Samsung DVD-N501 DVD Player
While home entertainment DVD players are not the kind of things we usually look at around here we decided to give this one a look. The N501 is more then just a DVD player it is also an MP3 player and a gaming console. The N501 does not have any memory to store MP3's but it will play them off a CD-R just like MP3-CD players. While there are limited titles available the N501 is in fact a fully function gaming console system.
The N501 comes with a NUON chip which gives it its gaming abilities, among other things. From what I have found the NUON chip is also in another Samsung DVD player, one Toshiba DVD player, and a Motorola set-top box.
The N501 comes with a remote and batteries, the game Ballisitic, one game
controller (there is a port for a second), audio video cables and a manual.
Now lets seem what it offers in the features department.
Specs and Features
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
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
Signal-to-noise ratio: 68 dB
Coaxial digital out: 1 set
Optical digital out: 1 set
2 Ch Audio Out (L/R): 2 sets
Composite video out: 2 sets
Component video out: 1 set
NUON ports: 2 sets
S video out: 1 set
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
Shipping dimensions: 20 1/2 "(W) x 6 1/2 "(H) x 15"(D)
Shipping weight: 9 1/4 lbs.
The Remote and Video Features
As you might expect, only the most basic buttons are on the unit itself, all the other controls are on the remote. This remote can also be used to control your TV once you have programmed it with the corresponding code for your TV. When I entered the RCA code for my television, the power button, volume buttons and channel number buttons would work, but not the channel up and down buttons.
For navigating the DVD menu's the remote has a small joystick that is also the select button when you push down on it. The joystick is small and not the easiest to maneuver, also you tend to select items when you are just trying to change the current item you are on.
The N501 has its own very nice looking on screen menu which allows you to control various audio and video options as well as a few other things. There are also on screen displays that show when you can't use a certain button, and when you are rewinding or fast fowarding in a movie and at what speed. Every time you push the fast forward or rewinding button again the speed will double.
Many people dislike watching moving in the wide screen format on there standard size TV's and most DVD's only come wide screen or letterbox format. Samsung has come up with a solution to this that is easy as pushing a button. The remote comes with a button labeled S.FIT. That this does is it stretches the image to fit the screen. Unfortunately this this throws off the aspect ratio and it is noticeable that the image is stretched.
There is another simple solution if you do not like the wide screen format. The remote comes with a zoom feature. You need to first hit the Zoom button to put it into zoom mode and then can use the Zoon In and Zoon Out buttons. Zooming in just a bit will allow the image to take up the whole screen but you will lose a bit of the image on each side of the screen. This is basically what is done when the the film is edited to fit you television anyways, but when it is edited they do it more selectively to make sure you are not missing anything important. You can also zoom in up to 20x if you want to get a good look at something. You can zoom while the movie is playing or paused. Unfortunately you can not move around the screen once you are zoomed in, so you can only get a look at something in 20x if it is in the center of the screen.
Another unique button this remote has is the P Strobe button. When you push this button is shows you nine successive snapshots of the movie as it plays. You can then pause it an select one of the frames. This could be very handy if you are watching a video on how to do card tricks or an instructional golf video.
As I mentioned earlier the DVD-N501 comes with NUON processor which is a creation by VM-Labs. The NUON chip enhances play back, and allows for smooth play back at a greater variety of speeds. Audio playback is enhanced by NUON's Virtual Light Machine which displays vivid images on your television similar to what you would see with the graphic plug-ins for Winamp.
NUON turns a DVD player into a gaming console. Currently the only games available for this system are Merlin Racing, Tempest 3000, Freefall 3050AD, Space Invaders XL, Iron Soldier 3, aMaze, MYST, Monopoly, Bust-A-Move 4, The Game of Life and Speedball 2100. I don't think you will have any luck finding these games in any local stores but there are a few places you can find them on the web. The games all seemed to be priced at about $25.50. I am not sure who else has them but Amazon seems to carry them all.
