- Chic aluminium design
- Robust speaker build quality
- Generous features
- Loses composure at loud volumes
- Not as smooth or polished as separates
- Passive sub could be punchier
- Needs more catch-up TV
- Review Price: £599.99
- 3D Blu-ray playback
- DLNA certified
- Smart TV internet content
- Built-in Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
- 1100W quoted power output
Most all-in-one home cinema systems are built to a price, and are therefore found wanting in the design department – not to mention what that cost-cutting does to AV performance. However, every now and again a one-box system comes along that pushes the boat out with a ‘premium’ design that demands to be taken a little bit more seriously.
LG BH8220B Design
The LG BH8220B is one such system. Its luxurious aluminium design (described on the website as ‘professional classic’) looks like a million dollars, and a manual inspection reveals the speakers are more substantial than you might expect from a one-box sound system. Each one stands 292mm high and sports a retro rectangular shape, styled in a stunning brushed metal finish down each side. The silver mesh on front masks the two fibre cone drivers and dome tweeter behind it. These are understated but super cool speakers that will bring a touch of class to any living room.
The side-firing subwoofer is styled along the same lines with shimmering brushed aluminium side panels lending more glamour than most subs. The compact shape should make it easy to accommodate too. The only bad news is that it’s passive (not powered), a type of sub that typically doesn’t offer the same level of performance as its active cousins.
The Blu-ray receiver is also styled in silver, with a brush-effect flap covering the entire fascia. This hides all of the front panel clutter apart from a volume dial that pokes through the middle, surrounded by a bright white light that can be dimmed if it gets too distracting. When watching a movie you’ll probably want it pulled open as it covers the LED display, giving all the relevant info.
LG BH8220B Connectivity
Also behind the flap on the LG BH8220B is the disc tray on the left, and a row of buttons below the display panel – hard ones, not touch sensitive – as well as a USB port and a 3.5mm minijack input. On the back you’ll find a decent set of sockets, including HDMI v1.4 output and two inputs for channelling other HD components through the system. You also get analogue stereo and optical digital audio inputs, plus a composite video output. The speaker connections are springclip terminals, which doesn’t fit with the system’s ‘premium’ positioning but the cables fit snugly and they’re all colour coded to ease the installation process.
LG BH8220B Features
LG’s home cinema systems are usually packed with features, and the LG BH8220B is no exception – not just for home cinema but for home networking too. You can stream internet content via LG’s Smart TV portal or access your own music videos and photos stored on media servers around your home.
Smart TV boasts a decent range of apps, with all the good ones grouped in the ‘Premium’ section. Most appealing is BBC iPlayer – surely number one on most people’s online wish-list – ably supported by both LoveFilm and Netflix (some rivals only offer one or the other), Blinkbox, Acetrax Movies, Box Office 365, Dailymotion and Facebook. The line-up is padded out by stuff like Museum Purescreens, Picasa, AccuWeather, Euronews, Cartoon Network and Hit Entertainment. You might get some occasional use out of these, but we’d have preferred more useful stuff like 4OD, Demand 5 and ITV Player.
There’s tons of other content hidden away in a separate ‘LG Apps’ menu. These are the quirkier apps, including games and puzzles for kids and big kids alike, magazines, radio stations plus more free and paid for content. With apps like ‘Wee Wee Kitty’, ‘Animal Farm’ and the topical ‘Santa Claus is Coming To Town’, much of it is guff, but at least it’s harmless guff – at least LG is providing something for all the family.
The system is also DLNA certified, which means you can stream content from servers on your home network using the Smart Share feature. The list of supported file types is lengthy, taking in key formats like MKV, AVCHD, DivX HD, WMV, M4V, FLV, 3GP, AVI, XviD, MP3, WMA, AAC and FLAC, plus JPEG photos. These can be streamed over a network or played from USB devices and external HDDs. Media can also be streamed directly from mobile devices thanks to the LG’s Wi-Fi Direct support. There’s even Bluetooth on board, making this a terrific system for households with lots of wireless devices knocking about. You can also connect Apple devices to the USB port and play music.
Getting back to Blu-ray movie playback, there’s plenty on the LG BH8220B to enhance your viewing experience. Or we should say listening, as it’s packed with sound modes – chief among which is LG’s 3D Surround Processor. This attempts to add extra depth to the surround soundstage to accompany 3D images. Also on board are several sound presets – Bass Blast, Clear Voice, Natural, Natural Plus, Game, Night, Loudness and Upscaler. A User EQ setting that lets you adjust the sound manually across four frequency bands, while a Bypass mode lets you side-step all such sonic meddling.
