Even if you have only a passing interest in video games, you’re probably aware of the issues regarding Sony’s decision to spec the PS3 with a Blu-ray drive. Not only did the inclusion of Blu-ray make it impossible for Sony to hit its intended release date (in Europe at least), but it also made the console itself rather more expensive than most consumers would have liked.
Microsoft on the other hand decided not to equip the Xbox 360 with either of the next generation optical formats, instead opting for a humble DVD drive. This meant that anyone wanting to buy an Xbox 360 just to play games didn’t have to pay through the nose for hardware that they didn’t actually want. Instead Microsoft announced that it would release an HD DVD add on drive, so that if anyone wanted high definition movie playback functionality, they could just bolt it on later. And that’s exactly what I’ve got in front of me right now.
The HD DVD drive is designed to stand next to the Xbox 360 if it’s positioned upright, or sit on top of it if your console is laid flat. The HD DVD drive matches the finish of the X360 perfectly, so despite being a separate unit it’s still aesthetically pleasing. The drive requires an external power supply which comes in the box, but thankfully it’s far, far smaller than the console’s gargantuan power brick.
The HD DVD drive connects to the X360 via a simple USB to mini-USB cable, which comes in the box. Don’t worry about losing the only rear mounted USB port on the Xbox 360 though, because the HD DVD drive gives you two more ports, leaving you one USB connector better off. Once you’ve connected the drive, the X360 will download the necessary update automatically. Once loaded you’ll be greeted with your usual Dashboard interface, but with one small difference. The Eject Tray icon at the bottom is now split into two sections – the top half will eject the DVD drive in the X360, while the bottom half will eject the HD DVD drive.
Also in the box is a full AV remote control – I say full, because it’s a bit longer and more comprehensive than the small AV remote that shipped with early X360 consoles. It’s a good bundle though, considering that even the Premium pack 360 doesn’t come with a remote control anymore.