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What is Missing From Xbox 360? Print E-mail
Monday, 21 November 2005
Video gamers around the world are flocking to stores to pick up the Xbox 360, the newest video game system from Microsoft, but home theater enthusiasts are lamenting the fact that there is no digital video output such as HDMI or DVI.

When the system was officially announced in the spring of 2005, there was quite a bit of speculation about whether the system would feature one of the upcoming new high definition disc formats. The rumor mill has Sony building their Playstation 3 on the Blu-ray disc format, so many home theater enthusiasts were hoping that Microsoft would work out a deal to build HD DVD capabilities into the Xbox. The product press releases touted the Xbox 360 as having the ability to play video games in high definition and it does support 480p, 720p and 1080i output. However, it comes via an analog component video cable. The original Xbox has games that can be played in 480p via component video cables. With digital TVs as well as more and more modern AV preamps and receivers now often having multiple HDMI inputs and or switching, the world is getting ready for HDMI but they wont be sending their Xbox signals to their displays in a digital format. A few months ago, word spread on the Xbox user groups about whether nor not the Xbox would have an HDMI output. After many searches for spy photos of the rear panel of the Xbox 360 resulted in no definitive answer, I hit the stores to see if I could find out in person if the Xbox would have digital video output and possibly the ability to output at 1080p.

In-store displays for the Xbox 360 have been set up around the country. However, a plastic case is positioned over the unit, making it virtually impossible to get a clear look at the outputs. Microsoft went one step further by bolting a flat panel over the backs of the LCD TVs that the demo systems were plugged into to keep things nice and ambiguous.

When asked if the Xbox 360 would be supporting a digital video output signal via HDMI or DVI, not a single salesperson at any of the Best Buy or Toys R’ Us locations in Southern California could even tell me what HDMI or DVI is, let alone if the Xbox had either of these connections.

This led me to several conclusions about why there is no digital video output on the Xbox 360. It seems as if Microsoft must have done the research and realized that most people are thinking about buying HDTVs but don’t yet understand the difference between an analog HDTV signal vs. a digital one. However, my guess as to the real reason that there is no HDMI output on the Xbox 360 is simple. Time and money. By putting out the system in November of 2005 instead of waiting for the HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray format war, Xbox gets a big jump on Sony’s Playstation 3. It also saves them the licensing money that it would cost to put an HDMI output and the HD-DVD disc format in their machines and lastly, there are no HDCP issues that have been such a hot topic lately. Since the signal coming from the Xbox 360 is analog, it will work with old HDTVs and new ones, as well as in lower resolution with any non-HD set via S-video, composite video or over a coax cable with the correct adapter.

Corporate Vice President of the Xbox Product Group at Microsoft Todd Holmdahl said in an interview with Teamxbox.com that there is the possibility that the Xbox 360 may someday support 1080p video output via HDMI. However, at this point in time, Microsoft felt that this is primarily a gaming machine and not a home theater DVD player replacement. They are looking into the possibility of making it scale up standard definition DVD discs but could not yet confirm if this would be available on the machine at the time of the launch. He did state emphatically that the Xbox 360 plays high-definition video in the VC1 (WMVHD) format.

The general buzz in the video game newsgroups is that those people who are waiting for a machine that is going to be a true video source in their high def home theater system are going to wait for the Playstation 3. Gamers who are chomping at the bit and aren’t concerned with whether or not their video games are being played at spectacular 1080p can have the Xbox 360 today (if you can find one in stores) and then will have to decide down the road if they want to invest in a blu-ray and or HD-DVD player later.

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