- Dual HD TV tuners, Great recording quality, Excellent interface.
LG's LST-5403P is a top of the range hard disk recorder with plenty of storage space and an interface grandma could use. A great, albeit pricey, contender.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
The LST-5403P offers dual high definition (HD) TV tuners with 250GB of storage wrapped up in a compact, feature rich package that's a pleasure to use.
Taking advantage of two in-built tuners, the LG's top of the range hard disk recorder allows you to watch two channels at once using Picture-in-Picture mode, record one and watch another, or record two channels at the same time. With 250GB of storage space, this gives up to 36 hours of high quality HD TV programming or almost 70 hours of standard definition (SD) TV.
In fact, there's no option to set recordable format -- as with the Sony SVR-HD models, the content is recorded in MP@HL(HD) and MP@ML(SD). Picture quality is automatically scaled from the input format to your chosen output, for which the LST-5403P can handle everything from 576i/p to 1080i. Oddly, this can only be set directly on the unit itself, the remote and the in-system menus allow you to configure the aspect ratio of your TV, but not the output format.
As you'd expect the dual HDTV tuners allow you 'pause' live TV as with other units of this class. Here the effect is almost instantaneous, simply popping up a 'Delayed' message box in the corner when you press the time shift button. Subsequent pausing and playing is seamless, and you can switch back to live TV at any time by pressing the appropriately named 'Live TV' button.
The image quality is excellent, and in our testing the tuners we found the whole gamut of SD and HD free-to-air TV channels without hitch. EPGs are combined into a single channel list you can browse to see what's on, and the 'Info' button when pressed while watching your currently selected channel shows not only the current program, but what's coming up next as well.
On that note the remote is a tad chunky and won't win any design awards, but the channel list, recorded program list, and time shift buttons are clearly labelled and easy to use. Navigating recorded programs is simple enough, and the selection screen lists the shows recorded, and also lists the hard drive space remaining - although it's not clear to the user just how many hours that space represents. An estimate in hours for the current output format would have been nice, and something the LST-5403P's analogue brother, the RH1999H, did quite nicely.
One nice feature however in the Setup menu is a signal strength indicator, great for gauging the quality of your reception.
Recording and playback
Recording your current program is as simple as pressing the record button, for which an optional timeframe can be entered in five minute segments. Scheduling is extremely easy - a menu box allows you to select channel and times straight from the EPG list, and optionally make it a recurring entry. A separate screen then lists the regular scheduled recording entries you've defined.
Fast-forwarding through recorded programs works well, so naturally you can skip ads, and for this the 'Smart Skip' feature might be helpful - ostensibly it's designed to pick up 'scene changes' and thus allow a more user-friendly form of jumping forward or back in a recording. In testing though it was hard to say if it was really detecting effective scene changes, or simply jumping by a present fraction of the recorded length.
As a purely hard drive based unit, it's important to remember you can't copy recorded programs to other mediums. During recording the hard drive was actually slightly audible at a standard viewing distance. It may have just been our model, but give the unit a spin in store before you buy it.
Finally, a nice touch for the recording features includes optional parental locks, allowing you to restrict access to programs based on their ratings from the EPG. Of course, this requires reliable information from the TV station to work.
Specs and ports
The LST-5403P has pretty much everything you need - it can upscale and downscale SD and HD TV resolutions from 576i/p to 720p and 1080i, and pairs this with Dolby Digital and MPEG (Layer I & II) for audio. A plethora of outputs includes one of HDMI, component and S-Video, along with two composite and an RGB D-Sub. A standard complement of one digital coaxial and one optical out, along with two stereo analogue outputs, rounds up the audio side.
The look of the unit is quite simplistic, and is designed to stack with your other audio and visual gear. The display is worth noting, as it includes dedicated lights for all the output modes (576i to 1080i), output formats (composite through to component and HDMI) as well as a hard drive capacity indicator. It's not exactly necessary since you can access the same information through the on-screen menus, but it's handy nonetheless.
As far as digital hard disk recorders go, the LG LST-5403P is both one of the most polished and feature rich products on the market. Although it is more expensive than most, it comes highly recommended.
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