The rest of the HLB54S’s features left us well and truly flabbergasted. Built-in Wi-Fi, a wireless sub and a supplied iPod dock would be enough for most systems, but here they’re merely an hors d’oeuvre. You’ll also find a USB por, concealed under a flap next to the disc slot, which allows you to connect an external USB HDD or flash drive and play MKV, DivX HD, MP3, WMA, XviD and JPEG files. Thanks to the unit’s DLNA compliance, the same file types can be streamed from PCs or mobile phones over the Wi-Fi connection, and you can even stream the billions of videos on YouTube to your TV.
Inside the soundbar is a 4.1-channel speaker configuration – two fronts and two surrounds at 70W per channel, with 150W going to the sub. The unit decodes Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio, plus it can upscale DVDs to 1080p. True to form, LG has also included a range of sound modes, including Natural, Bass Booster, Drama, Sports, Game, Concert and Music ReTouch, the latter designed to enhance compressed music playback. All of these colour the sound in various ways, so it’s best to use the Bypass mode for movies.
The biggest bum note is that the HLB54S is not equipped with the built-in memory needed to access BD Live online content. Try to access it without a USB stick connected to the front port and it simply won’t work. We loaded up a 2GB stick and tried out Terminator Salvation’s BD Live portal – there was a lengthy wait before it linked up to the Sony mainframe (a good eight minutes) and the content is sluggish to stream or download, but this experience is common to most of the BD Live players we’ve tested at typical broadband speeds.
The operating system sticks with the tried and trusted LG formula, based around a welcoming, icon-driven Home menu that provides easy access to all of the main functions, be it Blu-ray, media streaming, YouTube, USB or the Setup menu.
The latter presents its many options with a healthy dose of common sense, using large text and minimal submenus, but the fact that you can’t access it without stopping any playing movie is a pain.
Hooking the LG up to a network is a lot easier than the Samsung HT-BD8200. An on-screen wizard takes you through each stage and asks questions about your setup, then a responsive virtual keyboard lets you punch in your encryption key with no hassle. Streaming content is a cinch too. Choose your server from a list, then it presents all your content in the relevant folders, much as it would appear on your PC – just make sure your computer has been set to allow media sharing.
Optimising the system is a simple process of pressing the speaker level button and adjusting the front L/R, surround L/R and woofer levels. The remote used to perform all this is a bit too cluttered and lacks a backlight, but at least some attempt has been made to separate out the playback and menu control keys.