You'll need to take a deep breath to say the name of Loewe's latest TV. Sure, the Loewe Connect 37 Media Full-HD+ DR+ is a ridiculous product name. To some extent, though, it's easier to remember than a traditional model number, like, say, Loewe Connect 37FHD45314159265. That said, this TV name has more plus signs than some computer programming languages.
While it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, the Connect 37 is, however, a remarkable piece of eye candy. It offers features from built-in Freeview hard disk recording and 1080p compatibility to even media streaming from a Windows-based PC. With a jaw-dropping £2,150 price tag to go with it, will this TV leave us speechless?
Everything on the Connect 37 has been styled to perfection. While its unique style may not immediately rouse you, we'd hope with three colour variations of chrome silver, black or white, plus four different stands -- ours came with the floor stand 'trapeze' -- that you'd be able to find one to suit you.
The front of the TV is bare, apart from a simple button in the centre of the TV. This button turns the TV on standby, and the ring surrounding it controls channel changing and menu access. Intriguingly, there is no volume control, which means you have to use the remote. The TV does redeem itself by offering a real power switch, located underneath the set.
The beauty of the Connect 37 extends to its remote control: it's one of the nicest we've ever seen. Finished in light grey with a black strip at the top, it has a finger-friendly texture and good weight. The buttons, though small, are well-spaced and easily pressed. Even better, it's very responsive, with no delay between pressing a button and the TV acting on it.
One of the main features of the Connect 37 is its ability to stream media over a home network. We did try this initially over our office Wi-Fi network and couldn't get it to pick up our Windows Media Player, but corporate networks are never the best place to try this. When we tried it on the wired Ethernet network, we were very impressed: the TV found our Windows Media Player straight away. Once we granted the TV permission to access our files, we were off.
Of course, like any media streamer, it has its limitations. Firstly, it won't play any QuickTime video and some of our XviD sample clips had some problems with judder. The TV also doesn't get on with MPEG-4 files with packed bitstreams. If you have a file that uses this format, you can convert it using a free utility called MPEG4 Modifier.
Conversion aside, the Loewe really came into its own with WMV video. It played faultlessly and at resolutions of up to 1080p, which really won us over. It was also very simple to see pictures and get MP3s to play, and the whole interface experience was a breeze.
If you're choosing this DR+ model over the other available Connect 37s, you'll get a 160GB hard disk recorder built in. The idea is similar to any external PVR: you schedule recordings via the EPG, but using the Loewe menu system. As we're used to PVR menu systems, we're in two minds about using Loewe's -- the different layout can be confusing.
Fortunately, the TV's menus are excellent. Since you can filter the guide to specific channels, times and genres, you shouldn't have too much trouble getting used to it and finding the programme you want to record.
The Connect 37 also features HDMI CEC. This is a function of the HDMI standard that allows the remote of one device to control things connected to the TV. We don't usually mention it because most of the time we can't get it to work. On the Loewe, though, the TV automatically reassigns its remote to work with the connected player -- a Toshiba HD-EP35, in our case. If you want to switch back to controlling the TV, you simply press the TV button on the remote.
In standard definition, our picture contained plenty of detail with accurate colours and few distortions. Our only niggle is that the TV needs to think about what aspect ratio it'll use. For the first few seconds of selecting a channel, the screen jumps around. On a premium set, this is an odd problem.
We used King Kong to test the HD material and had excellent results. Details stood out well in darker scenes, especially in the screening room at the film's start. The smoke from a cigarette and Jack Black's stubble were visibly defined. Motion was fluid and colours were vibrant. Of course, there is -- and always will be -- some slight washing out of blacks from the LCD backlight, but Loewe has done its best to minimise this.
We were also satisfied by the Connect 37's reduction of picture noise, although we generally try to leave filters turned off where possible. If you're watching a grainy picture source, this is an excellent feature to consider as it didn't noticeably degrade the quality of the picture.
While this TV won't rattle the teeth out of your head with its deep bass, the audio is clear. Even in movies with sound effects and dialogue happening simultaneously, we could make out what was being said. The TV is also capable of adjusting its input levels for quieter sources. We found this handy for our HD DVD player, which tends to output at a much lower lever than other devices.
For your money, you can get larger, slightly higher-quality plasma TVs from the likes of Pioneer or Panasonic, but they won't match the design standards found in the Loewe. This television is definitely designed with aesthetics in mind.
We can't pretend this isn't an expensive piece of equipment, but we can't forget that it's much more than just a TV. The Loewe Connect 37 Full-HD+ DR+ is three products in one: a media streamer, PVR and television, all with excellent functionality. By any other name, it'd be as sweet.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday