LG HB966TZW

There isn't much that this LG won't do; easy wireless networking, excellent-quality 3D Blu-ray and wireless rear speakers make it an attractive package for under AU$1000.


8.0
CNET Rating

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There's not much that electronics giant LG doesn't manufacture, with this prolificacy extending to home-theatre-in-a-box (HTiB) systems. It makes perfect sense, as LG's one of the most popular flat-panel display brands, so there's audio to go with your video.

Design and features

In keeping with the current HTiB aesthetic, the '966 is slimline, high-gloss black and very shiny. Four column speakers act as front and rears (the rears are also wireless), while a decent-width centre and passive subwoofer make up the remaining speaker quota.

The slim head unit plays 3D Blu-ray, and the LG is not short on connectivity features, either. In fact, it pretty much covers the lot, with DLNA/CIFS networking, Wi-Fi Direct file sharing and an iPod/iPhone docking port. Wi-Fi Direct means file sharing without the usual need for a wireless "hotspot", and a couple of other nifty features include USB direct recording, which automatically converts CDs to MP3 on a USB audio device — plus you can use your smartphone as an LG system remote with the suitable app installed.

Playback of different file types is super extensive, including AAC, MKV, MP3, MPEG4 (includes DivX), WMA and WMV. The '966 will also handle HD DivX and MKV high-definition video playback up to the latest standard (H264). Naturally, the video engine up-scales to 1080p, and there are no fewer than three HDMI inputs, which is ample for a system such as this.

Performance

Having just taken delivery of a Panasonic 3D plasma, we were keen to see how the LG looked in all three dimensions. Our review system was supplied with a 3D Blu-ray sampler disc, plus we had some of our own titles to play, like Avatar 3D, which was what we kicked off with. No matter how many times you've seen this film, it's always a jaw dropper in 3D, and the LG made sure that the experience was a memorable one. We soon found ourselves midway through the movie before we realised 90 minutes had just passed — such was the way the LG and 3D rendering drew us in. With the price of 3D HTiB systems, and compatible screens at an all-time low, you'd be mad not to go 3D, in our opinion.

Our usual BD test discs went through the LG, and it was immediately clear that this is a very good-looking Blu-ray player, both with 2D and 3D material. Loading up an old favourite, the remastered BD of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the LG brought out tremendous levels of detail, plus vivid-looking colours and an even hue to skin tones. This film scrubbed up really well after 30-odd years, and playback on this LG system doesn't disappoint.

We liked the even spread produced by the column speakers — tonal matching was accurate, and the '966 had no trouble with filling our fairly large listening room. The weakest speaker link here is the passive subwoofer, which didn't appreciate being pushed too far or hard, resulting in a bit of unpleasant chuffing. Keep the volume levels sensible, and there will be no problems.

We had no trouble connecting to our wireless network, and soon had music streaming. Like most HTiB systems, music is a secondary duty, and the LG sounded as such — it played a pleasant enough tune, but it ain't exactly an audiophile. We also found some of the menus a tad confusing, and felt that LG's GUI was a tad less intuitive than others.

Conclusion

There isn't much that this LG won't do; easy wireless networking, excellent-quality 3D Blu-ray and wireless rear speakers make it an attractive package for under AU$1000. Matched with an LG 3D screen, it'll keep you entertained for hours.

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