While LG has focused its efforts on television design it seems other elements of the home cinema chain have been left wanting, especially with funny-looking, though very competent, devices like the LG BD370. But in the company's new flagship 3D "all in one device", the designers have come up with a very slick-looking player indeed.
The HR559D follows the rules of the "Blu-ray Design Handbook" by including a drop-down flap and a slim disc tray. The LG employs the same logic as Panasonic players when it comes to eject and power buttons — the power button is over the disc tray while the eject button is on the right. Under the flap you get the transport controls and a USB port.
LG has always had decent remotes but the last couple we've seen from the company have been excellent. The HR559D's remote is ergonomic, stylish and fairly easy to use. The only things we would wish for are a backlight, and an easy way to choose between the player's different functions without having to manually scroll through the "Home" on-screen display.
The LG HR559D may be a 3D player and recorder, but what does this actually mean? Essentially, the LG will play back 3D Blu-ray discs and will also record 3D broadcasts. However, this last part is a bit of a misnomer as we've found most PVRs on the market will also record 3D. Furthermore, as far as producing 3D broadcasts is concerned, Australia has no 3D recording equipment to speak of, and in the case of football grand finals the broadcasters had to ship 3D cameras and crew from overseas. As a result, 3D broadcasts will likely be rare for the next 12 months.
Aside from the 3D tag, this model performs many of the functions you'd expect a PVR to do: pause and rewind live TV, record from an electronic program guide and one-touch recording. It's worth noting that the 3D Blu-ray system is a player and not a recorder. If you want to archive recordings, you can connect a USB disk.
In addition to recording and playback, the LG features a number of IPTV functions including YouTube — though not BigPond Movies — and is able to playback media from either a USB drive or over your network from a DLNA-compliant device.
LG offers two models of this recorder: the HR559 offers up 500GB of space while the smaller, cheaper HR558 offers up 250GB. Neither model should be confused with the HR599, which is a dual-tuner recorder.
Connectivity on the HR559 include an HDMI 1.4 compliant port, a component output, digital coaxial, AV-out, USB, Ethernet and 802.11n wireless. Sadly, there isn't a 7.1 analog output to take advantage of the player's on-board HD audio decoding capability.
If there's one trap that Asian manufacturers can fall into, it's offering products that are "jack of all trades, master of none", and this is where we'd put the HR559D. It certainly offers up a lot of functionality, and it does so in a very slick way, but it's missing some core functionality.
The shortcomings of the LG's single tuner become evident when you try to record anything — if there's any overlap you can't record a second program, and it doesn't even give you an option to choose which one you'd like to record. The machine simply tells you it can't do it, so you need to go back into the guide and cancel the original to then set the new one. Similarly, you can't can't watch another show while recording with a single tuner.
Recordings were of a high quality though, and by attaching a hard drive to the recorder we were able to "right-click" on recordings and copy them onto a PC. Great for clearing some space off the hard disk.
Sounds good so far right? Well, yes. But one of the other functions a PVR performs is in time shifting, or more simply: pausing and rewinding live TV. We're sorry to say that the LG wasn't very good at this. Pressing "pause" and then "play" again caused audio and video to fall out of sync by a noticeable amount. Great for that "spaghetti western" feel, but a little disconcerting.
In addition, we found that the shuttle controls (FFWD, REW) were slow to react in the highest speed when playing back recorded shows, and a lag of several seconds could cause you to overshoot by a minute or more.
As a Blu-ray player, though, it performed well. It was able to play our test discs without the usual noise or jaggy problems of other players. It was also able to follow motion precisely through well-integrated 24p support.
DVD replay wasn't quite as confident as Blu-ray with some noise creeping into our King Kong test disc. Colours weren't as natural either with some colour banding occurring, though watching the final scene on our Panasonic VT20 rewarded us a three-dimensional rendering of Kong as he raged at the biplanes at the top of the Empire State building.
When it comes to 3D quality we've found that while the quality of the source is important, the quality of output is more dependent on the TV. That said, through the Panasonic, the Monsters vs. Aliens was replayed in a very clean fashion with absolutely no cross-talk or 100Hz-type motion artefacts. In terms of broadcasts, at the current time no 3D is being shown so this was not something we could test.
Sound quality was impressive for the price, and a dedicated receiver will give you better Blu-ray decoding.
CDs, and indeed MP3's streamed from external sources, were crisp and dynamic. If music is important this does a decent job, but invest in a separate DAC such as the Cambridge Audio DacMagic, which would pay dividends.
Price? Fixable. Lip-synch issue? Possible fix through firmware. Inability to record/watch more than one show at once? Can't be helped.
No one really needs 3D yet, and at a thousand bucks the LG HR559D is simply too expensive for what it does. We'd look at getting the less expensive HR599D or try the Panasonic BW880 or BW780, which gives you the benefit of Blu-ray recording as well.