Loewe Art 42 SL £6500
20th Apr 2009 | 09:00
State of the art, customisable TV with built-in 250GB hard drive
At around twice what you would expect to pay for a similar-sized TV from the likes of Samsung, Panasonic or Sony, the Loewe Art is without doubt a specialist purchase.
Whether or not it's worth the huge outlay depends on what you're after, although there are some features on this decidedly pricey 42in LCD that can't found anywhere else.
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Expensive though it may be, this is about as advanced a screen as you'll find on the high street. Its panel boasts 1080p resolution, 100Hz anti-blur technology, 24fps playback from Blu-ray discs and its speakers pump out 80W of audio.
Best positioned on a very classy pedestal (factor in another £440), the TV can be souped-up with an optional DR+ module that turns it into a fully-featured recorder for an extra £340.
It's worth every penny, though, as its 250GB hard disk can store recordings from its two Freeview TV tuners in the same quality as the original broadcast.
You can also opt for satellite tuners (or a mix of satellite and terrestrial decoders) that are able to receive most of Freesat's programming, but not, notably, ITV HD.
It may not be as well connected as other Loewe screens we've seen, but the Art more than covers the basics, offering three v1.3 HDMIs alongside a USB and the usual analogue suspects.
Simple operation is one of the set's strong points. Switch on a Blu-ray player and the TV automatically selects the correct input. And as well as being one of the sleekest remotes around, it provides basic control for a Blu-ray player at the touch of just one button.
The Assist+ onscreen menu is a completely idiot-proof system. Replete with high resolution graphics, its home screen gives one-button access to digital TV, digital radio, the recordings archive of DR+, the PhotoViewer (or whatever pictures are stored on an attached USB stick), and an index that's searchable using the remote.
The latter feature works in much the same way you'd use a mobile phone keypad to write a text message.
Loewe's all-new Image+ processing works wonders. As well as some glorious close-ups, colours are always well saturated and motion blur is barely noticeable, but it's the DMM Film Quality Improvement feature that grabs the attention.
With this mode switched on, an incredible level of depth is created that transforms the feel of HD movies to something akin to watching in a cinema. This fluidity is achieved by inserting frames into the action while making use of the Art's 100Hz processing. But it does have its downside in the odd flicker and distortion of edges, that said, it's well worth the sacrifice.
The effects of DMM are best monitored in an especially fast-moving scene from I, Robot on Blu-ray where Detective Spooner hunts for a rogue machine in USR's warehouse. DMM introduces a lot of shimmer and motion lag around the edges of both Spooner and the robots.
While the flipside of added realism and depth make the feature worth using. It can, however, be irritating if used with movies with a lot of fast-moving scenes.
In truth it takes a few minutes to get used to DMM even when the pace is slow, but it's worth sticking with – and it's wholly preferable to the slight blur and flatness of untreated LCD pictures.
As with most liquid crystal screens, the Art's renditions of black during contrast-heavy scenes can seem hollow and tinged with blue, although black areas of otherwise bright scenes – such as Spooner's leather jacket – are generally rendered with just about enough realism.
Picture noise does increase slightly with standard-definition pictures, though there's a slight sheen to bright areas on DVDs.
As ever on Loewe televisions, the sound quality from its two powerful 40W speakers is nothing short of brilliant. Activate 'Panorama' mode and the power and level of treble detail is outstanding.
Its pseudo surround mode kills dialogue somewhat, but since the former setting is so effective, this presents no real cause for concern.
Arguably, you could expect the screen to use LED backlighting at this price, something that is increasingly being used on high-end sets.
Also there's no MediaPlayer software so it's not possible to play any music or video files stored on a USB stick, only photos. Having said that, the optional DR+ recording is a seriously tempting feature.
The Art is a marked improvement over previous Loewe TVs, but whether its worth the sizeable outlay is another matter considering the alternatives that are available for the same or less money.