire movie. Rich in colors, the transfer created striking visuals and skin tones were nice and warm.
The conclusion so far is that if you already have a XBOX360, or plan to buy one. The HD DVD extension is a great entry player, but nothing more. It was real simple to update the XBOX360 to also support HD DVD, and the HD DVD extension is real easy to use. You simply cannot do any mistakes. But if you are not as gadget addicted as me, you do best in waiting to see who wins the new format war, HD DVD or Blueray. Another thing is that prices have now started slowly to drop.
Enough about movies, the XBOX360 is best for gaming. After having seen Poseidon, I had to try playing Project Gotham Racing in Full HD. In the beginning I was driving in to every thing, pretty much as in real-life. I found it really difficult to stay on the roads with such a big screen (high resolution). But after having been driving for a few minutes, the experience and the intence colors were pretty much as good as games can be today. I have not tried anything like it. I am loving it!