Because the Blu-ray player is Profile 2.0 you can access BD Live extras, but it also supports YouTube video streaming as found on LG’s standalone BD370. The feature isn’t found on the first batch of systems (from which our sample was taken) but a later firmware update will enable it.
Elsewhere on the feature list is Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS HD Master Audio decoding, the impact of which will no doubt be reduced by the 2.1-channel configuration but you should be able to hear the increased sonic resolution offered by these formats.
The rest of the feature list is pretty decent – the system upscales DVDs to 720p, 1080i and 1080p; plays DivX, MP3, WMA, JPEG and AVCHD files; features a range of sound modes designed for different types of material (News, Drama, Sports, Game and Concert); and offers a Bass Booster mode that does exactly what it says on the tin. Our advice? Stick with the ‘Bypass’ mode. A separate Night mode boosts the sound quality at lower volumes and dims the front panel lights.
The system is easy to use thanks to the superb interface, which revolves around the eye-catching Home menu – your central access point for all supported media. It offers a choice of Movie, Music, Photo and Setup (and eventually YouTube) and each one is represented by a full-colour graphic. The remote is thoughtfully laid out with large icons drawing attention to the most important buttons, although it’s a tad cluttered towards the bottom.
Like many of LG’s home cinema systems, the HB354BS has been specially tuned by audio guru Mark Levinson, which could give it the edge over rival 2.1-channel systems when it comes to performance. And for once, it actually does – when you play a Blu-ray disc, the most striking thing is how naturally powerful and dynamic the system is. Although the volume goes up to 40, we rarely felt compelled to push it over 20 – but if you do, the speakers show few signs of strain.