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LG HB354BS review: LG HB354BS

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The Good Good sound quality; convenient; stylish.

The Bad Lack of upgrade path to 5.1- or 7.1-channel surround sound.

The Bottom Line The LG HB354BS is a very good piece of equipment that's been designed well for a specific target audience. We think it will sell particularly well with students -- as an all-in-one package, it's incredibly handy. Even though it's aimed at the lower end of the market, it's a well-built machine with decent-enough sound quality and speedy disc-load times -- something that's always pleasing

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8.3 Overall

The LG HB354BS Blu-ray home-cinema system comes stuffed with cool features. It's an iPod dock, MP3 player and media streamer all in one. It's also got a 2.1-channel surround-sound speaker system, making it ideal for people just starting to get Blu-ray fever.

LG has yet to announce the pricing of the HB354BS, but we'll update this review as soon as it's been revealed.

The main part of the HB354BS is, as you'd imagine, the Blu-ray player. It's larger than most modern players, but, considering it has much more built in, we're not really surprised. It's not unattractive though, finished in glossy black, with a large volume control on the far right. There's also a small and basic screen that sits next to the slide-out iPod dock.

Also on the front, you'll find some funky touch controls for navigating around your Blu-ray movies, and there's a USB socket for accessing MP3s, photos and certain types of video.

The speakers look pretty slick and provide a great sonic performance

Around the back, you'll find a host of inputs and outputs. Because this player can act as a surround-sound decoder and amp for other sources, you get a pair of HDMI inputs for passing HD audio to the HB354BS. There's also a pair of digital audio inputs -- one optical, one coaxial -- and regular analogue stereo RCA jacks. An Ethernet socket is also provided to handle all the Blu-ray interactivity that BD-Live offers.

In terms of outputs, there's a single HDMI socket and three sets of speaker terminals for connecting the stereo speakers and the subwoofer.

The speakers themselves are pretty funky-looking. The subwoofer is fairly large, but it's designed to be tucked out of sight somewhere. The two stereo speakers are, on the other hand, utterly tiny. It all comes together well, making for a stylish and likeable package. It's certainly had people in the CNET UK office drooling.

Unlike LG's standalone BD370, the HB354BS doesn't have the same comprehensive media-playback support. This time around, there's no MKV playback, with the USB socket only allowing access to MP3s, JPEGs and certain video formats. But you do get support for the usual suspects, including both Xvid and DivX, which will please people who get video over the Internet.

If you've got an iPod, you can make use of this dock. Otherwise, you'll have to connect your MP3 player via the RCA jacks on the back of the HB354BS

The iPod dock is centrally located. You simply push it gently, and a tray springs out that supports your beloved Apple MP3 player. If you're not an iPod owner, there's a set of RCA jacks at the back that you can connect another MP3 player to.

The dual HDMI inputs on the back should come in handy for connecting other video sources you might have. Doing this will give you access to the improved sound that the HB354BS can offer over your TV. This sort of thing will be really useful to you if you have a media streamer or other HDMI-equipped device, like an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.

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