Cheap HD-DVD on your PC

Last night I tried an experiment to see if I could get relatively inexpensive (sub-$300) HD-DVD playback going on my PC. The components of this experiment, other than the PC, involved an Xbox 360 HD-DVD Player and Cyberlink’s PowerDVD Ultra software.



I’m pleased to say the experiment worked. The $199.99 Xbox 360 HD-DVD Player (which I raved about here) is a USB 2.0 device. I merely plugged in the HD-DVD drive, waited for Windows XP to recognize it (I allowed Windows to go to the Windows web site to look for drivers too), and after around a minute or two, the drive was fully installed and usable as a DVD drive.

The next step was to install the $99.95 Cyberlink PowerDVD Ultra software. The current version of the software (pictured above) installs for either HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc support – you have to choose, although company officials tell me that as soon as next month, a free upgrade will be made available to all purchasers of the current version which will support both versions for folks fortunate enough to have both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc drives in their PC.

The PowerDVD Ultra software comes with a tool called HD Advisor, which scans your system for compatible drives and to ensure your system is powerful enough to do a real-time decode of the high definition formats. The minimum requirements are actually not insubstantial, as processing high definition content requires a lot of CPU and graphics horsepower. However, if you do have a suitable system, it works very well. The only minor annoyance I found was the inability to turn off subtitles, but I suspect that is user error (or at least a lack of reading relevant documentation).

The other nice thing about this combo is that you get a free copy of the remake of King Kong in HD-DVD (at least as of last week), and a spare Xbox 360 remote control (not much use on your PC, but maybe you can sell it on eBay or use it with your Xbox 360 if you have one).

So, for $299.94 (not including any possible shipping costs or sales tax), you can watch HD-DVD movies on your PC. Not a bad deal at all (assuming your PC is powerful enough, of course).