The LG BH9520TW boasts an amazing feature list that mixes en vogue networking features with funky sound modes and other convenient functions.
Starting with the sound modes, the system backs up the upright speakers with 3D Sound Zooming, which tries to project effects towards you in tandem with the onscreen action. For example, if a plane is coming towards the screen, it’ll make it sound like the engine noise is doing the same.
There’s also a Sound Field Expansion mode that makes the soundstage feel wider, and a wide selection of Sound Effect presets including Game, Night, Natural, Bass, Clear Voice and more, plus a Bypass mode to side-step all processing.
On the networking side you get LG’s Smart TV portal, which offers an excellent range of premium apps including BBC iPlayer, LoveFilm, Netflix, Acetrax, YouTube, Dailymotion, Picasa, Blinkbox and more – supported by a range of games, puzzles and other curios sensibly separated into a different menu. More free video services would have been good, but otherwise the selection is impressive and the presentation is slick.
The content choice doesn’t stop there. You can also stream your own content over a network (wirelessly using built-in Wi-Fi or via Ethernet) or from memory devices, external HDDs, iPods, iPhones and iPads connected to the front USB port. Alternatively you can stream content from devices using Wi-Fi Direct or Bluetooth, leaving no stone unturned when it comes to music playback options.
The list of supported formats is decent too – MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, DivX HD, MKV, AVCHD, M4V, WMV, FLV, 3GP. It decodes all the key Blu-ray audio formats too, and in terms of power LG claims a total output of 1100W, with 2 x 140W to the front, 2 x 70W to the upright channels, 140W to the centre, 2 x 180W to the rears and 140W to the sub.
Despite the seemingly complex configuration with wireless rears and three-part speakers, the LG BH9520TW doesn’t take that long to set up. The speaker cables snap snugly into the clips on the back and the speakers slot together easily (all the screws are supplied). The wireless system is self-explanatory too – the only difficulty could stem from the need to place it near a plug socket, and hiding the wires.
There’s no automatic sound calibration, but it’s fairly easy to tweak sound to suit your taste. There’s a Speaker Level button on the remote, which lets you sets the loudness of individual channels (but not the 3D ‘upright’ ones) plus there’s a User EQ sound preset that lets you adjust the frequencies at 60Hz, 300Hz, 2kHz and 10kHz.
We’ve long admired LG’s approach to onscreen design and the BH9520TW is a good example why. The displays are bright and colourful, exactly what a first-timer would hope to see. Every screen is laid out with a sense of style and logicality that makes operation blissfully simple.
Take the home menu, for example. The seven icons are laid out in a row, conveniently breaking your choices down into Music, Movie, Photo, internet content, input and setup. The cute graphics, fonts and cartoony colour palette are easy on the eye, but this graphical sophistication isn’t at the expense of operating speed either as the cursor moves around quickly.
Select the ‘Premium’ section on the home menu and you’re presented with another great-looking menu, displaying the generous range of internet apps in large thumbnails. What makes it all the more attractive is that LG has superimposed the icons over a picture of a park. As you do.
These are backed up by gorgeous music playback menus, which display cover art where available, while cute dialogue boxes during playback let you change picture presets and check details about what you’re watching using the Gracenote-powered Movie Information feature – although access to the full setup menu still requires you to stop the movie (unlike Panasonic’s in-playback Option menu).
The LG BH9520TW's remote is also a design triumph. The use of large rubbery buttons and clear labelling makes it easy to find the function you want, plus the raised bump in the middle aids ergonomics. There are plenty of buttons that let you access the key features quickly, but despite covering all bases it doesn’t feel cluttered in the slightest.
But if it’s not to your liking, you can download LG’s remote app and control the system using an Apple or Android smartphone.