All-in-One DVD Player Gets Thumbs-Up From Movie Buffs

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When the Nuon chip was born, it was touted as a next-generation video game console tucked into a DVD player not necessarily a comfortable fit on a shelf already crowded by the Nintendo 64, the PlayStation and the Dreamcast. Now that Samsung is rolling out the Extiva ($500) the first Nuon-equipped DVD player the chip reveals a subtler feature that may prove much more interesting: It can handle the heady math required for such cinema-nut necessities as infinite zoom, jitter-free reverse and on-the-fly program adjustments. Because the chip performs tasks the same way your PC does, it can replace six or seven pieces of hardware and still dedicate its processing power to whatever is most important at a given moment. It also allows the player to read additional information on a DVD, such as a customized navigation program or a multimedia movie quiz.

The video games right now seem like icing, geared primarily toward families who purchase the player more for its home-theater advantages. Bundled with the Extiva is Ballistic, a game that sounds like a firefight between Tetris and Pong. It's fast and jammed with hi-res 3-D graphics. Six other titles will hit stores soon. Some, like Cyan's best-selling Myst, have been ported or revamped from older platforms; others, like Freefall 3050 A.D., are brand new. By spring of next year, Nuon developer VM Labs of Mountain View, Calif., expects to see 25 or 30 games on the market.