The LHB535 is also DLNA-compliant and capable of streaming video, audio, and photo files from a network-connected PC or viewing them from USB drive. The full list of supported formats is available on the specifications portion of LG's Web site. We had no trouble playing a couple MKV and DivX HD files off an attached USB drive. LG includes Nero's MediaHome 4 Essential software, which worked well. We were also able to use the built-in media server in Windows Media Player, after turning the sharing options on.
|Audio decoding capabilities|
|Dolby TrueHD||Yes||DTS-HD Master Audio||Yes|
|Dolby Digital Plus||Yes||DTS-HD HR||Yes|
Like all Blu-ray HTIBs this year, the LHB535 has onboard decoding for both high-resolution Dolby and DTS soundtrack formats. There's no support for DVD-Audio or SACD, but that's not offered by any competing systems at this price level.
|HDMI inputs||2||Analog audio inputs||1|
|Optical inputs||2||Coaxial inputs||0|
|Minijack input||Yes||Max. connected ext. devices||5|
The LHB535's outstanding feature over the competition is the inclusion of two HDMI inputs; nobody else even offers one at this price level. That's a huge step up in our book, now that nearly all home video devices use HDMI, plus it's the simplest and highest-quality connection available. The rest of the connectivity is mostly standard, although we would have liked to have seen at least one coaxial digital audio input. We appreciated that LG lets you select each input individually, so you can connect a total of five external devices, which doesn't include the minijack input on the front.
As mentioned before, there's also the built-in iPod dock, which should support any modern iPod with a dock connection. iPhone and iPod Touch users are in luck as well: the docks plays nicely with those two models, too, though you may want to switch your iPhone to airplane mode to avoid interference. We really like the onscreen interface that allows you to navigate through your music. You can also use the LHB535 to view photos and movies off your device as well, but keep in mind the iPod must be set to TV out.
|Ethernet||Yes||SD card slot||No|
|USB ports||1||Headphone jack||No|
The rest of the LHB535's connectivity is standard. We would have liked an extra USB port on the back and a headphone jack, but those features aren't common on these systems.
The LHB535's speaker setup menu covers just the basics. You input each of the five speakers' distances from the prime listening position and then adjust the volume level of each speaker and the subwoofer. It's easy enough to do, but if you'd rather skip the setup chore altogether you won't be missing much as you can easily adjust the volume of each speaker and the subwoofer directly from the remote. For example, if you're not hearing enough of the surround speakers on a movie, or you want to add more bass, it'll take just a few seconds to get the balance you want. Few competing HTIBs are as flexible on that front, so kudos to LG for implementing it.
We initially placed the LHB535's subwoofer in the usual spot in the CNET listening room, over to the right of the right front speaker. The quality of the bass was fine, but it failed to blend with any of the speakers. No matter what was happening in the movie, all of the bass came from the right side of the room.
That's not a unique fault of the LHB535 as most HTIBs with very small satellite speakers exhibit similar bass directionality. The cure was simple enough, though; we moved the subwoofer to the front wall between the center and right channel speakers. The blend was then better, and the bass no longer seemed to come from the right side of the room.
Going into our performance testing, we figured the LHB535's small satellite-speaker size would play a role in their sound. Case in point, the front and surround speakers sounded undernourished, but the subwoofer tried its best to provide a solid foundation for the sound. The center channel speaker sounded slightly better than the front and surround satellite speakers, so fortunately dialogue sounded clear and evenly balanced.
The Michael Jackson "This Is It" DVD fully exercised the LHB535's speakers and subwoofer. By nudging the volume higher and higher we learned the LHB535 can play fairly loud without distorting. However, it does have its limits as HTIBs with small speakers almost always do. The front-to-rear surround ambiance on the Jackson DVD was good and the subwoofer proved fairly powerful, but bass clarity and dynamic oomph left us wanting more.
Sure enough, the LHB535 didn't totally embarrass itself with the "Black Hawk Down" Blu-ray's battle sequences. The sound was clear, surround effects filled the room, but the fiery helicopter crash and explosions didn't pack the wallop we've heard from, say, the Onkyo HT-S7200.
The LHB535's speakers' sound was overly bright and thin, probably because the satellite's sound never completely jelled with the subwoofer. This led us to experiment with the LHB535's Sound Effect options. The Clear Voice (Sound Effect) took some of the edge off, and Bass Blast warmed up the sound and reduced the brightness. Though we don't usually use HTIB sound modes, we found them necessary with the LHB535.
Moving over to our music CD testing, the LHB535 held its own. That's not always the case with HTIBs--most do a better job with movies than music--but the LHB535's sounded fine with classical, jazz, and rock music. The overly bright sound and loosely defined bass were still concerns, and the LHB535 always sounded like what it truly is: a small home-theater system.
Blu-ray and DVD image quality
Overall, we were impressed with the LHB535's Blu-ray image quality, as it passed all of the most important test patterns and program material tests. We found its performance to be similar (although not identical) to LG's standalone BD570. For a more in-depth look at this player's Blu-ray and DVD performance, we recommend checking out the review of the LG BD570.