Sometimes I wonder if anyone at Microsoft actually uses their products. If they did, then certainly they wouldn't have designed the connections on the 360 the way they did and release it like that. What am I on about? I'll tell you, but I have to warn you that unless you're in to gadgetry/tech stuff, it's boring and nerdy.
So, I go to hook up the 360 the other night. I decided I wanted to get the best out of, audio and video-wise, so I'd give it the one HDMI connection to the TV. I justified this by figuring that I could take the upscaling DVD player out of the equation, since the XBox should be able to act as an upscaling DVD player as well. I don't need to buy a remote, because my Harmony can control a 360 with no issues. Plus, my upscaling DVD player only upscales through the HDMI port anyway, so it was just being a regular DVD player. Go team!
I disconnected the cable box, which was previously occupying the HDMI connection, and reconnected it via component cables. I'd had it hooked up this way for a while before when I'd changed boxes and had to get a different cable, and the HD quality over component cables is actually quite fine. I couldn't really tell the difference. Plus, Comcast's DVR is such a pile of shit that higher picture quality just means higher quality blocking and artifacting.
After I re-rigged the cable box, I took out the DVD player, forgetting, of course, to remove the disc that was in it. Dammit. Every. Fucking. Time. I plugged it back in and rescued the disc ("Die Hard" - the whole trilogy is in my NetFlix queue, and I just downloaded 4). Time for the good part.
The plan for the 360 was go to video to the HDMI on the TV and audio to the optical on the receiver that was previously being used by the DVD player. Full digital sound and video for games, DVDs, and downloaded XBox Live content. Sweet! Only ONE BIG FUCKING PROBLEM: The optical out for the XBox is on the component cable. the connector on this cable is so chunky, and the HDMI port is located so close, that with the connector plugged in, you can't fucking plug in the HDMI cable! So basically, you can have HDMI, or you can have the other connector, but you can't have both. NICE.
Ok then... Plan B: HDMI to the TV, and then the TV's optical out to the optical in on the receiver. This idea was awesome until I opened my TV's manual to see if there actually was an optical out on it, as I remembered (easier than climbing back there). There was, but according to the manual, HDMI only supports two channels of audio. GOD FUCKING DAMMIT. It's a four gigabit connection and it can only handle two channels of audio? GRRR. That wasn't going to work. I wanted surround.
Plan C: Components to the TV and optical audio to the receiver, and the cable box reclaims HDMI. I hook all that up and then test it out. Games look great and I can see on the TVs display that I'm getting 720p (Set that way on purpose, as my TV only goes to 1080i). But, movies are still 480p. What the fuck? I'll tell you what the fuck... I basically get screwed by CSS (Content Scrambling System, not the other). For those not in the know, CSS is a type of DRM for DVDs. In order for hardware manufacturers to be CSS-compliant, and thus have the rights to use the decryption key for CSS, they have to agree to certain rules dictated by the movie industry, one of which is that they can't have an unprotected digital output (HDMI is protected) at HD resolution. That means that the max you can get from a DVD over the component cables is 480p, not because of a hardware or technology limitation, but because of some anti-piracy scheme that was cracked long ago anyway.
So that's where it is now. Microsoft, of course, has a dongle which fits in the plug next to the HDMI cable, but they only seem to sell it bundled with their $50 HDMI cable, which I don't fucking need. I'm considering opening up my box and relocating the HDMI port, but given the 360's history, I think I'd prefer to keep my warranty intact.
What a shitty move by Microsoft.
Originally posted on pop.vox.com