I looked all over the Net for recent reviews and descriptions of the LG ST600 Smart TV Upgrader, but found nothing useful. So I bought one for $99 at the Boucherville Costco. Here is an account of my early experiences with this device
The packaging is weird - the actual box with the ST600 inside is quite small, but it is inserted into a huge outer box - so you can more easily read all the blurbs I suppose.
Registration of the new purchase is done online at http://www.lg.com/us/support/product-registration.jsp
Installation was no problem, except that I had to disconnect my "old" WDTV Live, whose power cord was quite tangled on my Home Theatre equipment shelf. I plugged my WD MyBook 1TB drive into the single USB port, and the HDMI output into the third input on my Panasonic 46" Plasma TV. There is a little light on the front corner of the ST600 that glows red when it is powered down, and blue when you power it on from the tiny remote control.
It complained that there was no network connection, and popped up the wireless setup dialogue. Once having selected my wireless access point and entering my password, it provides a reassuring connection test.
The next thing it did was offer a firmware update from .121f to .173f, which it automatically discovered was available online. Like so many other Canadian users, the update over wifi failed repeatedly. I tried downloading the .168f firmware from the LG product support site and loading it onto a USB key. But the device didn't seem to be able to "see" the newer firmware on the USB key.
At this point I initiated a live chat with an LG Tech Support guy named "noris". He had me unplug and re-plug the power several times, with and without the USB key inserted. The update kept failing. "noris" said he would have to refer my problem to "the engineers", and he asked me for my address and email address, etc. But as soon as he realized I was in Québec, he ended the chat abruptly - they are only supposed to help US customers!
Fortunately, the ST600 eventually found and completed the update to the .173f firmware. I can only assume that LG's file server was at fault.
I decided to use Wired Networking to avoid any speed limit imposed by my 802.11g wifi network. The Ethernet cable runs to a nearby wireless router, then through a Homeplug connection to my main wireless router at the other end of the apartment. The wired network setup on the ST600 went without problem, and once again there was a reassuring confirmation that the connection was OK.
I have a 1TB WD MyBook USB Drive with lots of movies and photos on it, that I had been using with the WDTV Live. But since I hope to eventually use the USB port on the ST600 for a wireless keyboard/mouse, I decided to connect an old D-Link 4-port USB hub to the USB port, and connected the 1TB drive and an 8GB USB key into two of the ports on the hub. Sure enough, the two drives showed up as USB1 and USB2.
The tiny Remote control is easy to use for most functions, the exception being for mousing around in the web browser. There are handy shortcut buttons for Back, Home and context Menu, as well as four special-purpose context-sensitive function buttons, depending on which main function you are using.
There are three main functions on the Home screen - Premium, Web Browser and Smart Share. I will describe their usage below.
Left Panel - Premium
This is where LG has grouped subscription services. Included in this Canadian version are:
VTuner - This is a web radio service that lets you listen for free to gazillions of internet radio stations
MLB - Something to do with baseball, I think
NHL - Something to do with hockey, I think.
YouTube - Well, it lets you search, but not login to your account. The quality is excellent, though.
Vimeo - Another free video upload/streaming service similar to Youtube. I haven't played with it yet.
Netflix - I didn't have a Netflix account, but the LG app directed me to the web page where I quickly created my account, and the LG app almost instantly registered my ST600, and I could immediately use the service. From my initial scanning of their content, I think Netflix Canada is a keeper.
Viewster - This is a recent streaming movie startup similar to Netflix, but it is free in its initial stage. I registered a free account online (viewster.com) and I can watch some free movies. I'm not sure what the selection will be like, compared to Netflix.
Accuweather - This is a free weather service where you select your locations(s) from a list and it displays current conditions, a map, and a seven-day forecast.
Picasa - Google's free online photo hosting service.
Funspot - a few onscreen games.
Tou.tv - Radio-Canada's collection of previously-aired programs.
Second panel - Web Browser
You are presented with three tabs - URL, Favorites and History. On the URL page, you enter the web address using the popup onscreen keyboard. And that is easier said than done. You have to use the "touchpad" on the remote to move the onscreen mouse cursor over each key to be entered, followed by a press of the Select (centre) key. And I find moving the cursor is extremely touchy and frustrating. I sure hope I can add a wireless keyboard and mouse to this ST600 real soon. Once you enter a URL, you wait. It's pretty slow compared to other browsers I have used on Android tablets, for example. Page loading is indicated by a blue progress bar at the top of the screen, and sometimes the blue bar just stops midway. Once a page is loaded, you use the mouse cursor to select links and to activate the onscreen keyboard for text entry like logins and search items. That is excruciating - but maybe I'll get used to it. I don't think I will enjoy browsing the Web with the ST600.
On the right, the Smart Share panel is where you access local media - classified as Movie, Photo and Music. When you select a media type, you are presented with a list of possible sources - USB, Media servers, network shares, etc. In my case I have a number of servers (TVersity, Twonky, Playon) set up on my XP desktop PC as well as some shared folders. The ST600 sees them all, but I have not had time to compare how each performs through the ST600.
Also in the Smart Share panel is MediaLink (Plex). This is a free media server program that you install on your PC (Windows, Mac). It finds your media in folders on the machine where it is installed, and organizes them, including finding posters and descriptions, for display on the LG Smart TVs, including the Upgrader. Plex makes a lot of errors in matching my poorly-ogranized video files, but it allows you to correct them on the server program.
The Plex Online button lets you add "Plugins" for online streaming channels like Revision3, TED Talks, etc.
In conclusion, the LG ST600 does most of what it claims to do, and it will likely get better as some of the kinks get ironed out - especially with the firmware update process and with the web browser. I don't regret ripping out my WDTV Live.