Setup for the LG SP820 couldn’t be simpler. Connect the HDMI output to your TV and use the helpful onscreen displays to link the box to your network. The convenience of built-in Wi-Fi really shouldn’t be understated, as a cabled connection is clumsy and messy. Each step is clearly described using plain English and crisp, colourful graphics.
The Magic Remote is a slinky gloss-black wand (a tweaked version of the one used by LG’s TVs) that allows you to move the cursor around the screen simply by waving it in the right direction and hitting OK to make your selection (a bit like a PC mouse).
Using this remote is a wise move, as it really suits the Smart TV layout – the screen is crammed with thumbnail grids and little icons along the bottom, which are tricky to navigate with a conventional remote. It’s also a real boon when using the web browser as links are easy to select, plus text entry with the virtual keyboard is a breeze because you can zip straight to the letter you want rather than chugging through every letter to get there.
The LG SP820's Magic Remote boasts a curvy, ergonomic shape that makes it comfortable to hold, plus there are plenty of hard buttons to call up regularly-used functions like the Home menu and Back. It also sports a direction pad for those who prefer the old-school control method, with a jog wheel in the middle that doubles up as the OK button. It’s brilliant, but if for some weird reason you don’t like the Magic Remote, then you can use your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet running LG’s Remote App to control the LG SP820 over your network.
Unsurprisingly the Smart TV menus are the same ones found on LG’s TVs and look gorgeous without compromising on practicality. The Home menu sports several panels, each one containing a selection of apps relating to that section (Premium, 3D World, Smart World). Hover over the top left panel and a door flips down – hit OK and you’re transported to the full menu, where you’ll find all the available apps. Each menu is displayed in colourful graphics – Premium uses the now familiar park background, for instance.
Along the bottom of the Home menu is a row of icons called My Apps, which lets you access other important menus such as Settings and Search, as well as your own video, photo and music content. It’s a tad confusing because it duplicates items in the screen above (LG Smart World, for instance) plus there’s a Smart Share option alongside individual video, music and photo options, which isn’t really necessary. As the name suggests you can add any apps you like to this list, but you can’t remove any of the duplicated icons.
The media playback menus are superb. The main Smart Share screen mimics the look of the Home menu, with various ‘panels’ of thumbnails – Contents Type [sic], Recently Watched, Newly Added and Linked Device. It looks great and works intuitively.
Delve into the music library of a networked device and the files are listed in a clear, attractive layout with cover art and track details. You can view by song, album, artist or genre. Video playback is similarly intuitive, with thumbnails for each file. This is one of the best GUIs we’ve encountered, and we didn’t have a single glitch or hold-up when streaming music or video from our server.
And when it comes to watching videos the quality is very good indeed. The LG Sp820 delivers bold, crisp images from BBC iPlayer, for example, that look just like the live SD broadcast, apart from a breakout of block and mosquito noise when there’s some particularly frenetic movement.
It wasn’t all plain sailing though – twice during Spike Lee’s two-hour long Bad 25 documentary it stopped playing and jumped to the end for no obvious reason. It’s also slightly annoying that you can’t navigate iPlayer by waving the Magic Remote.
Elsewhere we couldn’t find any other reasons for complaint. The 3D content may not be particularly high-profile, but it looks composed and immersive. The web browser works smoothly and loads up pages quickly. Navigation is aided by the Magic Remote, with the jog wheel making it easy to scroll down the page.
With smart functionality built into most of the latest Blu-ray players and TVs, most people won’t have any need for the LG SP820. But if you want to breathe a bit of life into an older system with a glut of internet content and DLNA streaming then it’s a fantastic way of doing so.
The Smart TV GUI is both sophisticated and logical, controlled by the intuitive Magic Remote, plus its content selection is impressive, if not exhaustive. Built-in Wi-Fi, 3D support and smooth streaming of a wide range of formats are further reasons why LG’s Smart solution is money well spent.