Few home cinema brand names are as synonymous with luxury as German manufacturer Loewe. The company has established a reputation for uncompromising designs, build quality, performance standards and features. And today those achievements are, hopefully, going to culminate in the comely form of the Spheros 42 HD/DR .
This 42in screen looks better than Uma Thurman in leathers. Especially as you can customise it thanks to the availability of two finishes (platinum and high-gloss basalt) and a number of stand and mount options - all of which are more or less gorgeous.
The screen also offers Loewe's unique flexibility. For starters, for an extra £400 you can get a 'DR ' version, which boasts a built-in 80GB hard-disk recorder. This has all the features of a standalone recorder, such as an EPG, multiple recording quality levels and the ability to pause live TV.
And the Loewe can be retrofitted as needs and/or funds allow, with modules offering the likes of Dolby Digital sound, VGA, internet browsing, PC interactivity and even Wireless Home Automation control! 'Luxury' connections meanwhile include a DVI input for all-digital pictures, plus component video inputs able to take high-definition and progressive scan.
In action the Spheros 42 is likeable - but not as imperious as some other Loewe TVs we've seen. The biggest plus point is the cleanliness of the picture with analogue TV and Sky Digital/ Freeview feeds. The amount of picture noise, be it grain, dot crawl or pixel flutter, is far less prevalent than on many rival plasmas.
What's more, our Kill Bill 2 DVD showed the Spheros 42 to be excellent at handling motion, with even the frenetic scrap between Elle and The Bride throwing up no smearing or dotty noise. The screen's 'DMM' mode also makes such motion impressively smooth. Colours are natural - from the rich hues of Bill's home through to the subdued skin-tones during The Bride's coffin experience. And there's little sign of plasma's traditional colour banding.
While natural and smooth however, colours aren't especially vibrant. This owes at least something to a merely middling contrast performance. During the Kill Bill scene where Budd prepares to put The Bride in her coffin, the extent of the grey mist over what should be dark parts of the picture made some shots straining on the eye.
The other flaw is the Loewe's slightly soft picture finish. Kill Bill scenes in and around Budd's trailer didn't appear with all the textures, detail and depth of field we know are present on the disc. The screen is a stellar audio performer. For power, dynamics, frequency response, sound stage size and clarity the only screen in to rival it is B&O's Biovision 5- and that costs twice as much.
The Spheros 42 follows Loewe's design brief to the letter, and is unmatched in terms of features. But one or two performance concerns make the brand's LCD-based Spheros 37 a better bet - if you're okay with the smaller screen.