LG’s home cinema systems are usually packed with features, and the LG BH8220B is no exception – not just for home cinema but for home networking too. You can stream internet content via LG’s Smart TV portal or access your own music videos and photos stored on media servers around your home.
Smart TV boasts a decent range of apps, with all the good ones grouped in the ‘Premium’ section. Most appealing is BBC iPlayer – surely number one on most people’s online wish-list – ably supported by both LoveFilm and Netflix (some rivals only offer one or the other), Blinkbox, Acetrax Movies, Box Office 365, Dailymotion and Facebook. The line-up is padded out by stuff like Museum Purescreens, Picasa, AccuWeather, Euronews, Cartoon Network and Hit Entertainment. You might get some occasional use out of these, but we’d have preferred more useful stuff like 4OD, Demand 5 and ITV Player.
There’s tons of other content hidden away in a separate ‘LG Apps’ menu. These are the quirkier apps, including games and puzzles for kids and big kids alike, magazines, radio stations plus more free and paid for content. With apps like ‘Wee Wee Kitty’, ‘Animal Farm’ and the topical ‘Santa Claus is Coming To Town’, much of it is guff, but at least it’s harmless guff – at least LG is providing something for all the family.
The system is also DLNA certified, which means you can stream content from servers on your home network using the Smart Share feature. The list of supported file types is lengthy, taking in key formats like MKV, AVCHD, DivX HD, WMV, M4V, FLV, 3GP, AVI, XviD, MP3, WMA, AAC and FLAC, plus JPEG photos. These can be streamed over a network or played from USB devices and external HDDs. Media can also be streamed directly from mobile devices thanks to the LG’s Wi-Fi Direct support. There’s even Bluetooth on board, making this a terrific system for households with lots of wireless devices knocking about. You can also connect Apple devices to the USB port and play music.
Getting back to Blu-ray movie playback, there’s plenty on the LG BH8220B to enhance your viewing experience. Or we should say listening, as it’s packed with sound modes – chief among which is LG’s 3D Surround Processor. This attempts to add extra depth to the surround soundstage to accompany 3D images. Also on board are several sound presets – Bass Blast, Clear Voice, Natural, Natural Plus, Game, Night, Loudness and Upscaler. A User EQ setting that lets you adjust the sound manually across four frequency bands, while a Bypass mode lets you side-step all such sonic meddling.
LG’s quoted power output is 1100W in total – 180W per channel with 200W to the sub – plus there’s decoding for all the main Blu-ray audio formats. The system is 3D ready too, plus the nifty Music ID feature uses the online Gracenote database to call up info about tracks and movies.
LG’s onscreen user interface is both fun and practical. The use of crisp, brightly coloured graphics on almost every menu screen makes it a joy to navigate, plus text is consistently legible and the speedy cursor keeps frustration at bay.
The Home menu is particularly attractive, arranging its large icons in a row across the middle of the screen. The Video, Music and Photo icons let you jump straight to that type of content – select one and the next menu lists all the available media. The media playback menus display all the relevant info about the file in a lively, vibrant manner.
You can also access the Premium and LG Apps sections from the Home menu, and the former’s design is worth a mention. It superimposes the app logos over a full colour picture of a park, which is superficial but undeniably eye-catching.
Setup is straightforward too. There’s no automatic calibration, but you can tweak the sound very easily by hitting the ‘Speaker Level’ button on the remote. This brings up a small menu with six sliders, one for each channel, ranging from -6 up to 6. Distance adjustments are found in the Speaker Setup menu, which is accompanied by a graphic illustrating the changes you’re making. It’s not particularly sophisticated but fine for inexperienced users. Other potentially tricky stuff like network setup is also simple thanks to LG’s excellent onscreen diagrams.
Finally the remote gets it right in every respect. The thoughtful layout of the frequently used buttons makes operation intuitive, grouping the glow-in-the-dark playback keys together just above the circular direction pad. Labelling is clear, it’s not over-cluttered and the silver styling makes it an aesthetic hit to boot. If it’s not your cup of tea you can use your Apple iOS or Android smartphone to control the system with the LG Remote app installed.