LG 32LH2000 HD-Ready 32″ LCD TV with Freeview

TVs aren’t something I expected to look at often, but this little TV caught my eye in Sainsbury’s last month at a bargain price of £299. I’m fully aware of the limitations of the specification compared to the latest, true HD models, but having bought it with the intention of using it as a stopgap TV, it has proven to be interesting in more ways than one. In fact, LG have produced a TV which punches well above its weight for the price.

On the surface, the LG32LH2000 blends in with the pack of budget TVs in supermarkets. The unassuming plastic front lacks any real distinguishing features but contributes to the first positive aspect of it for me – good, clear sound. The front is engineered to be part of the speaker system and works very well for vocals and mixed sounds; if you want good movie sound you should be looking at external speakers. Most TVs don’t seem to handle voices well, resulting in a muddy mix that makes it hard to follow a lot of TV. LG have put something together which feels more “TV” like and less like trying to do home cinema on a budget.

The 1366 x 768 resolution is inevitable at this price, but two HDMI, component, two SCART and Freeview sockets make it a reasonable multi-purpose TV. Playstation 3 games look fine, Xbox looks fine, playing back iTunes TV and films via the iPhone’s component lead looks really nice. It doesn’t get carried away with auto-contrast and simply displays a consistent picture.

Some high-movement subjects can display LCD tearing and blurring, but again with the “budget” part of the price. You get good contrast and good colour combined with good sound – if you want more, pay more.

Secret Features.

What makes the 32LH2000 – and a few other LG models based on a similar design – such a fantastic buy is that USB port. I noticed the USB port, labeled “service”, when buying and later when hooking up my iPhone to watch some iTunes-purchased TV; the component lead for the iPhone includes a USB tail intended to go to a small power adaptor. That’s great, but I didn’t want yet another plug trailing about, so I thought “that’s a USB host port. So it probably has power”. Goes without saying that it does, and I was pretty pleased to discover it did and charged the iPod whilst we watched our movies. With an iPod Universal Dock and remote, it’s a great combination as it is but I couldn’t help wondering what else that USB port might do.

It wasn’t long before I found my answer – here:

http://lgusb.wikispaces.com/

If you have the right firmware, you can use service menus or a series of commands to enable the port for an undocumented feature – and what an undocumented feature it is. All of these LG TVs – the LH, LF and LU series – have the ability to play DiVX/AVI movies directly from a USB key or hard disk.

The LG32LH2000 and a couple of smaller variants are available from Amazon – LG 32LH2000 32-inch Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV with Freeview – Black

Once you have completed the process, you will have the USB option enabled – inserting a USB storage device will bring up the menu. Most video plays well, though you have similar restrictions to video played on a Playstation 3 for example – DiVX files can be played but certain resolutions and audio formats will fail. I’ve also found a bug in one directory on my drive; as it scans the file extensions, it’s unable to deal with certain unsupported file types by simply discounting them or ignoring them. The TV locks up and shuts down when that directory is accessed.

(In case you’re wondering, the file extension that causes the issue appears to be .mpg; I suspect that it recognises it as a media file but then cannot do anything with it).

Navigating the USB menu is simple but slightly unintuitive sometimes. You cannot use the back button to go up folders, and you cannot resume playback on a file – fast forward works at 120x speed, so you can skip though. You can mark a series and let it play them through though!

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