It's probably just as well for Pioneer's admittedly awesome BDP-LX91 Blu-ray player that we didn't review it after LG's BD390. While Pioneer's £1,750 effort offers the finest picture and sound performance we've seen so far, it's utterly humbled in the features department by LG's £220, Wi-Fi-enabled bargain.
King of connections
The BD390's design isn't particularly awesome by LG's usual catwalk standards, due to its slightly chunky profile and a glass-like front panel that feels tacked on.
The BD390 hits its stride with its connections, though. Particularly eye-catching are a LAN port (should the ground-breaking built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi system not float your boat), a set of 7.1-channel analogue audio outputs, and a USB port.
Neither the LAN port nor the built-in Wi-Fi system are there just because the BD390 supports Blu-ray's BD-Live online features. The player is also DLNA-certified, allowing you to stream music, photos and even video files through to your TV from your PC. If you wish, you can also use the Ethernet port to access YouTube, and pipe the videos you want to watch onto your telly. The BD390 ships with the Nero MediaHome 4 Essentials software, but most people will probably prefer to use a more widely known system, such as Windows Media Player, for network playback.
Getting the BD390 to recognise our networked machines couldn't have been easier. It worked right off the bat, even in Wi-Fi mode, without any of the brain-numbing fine-tuning that we've had to endure with one or two other networked AV devices we've tested. The worst that can be said of the BD390's Wi-Fi capabilities is that sometimes connections seem rather slow. For all we know, though, this could be down to the servers of the BD-Live content we're checking out, rather than the BD390.
The BD390's analogue audio outputs enable it to pipe 7.1-channel high-definition audio (DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD) to any receivers with 7.1-channel inputs. Your receiver doesn't, therefore, need to have an HDMI input and its own HD audio decoders.
The USB input is able to handle just about every multimedia file type we could think of, including MP3, WMA, AAC, MPEG-4, JPEGs and even DivX HD. The BD390's combination of easy-to-follow on-screen menus and a dedicated media-server application that clearly divides all your files into their different types keeps everything relatively straightforward.
You can also use the BD390's USB port to add extra memory for BD-Live features that download stuff from the Internet. But the chances are that you'll seldom, if ever, need to do this, since the BD390 has 1GB of built-in memory.
Pleasingly, the BD390 produces what are easily LG's best Blu-ray pictures yet. Particularly eye-catching is how crisp and detailed HD pictures look, so long as you avoid the fairly pointless noise-reduction circuits that LG has included within the picture-adjustment menus.
Colours are vibrant too, and the picture's generally terrific dynamism is given a further boost by the extremes of the BD390's contrast range. There's no sense of any black-to-white compression being caused by any part of the BD390's video processing or electrical circuitry.
The only serious picture complaint we can make, given the BD390's affordability, is that this player isn't as capable as one or two of the very best machines on the mainstream market when it comes to reducing judder during horizontal camera pans.
Even the BD390's sound isn't bad. It can't deliver the same purity as high-end machines like the Pioneer BDP-LX91, but it certainly sounds more than good enough considering how much else it's got squeezed under its bonnet.
If you love movies and have even a single bone in your body that's interested in breaking down the barrier between your PC and your TV, you absolutely cannot afford to ignore the LG BD390. That holds especially true when its combination of excellent performance and peerless feature set comes at such an affordable price.
Edited by Charles Kloet