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Alive SE - EIL 2001
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------'s Toshiba SD-2300 NUON-enhanced DVD player review
         by Lawrence E. Ullman

December 4, 2000 -- Toshiba's first NUON-compatible DVD player is my new
top pick in the mid-priced DVD player category. At a list price of
$399.99, and selling for about $299 on the street, the SD-2300 leapfrogs
its rivals with razor-sharp video performance, ultra-smooth scanning, a
wealth of useful features and category-leading ergonomics. The NUON
capabilities more or less come along for the ride, and only serve to
enhance an already excellent machine.

NUON technology, which is licensed from VM Labs, centers around a
software-programmable, media-processing, 128-bit chip that replaces the
MPEG-II decoder in a DVD player or other digital device. First introduced
on the Samsung DVD-N2000 ($399), the NUON processor provides exceptionally
smooth scanning and slow-motion functions, especially in reverse, as well
as an impressively clear 16x power zoom that can be panned to magnify any
area of the screen.

Manufacturers can also use the NUON chip's interactive capabilities to
create advanced menu systems. Samsung elected to do so on the DVD-N2000,
while Toshiba was content to seamlessly integrate NUON functionality with
their existing -- and already excellent -- user interface.

NUON machines such as the SD-2300 can also be used to play compatible
games. But I consider this a bonus, not a compelling reason to buy. Only a
handful of NUON titles are available at this point, though more are

Toshiba includes a coupon that's good for a free copy of The Next Tetris,
which can be played with the remote control or with an (optional)
NUON-compatible game pad. My review sample came with "Tetris" and two
other prerelease games on DVD-Rs. Although I enjoyed playing the titles,
there's no way any gamer worth his or her salt is going to consider this
dual-purpose machine as a replacement or even a substitute for a Dreamcast
or a PlayStation.


   * NUON-enhanced DVD player
   * plays DVD/CD/NUON discs (not compatible with CD-R)
   * 24-MHz/10-bit video processing
   * 24-bit PCM audio compatible
   * HDCD filtering and decoding
   * Spatializer N-2-2 simulated surround
   * black-level adjustment and PLUGE (passes 'below black')
   * 16-power picture zoom
   * Digital Video Noise Reduction
   * Virtual Light Machine
   * Virtual Remote
   * Title/Chapter/Interval Preview
   * Angle Viewer
   * Strobe Play
   * Picture Capture
   * NAVI and Quick Menus
   * DVD/CD Text compatible
   * remote control with joystick

3.12 x 16.93 x 12 inches (HWD); 6.6 pounds
The SD-2300 boasts several step-up features that you won't find on less
expensive, entry-level models. Thanks to the NUON processor, the SD-2300
provides the smoothest forward and reverse scanning you'll see short of a
high-end player such as the Sony DVP-S7700 ($1199).

Less useful, but still appreciated, is the amazingly clear 16-level
Picture Zoom function. NUON's Virtual Light Machine generates cool
psychedelic patterns that "dance" around the TV screen in time to your
music CDs, while Picture Capture grabs a still frame into memory, then
provides a full set of video controls that allow you to manipulate the
image. The player's screen saver can even display the captured image.

Title/Chapter Preview is surprisingly handy. This function not only
generates a series of thumbnail images of the first frame from each
chapter on the disc, but also allows you to jump to any chapter with a
single click.

You'll also appreciate NAVI Menu. Activated by a dedicated button on the
remote, NAVI brings up a circular arrangement of colorful icons that
provide convenient and intuitive access to the Angle Viewer, Picture Zoom,
Strobe Viewer, 3D surround, Preview, DNR, Screen Capture and Virtual
Remote functions. The latteris an on-screen remote that can be manipulated
with the real remote's joystick. I don't see much use for this, but maybe
you will. Finally, Quick Menu provides one-button access to the various
playback functions, including memory, repeat and random.

