It seems pretty much every new TV is also a media centre these days but if you’re not in the market for a completely new set you can buy one of a growing number of plug-in players instead. The LG Smart TV upgrader (officially called the ST600) squeezes LG’s latest ‘Smart TV’ platform into a breakout box that can be plugged into any HDMI-equipped TV.
LG Smart TV Upgrader: Features
A little bigger than the latest Apple TV box (with which it shares a resemblance) and sporting nothing upfront save a tiny power LED, its minimalist black form is discreet enough to blend in with most TVs. On the rear sits an HDMI port, an optical digital audio output and an Ethernet port for networking though it comes with built-in wireless N-ready WiFi too. A USB port on the right side can be used to plug in storage directly (there’s none onboard). It's also DLNA compatible for wireless streaming.
The stubby remote control has few buttons but does the job well enough with a row of coloured pads performing multiple functions. Alternatively you can use an iPhone or Android phone to control the box and enter text where needed.
The menus suffer from the odd incidence of poor use of English (a minor gripe we admit) but otherwise look classy with their hi-res metallic finish and are well organised, automatically downloading artwork for your files if available.
Setup is east. Going wireless involves holding down the WPS button on our router then selecting ‘Dynamic IP‘ before the box effortlessly detected networked devices.
Smart TV isn’t short on features – as well as music, video and photo playback there’s open web browsing and ‘Premium’ services including VoD from BBC IPlayer, Acetrax, Viewster and YouTube. There’s also flash based casual gaming from Accedo and an LG App store can be used to download games, entertainment and news but there’s precious little on its virtual shelves at present (not all on offer will be free).
LG Smart TV Upgrader: Performance
The ST600 is 1080p capable and compatibility is claimed with most popular formats including MKV HD, avi, MP3 and DivX and AC3. We managed to play/stream (using DLNA) most in our collection with the exception of one MKV file and, predictably, HD generally looks better over a wired connection. Files can organised in multiple ways, music playlisted, photo slideshows created and video navigated at four levels of speed.
iPlayer uses the big screen interface and you can watch in HD though it’s slow to load and navigation proved somewhat sluggish as was our review sample in operation when returning to the other menus afterwards.
Web browsing with the remote is made easier by the decision to enable the direction pad to also function as a laptop style touchpad (albeit not as responsive as we’d like) while the coloured buttons perform most key functions.
LG Smart TV Upgrader: Verdict
While the iPlayer and App store appear to be ‘works in progress’ the LG Smart TV Upgrader is an affordable solution for anyone who owns a wants to access IPTV services to their HDTV without buying a new set. It remains one of the better media players around in terms of functionality offered per pound, ease of use and overall slickness.
LG Smart TV Upgrader price: £99, link LG