LG’s quoted power output is 1100W in total – 180W per channel with 200W to the sub – plus there’s decoding for all the main Blu-ray audio formats. The system is 3D ready too, plus the nifty Music ID feature uses the online Gracenote database to call up info about tracks and movies.
LG BH8220B Operation
LG’s onscreen user interface is both fun and practical. The use of crisp, brightly coloured graphics on almost every menu screen makes it a joy to navigate, plus text is consistently legible and the speedy cursor keeps frustration at bay.
The Home menu is particularly attractive, arranging its large icons in a row across the middle of the screen. The Video, Music and Photo icons let you jump straight to that type of content – select one and the next menu lists all the available media. The media playback menus display all the relevant info about the file in a lively, vibrant manner.
You can also access the Premium and LG Apps sections from the Home menu, and the former’s design is worth a mention. It superimposes the app logos over a full colour picture of a park, which is superficial but undeniably eye-catching.
Setup is straightforward too. There’s no automatic calibration, but you can tweak the sound very easily by hitting the ‘Speaker Level’ button on the remote. This brings up a small menu with six sliders, one for each channel, ranging from -6 up to 6. Distance adjustments are found in the Speaker Setup menu, which is accompanied by a graphic illustrating the changes you’re making. It’s not particularly sophisticated but fine for inexperienced users. Other potentially tricky stuff like network setup is also simple thanks to LG’s excellent onscreen diagrams.
Finally the remote gets it right in every respect. The thoughtful layout of the frequently used buttons makes operation intuitive, grouping the glow-in-the-dark playback keys together just above the circular direction pad. Labelling is clear, it’s not over-cluttered and the silver styling makes it an aesthetic hit to boot. If it’s not your cup of tea you can use your Apple iOS or Android smartphone to control the system with the LG Remote app installed.
LG BH8220B Performance
In terms of performance the LG BH8220B falls some way short of a decent AV receiver/compact speaker combo, but still delivers an exciting, room-filling sound that sidesteps many of the usual budget system shortcomings.
Starting with the good stuff, the LG BH8220B makes busy, boisterous action sequences sound dynamic. At sensible listening levels, it blasts effects into the room with gusto, blessed with plenty of bite but no brightness. This well-judged balance is what pleased us the most – some systems get a bit hard and spitty with metallic effects and explosions, but the LG BH8220B keeps everything sounding easy and natural.
High frequencies are crisp, plus the surround speakers tease out little background details that add depth and atmosphere to the overall soundstage. It’s not as polished or pristine as a dedicated compact speaker system but we didn’t expect it to be. As all-in-one systems go, this is certainly one of the better examples.
We also like the sense of expansion, helped along by the 3D sound processing, which engulfs the listener more effectively than the other modes but does take the edge off detail. Dialogue clarity is excellent, there are no jarring shifts in tone as sounds move between speakers and the subwoofer delivers reasonably solid bass to bulk out the action, but it lacks the tightness and punch of an active sub.
Inevitably, it’s not all positive. The system loses grip when you push the volume past its comfort zone. Some high-pitched effects begin to sound a little strained and shrill, something that you probably wouldn’t get from a more assured separates system. Thankfully the LG BH8220B’s naturally powerful sound means you don’t have to push the volume much further than half way to make an impact, so this won’t be a problem most of the time.
So overall the LG BH8220B’s performance is terrific by one-box system standards, offering a ballsy, fulsome sound, but if you’re looking for more silkiness, bass punch and composure at loud volumes, then it would be wise to put your cash towards a separates system.
On the picture front the LG BH8220B reproduces Blu-ray discs with intense detail, gloriously vibrant colours and beautifully defined edges. Its images are stunning. Subtle colours and shading are handled with a suitably delicate touch, while blacks are deep and pure. Movement is handled smoothly with no judder too, which is a bonus for fast-moving action scenes. These qualities carry over into 3D material, which looks as deep and immersive as you’d hope.
LG BH8220B Verdict
The LG BH8220B is every bit the premium system in terms of design and features, which help justify the premium price tag. With built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and web content, plus iPod/iPhone support, extensive format support and sound modes galore, you get a lot for your money, while the robust, stylish speakers are much better than you might expect from an all-in-one system.
It offers impressive sound quality too – if not quite up to the level of a decent separates system – backed up by terrific picture quality, all of which makes the LG BH8220B a great purchase.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 8
|Number of Speakers||6|
|Audio Processing||3D Sound|
|DTS Master Audio HD||Yes|
|S/PDIF Optical In||1|
|S/PDIF Coax In||No|
|Stereo Line In||1|
|Stereo Line Out||No|
|iPod Dock||Yes (via USB)|
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