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Loewe Connect 32 Media Full-HD+ DR+ review: Loewe Connect 32 Media Full-HD+ DR+

Let's start by making one thing clear; if you are looking for a cheap or even moderately priced TV you'll be wanting to look elsewhere. The Loewe Connect 32 is not the sort of thing aimed at people on a budget.

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8.3

Loewe Connect 32 Media Full-HD+ DR+

The Good

Design; HD picture; sound quality; remote; menu system; PVR integration; media streaming.

The Bad

Price; Freeview picture could be better.

The Bottom Line

This is one of the best 32-inch TVs we've ever used. If it wasn't for the enormous price tag, we would have no problem recommending it to everyone. The problem is, for most people the price is just far too high -- you could almost get a 50-inch Pioneer plasma for the sort of money Loewe is asking

It is, however, aimed at people who are looking for a TV that fits in with their lifestyle -- and a certain kind of lifestyle at that. So if you've got a penthouse in a city centre that had its interior designed by Linda Barker or one of her ilk, this could very well be the sort of product you're interested in, as long as you can afford to spend £2,295.

Design
As you would expect from the introduction we gave it, the Loewe is a good-looking TV. It's designed to be a part of your lounge, but to also have a unique style of its own. Surprisingly this isn't anywhere near the thinnest TV on the market, and as such, people who really want the sleekest equipment might look elsewhere.

On the front of the TV is a speaker grille and a single large circular button which has several features. The outer, sliver ring controls the channel, switching between TV and radio and entering the menu system. In the middle are some status lights, including the DR+ logo, which lights up red when the TV is recording a TV programme. If you press the central, black button the TV turns off, with a nice on-screen transition.

Around the back of the TV you'll find a pair of HDMI sockets, an aerial input as well as component, VGA and two Scart sockets. Interestingly, one of the Scart connections is component capable, which might be useful if you need more than one component input. There is also an Ethernet port to stream video and a USB socket for photos and music, but sadly not for video.

On the side behind a flap are s-video and composite video inputs, ideally located if you have a camcorder you want to hook up quickly.

Features
It goes without saying that with a premium price come quite a substantial amount of features. The TV we tested costs £2,295 but for that you get a 1080p TV with a twin tuner 160GB Freeview PVR, a network media streamer and a high-definition satellite tuner.

We should point out that if you go for the satellite option you will not be getting freesat. This TV can receive HD MPEG-4 signals however, so you can tune in BBC HD, but you will not get ITV HD -- an interactive service that this TV doesn't support -- nor will you be able to access the freesat EPG.

The Freeview PVR is especially well designed, so pressing record takes you to a menu that allows you to record the current programme, or if you'd rather, record for a set amount of time, from 30 minutes to several hours. Handy if there is a lot of stuff you want to record on one channel but can't be bothered to select them all one by one.

The media streaming feature works well too, although you will need a computer connected via Ethernet, and that machine will need to have an application capable of sharing media. Something like Windows Media Player will work. Of course, the TV can only stream quite specific kinds of video, and newer containers like MKV aren't supported. That said, DivX and XviD are, and it is those types that are most often used for online video.

Performance
Firstly, we should commend the Loewe on one particular triumph, the sound quality of this TV is truly remarkable. We watched both Freeview and Blu-rays during our tests and the rich, deep and amazingly clear sound impressed us throughout. Our Dewy Cox Blu-ray blew us away when we cranked up the volume. You can hardly believe the sound is coming out of this TV, it feels bigger and more impressive than anything we've heard before.

On HD video the picture quality of the Loewe is really quite impressive too. The 1080p panel does a fantastic job with every aspect of films. Looking again at our Dewy Cox Blu-ray we were truly taken with how clear the picture was, how warm and accurate the colours looked and the crisp detail in people's faces. Truly, this TV does have what it takes to impress your eyes, which we suppose is only fair considering the price.


Freeview also looked good, but as you can imagine, we aren't talking about the same league as HD material. Nonetheless, it was still a stable, bright picture with a decent amount of detail. Certainly not the material you'd use to showcase what the TV can do, but good enough to watch Home and Away on, or more likely Grand Designs.

If you're a gamer, you'll be thrilled to learn that our PS3 looked nothing short of epic on this TV. We played the demo of Ridge Racer 7 and found ourselves captivated by the amazing picture and sound.

It's also worth mentioning the stunning menu system, too. Loewe has managed to do something very aesthetically pleasing with the TV's interface that makes it enjoyable to use. Of course, it's not perfect, and there will be times when you first use the TV that you just can't work out where the hell anything is, but with a little look at the manual or the application of some common sense you'll get there. One advance hint so you can learn from our mistakes: to turn the TV to HDMI or another AV input, press the zero key.

What we like most about the menus is the 'assist' mode, which will basically bring up a selection of tasks that you might like to complete. These include watching to TV, listening to radio stations, streaming video over the network or even looking at photos stored on a memory stick. The idea is that the TV helps you get where you need to go, and it does it with some of the slickest TV menus we've ever seen.

Conclusion
If you've got the money and you want a small, but very well-built TV with tonnes of features, stunning HD picture quality and some of the most remarkable sound you'll ever hear come out of a TV, this is for you.

If you want something a bit more reasonable, but a similar size, consider the Philips 32PFL9603, which also features Ambilight to engage you in games and movies. If you're looking to spend more and want a great TV, don't forget that for this kind of money, you can get a Pioneer PDP-LX5090, which is our reference TV, and the standard to which all other screens are compared.

Edited by Marian Smith