Some never thought the day would come, but it finally has. The first NUON-enhanced DVD player, the Samsung “Extiva” DVD-N2000 is here. Is it cool? Does it suck? Is it worth the $350? Read on, brave adventurer, and find one man’s humble review of one very intriguing DVD player.
The Extiva’s box is pretty impressive, much more elaborate than most other A/V components’ boxes. It’s full color and has product shots all over it – pictures of the NUON game controller, the Ballistic Box, and logos for all of the many features this player has. DVD Video, NUON, HDCD, Spatializer N-2-2, and Dolby Digital all grace the box (and the front of the machine), making you well aware that this is one packed little techno-box.
Tearing open the box reveals the player, one game controller, a very nice remote, Composite Video/Stereo Cable an S-Video cable, Ballistic (a complete pack-in game) and a NUON demo disk consisting of multiple game demos, video clips and more, and even batteries for the remote. You literally won’t need anything to get this machine up and running, unless you’re hooking it up via component video, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround or optical/coaxial audio. Samsung seems to thought of everything with this player – even the game controller has a cord that is long enough. Most game controllers have a wimpy 6’ cord, but the guys behind the Extiva must have used their noodles and realized that people will be kicked-back on their couches when playing games and that they’d need cables long enough to actually reach across the room. Bravo.
This player really stands out from the crowded realm of DVD players thanks to the embedded NUON processor. This little chip replaces the MPEG-2 decoder inside the DVD player adding a world of functionality to your DVD viewing experience. For the first time you’ll experience smooth fast forward (with audio) and rewind, and standard fast forwarding up to 32X. Want to change your settings but don’t feel like stopping the movie to do so? Not a problem with NUON. Just hit the “Display” key on the remote and up pops a menu while the movie continues to play in a window. Want to see just how cold that girl in the Scream Trilogy Preview is? Zoom in up to 20X to examine any still shot or moving scene without turning the picture into a pixelated mess. Even frame-by-frame strobe makes for a cool effect…watch the Black Knight’s sword go through his adversaries’ helmet step-by-step. Other features include A-B Repeat,bookmarking parts of the movie, and snapshot, where you can grab a frame of video and gamma-correct, change contrast, brightness and color to really reveal what Sharon Stone was or was not wearing in Basic Instinct (this idea came from someone else, but the Scream Trilogy thing was all mine). There’s even a Screen Fit button to force widescreen 16:9 ratio movies to take up the whole screen, eliminating the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. These are all features that work on standard DVD Video disks. The future promises NUON-Enhanced DVD’s that will offer multi-angle display and even Internet connectivity.
Popping in an audio CD results in a beautiful, sometimes super-trippy light show known as the Virtual Light Machine (VLM). From legendary programmer and digital artist Jeff Minter comes this fantastic eye candy that really brings life to the music. When you first put the CD in a spectrum analyzer appears and, depending on the disk, the HDCD logo will appear. Pressing the Display button brings up the VLM, which contains 12 banks of effects, two of which are randomized (Random Time and Random Energy). The other 10 banks each have 10 sub-effects for a total of 100+ different visual effects for you listening/viewing enjoyment. Anyone who’s played around with WinAmp visual plugins will be quite happy with the VLM, it’s just one of the many little extras that make the Extiva such a great product.
But what about the games? Well, from the demo disk, the future is looking great. Merlin Racing is an excellent rendition of the Karting genre we’ve all come to love since Super Mario Kart. You get one track to race, though the menu reveals a password function – maybe there’s more than just the one available level on the demo? This game reminds me of Diddy Kong Racing on the N64, only with much better music, sound effects (in full surround – you can hear the cars coming up from behind you), and a lot more texture variety. This game looks to be addictingly fun, and I can’t wait.
FreeFall 3050 A.D. looks promising. Though the only playable level on the Demo Disk is pretty straightforward, the gameplay is nothing like you’ve ever experienced before. The closest gaming experience to this would be the JetPack levels in Pilotwings 64, only without the jetpack. You’ve got your airbrakes, gun, and a variety of mid-air moves to get you to the ground safely while avoiding multitudes of obstacles. Luckily there’s energy packs along the way to help you out. Look out for those spinning blades! I’m looking forward to this one.
The third and final playable demo on the disk is Tempest 3000. This game is also being developed by Jeff Minter, now of VLM fame and it shows. Insane visual effects abound to a kicking techno soundtrack – it all adds up to an adrenaline rush and a half which is sure to please Tempest 2000 fans and retro gamers alike. The demo itself consists of 4 levels plus one bonus level, which gives a pretty good taste of what to expect from the game. The soundtrack is very engaging and super-crisp. While the music tracks of Tempest 2000 were excellent, the clarity of the audio on T3K just envelopes you.
There are no less than 9 video clips on the demo disk, consisting of an AirPlay game controller demonstration, in-game footage of aMaze, Ballistic, Dragon’s Lair, FreeFall, Iron Soldier, Merlin Racing and Tempest. There’s even a “making-of” documentary of Riven, the sequel of the all-time best-selling PC hit, MYST. While that may seem like slim pickings in the game department for now, you can be sure that as more and more NUON-Enhanced DVD players get out into the marketplace, developers will continue to sign on to create software for the NUON processor. The pack-in game Ballistic even provides some great, addicting puzzle gaming, making for a great game for the whole family to enjoy.
In summary, the Extiva more than warrants the $350 MSRP. With a full game, NUON Controller, Demo Disk and cables all included, you'll just be left to dream of what the future will bring for this killer technology. Considering all the high-end DVD features that NUON provides, the future of DVD playback is definitely here and it’s waiting inside a DVD-N2000 for you to experience.
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