If you're yearning for a home-cinema setup but aren't sure how to put one together, or you don't fancy using all the money from your child's trust fund to pay for one, LG thinks it has the solution for you.
The HT902TB is a DVD player with 5.1 speaker system, and at around £250, it's aimed at people who want to enjoy surround sound at home, but don't want the major hassle or expense of setting up a full-blown AV receiver.
The HT902TB comes in just one box. While it is a rather large box and the carry handles are quite painful to use, it's still nice that everything is packed into a reasonably small space.
The kit is made up of four 'tall boy' speakers, each of which stands on the floor. There's a centre speaker, which is placed on or beneath your TV, and a subwoofer for those room-shaking bass effects. The amplifier is built into the DVD player, so the main unit is nice and compact.
The player itself is attractive, and apart from basic play and navigation controls, a simple display and a volume control, there's nothing to distract your eye. At the rear, there are speaker outputs for all six channels of sound, the HDMI output for video and auxiliary inputs for hooking up other equipment to the amp.
The LG has surprised us by creating what is, in effect, everything a film fan needs in one box. Okay, this won't suit you if you're a bona fide audio snob with a subscription to Which Lossless Audio Codec? magazine, but if you want an all-in-one system for getting 5.1 surround sound, this fits the bill.
Firstly, the DVD player promises support for MPEG-4 and DivX. We tested this claim, and are pleased to report that we had no problems with material we found online. There is also support for DivX ondemand, although we have yet to see very much interesting material be made available by this system.
The 5.1 portion of the system can decode both Dolby Digital and DTS surround. This means you'll be able to get the best surround performance from all of your DVDs. DTS offers high quality sound, as it uses less compression, so it's nice to see support for this format.
When we plugged in the system, we weren't exactly expecting great things. While the unit and speakers are stylish, the speaker wire provided is a little weedy, and the way the speakers connect -- they snap into a stand, which contain speaker connectors -- didn't seem all that sturdy.
Setup is easy enough: everything you need is in the box and it's very obvious how it all fits together. You get a reasonable amount of speaker cable -- not enough for very large rooms, but sufficient for small living rooms and bedrooms.
Movie performance was excellent. We tried a number of sources, including DVD and HD DVD, which we sent to the LG via an optical digital cable. Everything sounded great on the basic settings.
When playing from a disc or receiving audio from an external source, the player had no trouble detecting if it was Dolby Digital or DTS. Be warned, though: when using the built-in player, the DTS soundtrack is rarely the default, so you'll need to press the audio button to select it.
We were amazed at the deep bass the HT0902TB was able to produce. Impressively, everything seemed well balanced, and although the bass was strong, it never overwhelmed the rest of the speakers.
You can set the speakers up from within a menu system on the LG. This process doesn't take very long and is useful for reducing the levels of certain speakers, if, say, you sit closer to the rears than you do to the stereo front and centre speakers.
The HT902TB offers DVD upscaling and progressive-scan playback via HDMI, which is good if you're intending to hook this machine up to an HD Ready TV. Our tests indicated that it wasn't the best upscaling DVD player we've ever seen, but you don't have to make use of the upscaling, as all HD televisions are capable of managing this for themselves. If you have a high-end screen, you're probably better setting the player to 576p mode, and letting the TV resize the image.
The LG also provides a USB socket at the front for playing content from a memory stick. Our tests of this didn't yield particularly good results, possibly because the LG has problems reading data from the card quickly enough. At any rate, if you're buying this unit for its USB functionality, you're likely to be disappointed.
Music quality was decent. We tested the system with a Sony NW-HD5 and a video iPod, and were very happy with how it performed with a wide variety of music. There are preset modes designed for listening to music, including some that will direct your music in a pseudo-surround fashion to all the speakers -- most systems will only send stereo music to the front left and right, which is a pain if you want good bass.
If you've got a small living room or only a casual interest in surround sound and home cinema, this package is great. It offers everything you need in one low-cost system. It's a true 5.1 system, relying on six speakers instead of virtual surround sound.
For the same price there are proper AV receivers available, but these won't usually come with any speakers or speaker stands -- it's easy to forget speakers often need to be placed on stands and that this adds extra cost. The main rival to this LG package is probably all-in-one systems from companies like JVC and Samsung, who sell a range of surround sound systems in similar packages. Some, such as the Samsung HT-TXQ120R, are much more expensive for little real added benefit.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday