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First things first - throw the notion of a wire-free system out of your mind. When it comes to home theatre systems, the tag 'wireless' usually means a kit where the rear speakers connect up via radio frequency or a kit where a reduced number of speakers attempt to do the job of a full 5.1 system (such as the KEF Kit or the Yamaha YSP-1). The new LG LH-W5100 falls into the former category, so while you have two less wires, there's still plenty there connecting your kit together. Having the rears as wireless just means the most obtrusive wire connection (between the rears and main unit) is eliminated.
The LH-W5100 is made up of a combined DVD/amp unit, two front speakers, a centre, two rears and a large sub. The entire unit is decked out in cool silver with black trim, with the bottom third of the speakers covered in a black finish. This area of the rear speakers lights up in red or blue to signify its connection status with the unit's wireless transmitter (the transmitter lights up in a similar way at the base of its antenna).
The DVD, which houses all of the tech to drive the speakers and sub as well, is understandably bulkier than a normal DVD. It features a nice looking volume knob at its right side which lights up in blue when the unit is on, but it does feature some distracting buttons along its top right edge that destroy its otherwise smooth lines.
If you're looking for a unit that will impress visitors on looks alone, then there are other candidates you should be considering. While the LH-W5100 does look simple and smart, the overall feel is rather bland, with the actual build quality of the specific components leaving a lot to be desired (particularly for its price tag of AU$1874). The remote control particularly has to come under some negative attention - it's lightweight and plasticy, and certainly doesn't make you feel like you've spent close to $2000 on a system.
The LG LH-W5100 has a total system output of 350W RMS (50W for each speaker, 100W for the sub) which, once again considering the money LG's asking you to pony up, seems quite low. Don't get us wrong - 350W total power should be enough for most people, but if you're the type who likes it extra loud (and who welcomes noise complaints from neighbours) it might be too low.
The DVD unit is where all the inputs and outputs reside. Apart from speaker connectors, the LH-W5100 features one component out, one S-Video out, two composite outs and one composite input. It also sports connectors for an FM and AM antenna, as well as optical in and out connectors. Component is obviously what we'd recommend you use to connect it to your TV (as we did in this test), and it's a pity that this system doesn't sport any of the advanced digital video connectors (such as DVI or HDMI). The system itself can decode Dolby Digital, DTS and Dolby Pro-logic II, and can read formats such as CD, DVD Video, DVD Audio, VCD, SVCD, CD-R,RW and MP3.
Set up of the LH-W5100 is fairly straightforward, and shouldn't prove to be a hassle for anyone who's ever put together similar systems. For those without experience, the LG's instruction manuals features handy diagrams showing where everything should connect to, and all of the speaker connectors and wires have been colour coded in red or black to make it easier.
There were no hassles wirelessly connecting the two rear speakers (which uses the 2.4GHz frequency) -- in fact it was downright easy. All a user needs to do is connect the wireless transmitter to the main unit, ensure the transmitter and speakers are on the same channel (there are three to choose from in case of interference) and the system should connect automatically. Unlike Sony's wireless home theatre offering, which required the rear speakers to be connected via hardwire, the LG's rear speakers stand alone. They do, however, individually need power, so you better hope you have some spare power points at either end of the rear of your living room.
The overall performance of the LH-W5100, for both video and audio, was sound. The DVD unit surprised us with its ability to pick out small details in the picture, as well as presenting flesh tones in a realistic manner. It handled dark scenes very well - Obi-Wan and Jango Fett's asteroid chase scene in Star Wars: Attack Of the Clones, for example, abounded with tiny stars in the background. Try that same scene on lesser players and all you'll see is the darkness of space. Surround sound effects are also convincing and create a realistic sound field around the viewer. Movement between speakers was crisp and realistic - we closed our eyes and played the Attack Of The Clones asteroid scene again, and were able to follow the two ships aurally and they zoomed and fired on each other. Bass is appropriately weighty - you can definitely use this system to spin some of your CDs without losing any of the low-end goodness.
But what it really boils down to is price. Sure, the LH-W5100 is a decent performer, but there are plenty of decent home theatre kits out there (and some exceptional ones) for under AU$1000 that will give you more grunt and look better. The main point of difference, of course, are its wireless rears, which do help reduce the clutter in your living room and are a breeze to set up. If you've got your heart set on wireless, then the LH-W5100 is a cheaper (but lower powered) alternative to the Sony DAV-LF1.