LG BH5320F 3D Blu-ray Playback & 2.1 Home Cinema System Review

Steve Withers takes a look at LG's new all-in-one system

Home AV Review

LG BH5320F 3D Blu-ray Playback & 2.1 Home Cinema System Review
SRP: £450.00

Introduction

We recently reviewed Samsung's clever new HW-F551 soundbar, that not only included an active subwoofer but could also be used in a two speaker configuration. LG's latest offering, the BH5320F, opts for the more traditional approach of two speakers and a passive subwoofer but also includes a built-in 3D Blu-ray player. These all-in-one systems are increasing in popularity because they offer the consumer a simple solution to their AV needs. Although they generally come in a 5.1 configuration, for those people who don't have the room or whose significant others aren't too keen on extra speakers, manufacturers also produce 2.1 versions. The appearance of the BH5320F is striking to say the least and the built-in Blu-ray will save space but does it deliver the audio and video performance to match the reasonably high price? Let's find out...

Design/Build/Connectivity

Whilst we’re always happy to see manufacturers try and shake things up in the looks department, it would seem LG’s designers were having an off day when they dreamed up the BH5320F. The fact of the matter is that the BH5320F is just plain ugly. There is a certain elegance to its angular shape, brushed metal edges and black glass front with touch-sensitive controls and dot matrix display. However the space on the left of the main unit falls into the 'what were they thinking?' category and puts the look of the main unit off-balance, serving no purpose, except possibly as a handle. Unfortunately this design aesthetic has been carried over to the speakers too although, since the space is at the bottom on the speakers and on the side for the main unit, the BH5320F doesn't even offer a symmetrical design. Once again the space in the speakers serves no real purpose other than to make them feel top heavy.

LG BH5320F

Speaking of weight, the main unit clocks in at 3.3kg thanks to the combination of amplification and Blu-ray player and measures 373 x 228 x 75mm. The left and right speakers weigh a mere 1kg each and measure 135 x 230 x 75mm. They are a 2-way design with spring clip terminals and a rated impedance of 4 Ohms. LG claim a maximum power input of 260W, although the main unit is rated at 130W each for the front two channels. The single ported passive subwoofer sports a similar black and brushed metal look with a glossy front and thankfully no spaces. As is often the case with passive subs included with speaker packages, it is essentially a wooden box that measures 220 x 290 x 280mm and weighs in at 5.83kg. It has a rated impedance of 3 Ohms and a maximum power input of 280W, although the main unit is rated at 140W for the subwoofer. The Blu-ray player has a disc slot on the right hand side; we're not huge fans of sliding discs into slots on players and its location means you need to be careful when positioning the main unit.

LG BH5320F
LG BH5320F

At the rear and to the left of centre as you face the main unit, are the connections and the spring clip terminals for the speakers. In terms of connections, the BH5320F is something of a disappointment with just the one HDMI 1.4a output and no HDMI inputs. Although the single HDMI output does support ARC (Audio Return Channel) so you can listen to the audio from your TV via the HDMI connection. However if you want to send the audio from any other devices to the BH5320F, you'll have to make use of the two optical digital inputs. There is also a connector for the radio antennae, a LAN port, a composite video out using an RCA connector and a hard wired power cable that is 1.5m in length. The connections are actually rather hard to reach, especially the HDMI output and it can be a real pain if you have a chunky HDMI cable. The BH5320F comes with a cable holder and a cover included that can be used for tidier cable management. On the right hand edge, just behind the disc slot there is an analogue input using a 3.5mm jack and a USB port.

LG BH5320F

The BH5320F comes with a remote control that is very similar the ones LG provide with their TVs and this is good news because their TV remotes are well designed, intuitive and comfortable to use. The remote does a great job of cramming in buttons for the Blu-ray player, the amplifier and even a few basic controls for LG TVs without becoming over-crowded or confusing. There are all the standard Blu-ray controls as well as buttons for controlling the radio, changing the volume, adjusting the speaker levels, switching between optical inputs and selecting sound effects.

Setup/Menus

If there's two areas in which LG excel it is setup and menus and the BH5320F is no exception. The setup procedure is very straightforward and thanks to the clear and concise menu system you should be up and running in no time. The BH5320F has a built-in FM radio with RDS (Radio Data System) and there is an indoor aerial provided if you need one. Once the aerial has been connected you can tune the radio in and save presets for up to 50 stations. The BH5320F also has built-in WiFi which again is very simple to setup and there is WiFi Direct for connection to other WiDi compatible devices. If you don't have a wireless router, there is also a LAN socket for making a wired connection. If needs be you can make changes by going to the Network page in the Setup menu, which can be accessed via the Home page.

