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THE MORNING BUZZ: The Next Big Thing That Wasn't

15 Oct, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

I finally broke down over the weekend and bought a second DVD player. I was thinking about doing it and waiting for the special holiday pricing I think will be inevitable this year. But I was in a Best Buy and spied a special clearance price on a Samsung Nuon DVD player, which intrigued me despite the paucity of Nuon discs.

Samsung came to America as a budget line but has steadily ramped itself up to providing much higher quality equipment and serving a higher-end market than it once did (witness the company's home-networked refrigerator I dubbed the "digifridge" -- it has a screen in the door for Internet or component player viewing). The little Nuon player met my specifications otherwise so I thought, what the heck, it plays all discs.

Since the remaining boxed models had sold out and all that was left was the floor model, I talked a salesman (who, incidentally, didn't know I noticed him clutching a management sales sheet with the hand-scrawled message "Don't Let the Numbers Slip!") down from $99.50 to $79.60. A bargain, even for a floor model, since it was in good shape. It was light, compact, stylish and provides quite a nice picture.

The downside was that it had long since parted with its manual; that's not a tragedy for installation but it sure makes this remote a challenge. It's fairly dripping with bells and whistles -- so many I put my nephew the video game jockey to work on figuring it out.

I was already happy with the price and performance even under those conditions, but Samsung won my loyalty with amazing, yet intuituve service. I e-mailed the company about getting a manual and was directed to a Web site where I could download a PDF copy for free. In my experience most American companies charge a minimum of $10 to send a new one by mail.

During my information search I found Amazon.com selling the same player for $189.99. I also checked out the customer reviews, which were mixed. There I learned that some people had had problems with the unit skipping after using it for a while. Never fear, Samsung has a Web site where customers can go to download a firmware patch that can be burned to a CD-ROM disc and uploaded directly into the player's hard drive. Zip-zip, no more skip.

It's that kind of service that will burn a preference for Samsung gear into my mind. Next time I need anything electronic, I'll find out if Samsung makes it before looking elsewhere.

There's been a lot of speculation about whether price or service will win the retail war this holiday season. Both will present intense pressures in a highly competitive market. I shopped carefully, got lucky and got both, which adds up to genuine value.

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