While the mass market brands merrily slaughter each other with ever more punitive price wars, premium brands like Loewe (pronounced 'Lerver', in case you were wondering) are working harder to establish their credentials for offering something special to people willing to pay for it. And you couldn't ask for a more emphatic demonstration of this concept in action than Loewe's 40-inch, £3,000 Individual Compose 40, available through Loewe dealers.
Aesthetically, the Compose 40 is a poser's paradise, with so many elements contributing to its stunning appeal that it's hard to know where to start. Maybe it's the ultra-slender frame? Or the heavyweight, polished finish? Perhaps most of all, it's the set's completely unique design flexibility.
For instance, you can place it on a rotating table top stand, a floorstanding pole stand, a 'screen lift' -- where it sits on a pole running from floor to ceiling -- or a square post mount containing a centre speaker. Plus, you can go for separate floorstanding speakers and a subwoofer, or get speakers that attach to the TVs side, or a speaker 'bar' that runs along the TV's bottom edge.
Then you've got to choose whether you want the TV in Aluminium Silver or Aluminium Black. And finally you can completely change the 'feel' of the design by swapping the inlay panels down the TV's sides to any of seven different finishes: Ebony, Rosewood, Light Oak, High Gloss Black, Metallised Chrome, Aluminium Silver and Ruby.
Blimey. Suddenly the 'Individual' part of this TV's name makes sense, doesn't it? Not that the set is content to get by on looks alone, mind. For instance, it's also got a built-in hard disk drive recording system with two digital tuners, so you can record one digital channel while watching another, and a really healthy 160GB of storage space. What's more, the quality of the HDD's recordings is such that they're practically indistinguishable from the original broadcasts.
There are, thankfully, many things to like in the Compose 40's AV performance, too. On the picture side, Loewe's proprietary Image+ picture processing engine serves up some terrific sharpness and fine detailing during HD viewing -- just what you'd hope to see from a TV with a full HD pixel resolution count of 1,920x1,080 pixels.
Colours are also eye-catchingly bright and solid, noise is practically non-existent -- at least with HD -- and the set's motion handling is among the best around.
Image+ also helps the Compose 40 present cleaner standard definition pictures than many rivals and finally whichever speaker configuration you go for rewards you with the sort of audio quality usually only found on a separates system.
The sort of premium design and performance elements discussed so far unsurprisingly don't come cheap. Around £3,000 for a 40-inch LCD TV is expensive by any stretch of the imagination -- especially as that price doesn't even include all the options we mentioned.
The other issue we have with the Compose 40 is that there's room for improvement in a couple of picture areas. First, black levels, while decent, certainly suffer more greying over than some of the latest LCD models out there. And second, perhaps because of the slight black level shortcomings, some colour tones during dark scenes look a touch unnatural.
Let's be honest about this. If you're the sort of person who'd love a Bang & Olufsen TV but just can't afford one, Loewe's Individual Compose 40 is the next best thing, at around £3,000. For while it might not be the absolute best performer in the world, at least in the picture department, its unique design and swish built-in HDD recording do at least inspire envy in all who see it.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire