NUON Technology
Type Console Developer VM Labs
Release Date 2000-Nov-09 Region(s) North America, Europe, Korea
Initial Price $250 - $350 USD Games Released 8
     by Dark Watcher
VM Labs Inc. had developed a technology called NUON which transformed passive digital video products such as DVD players, digital satellite receivers and digital set-top boxes into complete interactive video game entertainment systems.

The powerful NUON processor provided the raw horsepower to decode digital video and audio, while delivering advanced trick modes and an enhanced user interface.  At the same time, the NUON operating system provided a powerful platform for interactive content, enhanced movies, 3D videogames and many other applications.

The heart of NUON was the Aries 3 chip.  The Aries 3 was based on a unique 128-bit, four-way-parallel very long instruction word processor architecture. In addition to the video and audio decoding and trick-play functions, the chip performs all system-management and CPU functions.  More specifically, Aries 3 featured MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 program stream and video decode; MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 Layers 1 and 2 audio decode; 5.1-channel Dolby Digital audio decode; extended DVD trick modes; 32-voice wave table synthesizer; MP3 decode; an integrated Content Scrambling System descrambling module; video scaling, and 3D video gaming.  A hardware block placed on-chip to assist MPEG video decoding was designed to free up the bulk of the VLIW device's programmable processing power: 3,024 MIPS at peak and 864 MIPS typical.  OK...if your still with us, it was a powerful chip for its time.

The first NUON-enhanced DVD-Video software/movie title was Fox Home Video's Bedazzled, released on March 13, 2001.  Samsung and Toshiba launched NUON DVD players just prior to this.  Other studios and game publishers opted to wait until the installed base grew. Toshiba's first released NUON powered DVD player was the Toshiba SD-2300.  Samsung followed up with their own Samsung Extiva N-2000.
The concept of playing games on a DVD player was unique until the inevitable release of the Sony PlayStation 2.  Other next gen systems began to follow suit.  Why get a DVD player that plays games when you could get a video game console that can play DVD?  This began to hurt sales on NUON enhanced DVD players.  The PlayStation 2 and other systems offered a broader library of games, and were still far cheaper.

VM Labs eventually ran into financial troubles and filed for bankruptcy in December 2001.  By March 2002, the company's assets were purchased by Genesis Microchip, and a new division, NUON Semiconductor, was formed to market NUON chips under the Aries name.  On July 24, 2002, Genesis Microchip laid off the entire NUON division and NUON became history.

The library of NUON-enhanced discs is not large but does include a handful of games as well as the movies.  A few of the released titles were Bedazzled, Dr. Dolittle 2 and Planet of the Apes from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.  Also MGM Home Entertainment's special edition re-release of the cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the Eighth Dimension.
     by Marriott_Guy
In late 1994, Richard Miller, the former VP of Technology at Atari from 1989 through 1994, created a company called VM Labs.  Having gained extensive experience in hardware development (his team created the Atari Jaguar), Mr. Miller focused his company's energies on creating a new technology to renovate the passive experience delivered by DVD players and digital satellite receivers.  In 2000 their efforts resulted in the release of the NUON, a powerful 128-bit processor that was to be embedded within these types of digital video products.  This technology produced excellent results in processing complex 3D graphics and digital video that enabled the delivery of interactive content, enhanced DVD playback (smooth scanning and zoom features) and, the point of writing this review, video games.

NUON technology was released in a handful of DVD players (the first being the Samsung Extiva DVD-N2000).  The general purpose was not unlike previous attempts at being an all-in-one multimedia playing machine (Memorex VIS, Philips CD-i, Pioneer LaserActive, et al).  VM Labs also followed suit by planning to license the technology to various manufacturers (like the 3DO Company did in 1993).  The reason that NUON technology was only released in select DVD players and not as a stand alone video game console was based on pure statistics.  At the time, only 30% of the general public had embraced video game technology in their homes while the DVD player market was booming and was projected to have 100% penetration within 5-10 years.  This was sound business planning, except for one key fact that they failed to give proper attention to - the release of a video game console that also played DVDs - the Sony PlayStation 2.

Enthusiasts within the respective DVD and video game market are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but it is safe to say that there are many more video game devotees that also are DVD fans than vice versa (especially in 2000).  The decision to market a DVD player that could play games ultimately proved to be incorrect - the DVD aficionado did not necessarily play video games nor cared about them.  Sure, the smooth scrolling zoom and scan features that a NUON DVD player offered were cool, but would the public pay the extra $100 or so for these features?  The answer to this question is rather obvious, but first let's take a look at the NUON in more detail.

