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Alive 3
                              Samsung N501 Review
                                 by Kevin Manne

Type: NUON-Enhanced DVD Player
Release Date: Available Now
Pack-in: Ballistic
MSRP: $249


   * MP3 Support
   * 152 VLM Effects
   * Support for CDRs
   * NUON Enhanced A/V Processing System
   * Dual Front Panel Joystick/Peripheral Ports
   * Convergence Cockpit User Interface
   * Moving Zoom Display System (1x - 20x)
   * Multi-Angle Thumbnail Display
   * Multi-Picture Strobe Display
   * Integrated HDCD  Decoder System
   * Component Video Output Terminals (Y Pb, Pr)
   * DTS  Compatible Optical and Coaxial Digital Audio Output Terminals
   * Advanced 10-Bit Video DAC
   * High Speed High Linearity 96kHz/24 Bit Audio Converters
   * Universal Joystick Remote Control
   * Next Generation NUON Enhanced DVD Video Player

The third NUON-enhanced DVD player, and the first new NUON deck of 2001 is
finally here - the Samsung DVD-N501. Rumors of  this player started flying
around  January  during  CES,  where  the  player  made  its first  public
appearance. Rumors of MP3, CDR, enhanced VLM and more  started circulating
around  and got  most  everyone  excited  for  this new  entry to the NUON

Initial pictures of the N501 weren't exactly favorable, so it was surprising
to open up the box and find a sleek, silver machine inside. The color is the
same as most of the new -flat  screen- TV's you  see around  these days. The
angled look really makes it stand out on the shelves, and when stacked up in
your  A/V  rack. The   blue-colored  readout   on  the   front  matches  the
-futuristic- feel of the player  perfectly. And, to top  it all off, there's
a nice big NUON  logo on the  upper right, and the  words -NUON-Enhanced DVD
Player- on the  upper  left - leaving no  doubt that  NUON  is  inside  this
machine. A smart change of pace from  the -Extiva- moniker  that Samsung was
attempting to attach to their series of NUON DVD players with the N2000.

Powering up the N501 reveals a new intro splash screen along with a new,
easier-to-navigate GUI system. The graphics are much brighter and easier
to read, and the menu is basically just more logically laid-out. No more
digging through many sub menus to find what you zre looking for. The new
Virtual Light Machine (VLM) menu system works well, too - thanks in part
to the -VLM- button on the N501's remote.

Speaking of VLM, there's much to  love for VLM  enthusiasts packed  inside
the N501. 152 total effects  allow for even more variety  than before, and
(thankfully) user-interactivity  via analog  joystick is  implemented here
too. What was once   a passive - cool to look  at - fancy screensaver  now
becomes a more engulfing sensation-having control over those insane visual
effects on screen is just mesmerizing.

The enhanced beat-detection on the VLM is a very welcome addition as well.
Where  the  N2000's  detection seemed  a bit  off and/or limited  at times
(HDCD's worked wonderfully though), the N501 is simply wigging-out all the
time. But,  perhaps you are  not exactly  happy with  how  the visuals are
responding to the  audio? No  problem - just  cycle through  the different
beat detection options depending on what type of music you're listening to
- Classical, Rock/Pop, Techno, and even -Chill Out.

Supposedly in order to  keep the  VLM running  quickly with  so many other
resources being used in the background, the resolution of the N501 VLM was
cut in half. Would you notice this if you'd never used the N2000? Probably
not. What if you had used it but didn't hear about the lower resolution on
the new VLM? Definitely not. While some effects tend to look blurrier than
others, they're mostly  the new  effects. Ones that  carried over from the
N2000 don't look a whole lot different. In fact, some look cooler with the
blurriness up a notch - they just  look that much more trippy. One thing's
for sure, the lower resolution  definitely does not  make the effects look
blocky at all. If anything, they look smoother and more liquid.

