Loewe Xelos A 26 £1500

1st Nov 2005 | 00:00

Loewe tries to cut costs and maintain quality

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

A great performer with hi-def material, but there are issues with black levels

Like:

<p>Good HD performance</p><p>Very little picture noise</p><p>Good looking</p>

Dislike:

<p>Expensive</p><p>Black level problems</p>

Loewe has never produced budget TVs. Rather, the German brand is known for sets that deliver in terms of both style and substance, and come at a premium price.

However, some of its latest offerings sit at price points that, while certainly not bargain-basement, mere mortals like us could reach. This 26in LCD, the Xelos A 26, is going for around £1,500 - but does it retain Loewe's uncompromising standards?

The brand certainly hasn't lost its touch when it comes to design, anyway - the A 26 looks suitably swanky. What's more, if the Platinum finish isn't to your tastes, you can choose an Anthracite option instead.

Connections cover all the right bases. Although 26in isn't the best size of screen on which to enjoy high-definition pictures, the A 26 features both HDMI and component video inputs that, combined with a native resolution of 1,366 x 768, ensure that it's fully HD-ready. Other useful inputs include two Scarts and a PC input.

Loewe TVs are renowned for their lengthy and innovation-packed features lists, but the A 26 boasts a merely healthy, rather than particularly extensive, roster.

The most notable extra is a built-in digital tuner, which gives access to 30 Freeview TV channels. It's a shame that, unlike many Loewe TVs, the A 26 can't be upgraded with optional features like wireless lighting control and HDD recording - but we guess these extras aren't as attractive for a screen of this size.

More off-putting is the A 26's usability - most of its features can only be accessed by using a fiddly joystick on the remote control and some long-winded on-screen menus.

Look closer

When we gave the A 26 a run-through with various sources, we found plenty of good stuff to report. For starters, there was a lot of fine detail on display from our brand-new Batman Begins DVD, particularly during brightly lit scenes, like those set in Bruce Wayne's opulent mansion.

What's more, the Loewe's talent with sharpness and texture is even more apparent with footage from a Sky box via the RGB Scart - surprising, as LCD often struggles with lower quality signals.

The lack of picture noise from all sources was also impressive. Even during our test disc's ultra-fast Batmobile chase scene there was little sign of LCD's common smearing over motion problem, while dot crawl, grain, colour moiring, glimmer or solarisation were hardly to be seen.

Surprisingly, the only time we really noticed any problem with image noise was with high-definition footage, which did at times exhibit dot crawl.

Colour reproduction

Colour reproduction is another string to the A 26's bow. Hues were both natural and impressively vibrant from all sources, with even the dark world of Batman's Gotham City benefiting from occasional brightness. What's more, there was no bleed between bright colours, even with images from the digital tuner.

The A 26 does have a problem, however, and it's one that our test disc mercilessly reveals: a lack of black level. As Batman embarked on his night-time crime-fighting sprees, dark parts of the picture tended to look grey, which meant that detail and depth inevitably suffered.

The A 26's speakers, however, give one of the best audio performances we've heard from a 26in LCD. Batman's demanding soundtrack was reproduced with subtlety and a larger than normal dynamic range, along with a good dollop of bass.

With a lack of black level the only flaw, and great sound, the A 26 is an attractive all-round package. That said, certain rivals do better when it comes to picture quality, and they cost a bit less too.


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