LG BH5320F
LG BH5320F

The other menu pages include the Display menu where you can setup the picture settings for the Blu-ray player, including the TV Aspect Ratio, the Resolution, whether you want to output at 24p, the HDMI Colour Setting, the 3D Mode, the Wallpaper and you can turn the Home Menu Guide on and off. The Language menu, as the name suggests, allows you to select the language for the Display Menu, the Disc Menu, the Disc Audio and the Disc Subtitles.

LG BH5320F
LG BH5320F

The next menu page is Audio and again the clue is in the name, as – wait for it - this is where you set up the audio. There is the choice of Digital Output for the Blu-ray player itself, so if you are connecting the BH5320F to another audio device and not using its own amplification, you have the choice of sending the audio as PCM Stereo, PCM Multi-Channel, DTS Re-Encode or Bit Stream. There is a HD AV Sync control for compensating any audio delay for between 0 and 300ms. There is also a DRC (Dynamic Range Control) for compressing the dynamic range when watching content at night. However if you're intending to use the BH5320F's own amplification and speakers then the most important option is Speaker Setup. This page uses a graphical interface to help you set up the Distance (delay) and Volume (level) for the front two speakers and the subwoofer. To aid in correctly setting the levels for the three speakers, there is a test tone that can be measured using a SPL meter and the speaker levels can be adjusted using a dedicated button on the remote.

LG BH5320F
LG BH5320F

The next page is Lock which allows you to set a Password, DVD Rating, Blu-ray Disc Rating and Area Code, should you wish to protect young eyes from corruption. Finally there is Others which is where you can set up the DivX VOD, Network Play, Auto Power Off, Initialise the platform and upgrade the Software.

LG BH5320F
LG BH5320F

If you press the Options button on the remote whilst you're watching a Blu-ray or DVD, you will get a series of selections, some of which can only be changed via this menu. In particular this applies to the Picture Mode, which can be found here and offers a choice of User, Movie, Standard and Vivid. In order to ensure the most accurate image you need to check you have selected Standard in the Options menu.

Features

If there is one area this year that LG have really delivered the goods this year, it has been when it comes to features. The BH5320F follows this trend, offering a number of genuinely useful features and a fair degree of flexibility. As with their TVs, the majority of the features on the BH5320F are accessed via the Home page, which can be reached directly by pressing the Home button on the remote control. Once in the Home page, you can then access Music, Movies, Photos, Premium (internet content), LG Apps, choose inputs and go into the Setup menu.

LG BH5320F
LG BH5320F
If you select Inputs from the Home page you can choose between the USB port, the FM Radio, a connected device like an iPod, one of the two optical inputs or the sound from your TV, if it supports ARC over HDMI. If you choose Music from the Home page, you then have a possible selection of devices, depending on what is connected. You can listen to music from a CD or via a flash drive or external HDD connected to the USB port. You can also listen to content from a connected iPod, a WiFi Direct compatible device or over a network. The LG BH5320F is DLNA-certified, so it can also play music and videos and show photos from other devices connected to your home network through the Smart Share feature.

LG BH5320F
LG BH5320F

Like all the other LG products we have seen, the BH5320F plays a wide range of formats, including MKV, DIVX, WMV HD, AVI, MPEG, AVCHD, XVID, MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC and FLAC. The menu pages that come up when playing any of these files back are clear, simple and responsive, showing cover art where available. Another useful feature is the inclusion of Gracenote, which means that whilst listening to music you can hit the Music ID button on the remote control, the BH5320F will access the Gracenote database and identify the music you are listening to. If you are watching a DVD or Blu-ray, you can go into the Option menu and also access the Gracenote database from there, allowing you to obtain additional information about whatever you are watching.

LG BH5320F
LG BH5320F

The BH5320F includes LG’s excellent Smart TV internet portal, which is accessed via the section called Premium and features an interesting selection of apps which are all presented in a clear and concise manner. Among the apps available are BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Acetrax, Dailymotion, Picasa, Cinetrailers, Viewster and others. It isn’t as comprehensive as the platform you will find on LG’s TVs but it certainly helps add some smart features to older TVs. It would be nice to see some more catch-up services added and we were unable to get iPlayer to work on our sample which was annoying. We also had problems with LG Apps, which is supposed to offer content such as videos, games and lifestyle apps, but whenever we tried to open it we were informed that we couldn’t access it from our country.

