LG LF-D7150: Home theater on a shelf
CD minisystems have long been a staple of kitchens and bedrooms everywhere. But in the past few years, DVD technology has become so cheap and ubiquitous that manufacturers are adding video playback to these systems, often without charging much more money. One such "home theater on a shelf" is the LG LF-D7150. Widely available at Best Buy and other retailers for less than $250, the LF-D7150 delivers a panoply of extra features--including DivX video playback, USB host support, and digital audio input--that distinguish it from the competition.
With its black and silver color scheme and its reflective front face, the LF-D7150 sports a thoroughly high-tech look that feels right at home in the 21st century. Fashion police take note: It will fit right into any place with a modern design sensibility, but anyone needing a retro appearance or a more traditional wood-grain look should look elsewhere (the Philips MCD702, for example). The blue lighting effects may appear somewhat garish, but they can be toggled off with a click of the dimmer button so that only the LCD display remains lit, albeit less brightly.
The D7150 is a standard three-part shelf system: Two 6.4x12.6x10.2-inch (HWD) speakers flank a central head unit that houses the disc player and all the electronics and controls. The bottom half of the front panel includes some basic controls, including volume and source selector knobs; the upper portion offers an information-packed LCD display and, along the top edge, the disc tray. The controls are pretty straightforward, but the four-way directional pad that doubles as a disc playback control (play/pause, forward/reverse) and an AM/FM tuner can be a little cumbersome to use. Thankfully, the LF-D7150 includes a remote control. The 56-button clicker is logically laid out and offers more comprehensive access to the deck's full range of functions, including the ability to choose any of the sources (CD/DVD, radio, USB, or auxiliary inputs) at the touch of a button.
In addition to playing standard DVDs and audio CDs, the LG LF-D7150 can play an array of digital media files: MP3 and WMA audio, JPEG photos, and DivX videos. The system displays an intuitive and easy-to-use file browser, so you can navigate through the various folders found on home-burned CDs and DVDs as well as any standard USB storage devices. There are a few caveats, of course: DivX files can only be played from optical discs, not USB drives; photos need to be smaller than 5.6 megapixels and have a JPG file extension only (not JPEG or JPE); and the USB browsing and playback compatibility works for many MP3 players, but not iPods. Still, it's easy to make playlists on the fly, and photos can be viewed as a slide show.