One of the huge additions  to the  N501 over the  N2000 (and the SD2300) is
official support for CDRs. Here on the N501, there's no problem whatsoever.
This is  perfect for  burning your  collection of CD' s into MP3 format and
cranking them out through the VLM.

Speaking of MP3's - yes, that  feature  is  in  here  too. A  folder-style
navigation menu handles  the organization of  the files, though  names are
truncated  thanks  to the  limited  space  and lower  screen resolution of
standard TV monitors. Something that would have  been great  here would be
the  ability  to play  random MP3  files  with a shuffle  feature, but  it
appears not to be available on  the player. Fast-forwarding  and rewinding
of MP3s is not standard, but does exist as a hidden feature accessible via
a combination of key presses on a controller with an analog stick.

One of the favorite features of NUON, the zoom feature, is back once again
as well. For some reason the  zoom-in is  limited to  15x over the N2000's
20x (and 16x on the SD2300),  but it  moves very  smoothly - that is, once
you figure out the  control scheme. If  you are used  to the N2000 it will
take a minute to adjust to  the new setup.  Previously controlled  by  the
joystick on the remote only, now zooming in  and out is  accomplished with
the  Screen  Fit and  Digest  buttons ( adjacent to the Zoom  button)  and
panning around the image is controlled with the stick.

The remote is sleek and silver, just like the N501 itself. More compact in
size than the slightly bulky N2000 remote, but what it gains  in a trimmer
size, it loses in  the sizes  of the  buttons. The number  pad, volume and
power buttons are fine but the smaller buttons such  as the track skip and
 NUON/repeat/ strobe buttons  at the  bottom tend  to  be hard to hit with
larger hands. Not to worry, though, because with time you will learn where
the buttons lie and will be able to hit them without much strain.

One  disadvantage  or  those with -Digital  Ready- stereo receivers is the
lack  of a  Dolby Digital  decoder in  the N501. Also, you  won't find the
abundance  of  video and  audio outs  that were  readily available  on the
N2000. But, under normal circumstances, these won't be missed as there are
still  plenty  for  most  home users. Optical, coaxial, stereo, component,
composite and  S-Video  are all  available  here, while the N2000 provided
pairs of composite and stereo  outs. These  features were most likely left
out to keep production costs down, as  the N501  retails  at a low MSRP of
$229 (the N2000 launched at $349). Also missing from the package is a NUON
controller and demo disk.

All in all, the N501 handles a lot smoother  and just -feels- better than
the N2000. The improved VLM easily beats the old versions with its highly
improved beat-detection and interactivity. CDR and MP3 support simply put
this player over the top - if you've  no need for a Dolby Digital decoder
and a few outputs on the back, go  for the  N501. While the  N2000 was  a
great machine, the N501 is here to stay and  has features  good enough to
make it a worthy upgrade for N2000 owners and new adopters alike.


     - Audio Frequency response: 4 Hz - 20.05kHz (44.1kHz, 1 dB): 4 Hz -
       48.0kHz (96.0kHz, 1 dB)
     - Signal-to-noise ratio: 108 dB
     - Dynamic range: 96 dB Video - Signal-to-noise ratio: 68 dB Audio
       terminals - Coaxial digital out: 1 set
     - Optical digital out: 1 set
     - 2 Ch Audio Out (L/R): 1 set Video Terminals - Composite video out:
       2 sets
     - Component video out: 1 set
     - NUON ports: 2 sets
     - S video out: 1 set Dimensions - Net dimensions: 17"(W) x 2 3 /4
       "(H) x 9 1 /2 "(D)
     - Net weight: 6 1 /4 lbs. Supplied Accessories: Audio Video Cable,
       S-Video Cable, Instruction Book, Joystick Universal Remote Control
       with 2 AA Batteries UPC Code: 036725605015 Size - Shipping
       dimensions: 20 1/2 "(W) x 6 1/2 "(H) x 15"(D)
     - Shipping weight: 9 1/4 lbs.

Alive 3