As well as the audio capabilities mentioned previously, the BH5320F offers a range of sound effects that can be selected using the remote control. The choices of Sound Effect include Natural, Bass Blast, Clear Voice, Game, Night, Upscaler, Loudness and User EQ, although for the purists amongst you, there is also Bypass which avoids any processing. To give the audio a wider more immersive presence, there is also the 3D Sound Effect which has two choices, 3D Music which is designed to provide a concert-hall like experience and 3D Movie which is designed to give a more cinema-like experience.

Video Performance

As a Blu-ray player, the BH5320F is actually rather good, delivering an impressive performance with 3D and 2D Blu-rays and DVDs. The loading times were fast, the player was reasonably quiet in operation and the overall performance was slick. There was, however, quite a large fan at the rear of the unit that could be heard on occasion. When it came to 3D the performance was excellent with the content playing flawlessly on a number of different 3D displays. We tried a number of 3D Blu-rays and they all played first time without any compatibility or handshaking issues.

As with the 3D performance, the digital nature of the content means that any Blu-ray player capable of outputting 1080p24 should be identical to any other when using the HDMI output. The BH5320F performed equally as well here, correctly outputting the video without any issues as demonstrated by the multiburst and zone plate patterns on our Spears & Munsil disc. The images produced were excellent with all the Blu-rays we watched showing plenty of fine detail and appearing free from any judder or unwanted video processing.

When it comes to 1080i content the opportunity for the player itself to add value is far greater than it is with 1080p content. The BH5320F was able to correctly deinterlace without introducing artefacts and it passed all the popular cadence tests on both our Spear & Munsil and HQV Blu-ray discs. We also used the HQV Blu-ray disc to check the quality of the video deinterlacing, which was excellent with all three bars showing no jaggies. The BH5320F also had no problems with the video resolution loss test, correctly processing the moving portion of the image and leaving the background free of artefacts , it was able to handle discs with film content encoded at 1080i/50Hz without any problems.

As with the 1080i content the BH5320F benefits from LG's excellent video processing when dealing with both NTSC and PAL content. Using the HQV DVDs it was able to fully reproduce the SMPTE detail tests for both PAL and NTSC, correctly scaling the full 576i/50Hz and 480i/60Hz images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. With the video deinterlacing tests the results were also excellent, the BH5320F reproduced the rotating line without producing any jaggies, even at the most extreme angles. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance remained superb with all three moving lines being reproduced correctly, even on the bottom line. The BH5320F also had no problems in resolving all the fine brickwork in the detail tests on both the PAL and NTSC discs.

The BH5320F’s performance was equally impressive with the film detail test, correctly locking on to the image resulting in no aliasing in the speedway seats behind the race car. In the cadence tests the it also performed flawlessly, correctly detecting the most common types 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) and 2:2 (PAL - European). The BH5320F also had no problems with the test displaying film material with scrolling video text, the text was always clearly readable without any shredding.

Audio Performance

Whilst the BH5320F can output audio to another device, since this is a digital signal over HDMI there is very little to add in terms of observation. The chances are that most people buying the BH5320F will be utilising its own built-in amplification and included speakers, so we will restrict our comments to the performance in this area. Setup is important and it is good to see that the BH5320F allows you to set the delays and levels for the two speakers and the subwoofer. Since the subwoofer is passive you don’t have to worry about finding a plug but the provided speaker cable isn’t very long, so you are rather limited in terms of positioning. Of course, you can always buy more speaker cable but in general we found that positioning the subwoofer near the speakers or in a corner tended to work best.

Overall we found the audio performance of the BH5320F to be something of a disappointment. It was fine for general TV viewing but struggled once the demands of music or movies were placed upon it. The sound lacked any sense of immediacy, especially when faced with dynamic film soundtracks. Dialogue was reasonably clear but the sound just lacked presence or any real sense of authority. We found that tonally the speakers were well balanced but there was just something missing. With music in particular there was a lack of clarity and precise imaging, resulting in a rather muddled front soundstage. In addition female voices could often sound harsh and the mid range was insipid, losing detail along the way.

We appreciate that this is an all-in-one Blu-ray player and 2.1 system and not a high-end piece of audio kit but coming off the back of the impressive Samsung HW-E551, the sound of the BH5320F was a real let down. This might, in part, be due to the passive subwoofer, which just had no real power and never felt fully integrated into the overall sound. We experimented with different positions for the subwoofer but it just lacked any genuine low end ability and was thus never able to fully support the front two speakers. The result was an overall sound that had no real presence below 100Hz and just felt slow and sluggish. We can’t help but feel that the inclusion of an active subwoofer could have helped with the overall performance.

