My friend let me borrow the drive for a week to play around with and review it.
He purchased it from Newegg for $179.99, but it is now $169.99. Here's a link.
-Adds HD-DVD Functionality to an Xbox 360 or Computer
-Sleek design matching the Xbox 360
-Comes with a Media Center Remote and King Kong HD-DVD
I unpacked and installed his player once he got it in the mail. The box itself is high quality and simple. Shows you everything you get inside and is easy to understand. Once you open it you find the manual, CD, King Kong and pamphlets covering up the cardboard (?) holder. Now you'll see the drive to under several wires in green plastic bags. It was easy to open everything up, and the items were well packed, absolutely could not be damaged in transit.
Installing this on the PC is as easy as it gets. Plug the drive's power cable into the wall and its USB into the computer. Windows Vista found the drivers for everything all by itself.
Sadly that's where the easiness ended (for me). If you don't have a HDCP monitor and Graphics Card you will not be able to use this drive without the following program. You will need Slysoft AnyDVD. That strips all the protection from the drive (which is not illegal as of yet), and allows you to play HD-DVDs (or blu-rays) without HDCP hardware.
Needing AnyDVD or not, the next step is to get a program that can play HD-DVDs. Sadly there are only two out right now: Cyberlink PowerDVD Ultra 7 and Intervideo WinDVD Premium 8, neither of which I like. There are no HD video "decoders-only" out right now, so you'll have to get a hold of one of those.
Build Quality & Use:
The drive itself is very high quality. In fact, it feels just like an Xbox 360, go figure... The only real complaint I have about its quality is the drive tray and bezel; they just don't feel as solid as the rest of the unit. They are only available in white right now, so if you have a black computer (or a 360 Elite) and you want it to match, you're out of luck. It also comes equipped a 2-port USB hub on the back to plug in all the rest of your devices. Lastly, it has nice rubber feet so it will stay still and not ruin the surface you place it on.
When I review use, I am not going to have it biased by the terrible functionality of PowerDVD or WinDVD. The unit itself is simple to use, and the included remote works exactly like a normal Media Center Remote. Windows Vista was made with these in mind and recognizes when you insert a disc and gives you the usual Autoplay options. In fact it just works like a normal disc drive. In terms of performance, I had no problem running movies at 1680x1050 (Check system specs in Signature). Very smooth video with no hitches, even though its just a USB connection.
Picture & Sound Quality
Boy, when they say "The look and sound of perfect", they're not exaggerating by much at all. Watching "King Kong" or "300" in HD is amazing. As I said, my monitor handles 1680x1050, which is close enough to 1080HD for me. I also have a set of Logitech's Z-5500 5.1 Digital Speakers to go with that. The HD discs take full advantage of both of these, though the video is much better than audio in comparison to DVDs. I was so thoroughly pleased with the quality, and I am definitely thinking about buying an HD-DVD or Blu-Ray Drive in the near future.
I tried my hardest to get some screen caps of the movies themselves, but PowerDVD just wouldn't let me: I tried everything.
The Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive is a great addition to a computer if you don't mind having an external drive. The picture and sound quality of HD discs is amazing, I was absolutely blown away. For $170 you can't go wrong. I'd highly recommend this unit to anyone looking for HD-DVD functionality on their computer. Just to let you know, my friend was equally pleased with his experience with this on his Xbox 360. I am just waiting for someone on here to mod this into a 5.25" drive bay!
-Great Picture Quality
-Does not overheat
-Great Disk Drive
-Integrated USB Hub
-Drive tray is a little flimsy
-Very loud (for a disc drive) during use
-Lack of players to use the drive
-HDCP and/or the measures taken to get around it
Ease of Use and Installation: 7
Build Quality/Appearance: 8
Picture/Sound Quality: 10