The NUON chip (which was previously known as Merlin and then Project X) was truly a powerful piece of hardware at the time.  The technology is based on the Aries 3 chip.  See DW FACTS above for a description of the technical details.

This processing power described produced games graphically equivalent to early PlayStation 2 games.  A total of eight games were released for the system, the most notable being Iron Soldier 3 and Tempest 3000 (developed by Jeff Minter, renowned classic home computer and Atari programmer).  Though the developers varied on these releases, the majority waited to see if NUON could grab a significant hold of the DVD player market share prior to investing into this technology.  In the end, it did not and third party support (both from the hardware and software fields) quickly dissipated, adding to one of the final nails in the coffin.

The NUON essential failed due to incorrectly identifying the needs of the ever increasing DVD player buying market.  DVD enthusiasts were just that - not necessarily video game driven buyers.  VM Labs went bankrupt in 2001 and sold off the NUON technology to Genesis Microchip, which in turn retired further development of the NUON in July, 2002.

NUON-enabled systems can be acquired easily from eBay and other like sources.  A loose system is cheap - right around $20-$40 or so (USD).  There is not necessarily a highly desirable unit, though the Toshiba SD-2300 and Samsung Extiva DVD-N2000 are somewhat pricey due to being the first systems that were released.  For a hardware CIB unit, expect to pay $75-$100 USD.  Some of the games for the system are hard to come by and will run you a few bucks - most notably The Next Tetris (only included in the Toshiba system) and Tempest 3000 (the best game).  These will run you around $70 or so - the more common games around $20-$30.  This is a recommended purchase for the hardware collector (video game or DVD), but not necessarily for the general gamer.
     Officially licensed releases
Like the CD-i, the features of NUON enhanced systems differ between models.  Variations include the type, and number, of audio/visual outputs, packaged items (controller, games) as well as the version of the Aries processor chip.  Kevin and his team at NUON-Dome made an excellent chart that compares the specs of the retail models.  From a gaming perceptive, here are some items of note regarding the players:

o The Samsung Extive DVD-N2000 and Toshiba SD-2300 does not support CD-Rs nor MP3 playback.
o The RCA DRC300N and DRC480N do NOT run official NUON games, but can play homebrews.
o The Motorola BlackBird is a set-top unit intended for use by programmers when developing streaming applications (and games) for the...
o The Motorola Streamaster 500 is a the set-top box for the general consumer, featuring on-demand streaming content.

Samsung Extiva DVD-N2000
Release Date: 2000 (North America)
Toshiba SD-2300
Release Date: 2000 (North America)
Samsung DVD-N501
Release Date: 2001 (North America)
Samsung DVD-N504
Release Date: 2001 (Europe)
Samsung DVD-N505
Release Date: 2001 (Europe)
Samsung DVD-N591
Release Date: 2001 (Korea)
Release Date: 2002 (North America)
Samsung DVD-N705
Release Date: Unreleased
Release Date: 2003 (North America)
Motorola BlackBird
Release Date: 1999
Motorola Streamaster 5000
Release Date: 2001

Toshiba SD-2300 & NUON Accessories

     Non-licensed hardware releases
No clones were released for this system.
     by Marriott_Guy
Consoles are rated based upon the available technology at the time of its release.  A 10 point scale is utilized, with 10 being excellent.  The Toshiba SD-2300 is being reviewed.
Toshiba SD-2300 Spec Sheet

NUON HPI Warrier controller
HPI Warrior Controller

Toshiba SD-2300 Firmware Update Disc

Console Design 07 This device is designed to fit seamlessly into your existing AV rack.  The button controls provide effective manual operation while the info panel features a bright LED display with pertinent data.  The flip-down front door conceals two NUON ports.
Console Durability 08 The SD-2300 is a tank.  I have experienced no issues with any of the features in the four+ years that I have had it.
Controllers 07 The SD-2300 does not come with any game controller - the supplied remote can be used but, as you would expect, is extremely cumbersome to use in this area.  I primarily used the HPI Warrior (purchased separately) for gaming.  Though very responsive, the controller buttons are extremely cramped and overall not very comfortable to use.  The Logitech NUON Gamepad, featuring a more traditional design, is the way to go regarding controllers.
Graphics 07 Video performance is excellent, especially when zooming in during movies,  The VLM (Virtual Light Machine) effects are limited compared to other models (only 8 with the SD-2300), but in all honesty this was not a big issue for me.  Games are on par with early Sony PlayStation 2 offerings.
Audio 08 Overall the SD-2300 has excellent sound, delivering crisp audio for both movies and games.  The lack of Surround Sound ports (found on some other models) is a bit disappointing, but overall I can't really complain.
Media 09 NUON utilized the DVD format, which was just becoming the prevalent media type in consumer electronics at the time.
Game Library 02 Though the offerings are limited, the NUON does offer some exclusives as well as homebrew titles.  Tempest 3000 is arguably the best game for the system.
Gamer Value 01 With only eight (8) retail games available, this is not the best choice for the average gamer.
Collector Value 08 With its short lifespan and limited overall run, the collector would be wise to pick up a NUON system while some are still available out in the wild.

