But once you've got everything set up and ready to go, be prepared to be amazed by the quality - it's absolutely stunning. I'm serious. If you thought that normal DVDs looked fine, after you've seen the results you won't be able to go back.
Comparing the 1812 Overture/London explosion scene in V for Vendetta between the DVD and the HD versions, the difference was considerable. On the DVD the London skyline seems murky and smudged, while close-ups looked blotchy. Switch to HD and the buildings are crisp as far as the eye can see and faces pin sharp.
Throw in the bundled King Kong movie and the end scene where the ape climbs up the Empire State Building, was also amazing to watch - the Manhattan skyline stretches for miles and you can make out detail far far away. It goes on way too long, but it's pretty to look at.
Put simply, if you're not prepared to buy your film collection all over again on HD DVD, don't go anywhere near this drive - otherwise you'll just be disappointed when you watch standard DVDs.
As the drive uses a standard USB connection, you can also plug it into a PC - providing a cheap way to access HD DVD content. However, to read the disc structure, you'll need to find some additional drivers - of questionable legality - that are currently floating round the internet. You'll also need some software to playback HD DVD movies, of which there isn't any officially - although this will no doubt change come the New Year.
You'll also need to ensure your PC is capable of fulfilling the security requirements - but if you download the Blu-ray and HD DVD Advisor from CyberLink, it should tell you if your set-up is up to snuff.
In terms of noise, you won't hear the drive over the Xbox 360, but that's not really saying much. Provided you're sitting across the lounge, though, you'll only notice it during quiet scenes.
Either Microsoft has made a monumental error when pricing this drive or it's being particularly nice - neither of which sound plausible, so snap it up before the software giant notices. Beware though, once you've seen HD DVD you won't be able to go back to DVD, so make sure you've got a large wad of cash to replace your existing video collection. ®
Microsoft Xbox 360 HD DVD player
Spinning disc hell
Hasn't there been some concern over discs which spin fast and external drives before? I seem to remember that a few external drive manufacturers began to include a breaking mechanism which activated on tilt into their draw based CD drives.
HD-DVD spins quickly, puts out quite a lot of data throughput and slowing the disc down could be detrimental to this. If the breaking mechanism is excluded, well, frisbee? Or more to the point, evil microsoft odd job style frisbee.
I can hear the lawyers knocking at redmond now.
I have little trust in what microsoft produce, with burning Xboxs and virus ridden operating systems. Something has to be wrong with it, the old addage "if it sounds too good to be true it generally is" is the sub note to the microsoft OS mantra, "Faster, more reliable, more secure, more stable"
The Plasma Issue
Like most plasmas the Panasonic TH-42 PH9 only has a native resolution of 1024x768 (a 4x3 res requiring some odd stretching for Widescreen).
This is much closer to the 960x576 (Widescreen Anamorphic PAL) coming out of a decent de-interlacing DVD player than the 1920x1080 that the HD-DVD disks are encoded in or the 1280x720 (composite) 1366x768 (VGA native) that the XBOX 360 will be outputting to most LCD screens.
Hardly surprising that there is not much difference between DVD and HD-DVD on most Plasma.
As far as I know no plasmas actually have a proper widescreen pixel format other than the very latest (and largest) 1080p native models.
I agree with previous poster
I completely agree with the previous poster. The guy who wasn't impressed has a huge 42" screen with a measly 1024x768 native resolution, so it's no wonder it doesn't look that much better.
The xBox360 with HD DVD is a BUDGET solution.
I think the unimpressed guy is missing the point. I may not have a "good setup" but I have an 32" HD CRT (480p/720p/1080i), an xbox 360 with an xbox HD-DVD, and a 5.1 system. I can watch iDTV, HD-TV, HD-DVD & SD-DVD, as well as being able to play SD/HD games all in 5.1 surround sound.
The point is, all this cost less than £900.