Loewe's latest customisable entertainment system centres on a top-spec 40in LCD available in a choice of ineffably chic colour schemes and with just about any combination of add-on audio/visual gadgetry you can think of. This isn't a telly, it's a lifestyle.
Breaking the Individual Compose concept down into its constituent parts, at the heart of a pick'n'mix package of expensive audio-visual components sits the screen.
This 40in, 1080p display will set you back the best part of four grand and comes with a built-in 180GB hard disk drive, twin digital and (HD-capable) satellite tuners and the obligatory processing engine, as well as just about every socket you can think of and Dolby Pro Logic II decoding into the bargain.
You can sit it on a motorised, swivelling stand if you've got another £530 to spare, and connect it up to your computer network to act as a media entertainment hub with a £220 ethernet upgrade.
Full-on movie audio, meanwhile, can be achieved by bolting on a state-of-the-art sound projector capable of creating 5.1 by bouncing focused audio beams around your room (£1,220), while a colour-matched subwoofer for extra low-end heft can be yours for just under £600.
Ease of use
There are enough setup possibilities, sockets and manuals (three, with our sample) to send the less technically inclined berserk with impotent rage or quickly reduce them to broken, sobbing heaps, depending on temperament.
You need not despair, though, because every new Loewe telly comes equipped with a nice man (or woman) to put all the plugs in the right places, flick the correct switches and calibrate your picture to perfection. The specialist installer will integrate your existing kit, sort out wall-mounting if needed and fine-tune the audio as a service that's all included in the price.
The bits you are likely to come into contact with yourself (picture tweaks, EPG and so on) aren't the most intuitive or satisfying, though, with a sideways-scrolling menu system seemingly disappearing off the bottom of the screen and a surprisingly limited palette of audio-visual tweaks.
The metal-clad sliver of a remote, meanwhile, certainly looks the part on a designer coffee table, but doesn't marry up very effectively with the menu architecture, leading to a few inadvertent commands.
After all the razzmatazz, you switch on anticipating something pretty extraordinary. It's something of a disappointment, then, that what you get, while good in many respects, rarely transcends the merely average.
The good aspects include a resolution that bursts spectacularly into life with anything better than Freeview, some decent scaling circuitry that buffs up DVD to impressive effect and some admirably smooth motion handling. Wide, expansive shots such as the aerial swoops over Hogwarts in the various Harry Potter movies or the vast dustbowls in Australia are immersively deep and richly textured, while panning shots are fluid and mostly judder-free.
Frustratingly, much of this good work is undone by a crude colour palette and rather weedy blacks, and there isn't a huge amount you can do about either. For all the optimising, tailoring and general flexibility, the colours always seem to be just the wrong side of right.
Everyone in the latter movie has either a deathly pallor or a permatan and neither is particularly convincing. The reds of the outback look garish and movies generally tend to have an unrealistic, painterly quality at odds with the exactingly accurate detail.
Blacks, on the other hand, are undermined by an all-too-visible backlight that robs the deepest shades of profundity and variation, and we couldn't find a satisfactory way of addressing this. The overall performance is better than many LCDs, but that price sets up an expectation that the set falls some distance short of.
This depends on which audio option(s) you decide on. Our sample came with the sound projector attached and very impressive it was, too. Clear, precise and persuasively three-dimensional, its performance leaves normal integrated speakers standing. But then for a grand more, you'd hope so.
While we applaud the ambition and flexibility of Loewe's concept, it's hard to find a compelling reason to buy into it when you could build a superior system for far less from separates.
If your main priorities are style and convenience, the appeal is obvious; if you're more interested in a mixture of sheer performance and value, there is little for you here.
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