So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Stylish iPod-compatible mini hi-fi system
- Good looks
- No HDMI connection, difficult on-screen interface, USB recording is of dubious usefulness
The FB163 is a product with plenty of functionality — USB inputs, DVD and DivX playback and an iPod dock. It sounds great, but the implementation of these extra features isn't as smooth as it could have been.
Price$ 399.00 (AUD)
LG's FB163 mini hi-fi is a glossy modern system that allows you to plug in your iPod, and has a slot-loading CD/DVD drive and a unique interface. It's a great looker, but the implementation of iPod and USB drive browsing leaves a bit to be desired.
The package contains three pieces — two 13cm(W)x 30cm(H) speakers (the right height to fit on many bookshelves) and the central control unit. Set up is simple: all necessary cables are already connected to the speakers and all that's left to be done is place the system. The speaker wires aren't particularly long, so anyone looking to separate the components a significant distance will be out of luck.
CDs and DVDs are loaded through a vertical ballot-style slot on the unit's top. It is unable to play smaller 8cm CDs. A USB connector, along with a line-in and headphone socket, is hidden behind a flip-down panel on the front. With an MP3 player or USB flash drive connected it can look a little messy, but with the panel flipped up the control unit looks smooth and minimalist.
The FB163 can play DVD movies and DivX video files, and connection to a television is handled by a variety of outputs. HDMI is noticeably absent, with the only options being composite, component and SCART.
The FB163 has an interesting interface, centred on the touch-sensitive control on the CD player's front. In a similar fashion to Apple's iPod, users can tap the sides of the circular indentation to navigate forward and backwards through CD tracks and radio stations, while a continuous circular motion adjusts volume. The touch control system is intuitive to use.
However, there are issues when accessing files on a USB drive or iPod. The folder, artist and album navigation is confusing and the single-line display doesn't allow lengthy titles to be displayed. We preferred using the iPod's interface to navigate through music, though this meant that no charging of the device was possible. It may become easier with practice, but initially iPod and USB drive navigation was quite difficult and time-consuming.
Sound from the FB163 is satisfactory at the default setting, with a slight bias towards mid-range. Treble seemed slightly distorted at higher volumes, with fuzziness permeating female vocal tracks. It's probably the least emphasised component of the sound, lending the system a warm tonal quality.
Mid-range is the most evident frequency, with male voices and guitars standing out during acoustic rock tracks and movie dialogue. It can seem a little overpowering at times, but this only becomes a problem when the FB163 is pushed to high volumes.
Bass is surprisingly well handled by the bookshelf speakers, which have 6in woofers built in to the sides. There's no floor-shaking kick to rock, electronic tracks or action movies, but the system has enough audible bass to add a cinematic element where necessary.
One additional feature that LG has included is USB recording. If you have a CD you want to rip to USB, you can simply plug in a flash drive and hit the USB Record button on the top of the unit. However, it's not fantastic — tracks are only ripped as 128kbps MP3s and copying happens in real-time. If you don't want to use a computer, can handle the low-quality compression and have the time, then the USB recording feature might be useful.
In the FB163, LG has created a competent mini hi-fi system that has a pleasant, bassy sound. The additional functionality offered by USB and iPod inputs is good in theory, but the implementation could have been better.
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