Individual by name and certainly by nature, the latest high-end LCD TV from German design meisters Loewe has solved the problem of the 'wife acceptance factor' when it comes to the male/female trade off between awesome performance and less than perfect looks.
Create an LCD screen that comes in more than 400 possible colour and finish combinations! That should appeal to even the fussiest fashionista, and is all the more remarkable when you consider that such flexibility starts with just two basic models and two screen sizes: 26in and 32in.
In terms of what the Individual looks like, that's very much up to you and depends on which of the dazzling array of finishes and colour schemes you decide to plump for. The Individual Selection screens come with a choice of five different front colours - aluminium bronze, titanium, silver, black and high gloss cream - and you can match these with interchangeable side panels in nine different colours, made from plastic, wood or metal. There are also a number of different display configurations, so you can opt for traditional floor and table-top stands or you can go for something more eye-catching and have the screen suspended from the ceiling or mounted on a floor-to-ceiling pole!
Our test model came with a black front panel, metallic side panels and a table-top stand and it looked stunning. The sleek screen has no adornments on the front than the discreet 'Individual' logo on the right side of the surround, and Loewe's signature infrared porthole sits in the centre of the speaker below. It is the epitome of style and the fact that it can be personalised to such an extent only adds to the air of luxury about it.
The features also depend to a certain extent upon choice of screen. Our review model was the 32 Selection, which comes with a Freeview tuner and Electronic Program Guide (EPG), DVB-C reception for digital cable reception, a CI slot for Pay TV services, and Loewe's Image picture processing. If you opt for the 32 Selection (DR ) model, you also get an 80Gb built-in hard-disk recorder and a second Freeview tuner to allow you to watch one digital program while recording another. Apart from these changes, the screens are pretty much identical, so your choice really comes down to whether you want that hard-disk capability or not.
The TV boasts a native screen resolution of 1,366 x 768 and is HD Ready by virtue of possessing an HDMI socket among its connectivity options. Also on show at the back are a component input and a pair of Scarts, one of which is RGB capable. A bank of additional AV inputs offer composite and S-video sockets, as well as housing the aforementioned CI slot for services such as Top Up TV.
Other bits of technology found lurking inside the chassis include Image and Sound with CRX, both developed by Loewe in order to enhance picture and audio quality, an interactive instruction manual (great if you have a habit of losing printed ones!) and a video timer to make it easy to set up recordings from the TV.
Despite having that interactive instruction manual, the Individual isn't the easiest of TVs to operate. Accessing some of its features through the menus can be a tricky affair and lead to a fair deal of frustration. All the connections around the back are labelled, which is helpful, but they also can be difficult to access because of being set vertically into the back of the screen rather than horizontally. Prepare for some neck craning...
Lastly, the remote is just as elegant as the screen, in so much as a remote can ever be elegant! The keys are well spaced and its easy to use.
It's all very well for the TV to look fabulous, but thankfully the pictures are good too. You can see that undertones that were evident on the company's previous offerings are less so, because the Individual's colour palette looks more authentic.
Greyscaling also deserves praise on the Individual for adding shadows and depth to large-scale images, but if we're being picky (and we are), we would have liked to have seen deeper black levels on dark picture areas. While we're at it, although the contrast performs well in our lab tests at 520:1 after calibration, it does fall away when viewing the TV in a darkened room and the backlight can becomes visibly more noticeable.
What is also impressive is that even though the is a lot of image processing taking place, the pictures a relatively free from noise and artefacts on decent quality sources, and by that we mean DVDs and a well-encoded Sky Digital feed as well as high-definition material.
Give it a weaker quality signal, say from some of the Freeview broadcasters,and keep Image switched on,and the TV's images can start to look over-processed. Fleshtones can also suffer slightly on films that are particularly dark, so Loewe still need to make a few fine tweaks before Image is absolutely on the money.
Audio quality is nice and meaty thanks to Sound , with the four onboard speakers delivering plenty of bass across a wide and accurate soundstage.
With such a unique concept, Loewe has taken its premium TV products to a new level and may be paving the way to introducing the kind of customisation that is frequently seen in handheld AV devices. What's more, the price tag isn't that aneurysm-inducing either, so owning such a luxurious, designer product won't be the preserve of a very select few.
So, assuming you can get to grips with its complexities, the Individual is a great TV that not only upholds Loewe's exacting AV standards, but also ups the ante in places too. Michelle Long