Loewe makes TVs for the sort of people who are after a lifestyle statement, as well as something on which to watch Bargain Hunt. The Connect 37 Media is the company's latest extravagantly specified and exorbitantly priced full HD conversation piece for the better-heeled AV aficionado.
The most obviously significant specification is 250GB of integrated memory that enables you to rewind, pause and record live television. Another handy gizmo is a dedicated radio mode. Accessible via the remote control or by pressing one of the smart semicircular keys on the front of the set, this enables you to use it as a dedicated tuner and enjoy digital radio with the screen powered down.
Other notable gadgetry includes a home networking capability to link the TV up to a PC in order to enjoy further digital entertainment possibilities, as well as access to PhotoViewer and MusicBox (with the requisite USB port).
Meanwhile in terms of available bolt-on goodies, you can include single or twin satellite tuners, Dolby Digital/DTS decoding, Loewe's Individual-series sound projector and a motorised stand.
Ease of use
Whether or not you enjoy the Loewe user experience frequently seems to depend on the kind of day you've had. When you are well adjusted, relaxed and in a generally benevolent frame of mind, you'll probably delight in the stylishly minimalist, text-based operating system and enjoy the ineffable feeling of superiority that comes from fingering a metal-buttoned remote control.
If, on the other hand, you have just been splashed by an ultra-modern Audi driven by a polo-necked man in 'difficult' glasses on your way home, you might find the fussy menu architecture, microscopic Menu key and tangible whiff of self-satisfaction mildly infuriating.
Whatever mood you're in, though, you'll probably benefit from the thoughtful 'wizard' options that guide you through installation and other major functions and the easy one-touch recording capability.
The set's performance is a confusing mixture of the surprising and the disappointing. The good points start with an immediately apparent ability with movement.
It's a universally acknowledged truth that most LCD screens struggle to render natural motion fluidly, but the Loewe challenges the orthodoxy with pictures that are almost distractingly smooth. Pictures are as free from wobble and jerk as an in-store demo of a manufacturer's latest, even more mind-bogglingly powerful processing engine.
Colours are also generally sound, in tone, if not always in blend. While hues range from strident to subtle, they aren't always mixed together as deftly as we'd like, and rogue blotches and splurges can occasionally spoil the overall meld.
Detail, aided by the slick motion handling, is crisp, with hi-def video scrubbing up to impressive effect and with excellent apparent depth. This is carried over, for the most part into DVD, but falls apart with digital terrestrial broadcasts, which are a noisy, blocky mess.
Blacks are reasonable across the board, but peter out some way short of true profundity, and tend to collapse into a single uniform shade with very little gradation.
That deep cabinet may be partially responsible for the reasonably impressive audio. Being a flatscreen, the usual rules apply about how an ultimate lack of real bass prevents comparison with a dedicated surround system. But not to quite the same degree as to many of its superslim rivals.
You'll find a satisfying amount of volume at your disposal, more than sufficient to fill a decent-sized room and there is just enough low-end rumble to keep pace with all but the most demanding movie soundtracks. And should the built-in sonic equipment fail to pass muster, you could always avail yourself of one of the upgrades mentioned earlier on.
This is the most expensive 37 inch set we have ever seen. In fact, the only one that even approaches this model's stratospheric asking price is Loewe's previous Connect model, and even that was more than half a grand cheaper. And price, however irresistible the cute touches and impressive flexibility might prove, is the immovable objection, for us, to sets such as this.
The picture is okay, but the likes of Panasonic and Philips can do far better, at bigger screen sizes, for less money. And if you were to follow the 'Connect' philosophy to its logical conclusion and build an entire Loewe system around this moderately-talented set, the gains in convenience and product harmony would have to be set against the huge increase in cost compared to equivalent, or superior, multi-brand setups.
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