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One thing you always rely on with LG all-in-one systems is that you’ll be spoiled for features. The HB45E continues this tradition with a list that takes in the entire gamut of Blu-ray essentials and some networking tricks, although there’s no built-in Wi-Fi adapter, which means you’ll need to hook up an Ethernet cable to access BD Live, DLNA media streaming and Internet content (and you can’t add an additional dongle either).
Media streaming from PCs and NAS drives is by far the most useful networking function, particularly as the system will play a wide range of file types – MP3, WMA, AVI, MKV, DivX HD and JPEG to name but a few. These can also be played from USB sticks connected to the front-mounted port. Your content is housed in jazzy, easy-to-follow onscreen menus.
NetCast is LG’s Internet content portal and brings three sites to your screen – YouTube, Picasa and AccuWeather.com. Not a great selection, but LG recently announced that it is adding BBC iPlayer, Acetrax, Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter and an Internet radio app to its TVs, and these could, in theory, also be made available to LG’s Blu-ray products.
On the audio side, the system can decode all HD audio formats, although you’ll only get the pleasure of hearing them in 2.1, plus there’s a range of ‘Sound Effect’ modes that includes Bass Blast (which emphasises low-frequency effects), Clear Voice (a speech enhancer), Virtual surround, Game, Night, Music ReTouch (for compressed music playback), Natural, Natural Plus and Loudness, plus a processing-free Bypass mode. These can be toggled through using the dedicated button on the remote.
There are some other neat features on board, including a CD recording feature that lets you rip tracks from CD onto a connected USB drive and access to a Gracenote Media Database, which calls up information about a disc when you load it.
The HB45E is also simple to use. LG has a real eye for onscreen design and as a result the main Home menu is a rare treat, with its use of animated icons ‘floating’ in a tank of water. It’s just a shame that the cursor is slow to move from option to option. The other menus (setup, MP3 playback etc) look more basic with their straight-up lists, but the cursor responds a lot more quickly.
The remote is a standard-issue LG zapper, long and slender with carefully arranged and neatly labelled keys – some of which glow in the dark. There’s a combination of hard, clicky and soft, spongy buttons, and cleverly some of the middle buttons are raised slightly to help you operate the system without even looking. The panel of menu controls is also smartly arranged with all of the key options close by.