- Written by Stephen Hornbrook
- Published on 21 July 2011
Last year I reviewed the LG LHB535, a full-featured Home Theater-in-a-Box Blu-ray system. I felt it performed pretty well and offered a lot of features for the price. It wasnâ€™t the best sounding small system in its class, but it certainly offered a better sound experience than flat panel TV speakers. In this review I check out their latest offering, the LHB336.
- Design: Blu-ray Player, Receiver, Speakers, and Powered Subwoofer
- Features: Smart TV Access, 3D Playback, iPod/iPhone Compatibility, DLNA Certified
- Audio Codecs: Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio
- Amplifier Power: 180 Watts Peak x 5 into 4 Ohms; Subwoofer has 200 Watts Peak
- Inputs: 1x HDMI, 1x USB Front, iPod/iPhone Dock, 1x MiniJack, 1x Optical Audio, 1x Component, 1x Composite, FM/AM Antenna
- Outputs: 1x HDMI
- Network Connectivity: Ethernet, Built-in WiFi
- MSRP: $399 USA
Design and Set up
The LHB336 is a fairly compact unit, especially considering it has a Blu-ray player and surround sound receiver built into the same box. Iâ€™d wager that it would fit in to just about any AV cabinet on the market without trouble. The front is glossy black without too many flashy LED lights to draw attention to it.
I decided to setup the LHB336 in the bedroom, where we have a 46â€ LCD TV and no sound system. The unit has one HDMI input so I ran the cable box into that and the HDMI output on the LG to the TV. Since our house is networked, I opted to use the Ethernet connection instead of having to input WiFi login information. Connecting the speakers was a breeze as each one is color coded to the spring-tab speaker connections on the back of the unit. The cables provided with the unit are very thin and easy to hide or run underneath carpet if needed. I found that the length of the wires for the surround speakers were more than long enough to run around 2 walls and behind our bed. The included passive subwoofer is pretty small by subwoofer standards and also very light and easy to place in the corner of the room.
After the initial boot up, I went ahead and checked for any firmware updates, of which there was one. It took awhile, probably 10 minutes, but this step isnâ€™t done very often. After the update was complete, I thumbed through the various setup options. The usual settings for output resolution and TV aspect ratio are present, but also included is an HDMI color space option for YCbCr and RGB. There was also an audio section for tweaking the speaker levels and distances to optimize performance.
While I had the LG hooked up in our bedroom, I had our cable box running through it, so I could enjoy TV shows, such as Game of Thrones, through the surround sound. I thought it added a nice expansion to the soundstage over the built-in TV speakers. Several horses road past the camera and their sound travelled back into the surrounds very smoothly. Overall, it was a better platform for enjoying high quality TV programming such as Game of Thrones.
On the Blu-ray playback side of things, I tossed in Zodiac to test out the image quality. Filmed with Thomson Viper digital cameras, the amount of detail and clarity in this movie is astounding. The LG had no problems displaying Fincherâ€™s thriller about the Zodiac serial killer.
Next up was Kung Fu Panda, which I love to use for audio demos. The soundtrack is one of the best, with the full frequency range being used, and brilliant usage of the surround channels. At first I noticed the subwoofer was dominating the sound a bit too much. The little passive subwoofer just didnâ€™t have enough range to properly output the LFE channel. The sound was muffled and distracting. Fortunately, there is a handy speaker level button on the remote, so I quickly dialed down the subwoofer several notches till it blended in with the satellites. This led to not a whole lot of low end impact, but I think that is to be expected with these systems in this price range. Since the LHB336 uses the same exact speakers for the fronts and rear, and a slightly modified center, the sound field was very continuous in Kung Fu Panda. The arrows that fly through the room when Tai Lung is escaping the prison sounded very good. Overall, I found the surround sound to be fairly good for this price range and very similar, if not a little better than last yearâ€™s LHB535. However, I do remember the 535â€™s subwoofer being a hair better.
On the DVD performance side of things, I ran through a few of our standard deinterlacing tests and the LG performed well, passing a subset of our cadence, high detail, and chroma bug tests.
Netflix performance was up to par with other devices I have used. The image quality was pretty good on Kick-Ass and the interface worked fairly well. I was able to search, access my Instant Queue, and view suggestions, however poor they are, and new arrivals.
The LHB336 comes with Nero Media Station software that you can install on your desktop PC and then have access to your music, photo, and video libraries on your PC via the LHB336. It is a breeze to setup and works quite well.
With all the applications they put on todayâ€™s Blu-ray players, Iâ€™m surprised none have come with a mouse and keyboard. They are quickly approaching the â€œinternet terminalâ€ category, where you have access to Picasa web albums, Amazon Video, Google maps, YouTube and many other selections. I found navigating via the remote to be a challenge and just plain silly.
LG also offers its own custom â€œLG Appsâ€ which range from Tarot card reading to Fitness training. It works similar to the iTunes App store in that you select and install the apps you want to use. Some are free and some cost money. Included on the LG system is 450MB of space to install apps. To me, it seemed to be a bit of a work-in-progress, with only a small number of apps to choose from. It certainly didnâ€™t strike me as something that would threaten Apple and Androidâ€™s dominance in the area of App Stores.
The unit is very responsive when navigating menuâ€™s and disc load times were good. It was one of the faster Blu-ray players I have worked with recently.
The LHB336 is very similar to last yearâ€™s model (LHB535) that I reviewed. The main difference would be the new menu system and LG App store. Although I canâ€™t see much value in their app store in its current state, the new menu system is very responsive, easy to navigate, and looks nice. Blu-ray performance was solid as was the unitâ€™s ability to properly deinterlace and upscale DVD material. After turning down the less-than-stellar subwoofer, I found the sound to be pretty decent, given the unitâ€™s price point. I have recently seen this system on sale for not much more than a stand-alone Blu-ray player, so if you are in need of something that sounds better than your TV and fills your room with surround sound, the LG LHB336 is worth a look.