The LG MS409D is an incredibly versatile PVR with an abundance of excellent features including streaming media from a PC, from YouTube or Picasa.
It works brilliantly and is very easy to set up and use however, all of these features come at a premium. The cost is the only real barrier that will make regular PVR users balk at this unit and rightly so.
It does certain things that are rare in a PVR. Because it is integrated so well with a home network, it allows you to copy .TS television files that you have recorded directly to a PC hard drive for storage or burning to a disc via the bundled Nero software. Its file support is also quite impressive with more oscure formats like .mkv and lossless audio files like FLAC and OGG among its repertoire. We threw a long list of files at the player to see where it would falter and didn't come up with a single incompatible file. There is surely something that won't work on it, but in our testing we didn't come across any. It is also able to upscale files to 1080p but there is no optical drive so it can't play DVDs or burn directly to disc.
On a very basic level the MS409D is dual tuner PVR. The benefits of having a dual tuner are that you can record one program while watching another. Setting up the tuners doesn't take very long and channel switching is speedy without any lag time. Unfortunately, this isn't a media centre and as such there is no support for program guides like Ice TV. The standard free-to-air EPG is supported though but there are no features like series record found on Tivo or Foxtel IQ.
Media streaming can be accomplished in one of two ways. When you set up networking (either wirelessly or via LAN cable) you will automatically have access to any files you have shared on your Windows PC. However, not all users know how to navigate the complicated waters of file sharing and using simple files sharing can lower the security of your network. As mentioned previously, Nero software is included with the unit which can be used to share files via DLNA. After installing the software, you can tell it which files you want the PVR to see and you can also manage the media on your PC as well. You can also use this software to burn any files to disc as you see fit.
The YouTube feature is implemented well and allows you to do basic searches via the on-screen keyboard or look at the most viewed, or featured videos. However, you cannot log in to your own YouTube account. Being able to log in to your account is an essential feature of any YouTube enabled device. It allows you to watch videos from the channels you a subscribed to and read any comments or mail you may have on your own videos. This may not be a priority for every user but without it, the YouTube functionality seems almost superficial or at the very least, incomplete. Picasa support is also included to look at your own albums or search images others have uploaded.
The MS409D has a 500GB hard drive but there are cheaper models with less storage. The front of the unit has a drive bay as well so you can install any 3.5" hard drive as well expanding the storage. You can also stream files directly from a USB enabled storage device as well so theoretically the space on this unit is only limited by how many drives you have.
At the rear the connection options include HDMI, Component and Composite connections as well as optical and coaxial audio. There is a LAN port for networking and a USB port to insert the provided WiFi module. The front of the device houses the drive bay as well as an additional USB port which are hidden behind a pull down panel.
The LG MS409D is one of the best PVRs on the market at the moment and will thrill users with its incredible file support and feature set. It isn't perfect though as we would have loved to see YouTube login included. The price is a little too expensive when compared to other units on the market, making it a device for early adopters or those that are prepared to pay for the features it offers.
The 500GB MS409D is currently avaliable as retails for $1199. The 250GB MS408D is $999.