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LG MS409D HD DVR review: LG MS409D HD DVR

LG's take on a dual-tuner DVR — the MS409D — works well and has some unique features, but it's expensive.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
5 min read


If you were to design a simple PVR box, there are a few basic rules you'd most likely follow. Black is pretty much the standard unless you're Apple. A glowing LED clock centrally located behind a lot of piano black plastic that'll attract fingerprints and dust in equal measure is a must. A remote control with lots of buttons, half of which you'll actually use is par for the course.



The Good

Clean, simple interface. Dual-HD tuner. 500GB storage. Wi-Fi included. Some on-screen instructions are poorly worded. Excellent media portability.

The Bad

Price is high for a DVR. Difficult to re-tune without a factory reset. Only uses the FTA EPG. No DVD/BR recording.

The Bottom Line

LG's take on a dual-tuner DVR works well and has some unique features, but it's expensive.

At first glance, LG's MS409D follows these rules pretty much precisely. Pop down the flap on the front of this 430x66x255mm box, however, and things change markedly.

A fold down flap is itself not exactly a revelation, and often it's an annoying design idea, but LG's put something a little different behind the rectangular door in this case. Big Ted's notably absent, but in his stead is a 3.5-inch hard drive caddy. It's initially unpopulated, but it allows you to add or remove up to 1TB of additional storage.

Given the norm for digital video recorders (DVR) is to limit file portability, or at best make it a slow and rather painful prospect, the ability to rip your recordings out literally rather than as software is a rather compelling one. The fold down flap also hides a front-mounted USB port, and you can copy files to a connected drive there too, although leaving a USB drive in the front port would mean you'd have to leave the front flap permanently down, which is exactly what we hate about front AV flaps in the first place.


While you can add a hard drive to the LG MS409D, you're not stuck having to do so immediately. The LG MS409D is a twin-tuner HD DVR with a 500GB internal hard drive ready to go. It's the bigger brother of the slightly cheaper AU$976 LG MS408D. Given the price of internal hard drives, you could conceivably turn an MS408D into an MS409D for slightly less than the price difference. That aside, the LG MS409D works its DVR magic only from the free-to-air EPG. It lacks Freeview certification, but that gives it a ton of flexibility in terms of where you can move your recorded files around. Want to copy them off to the 3.5-inch caddy? You can. Want to copy them to a USB drive? You can. Want to copy them via connected Ethernet cable? You can. Want to copy them out via the included 802.11b/g/n wireless dongle? You get the idea. The one caveat here is that files are recorded in the very data intensive TS format, so you'll need a fair bit of shifting space.

The LG MS409D isn't just a DVR, however. It's also a very capable media streamer, with network links out to YouTube and Picasa, and the ability to stream from any compliant DLNA source. File format support covers DivX 3-7, XviD (SD), FLV, MPG, HD DivX, WMV9 HD, MP2 TS, H.264 TS/AVI and MKV on the video side, MP3, WMA, AAC, Ogg, PCM, AC3, M4A and Flac on the audio front. If you wanted the MS409D to be the world's largest and most costly photo frame, it'll support images in JPEG HD, JPEG and BMP formats.


Our installation experience with the MS409D was a little different to the one that an ordinary consumer might experience, as the review model sent out to us had the wrong instruction manual. It's a testament to how easy the MS409D is to set-up though that this didn't hamper our installation. Well, not much. The unit we tested had previously been tuned in, and we couldn't sort out how to get the unit to do a re-scan without first performing a factory reset. We still can't, but perhaps we're missing something. One factory re-set and scan later, we were up and running.

The MS409D's menu system features big bright icons that you simply can't miss, and everything is very logically laid out. The remote control is a little bit on the busy side, but it shouldn't take long to get used to the layout of commonly used keys, something you'll need to do as it lacks any kind of backlighting.

On the DVR front, the MS409D performed as well as any other DVR using the free-to-air EPG. It feels a little unfair to blame a DVR for the sometimes shonky data that goes out over the free EPG, but at the same time it's the only data source it's got, and we did hit spots where data was either missing or flat out wrong.

One interesting trick that the MS409D pulls is that it subtly adjusts the pitch of audio playback in single speed fast forward, meaning you can technically watch programs at double speed and still follow the audio without it sounding too chipmunk-y. That varies by program type though, with slow dramas working well, but news programs struggling with too much fast speech.

On the media streaming front the MS409D was very impressive. It picked up DLNA streaming from a ReadyNAS connected to the same network without any kind of configuration hassle, and played back everything we tried without fuss. The unit did try to warn us that wireless connectivity might not work via wireless, although its rather broken English warning — "It is connected wireless. The playback might not be good depending on the wireless connection state" — was a little befuddling.

The MS409D offers a lot more file flexibility than competing DVRs in terms of file flexibility. Yeah, we're looking at you, TiVo and iQ2. Then again, in pure DVR terms, its inability to consistently pull consistent EPG data makes it a less compelling prospect. That's probably why LG sells it as a "Media Station" rather than a "DVR", as its support for media streamed over a network is very good.

This leaves it as something of a tinkerer's DVR with a significant price point. We've seen it online cheaper than LG's stated AU$1149 RRP, and it would want to be. A TiVo can be had for nearly half the price, a PS3 with similar media streaming capabilities can definitely be had for less than half the price, and as such, while the MS409D is technically excellent, it's also undeniably a bit on the expensive side.