It’s probably easier to list the things that the LG BH5320F doesn’t offer. The obvious headliner features-wise is LG’s Smart TV internet portal, which features an appealing selection of apps – presented using a gorgeous full-colour graphic showing a park in the background. It offers BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Dailymotion, Picasa, Stuff, Viewster and more.
It’s not a killer selection by any means, and like Viera Connect it could do with a couple more TV catch-up services, but the presence of BBC iPlayer and YouTube alone makes it good value. Weirdly it’s accessed by selecting an icon on the central Home menu labelled ‘Premium’, but there’s a separate icon labelled ‘LG Apps’ which is supposed to offer a other games, videos and lifestyle apps, but a dialogue box informed us that we weren’t able to access it in our country.
This internet service, and all of the system’s network features, can be accessed using its built-in Wi-Fi connection, which eliminates the need for pricey dongles and cumbersome Ethernet cables.
The DLNA-certified LG BH5320F can also play music, video and photos from devices dotted around your home network through its Smart Share feature, or play them directly from flash drives and external HDDs connected to the USB port. The system even supports Wi-Fi Direct, theoretically making it even easier to share media from mobile devices, plus there’s an Apple/Android app that lets you control the system with a smartphone or tablet.
And like previous LG Blu-ray players and systems, the BH5320F plays a wide range of formats, playing everything we threw at it – including hi-def MKV, DivX, WMV HD, AVI, MPEG-1, AVCHD, XviD, MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC and FLAC lossless. The menus for playing these back are clear, simple and responsive, showing cover art where available.
As well as the regular Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio recoding talents, the system offers a range of sound modes to add extra spice to the 2.1 sound, chief among which is the 3D Surround Processor. This is supposed to deliver a more immersive sound from the stereo speakers, and is available in Movie and Music settings.
It’s joined by several Sound Effect presets, including Bass Blast, Clear Voice, Game, Night, Loudness and user EQ mode. The Bypass setting avoids all processing.
Setting up the LG BH5320F is easy. All the speaker cable you need is in the box, which is helpfully colour coded and fits snugly into the easily accessible springclips on the main unit. Fire up the system and the onscreen setup procedure is equally simple.
An initial installation wizard launches straight into the network setup mode, which is simplified greatly by the use of cute graphics and helpful explanations. Then you’re left to your own devices as there’s no auto calibration, but it’s easy to tweak the sound using the dedicated Speaker Level button on the remote and the left/right keys.
The Home menu is your starting point for everything, and looks wonderful – bright, vivid and engaging, but much simpler than the fussy animated LG displays of old. The coloured icons are big and easy to identify, three of which provide direct access to Music, Movie and Photo – select one of these and it shows you which of the connected sources contain that type of content.
The rest of the GUI, from the straightforward settings menu to the great-looking web and DLNA menus, are designed for maximum user-friendliness.
DLNA streaming wasn’t all plain sailing though. The system happily found our laptop on the network, but when we tried playing some music it had real trouble streaming it – the loading screen froze with no signs of life, so we gave up. This isn’t the first time we’ve had trouble network streaming from an LG product, but we’ve had no problems with recent rival systems from Panasonic or Samsung.
Despite being much longer than your average zapper, the remote is superb. The buttons are laid out for maximum convenience – the volume control is slap bang in the middle and raised up slightly on a bump, with the direction pad jut below it. All the keys are clearly labelled too, and there’s a cluster of buttons at the bottom that control LG TVs.