The inclusion of a USB port makes it easy to play back digital media, and format support is solid. You can watch DivX movies and other AVI files, listen to MP3/WMA or view JPEG photos, but it grumpily refused to play any of our DivX HD or WMV files.
The system’s built-in Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio decoding lets you enjoy HD audio without worrying about the compatibility issues that arise when buying separates. It also decodes regular Dolby Digital and DTS, while the Pro Logic II processing can be used to turn stereo material into surround sound. Like most of LG’s other systems the HB954PB also comes equipped with Virtual Sound Matrix, which expands the 5.1 soundstage to 10.1, but it can be bypassed if you’re not impressed by the results.
Throughout the entire GUI, the menus, text and colour schemes are sharp and easy on the eye. The system’s sophisticated-looking Home menu makes it a doddle to access any of its functions, with a row of colourful icons along the middle that offers a choice of Movie, Photo, Music and Setup.
The setup menu’s cursor is a little sluggish to scroll across to the next submenu but it’s generally co-operative. You can fiddle with every aspect of its functionality, even down to the graphic used in the menu background. Also impressive are the little boxes that pop-up onscreen when you change the volume levels.
Having tested several LG systems recently, we’ve grown accustomed to its remotes, but newcomers might be a little non-plussed. The playback and menu controls are intuitively placed but everything else feels random and the layout is cluttered at the bottom. It does however boast some helpful icons and colour coding.
The system is ultra quick to load discs, which should come as no surprise given the BD370’s speedy performance. Transformers’ first menu popped up 30 seconds after pressing close, ”Spider-Man 3” fired up in 37 seconds while ”Wall-E” took just 20. We’re sure some will say that’s still too slow, but compared with some older decks it’s like greased lightning.
What’s instantly apparent when you first start playing a movie is that you don’t need to crank the volume up high to make an impact – even at half way the power is formidable. What’s also apparent is that this system is a superb performer, offering a remarkably open and dynamic soundstage. Once again hi-fi don Mark Levinson is the ears behind the operation and has done a wonderful job of sidestepping the problems that so often prove the undoing of one-box systems.