LG's HR599D is a grab bag of Blu-ray, DLNA media player and dual-tuner PVR. Combination units can go either way. Sometimes you get a superb mix of ingredients well presented that combine to enhance each component's strengths. All too often, however, you get a lucky dip of bubble and squeak that attempts to cover over its flaws by bamboozling you with how much it can do.
The HR599D is a plain AV device that's strongly reminiscent of LG's previous LG MS409D PVR, although in the HR599D's case the LED clock display is slightly off-centre. The fold down flap reveals simple recording controls and the unit's integrated Blu-ray drive and a single USB port. For practical purposes, this means that if you want to run content off a permanently connected USB drive, you'll have to leave the flap down all the time.
At first glance, the LG HR599D's remote looks like cheap plastic. That's because it is. This is a pity, as the remote design is quite clever. The main directional buttons sit on a flat pad surrounded by the key function buttons for menu control, info display, disc and title buttons. It's a very comfortable arrangement that we'd love to see on a remote with slightly better production values.
With an asking price of AU$1099, you'd want a fair set of features in the HR599D. At least on paper, the HR599D delivers. A dual-tuner, 500GB hard-drive-equipped PVR matched with a DLNA media streamer crossed with a Blu-ray player, along with YouTube compatibility make for an interesting mix. There are home AV functions that the HR599D won't cover off — but not all that many of them.
On the video front, it'll handle Blu-ray, DVD and USB or network-connected (Ethernet or 802.11n) MPEG2, MPEG 4 AVC, SMPTE VC-1, DivX, DivX HD, MKV and AVCHD files. Video connectivity covers composite, component and HDMI, all of which are rear mounted.
Setting up the HR599D was simple enough thanks to the clear on-screen display (OSD) that guides you through channel scanning and network set-up. We were impressed when the HR599D automatically picked up every network share in the vicinity without configuration, something that not every media streamer manages.
One minor quirk we hit with the HR599D was that when things do go wrong, some of the error messages are rather poorly phrased. It's never unclear that something has gone wrong, but a little quality translation work goes a long way.
The HR599D's OSD is similar to the MS409D's, with lots of large shiny icons. Even more in the HR599D's case, as it covers a richer feature set. Still, you could confidently drop just about anyone in front of the display and they'd have few problems accessing most features of the PVR, which is a good sign. The remote control also makes this nice and easy, as it's designed to leave your hand resting on the most common controls, but otherwise stays out of the way.
Blu-ray playback was acceptable but not stunning. We noticed some shimmer on action scenes in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and with an average boot time of one minute, 30 seconds for Iron Man, we can't say this is the speediest Blu-ray player we've hit. It's just average.
The HR599D's YouTube playback works well, but predictably you'll be struck by the grainy nature of YouTube video. DLNA video streaming over the network was a lot better, and the instruction manual is intelligent enough to warn you that a direct Ethernet connection will deliver better results than the shaky video you may get over wireless.
On the PVR front the HR599D delivers mixed results. We would have preferred a direct Live TV button on the remote itself. Instead, you've got to access it via the menu. Likewise, the on-screen EPG is rich with detail, but only for the channel you're currently watching. You'll have to surf each channel to set up recordings or check guides, as there's no all-in table view of upcoming shows across all channels.
For the most part, the HR599D works well and delivers a nice suite of AV functions, but it's not exactly cheap. It's a worthwhile consideration for the simplicity it offers alone. At full price it feels a little expensive for our tastes.