Doing The DVD Combo Page 3

There's only one scan speed, and you have to hold the button down the whole time or the player reverts to normal speed. For slow motion or to jump directly to a chapter, you have to bring up the PlayStation 2's onscreen control panel, which looks like a keyboard with numbers and icons. You use the controller's directional buttons to move the cursor to a function, then press its X button to access it. Don't even think about doing stuff like setting bookmarks.

Control freaks will want to buy Sony's DVD Remote Control accessory ($20), which comes with a setup disc and an infrared receiver that plugs into one of the PS2's front-panel controller ports. (Since there's no pass-through port, though, you have to detach the infrared receiver if you want to connect another wired controller during game play.) The add-on remote can't do anything more than the supplied controller, though, unless you store the setup disc's contents on a memory card, which you then leave plugged into the console. (An 8-megabyte card is $35, and you can use it to save games as well.)

While its buttons are cramped and its labels tiny, the add-on remote has direct-access buttons for forward and reverse slow motion, plus three forward and reverse fast-scan speeds. The wired controller's button set is duplicated on the lower half of the remote, so you can also use that to play games or as a second controller for multiplayer games. But the wired controller does one trick the add-on remote can't: provide vibrations that add to the realism of game play. When my car went off the track while I was playing Infogames' Le Mans 24 Hours, I felt it.

Of all the components covered here, PlayStation 2 provided the best value and performance as a DVD player. It wouldn't make sense to buy the PS2 as a DVD player if no one in the family is big on playing videogames, but for a reasonable price it gives you both state-of-the-art gaming and a decent DVD player in one small box.

Neon Technology NTV-2500 Sneaking under the radar while larger companies have stumbled in trying to market "convergence" appliances, Neon Technology's SurfReady NTV-2500 ($649) is a multipurpose information/entertainment device in a box the size of a typical DVD player. Bundled with both an infrared remote control and a full-size wireless keyboard, the NTV-2500 is a Web broswer, picture phone, karaoke player, MP3 player, TV tuner, and, oh yeah, DVD player all rolled into one.

The NTV-2500 also comes with a bunch of accessories, including a mushroom-shaped camera, a microphone and stand, a karaoke disc, two RF cables, an RF splitter, a 25-foot phone line, a phone-line splitter, a stereo audio cable, and both composite- and S-video cables. The back panel has composite- and S-video inputs and outputs (the inputs are for use with a camera), an antenna connector, outputs for both digital and analog audio, a parallel/printer port, a VGA port, two USB ports, a serial port, a phone jack for the built-in modem, and an Ethernet port for a broadband connection. There's also a port for powering the camera. The front panel includes two microphone inputs (for karaoke duets) and a headphone jack, all with level controls. Six AAA batteries are supplied (two for the remote and four for the keyboard).