Thanks to the popularity of catch-up TV streaming and on-demand movies, ‘Smart’ TVs have taken off in a big way, and the LG SP820 is here to bring 'Smart' features to aging sets.
Smart TV sets are equipped with an internet connection that allows you to stream a variety of content direct to your screen without the hassle of booting up a laptop – as well as allowing you to pipe your own content from networked media servers. These web services are usually delivered through a proprietary ‘portal’ and all the big brands have their own version – Panasonic has Viera Connect, Samsung has Smart Hub, Toshiba has Places and LG has Smart TV.
But not everyone is lucky enough to have such functionality on their TV. Perhaps you invested in a new set before the connected revolution kicked off, or maybe you simply didn’t have the funds at the time – after all, these smart services can add quite a premium to the price.
If any of this applies to you, all is not lost. LG has hit upon a novel idea for retrospectively adding its internet platform to any TV. The LG SP820 is a small set-top box with a built-in Wi-Fi connection that provides access to LG’s Smart TV service, alongside DLNA media streaming and playback from USB storage devices. It’s the perfect way to upgrade your TV should you decide down the road that this whole smart lark is something you’d like to be part of after all.
The LG SP820 box itself measures a mere 200mm wide, which means it’ll slip into your kit rack easily, taking up much less space than, say, a Blu-ray player or PVR. This slim box is attractively styled in a gloss black finish with an eye catching silver underside and curved corners, plus there are no signs of flimsiness in the outer casing. There are no buttons or dials for up-close control – it’s all controlled onscreen using the Magic Remote. A gentle red light on the front denotes that the box is active.
There’s a decent array of sockets crammed onto the slender rear panel. You get an HDMI output, which is specified to handle output of 3D content (files and internet content), alongside two USB ports and an Ethernet port, which is provided for those who can’t use the built-in Wi-Fi adapter.
The LG SP820’s main attraction is the Smart TV web portal, which offers an impressive if not exhaustive range of apps. They’re broken down into Premium (all the ‘big name’ services you’re likely to use the most), 3D World and LG Smart World (a selection of more obscure video sites, games and other time-killers, both paid for and free).
In the Premium Zone, you’ll find BBC iPlayer, LoveFilm, YouTube, Acetrax Movies, ITN, Red Bull TV, Autocar, Stuff, Museum Purescreens HD, Picasa, AccuWeather.com, iConcerts, Facebook, Twitter and CineTrailer. A ‘Coming Soon’ placeholder on the grid hints that there are more apps to come.
It’s a decent selection from the LG SP820, and you’ll get a lot of mileage out of apps like iPlayer, YouTube and Love Film, but it’s a shame that ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5 aren’t here given that catch-up TV is the lifeblood of any online streaming service.
Venture into 3D World and as the name suggests you’ll find a whole host of 3D videos to stream. A quick search reveals no blockbuster movies, but there are plenty of extreme sports videos, documentaries, Korean concerts, cartoons and car videos. Hardly compelling, but it’s good to have a built-in pool of 3D content to show off to your TV – and at least much of it is free.
LG Smart World’s content is a mixed bag – many of the apps we’ve never heard of and didn’t feel particularly compelled to investigate. It’s also quite annoying that you have to create an account before you can install any of them. But a couple of the games are quite fun, and it’s great to see LG offering something for all the family.
There’s also a web browser on board the LG SP820, which allows you to peruse any internet site you like, and with Flash 10 support you can stream videos too – something that not all built-in browsers do.
Away from Smart TV, the unit’s Wi-Fi connection allows you to stream your own content over a network using the Smart Share feature or using Wi-Fi Direct. After delving into our file library, the LG SP820 works smoothly and supports an impressive range of formats, including DivX, XviD, WMV, AVI, 3GP, MP4, FLV, MKV and AVCHD. You can also stream MP3, WMA and AAC, as well as JPEG photos. It works with Windows PCs without the need to install additional software, but you get a Nero MediaHome 4 Essentials CD in the box. The two USB ports on the back allow you to play the same file types from flash drives or external hard-disk drives.