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The remote stays just the wrong side of intuitive with an over cluttered layout and small buttons. The EPG and programme change keys should have been more prominent, and there isn’t a button to change the recording mode, which means you have to enter the setup menu every time. But at least it’s labelled with words instead of cryptic abbreviations or icons, and the core menu controls are ideally placed.
Call us superficial but the thing that impressed us most about the LG’s onscreen presentation is the way the menus dissolve as you exit them. But that aside, the interface is superb – hit the Home button and a bar appears at the top, which offers quick and easy access to all the different types of supported content, grouping it into Movie (to play MPEG-2 or DivX from the HDD or DVD), Music and Photo. Also found here is the Easy Menu option, which lets you access the full setup menu or delve straight into the recording mode settings. The setup menu is fast and logically laid out, offering a generous array of options to tweak but not to the same obsessive level as the latest Pioneer decks.
The eight-day Freeview EPG proves easy to use, enabling you to switch between a condensed now/next view and the traditional timeline layout, and because it’s superimposed over live TV you can just about keep up with what’s going on. It’s controlled using the coloured keys on the remote, but there are no + or -24 hour options – you have to hit the green button and find the relevant date, which is a little more cumbersome.
Setting the timer from the EPG is also slightly confusing. Four options appear when you hit the red ‘Record’ key, all of which are named in classic pigeon English – the record once option is called ‘Simple Recording’, while series recording is called ‘It can be recorded as series’, which isn’t particularly helpful. Also, you have to select the ‘Recording separated program’ option if the desired programme is split in two (by the news, for instance) and this lack of autonomy makes things more complicated than Freeview+ was intended to be.
That said, the programme information banners are excellent. Not only do they look snazzy, but they also include a wealth of information, including the programme synopsis, aspect ratio, genre and the availability of MHEG content, as well as basics like the time, date and recording mode. Superb.
Before making a recording, you can choose from five recording modes, ranging from the best-quality XP, which offers 1 hour maximum recording time on a DVD or three hours on a DVD+R DL disc, down to the lowest-quality MLP, which offers 14 hours on single-layer DVD or 21 hours on a DL disc. With such a big hard-disk on board, you can probably afford to leave it set to XP when making HDD recordings. The unit will add chapter markers automatically at 5, 10 or 15 minute intervals but unlike the latest Pioneer and Philips models there’s no smart chapter mode, which would have made it easier to skip commercial breaks.