A software update released early today by Microsoft solves several disc-specific playback issues and provides a series of new audio playback options to the console's HD DVD add-on.
Owners of the Xbox 360 HD DVD player got a big present this morning from Bill Gates. The software update (which follows last week's release of the Xbox Spring Dashboard) addresses a series of frequently-requested feature upgrades -- perhaps most notably fixing incompatibility issues with 'Digital Video Essentials' and other select HD DVD releases, as well as resolving reported lip sync problems on titles like 'Batman Begins.'
Gone as well are previously reported issues with the player being stuck in "night mode," which dynamically compressed the range of the soundtrack. Amir Majidimehr, corporate VP at Microsoft’s Consumer Media Technology Group has promised that this improvement alone will provide owners of the add-one with a noticeable boost in performance.
The update also notably includes several upgrades to the add-on's ability to decode audio streams via TOSLINK or HDMI. While the player is still unable to output true lossless Dolby TrueHD streams, it now offers users the option to output all HD DVD audio (including down-sampled TrueHD) in Digital Stereo (2 channel PCM), 640 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1, and 1.5 Mbps DTS 5.1 or WMA Pro.
Finally, in a slight tweak of the player's on-screen UI, three new options have been added: subtitle, camera angle and audio, allowing users to toggle those settings directly from the Xbox 360 media remote's display button rather than having to navigate through the disc's software menu.
In order to begin taking advantage of these new features, you'll need to have access to (and be signed in to) Xbox Live. Simply load an HD DVD movie, and you should be prompted for an auto update. If you don’t have access to Xbox Live, Microsoft says the update will be available for download from Xbox.com later this week.
Thanks to Chris S. and Tim P. for the tip!