The DVD-N501 comes with the controller pictured above and the game Ballistic. Ballistic is just like the game Bust-A-Move except that the balls or bubbles coming down towards you they are in a spiral that gets closer to you and you die if the spiral reaches you in the center. The game only requires the left and right directions and one button to fire, which doesn't take advantage of this controller. While the N501 only comes with one controller there is a second port for which you can purchase an additional controller.
The N501 is capable of not only playing regular Audio CD's but also MP3 CD's. MP3 playback has become a very common feature on DVD players recently. MP3 playback on a DVD player almost makes up for not having a multiple trays. Multiple trays are not too practical for watching movies but very useful when using your DVD player to play CD's. But with MP3 playback you can store music from 10 regular CD's onto one MP3 CD.
The functionality of the MP3 playback is rather limited. The play, pause, stop and skip buttons work but you can not even fast forward or rewind. This reminds me of earlier MP3 players on the computer, they were also incapble of fast forwarding or rewinding just moving backwards or forwards by track. There is also no way to upgrade the firmware so it will never be possible on this unit. It also does not have a +10 button which is common on MP3 CD players and handy for moving through the song quickly since there can be over 200 MP3's on a single CD.
The MP3 player does have multiple directory support. If you start to play the MP3 CD it will start in the root directory and then play the sub directories in order. You can also move to the directory of your choice from the directory menu. When you view directories you see all subdirectories on the same level whether they are in the root or in the subdirectory of a subdirectory.
The MP3 player does have partial ID3 support, but it does not display the whole name only about the first 12 characters. So there is a good chance you will only see the band name and not the song name. You also only see the song name when you hit info, it is not displayed in the Virtual Light Machine or the LED display on the front of the unit.
For both regular CD and MP3 CD play back if you have your television turned on you will be able to "watch the music". If you have ever played with the graphical plug-ins for Winamp the Virtual Light Machine will be very familiar to you. The Virtual Light Machine basically turns the music into graphic effects. There are over 100 modes from which you came pick. It looks very cool but is far from exciting to watch. I suppose if you were having a dance party it would be something cool to put on.
It is pretty clear the N501 has some unique features that make it stand out from the competition. I didn't really cover the playback of DVD movies, that is because there wasn't too much to say. It played DVD's without any problem in audio or video. No pausing or anomalies on the screen. The playback of DVD's was flaw less.
Now for the Pro's and Con's
Flawless DVD Playback
Built in gaming system
Controller and game included
MP3 playback supported
Multi Directory support for MP3's
Virtual Light Machine
Digital Out (optical and coaxial)
Takes advantage of NUON enhanced movies
Good GUI for units menu's
Up to 20x Zoom
S.FIT (stretch to screen-size) button
Smooth DVD playback at multiple speeds
Only partial ID3 support
Song names not displayed in VLM or on LED
No fast forward, rewind or +10 for MP3's
No playlist support for MP3's.
All the Con's I listed are in the MP3 area. It seems the MP3 playback feature was added on without too much thought. If you are planning on buying this DVD player because of it's MP3 support you may want to see what else is out there, but for all other purposes this DVD player is exceptional. Having the song names scroll across the screen, so the whole name could be seen, would have not been difficult to do at all. There is also no reason they couldn't have had the names display on the LCD so that the TV does not have to be on. It is pretty obvious little effort was put into the N501's MP3 features.
I think this product has the longest Pro list of any item I have reviewed. There are truly some great features on the N501. It is too bad the NUON platform is not more widely supported. Bedazzled is the only NUON enhanced movie that I know of, and I am not exactly sure what the advantages there are to NUON enhanced movies. It seems the NUON processor is capable of running much power powerful games then are currently available, but I guess no one wants to spend the money developing or porting games for such an uncommon platform.
As basic DVD player I have no complaints about this unit. I prefer it to my Sony DVD player because of the ease I can expand the image to the full size of my screen. I also the N501 unit better because of the high speeds I can fast forward and rewind. The MSRP for this unit is $229.99 but you should be able to find it for under $200 US, for everything the N501 has that is a great price.