In our never ending quest for the perfect media player / streamer, we got one of the LG newest products, the LG ST600 Smart TV Upgrader, put it to the tests and produced this review for your reading pleasure. Let’s see what it is about:
Announced at CES 2011, the LG ST600 Smart TV Upgrader was advertised as a cheap solution to transform your TV into a connected set with access to a myriad of web services and applications. During the official press release, services like Netflix, Vudu, Pandora, YouTube, CinemaNow, Hulu Plus, Amazon VOD, NHL GameCenter, NBA Game Live, and MLB.TV were announced as well, also an integrated web browser and the capability to run Apps from the LG App Store (social capabilities include Facebook and Twitter access). The box would be an official competitor to other boxes that we reviewed including Boxee Box, Google TV, Roku or WD TV Live Plus. Does it provide? Read away…
The box itself is quite attractive, very small with an elegant black finish. Conform with today’s style, it is missing one corner in a probably involuntary way to imitate Boxee Box but without it’s bold cube like shape. Small enough like all modern media streaming boxes and not very conspicuous even in if placed in your bedroom.
LG ST600 Smart TV Upgrader Dimensions (WxHxD) : 4.3″ x 1.2″ x 4.3″
Weight : 0.66 lbs
The box is DLNA certified and plays many must have video formats including DIVX, DIVX HD and MKV, up to 1080p both via USB and DLNA.
Video codec / containers support (up to 1080p):
- MPEG2 – HP@ML
- MPEG4 AVC – HP@L4.1
- SMPTE VC1 – AP@L3
- DIVX and DIVX HD
Audio codec / container support
Hardware and connectivity
- DA conversion – 162Mhz/12bit
- 1080p HDMI output (24 & 60 Hz)
- optical digital audio out
- Ethernet (RJ-45)
- USB 2.0
The tiny remote control has very limited functionality (rightly called “Simple Touch”) but that’s not different from the remote included with WD TV Live Plus or Roku for example. The WD TV Live Plus has the capability to work with a USB keyboard (wired or wireless) while the LG unit doesn’t support any external keyboards. That will make web browsing a painful experience.
User Interface / LG App Store
The user interface is similar with the one found in other Netcast LG connected TVs and Blu-ray players from newer generation (2011). Quite attractive and also offers access to the LG App Store.
The navigation however is rather slow and sometimes it crashes. Not the best experience, the box feels underpowered which is not exactly a surprise.
The LG App Store is in name only as it is terribly underpopulated. Very few applications, none that worth mentioning and some obscure channels that I have never heard about. However, it could have the potential to significantly increase the functionality if only LG would invest more in developing interesting apps, not just cheap ones.
DLNA & Media Support
LG ST600 is having a rather good codec / container support and can play DIVX / MKV files via both USB and DLNA. I was able to play most of my files less some more esoteric formats and from this point of view LG ST600 beats both Roku (with no local support, at least out of the box) and Sony SMP-N100 (limited DLNA video codec / container support). The box is no match though for the all powerful Boxee Box and WD TV Live Plus that are currently the absolute winners in terms of local content support (and when I say local I mean USB and home network).
I would go into more details about DLNA support but it is important what DLNA server are using to feed the LG box. TVersity for example can transcode and will be able to feed ANY video codecs to the box while PlayOn will add support for Hulu, SyFy and other online services not supported out of the box. With a good DLNA server you can get more functionality out of the box.
LG ST600 does a fairly good job at streaming Netflix (with a rather nice PS3 style user interface version 3.0), Roxio’s CinemaNow, MLB.TV, VUDU and YouTube. Although advertised, Hulu Plus is NOT included, which is a major disappointment. LG customer service seem to indicate a release date sometime in June / July for a HULU Plus client but based on my past experience with LG products, I’ll believe it when I will see it!
Amazon Video on Demand client is not included either (also advertised on LG website as available) and LG CSRs couldn’t give me a straight answer as to when it will be included if ever.
Other streaming clients worth mentioning are Pandora, Picasa and AccuWeather (the last one not really streaming but useful to have).
I kept my expectations low as to not be disappointed and I was right to do so. LG ST600 browser is very basic and slow. No Flash 10 support makes it less usable if you want to watch videos online (other that via the included clients). For light browsing and to read the latest news it should work reasonable well but that should be it.
At the end of this LG ST600 review we can say that the box could be so much more if just the software would be better developed. As it is, it leaves an impression of beta product rushed to market. The lack of Hulu Plus after it was advertised and even present on the product’s website is disappointing, also the browser is behind other implementations from competitors like Boxee Box or Google TV. The application store is almost empty and uninteresting but hopefully this will change in time. DLNA is also not the best way of local content access and I much prefer to access my media through my network shares, a feature available on both Boxee Box and WD TV Live Plus.
Unfortunately the LG ST600 tries to be the Jack of all trades but ends up being the master of none. There are no discernible features to set it apart from the competitors (which are quite numerous). For the price, better get a Roku box (waaaaay more streaming channels), WD TV Live Plus (way better local content support) or Boxee Box (way better at everything). Our journey to find the perfect media player / streamer continues (we cut our cable TV cord, remember?) and we’ll let you know how it goes by posting further media player / streamer reviews. For more information, check out top 10 media streamer boxes list for 2011.
- Decent codec support
- Price (at $129 is way to expensive for the features)
- No HDMI cable included (come on…it is 2011)
- No Plex support (available on other LG connected products)
- No Flash 10 support in the browser (yeah, it is 2011 😉 )
- iPhone’s LG remote control application is not compatible (shouldn’t be a big deal)
- no keyboard support
- no Hulu Plus, no Amazon VoD (why falsely advertise it?)
- No reason to buy it!!!