As is usually the case, the sound effects offered by the BH5320F did nothing to help matters, often muddying the audio still further. We tried all the effects including Natural, Bass Blast, Clear Voice, Game, Night, Upscaler, Loudness and User EQ, ultimately we preferred Bypass, thus avoiding any processing. To give the audio a wider more immersive presence, there is also the 3D Sound Effect which has two choices, 3D Music which is designed to provide a concert-hall like experience and 3D Movie which is designed to give a more cinema-like experience. Again, whilst these modes did create a slightly fuller more immersive sound, it was ultimately at the expense of detail.

Verdict

6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Excellent playback of Blu-rays
  • Impressive range of features
  • Excellent video processing
  • Good remote and menus
  • Built-in WiFi and FM radio

The Bad

  • Over ambitious design
  • Underwhelming sound
  • Bass lacked impact
  • Limited connections
  • Issues with some internet content
  • Price

LG BH5320F 3D Blu-ray Playback & 2.1 Home Cinema System Review

The BH5320F sports an unusual design but it feels like a ‘look too far’ and ultimately detracts from what could otherwise have been a very stylish and contemporary product. The glossy front facia, brushed metal trim, dot matrix display and touch sensitive controls are all great but the ‘hole’ is a definite design misfire. Overall build quality is good and the remote is well thought out but the connections are limited and, in the case of the HDMI output, tricky to access. Unfortunately the speakers follow the same design aesthetic as the main unit but at least they're well made and can be connected using the provided colour-coded wire and spring clip terminals. There is also a passive subwoofer that retains the gloss black and brushed metal look but thankfully eschews the ‘hole’ design. It too is connected to the main unit using the provided colour-coded wire and spring clip terminals.

As is often the case with LG products, setup was very straightforward and the resulting GUI and menu systems are intuitive and well designed. Another area where LG are strong is features and the BH5320F certainly doesn’t buck this trend, it's packed with a host of them including a built-in 3D Blu-ray, built-in FM radio and built-in WiFi. Other features include DivX HD VoD and DLNA for media streaming, as well as a USB socket for playback via a flash drive, external HDD or iDevice. The BH3520F can handle most of the popular media files, including MKV, DIVX, WMV HD, AVI, MPEG, AVCHD, XVID, MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC and FLAC and you can also access the Gracenote Media Database, to identify songs from CDs, Blu-rays, DVDs and music or movie files. The BH5320F even includes LG's Smart TV platform which means you can add these functions to your TV if it is too old to already include them. The Smart TV platform offers Premium content through video and catch-up services, however on our review sample we couldn't get BBC iPlayer to work, nor could we access the LG Apps. Finally there is a remote control app that you can download for your smartphone or tablet.

The included 3D Blu-ray player is very good, delivering fast load times and responsive controls. There is a side mounted disc slot and it is reasonably quiet in operation, although there is a large fan on the rear of the main unit that can be quite noisy. As a Blu-ray player, the BH5320F delivers excellent performance in the areas that count. It played back 3D and 2D Blu-rays perfectly without interfering with video or adding any unwanted processing. The video and audio delivered via HDMI was excellent and based upon our experiences with LG's TVs, it came as no surprise to discover that the video processing was also first class. Whether you are watching a Blu-ray, a DVD or listening to a CD, the BH5320F is a very capable player.

Whilst the BH5320F was great as a Blu-ray player, as a 2.1 system it was something of a disappointment. It was fine for general TV viewing but struggled once the demands of music or movies were placed upon it. The sound lacked any sense of immediacy, especially when faced with dynamic film soundtracks. Dialogue was reasonably clear but the sound just lacked presence and always seemed to be missing something. With music, in particular, there was a lack of clarity and precise imaging, resulting in a rather muddled front soundstage. In addition female voices could often sound harsh and the mid-range was insipid, losing detail along the way. We can’t help but feel that the inclusion of an active subwoofer would help with the overall performance. There is plenty to like about LG's BH5320F but ultimately the over-ambitious design and mediocre sound let down what is an otherwise feature packed package and there is better value to be had elsewhere.

Scores

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Connectivity

.
.
.
.
6

Ease of Use

.
.
8

Picture Quality

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
.
.
7

Features

.
.
8

Value for Money

.
.
.
.
6

Verdict

.
.
.
.
6
6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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