HD-DVD Buyers' Guide

HP HD100 External USB 2.0 HD-DVD Player

When it made its debut in late September, 2006, the HP HD100 enjoyed the distinction of being the first mass-market PC-attachable HD-DVD drive available. It costs more than some standalone HD-DVD players also featured in this buyer's guide. System requirements to play host to this drive are typical for systems that include high-definition video and DVD components: a Pentium 840 3.2 GHz or AMD 64 X2 2.2 GHz processor or better, 1 GB RAM or better, an nVidia GeForce 7600GT or ATI x1600 or better, Windows XP SP2 or Vista, and an HDCP compliant DVI-D or HDMI connection for external output. Lightscribe (technology for laser etching labels onto the disc) is missing from this player, but it does include a copy of Cyberlink's PowerDVD HD-DVD Edition instead to enable HD-DVD playback on properly equipped PCs.

Figure 7: As external HD-DVD players go, the HP is pretty pricey.

As with other HD-DVD players, the HP HD100 can also handle the majority of DVD formats (but not DVD-RAM) as well as audio CDs. A USB cable is included with the unit, for attaching it to a PC. It also includes an external power supply with a standard A/C wall plug, so although you can power this drive through a powered USB 2.0 port on a notebook, you need not do so unless other power sources aren't available (count on a significant drop in battery life while you're watching HD-DVD content, too).

Initial reports are that the unit works well with suitably-outfitted widescreen notebooks (as does the internal HD-DVD drive in the Pavilion 9000 series notebook we reviewed in January), but we don't have much information about how easy it is to deliver high-definition video to an external HDTV. We expect it to be subject to the gotchas documented in our sidebar near the end of this story, and expect that component analogue video will serve as an acceptable substitute for HDMI 1.3/HDCP capability in many PC-to-HDTV link-ups.

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