As far as HTIB (home theatre in a box) go, the LG HX995TZW is quite stylish. It consists of a vertically-mounted central unit feeding four main speakers mounted on poles, a discrete centre speaker and a piano-black subwoofer.
The central unit is quite minimalist and matches the styling of the company's TV range with its piano-gloss facade and clear plastic border. The unit features a slot-loading Blu-ray player, and is controlled with a series of capacitive controls along the top and readouts are courtesy of the blue LED display. If you buy a TV such as the LX9500 this system would make a decent companion in the visual sense, though perhaps demanding of a more sophisticated audio solution.
To continue the piano-black theme, the LG remote is draped in it. The remote is of the same ilk that's shipped with the company's televisions and set-top boxes. It's easy to use, and enables quick access to functions such as adjusting individual speaker volumes — important for controlling the sub, as we'll see shortly.
The LG HX995TZW is probably one of the most feature-complete home cinema packages available for the price. Firstly, it comes with Blu-ray player with the addition of 3D playback, and the provision of an Ethernet port means you get DLNA and IPTV support. Sadly, the unit misses out on the BigPond Movies offering of other LG products, but it still includes YouTube, Picasa and weather.
The LG offers iPod compatibility, but unfortunately it's not controllable with the remote. Also interestingly, the iPod connection feeds from the sub and not the main unit — this necessitates plonking the iPod on top of the sub.
The system is a 5.1-channel affair, and the two rears are wireless — fed from a separate unit which plugs into the power point. The satellites are rated at 180W each while the wireless sub is rated at 200W. The main speakers and corresponding cables are colour-coded, and perhaps ironically the two rears have the longest cables in the box. The three front cables connect to the sub.
As far as connections are concerned, the LG offers HDMI, optical, composite, USB and Ethernet. Unlike most home cinema systems at this price point, the HX995TZW offers two HDMI inputs for adding additional sources as well.
The "floating" menu looks cool but its constant movement may make you ill. (Credit: Ty Pendlebury/CNET Australia)
If you're spending AU$1300 on a cinema package it's likely it will be pressed into providing more than just movies. As a Blu-ray system we were interested to see how it performed a) with video content and b) with surround sound and music. But first we needed to make sure it was set-up correctly.
To do this you need to access the LG's menu system. Instead of left/right navigation like most systems, it uses a mixture of either Left and Right or Up and Down which takes some getting used to. But that's not as disorienting as the home screen; while we like the idea of each icon represented as ice cubes floating in gently undulating water it'll quickly leave you with a case of seasickness.
While some home systems offer a microphone and set-up routine, in this case there is only a set-up tone. You can determine speaker levels with the aid of a decibel meter or smartphone app. Using the dedicated "channel level" button we were able to quickly get the sound set up and begin our tests. Additionally, we calibrated the screen using our "Monster/ISF HDTV Calibration" DVD.
Video Like the stand-alone LG HR559D Blu-ray player, the HX995TZW performs very well with video sources, and managed to ace most of the synthetic image tests. These rate a player's ability to polish out imperfections in a poor quality source including such artefacts as noise, "jaggies" and jerky movement, and the LG performed admirably.
Replacing this with our real-world discs we found that the infamously noisy MI3 struck a decent balance between detail, graininess and outright noise. Moire on railings was also kept in check. We found the player was also able to lock down on the 24p mode in a disc and present this as silky movement in concert with our Panasonic VT20 TV.
Switching to DVD we found it was able to handle a heavily-compressed movie like King Kong and banish any of the noise associated with that. Colours were natural and detail excellent.
Using the LG's NetCast system we were able to watch high quality YouTube clips with very little buffering time, though the performance will depend on your own individual network.
Lastly, we popped in a 3D copy of Monsters vs. Aliens and confirmed what we've long thought — 3D quality is dependent on the display. Through the Panasonic we found images were solid and contained no crosstalk. Hook it up to one of the partnering LG's and we think it'd be a different story.
First in the tray was the Spider-Man 3 Blu-ray, and we chose the chase scene between the Hobgoblin and Spider-Man. Doing so, we found the satellites and centre coalesced well and provided impressive vocal clarity and surround sound detail. Our only disappointment was as a result of the subwoofer — it simply wasn't up to the task. At low volume levels the sub simply didn't have the guts needed to underpin the scene's many low-level effects. Turn the volume up and the subwoofer audibly suffered, clumsily burping its way through explosions. Though you can "ride the faders" with the use of the channel level button, the sub is definitely the weak point of this system.
Turning the system to music playback we found that it shared a similar sound to previous LG devices — we wouldn't be surprised if this was also tuned by Mark Levinson. Whether from a DLNA source, iPod or CD, the system performed well with acoustic music — Levinson's favourite genre — but strained under the weight of anything more bombastic as a result of the subwoofer in tow.
At its current price of AU$1299 the LG offers a lot of functionality and excellent quality video playback. The main speakers are revealing and involving, but the subwoofer really is the weakest link in the chain. If you don't watch that many action movies or listen to rock music then the LG HX995TZW is a stylish and capable 5.1 system.