Features Rating: 86


   * one set of component video outputs (Y, Pb, Pr interlaced)
   * S-video and composite video outputs
   * coaxial digital output (DTS and 96-kHz compatible)
   * analog audio output
   * two front-panel NUON ports

Connectivity is the only area in which Toshiba cut some corners. In
particular, the lack of an optical digital output seems stingy at this
price point. It's always a good idea to have both a coaxial and an optical
output for flexibility's sake. Also, many other models give you duplicate
sets of A/V outputs for recording purposes. This is a minor point, to be
sure, but every connector counts in the tightly competitive DVD player

Connectivity Rating: 72

Look & Feel: The SD-2300 seamlessly blends advanced NUON capabilities with
the superb icon-based user interface that Toshiba developed for its recent
high-end DVD players, including the SD-4205. In fact, if it weren't for
the NUON logo and game ports on the front panel, you'd simply assume that
Toshiba did an especially good job of designing and engineering this

Physically, the SD-2300 looks a lot like the SD-2200, except without the
latter's dual-disc transport. Both machines have simple front panels with
minimal control complements. There are no cursor buttons, for example, so
you have to use the remote to maneuver most DVDs past their opening menu.
Both machines also have relatively simple blue-fluorescent front-panel
displays that can be dimmed or turned off.

The disc transport on my review sample was a bit noisy, especially when
booting and playing the NUON games. DVD chapter searches were accompanied
by whirring and grunting noises that reminded me of a CD-ROM drive in a

The remote is similar to the one provided with the SD-2200. It's an
excellent remote overall, though the joystick on my sample was a bit
fiddly and sometimes required several pushes of the Enter button to
execute a command.

Look & Feel Rating: 85

Performance: The SD-2300's video performance can be summarized in one
word: sharp. Detail freaks will absolutely love this machine. The SMPTE
chart on "Video Essentials" indicated only slightly less than 500 lines of
horizontal resolution -- easily the best I've ever seen from an interlaced

The 100 and 200 TVL resolution patterns on "AVIA" also showed solid detail
all the way up to 540 TV lines, which validates Toshiba's claimed figure
for this model. In addition, the 6.75 MHz resolution circles on the "AVIA"
charts displayed the most solid line structure I've seen at this maximum
DVD frequency. (Lesser machines often show nothing but a blank patch

With so much high-frequency video detail on tap, it is more critical than
ever that you turn down the sharpness control on your video display. In
most cases, this requires cranking the control all the way down to zero.
If you fail to do this, the ghost-like ringing distortion introduced by
virtually all sharpness circuits will neatly convert the Toshiba's extreme
detail into a grainy, whitish, noise-like effect. And that would be a real
shame, because this player is virtually noise-free on a properly adjusted

Like other recent Toshiba DVD players, the SD-2300 produces a fairly high
degree of line artifacts when downconverting anamorphic DVDs for display
on a 4:3 screen. As always, users with large, interlaced, 4:3 displays
might want to consider a Sony player due to that manufacturer's use of a
softer ("4-tap") downconversion routine. Owners of 16:9 displays or 4:3
TVs equipped with a 16:9 (or "anamorphic squeeze") mode, on the other
hand, needn't worry about it.

Sonically, the SD-2300's HDCD-filtered analog outputs deliver smooth,
musical sound. There was nary a trace of the unpleasant grain I heard from
the Samsung DVD-N2000. The SD-2300 performs well as a CD transport; I
connected its coaxial digital output to my Sherwood Newcastle AVP-9080
processor to good effect.

Performance Rating: 88

Value: The SD-2300 lists for $399.99, which is the same price as last
season's SD-2200. Compare the two models, and you'll quickly realize that
the SD-2300 is the better choice for most users. The SD-2200's only
advantages are its 2-disc mechanism (which is a gimmick you can live
without) and built-in Dolby Digital decoder (which is superfluous for
anyone with a modern A/V receiver).

The only other NUON-equipped machine currently on the market is the
Samsung DVD-N2000. It also lists for $399 (only $299), but includes a game
pad, an optical digital output and a built-in Dolby Digital decoder.
However, the Samsung's user interface lacks the overall refinement of the
SD-2300's, and I had real problems with the sound of its analog audio

In the case of the SD-2300, you get what you pay for -- and a little bit
more, besides.

Value Rating: 85

Overall Rating: 83

Alive SE - EIL 2001