Considering the vast number of AV products we've reviewed over the years, it's understandable that it takes something genuinely amazing to take our Test Lab by surprise. Step forward LG's HT902TB: a mighty all-in-one system that leaves jaws dropping in its wake.
How such an audaciously priced system (a mere £270) can deliver so much while costing so little money simply beggars belief.
Amazingly, this bags you a full all-in-one home cinema solution complete with DVD player, 5.1 speaker set, and multi-channel amplification. What's more, the front and rear speakers aren't the puny little cubes you might expect, but rather full-sized (over 1m tall) floorstanding affairs that promise a level of audio delight far beyond what you've any right to expect for such a low price.
As if all this wasn't enough, the entire package's design is little short of dazzling, with a delightful high-gloss black finish unifying all the various elements to seriously stylish effect.
The only trace of inelegance in the whole package is the subwoofer, which looks a bit brutish compared with the slender chic of everything else. But then a bit of brutishness in the bass department is often a good thing, sonically speaking. You can always hide the sub behind a chair or under a table if its chunkiness proves overly offensive.
Shifting our attention to the HT920TB's connectivity, it's pleasing to find it sporting an HDMI through which the system can output your DVDs upscaled into 720p or 1080i. There's no 1080p, but this is easily forgiveable on such an affordable system.
Scart and component video output options are also on hand. Additionally, you're provided with a digital audio input, so that an external source like a PS3, Xbox 360 or SkyHD box can reap the benefits of its audio talents.
Heading into the HT920TB's menus, it has to be said that the feature finery rather dries up. The only discoveries of note are a test tone facility (to help you balance the speakers correctly) and an adjustable audio delay (to help out in the event that your display introduces some lag between its pictures and sound).
Still, all the things we've so far described are already enough to make the HT920TB better specified than we'd have dreamed possible for just under £300.
Ease of use
Here again the HT920TB does the business. 'Building' the tower speakers, for instance, is a simple case of sliding a top part onto a bottom part, with no screws required. The speaker cables are all colour coded so that you marry the right speaker to the right output, and the onscreen menus - while ugly as hell to look at - are at least foolproof to use.
Finally, the remote control puts in a better performance than most when it comes to handling the multiple disciplines inherent to any all-in-one system.
Considering we've been singing the HT902TB's praises from the rooftops, we'd forgive you for thinking that making such a fuss about the picture is a mistake.
But, the LG's pictures really aren't all that great when compared with the very best standalone budget disc spinners - such as Denon's awesome DVD-1740. That criticism made, they're certainly decent enough by the standards of rival affordable all-in-one systems.
The main problem here is the amount of fizzing noise in the picture. It's not truly horrific, but if you're using the HT920B with a large TV or projector, you'll certainly notice the frailties. And it persists even if you upscale the picture to 720p or 1080i.
On a more positive note, colours are reasonably rich, motion is fluid enough, and overall the picture is quite sharp, especially when it's being upscaled.
The speakers that partner the DVD deck are so slim and affordable that, despite their 'tower' style, we didn't expect them to be up to much. How pleased we were, then, to have that particular preconception blown clear out of the water.
Particularly astonishing is how clean and detailed the soundstage is. The speakers avoid distortion even at loud volumes, and manage to portray lots of subtleties, especially in the treble register, without sounding tinny or harsh. And they do this while also delivering a really open, richmid-range that does vocals proud.
Transitions from front to back and steering from left to right, meanwhile, are smooth and believable thanks to each channel having exactly the same speaker design, while lower frequencies are delivered with authority by that big old bass bin. Yet the sub still blends with the towers really very well considering this is such an affordable system.
All in all it's nearly impossible to fault the HT920TB's audio given how little it costs.
LG could have quite comfortably charged twice as much for the HT920B and we'd still have recommended it. It's quite simply the bargain of the year so far.