Loewe Individual 40 Selection £2800

21st Dec 2006 | 00:00

Loewe Individual 40 Selection

Loewe's 'dress it how you want' LCDs have just got bigger

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

The ultimate style statement, but there are better performers out there

Like:

<p>Bespoke design possibilities</p><p>Excellent Image feature</p>

Dislike:

<p>Stingy on connections</p><p>Picture performance could be better</p>

Reviewers looking at TVs in drab test labs with all the decorative panache of a cow shed can sometimes forget that a TV's design is a key part of many people's buying decision.

That's fine when your tastes or décor are in tune with the current flavour but if you want something a bit different, a bit more individual, you probably feel there's nowhere to turn. But actually there is. And its name, appropriately enough, is the Loewe Individual 40.

For my money, it's the closest thing there is to a truly bespoke TV at an affordable price. For starters, the 'Select' Individual models with their sleek aluminium bodies let you pick from five colour combos: High gloss cream, or four strains of Aluminium: a Silver, Black, Titanium or Bronze version.

Then you can mount the TV in an unusually wide variety of ways, that include a 'cross' style desktop stand, a similar pedestal design for floor standing, a 'Screen Paravent' vertical plate floor-standing design, a 'Screen Lift' floor-to-ceiling pole mount, and a fixed wall mount.

Last but by no means least, the Individual sets can have their side panel insets swapped at will between any of nine different finishes: Ebony, Rosewood, Light Oak, Aluminium Silver, Metallised Chrome, Ruby, Orange and Apple Green.

It's worth adding, too, that all these design 'extras' are applied to a basic chassis design that is itself stunning. Connections Compared with its peerless design flexibility, connectivity is slightly disappointing.

The most difficult pill to swallow is the one lonely HDMI - a serious limitation for a 40in TV costing almost three grand. And just two Scarts is a touch stingy too - even though some pressure is removed from this department by a built in digital tuner.

Elsewhere you do at least get the HD Ready requirement of a component video input, plus a D-Sub PC input.

This Freeview tuner is, unlike some of Loewe's earliest efforts, fully-loaded with all the usual features we now expect as standard, including a well presented 7-day electronic programme guide, a CAM slot for adding subscription services, and the facility to set recording events just by selecting programmes from the EPG listings.

True to the Individual 40's flexible approach, you can even choose a step-up version of the TV that lets you record programmes onto a built-in 80GB 'DR ' hard drive. This can record from analogue AV inputs and tuners, so long as what you're recording isn't copy protected.

Elsewhere, within a rather tortuous onscreen menu system, are picture in picture facilities, a mode for improving the appearance of rapid motion, and Image+. This latter feature is Loewe's latest proprietary image processing engine, offering various improvements in the areas of contrast, colours and sharpness.

What's more, so that the hefty processing needed to deliver all Images's tricks doesn't cause lagging or other picture artefacts, the set is driven by a new, ultra-powerful control/data bus.

Toggling Image+ on and off certainly has a largely positive effect on the Individual 40's picture quality, for the most part making them very enjoyable indeed.

The most impressive single thing about the pictures with Image activated is how bold and expressive the colour palette is, catching your eye with some seriously bright, rich saturations that also have enough subtlety in their blends to make the picture look three dimensional and free of distracting colour striping.

Image also helps the TV produce some very good fine detailing levels, adding a noticeable extra level of clarity and sharpness to both standard and high definition sources alike. Black levels are healthy too, achieving greater depth than you might anticipate.

Contrast is high; our Tech Labs measured an astounding 1635:1 after calibration. This works with the vibrant colours and some likeably bright, video-friendly peak whites to give the picture a good sense of depth, scale and intensity.

Motion is another beneficiary of Image , as even such rapid movement as a full-tilt Premiership footballer appears with only minimal blurring.

However, while Image+ certainly makes pictures good, it doesn't quite make them excellent, due to the cumulative effect of numerous small issues. Although dark picture areas benefit from extreme contrast, they can also look a touch hollow and short of subtle greyscale detail. It doesn't help dark scenes, either, that while watching them I spotted subtle pools of backlight spilled in from each corner.

I also noted that the picture occasionally looked grainy, even during HD viewing. And, with standard-definition, colour tones during dark scenes lost a little authenticity.

Finally, harshly contrasted edges sometimes glimmered: I'd recommend treating the DMM feature with kid gloves, since it can cause noticeable glitching during fast camera pans.

These problems sound worse than they are. Generally image quality can be considered good, and at times excellent. But there are similar-sized cheaper screens that deliver better pictures.

The Individual 40 tested was loaded with Loewe's DR built-in HDD recording system. And true to previous versions of the system, it makes excellent recordings that are practically indistinguishable from the original broadcasts. It's easy to use too, aside from a few problems with the stupidly fiddly 'rocker-style' navigation button on the remote.

The Individual 40 is a typically imperious Loewe effort sonically. The speaker bar running under the screen produces admirable levels of clarity, bass handling and frequency range, as well as distributing the soundstage wide without distortion or loss of cohesion.

It's difficult to reach a conclusion on the Individual 40, since how much you'll appreciate it depends almost entirely on your own preferences. If you're after the last word in picture excellence, you could do better elsewhere. If you're on a tight budget, this luxury TV won't be for you.

Yet, if your pockets are deep and you're looking for a stunning, flexible design married to excellent sonics and eminently watchable pictures, this is one of the few big-screen TVs which tick all the boxes.

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