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Videophiles should also be aware that the Xbox 360's HD pictures aren't quite as polished and flawless as those you would expect from a top-notch Blu-ray player/disc. For while, as I said, the Xbox's pictures generally look pleasingly free from MPEG compression noise, there are occasionally signs of it, such as over the shot of the PC screen where Wesley Gibson Googles his own name only to find no hits.
One more concern comes from the fact that you can manually choose the video output your Xbox sends to your TV. So if you're not careful you could have the Xbox 360's slightly average video upscaling circuitry converting the 720p source material to 1080p before passing it onto your screen - a process which made the picture look grittier but also more noisy during my tests.
When it comes to audio, the Xbox 360 holds its own against Blu-ray reasonably well - within its limitations. What I mean by this is that while the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack delivered via the Xbox service with both The Dark Knight and Wanted appears more or less identical in quality to the equivalent soundtracks from the Blu-rays, the Wanted Blu-ray carries an additional superior (in terms of power and clarity) DTS-HD Master Audio mix, while The Dark Knight carries a similarly more potent Dolby TrueHD mix.
While in an ideal world the Xbox movie service would deliver an AV experience to rival Blu-ray, in reality this was unlikely to happen. For as with all download services, the Xbox Live approach is more about value, convenience and disposability than the last word in AV glory.
Having said that, its AV efforts certainly aren't bad by any means, and as such they join forces with a solid operating system and sensible, clear pricing structure to make the Xbox 360 an engaging if uninspiring alternative way of watching HD films.
And let's not forget, of course, that when you're not watching films on it, the Xbox 360 can also gobble up countless hours of your life with its outstanding catalogue of games.
Scores In Detail
- Sound Quality