Saturday May 18, 2024

Xbox 360 HD DVD Drive - HDCP Issues
  Posted by: AceBHound on Feb 28th, 2010 3:43 PM
I picked up an HD DVD drive for the Xbox 360 a few weeks ago -- yeah I know HD DVD is a dead format, but some really good deals can be had on HD DVDs these days. Some of the same movies that would cost $15+ on Blu Ray are just $2-3 on HD DVD so I figured what can I lose? Anyway I tried out King Kong (that came in the box with the HD DVD drive) and Planet Earth right away and everything seemed fine -- but this weekend sat down to watch Norbit and was getting random spots where it would seem to drop frames (blink a black screen for a split second). Tried HD DVD of Old School and saw the same thing.

It turns out I'm not alone -- apparently what I was experiencing was related to HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection). It's meant as an anti-piracy measure and if you use an HDMI connection to watch HD movies then there is a "handshake" between the HD DVD player & television.. and when one device can't communicate fast enough for the other device you can have issues.

I tried power cycling the Xbox and tv, and tried 3 different brands of HDMI cables that I had just to eliminate that possibility. I then tried on several LCD tvs and all experienced the same issue. Sometimes when fast forwarding, rewinding, or skipping chapters I'd actually get the message that "HDCP Secure Link Lost" and then it would re-establish itself. Throughout the movie the random split-second black screens would persist and were really distracting. Apparently this doesn't happen if you use a component connection from your Xbox since it doesn't have the HDCP security on it.

I'm sortof happy it's not just one TV doing it and that it seems to be the Xbox's HD DVD Player. From what I've read it could have been due to the NXE dashboard update that was rolled out in 2008 and more specifically the H.264 codec used on some HD DVDs. Microsoft doesn't support the device any more so I haven't found any newer firmware updates newer than 2.0.5127.

I plan to try out some more HD DVDs I have that aren't using the AVC / H.264 codec (using the list as a reference to the codec used) and see if the issue is strictly with AVC discs. There is a performance comparison of a VC-1 encoded disc versus AVC encoded disc on Anandtech where they use an Xbox HD DVD player on a PC and show AVC takes more cpu power. I would wonder if the Xbox CPU under the new dashboard is being taxed with AVC encoded discs and that's what's causing the intermittent hiccups with HDCP. So much for a painless experience with HD DVDs on the Xbox.

**Update** -- I have tried several other VC-1 encoded discs and did not notice any issues, so this seems to support the theory above. I have also tried an Xbox with an older dashboard and only noticed a black screen flash once after 15-20 minutes, which is a lot better than with the new dashboard.

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