     Interesting facts on software for this system
Games for NUON enhanced systems came on enhanced DVDs. When inserted into the respective player, games will boot automatically and display their main menu.

The cover art typically features a detailed graphic rendered in bright, vivid colors. The NUON logo is proudly displayed on the front of each jacket, with accompanying designations on the spine and DVD itself. The vibrant bronze colored casing is rather unique and difficult to replace if lost.

The homebrew community was extremely active during the NUONs lifespan.  Fourteen (14) games were released to the public and can be played on every NUON player with the exception of the Samsung DVD-N2000 and Toshiba SD-2300 (due to the limitation of the firmware and inability to read CD-Rs).

applemctom's Games that Defined Compiliation
Four movies were released in a Special Edition format that included seamless DVD scanning, multiple view angles and other NUON enhanced functions. The NUON logo will appear on the back of the DVD cover for these special releases.

NUON Game Boxes
NUON BallasticNUON Crayon Shin-ChanNUON Freefall 3050 ADNUON Iron Soldier 3
NUON Merlin RacingNUON Space Invaders XLNUON Tempest 3000NUON The Next Tetris
NUON Movie Boxes

     Captured in-game images
NUON Retail Game Releases
Crayon Shin-Chan
FreeFall 3050 A.D.
Iron Soldier 3
Merlin Racing
Space Invaders XL
Tempest 3000
The Next Tetris

NUON Unreleased Games
Bust-a-Move 4
Pitfall: Mayan Adventure

NUON Homebrew Games
Ambient Monsters
Decaying Orbit
Sheshell's Sea Adventure

NUON Enhanced Movies

Dr. Doolittle 2

Planet of the Apes

     First and third party system emulators

This NUON emulator for WIN32 plays a few commercial games as well as a
number of homebrew titles.  The emulator was developed by Mike Perry
     For the hardware enthusiasts out there - all the detail you\we love.
Processor Type Processor Speed Other Processor Information RAM \ Video RAM
Aries 2/3 (128-bit) 750 MHz 1,500 MIPS Unknown
Screen Resolution Color Palette Polygons \ Sprites Audio
360 x 240 (for most games) 16.7 million colors Unknown Dolby Digital 5.1 channel, 32-voice wave table synthesizer, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MP3
Media Format Media Capacity Games Released Other Supported Formats
DVD 4.7 GB 8 (commercial) CD-DA, CD+G (audio only), Photo CD, HDCD, VCD
Internal Storage External \ Removable Storage Game Controllers Other Game \ Peripheral Devices
None (password continue\save) None Varied (D-Pad, 6 buttons, some with thumbstick None
Controller Ports Network Ports Other Ports Audio \ Video
1 or 2 None SPDIF (some models), Headphone jack (most) Composite, S-Video, Component
Power Supply - Internal Other Outputs Other Details \ Notes
AC 120V, 60Hz, 17W 5.1 Surround Sound Aries chip model dependant
Samsung Extiva N2000 Owners Manual (PDF) - 0.48 MB
Samsung DVD-N501 Owners Manual (PDF) - 1.07 MB
Samsung DVD-N505 Owners Manual (PDF) - 1.23 MB
RCA DRC300N Owners Manual (PDF) - 2.50 MB
Toshiba SD-2300 Owners Manual (PDF) - 4.54 MB
Toshiba SD-2300 Service Manual (PDF) - 23.20 MB

     Peripherals, Promotions, Commercials, Brochures, Etc.
NUON Boot \ Game Title Screens

NUON Game Packaging
FreeFall 3050 A.D.
Iron Soldier 3 Demo
Merlin Racing
Space Invaders XL
Tempest 3000

NUON Game Controllers
Logitech NUON Gamepad
NUON Logitech controller
HPI Stealth
NUON HPI Stealth Controller
HPI Warrior
NUON HPI Warrier controller

     Visitor insights and feedback
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