The 40-inch, 1080p Individual 40 Compose Full-HD+ 100 DR+ LCD TV is staggeringly expensive. The TV portion alone, never mind all the extras, costs almost £4,000. Those who can afford it, though, will get great features, design and performance for their money
As our critical eyes stare at the large, white LCD TV in the corner, we're acutely aware that there's a recession on at the moment. If you're affected by all of this financial disaster, you might want to consider another TV, because the 40-inch, 1080p, LCD Loewe Individual 40 Compose Full-HD+ 100 DR+ is hardly the cheapest set we've ever clamped eyes on.
For a start, the TV portion alone costs a staggering £3,825. But that's not all, because the package we review here comes in at more than £6,300. Clearly the Compose isn't aimed at most of us. But is it any good? Or, more importantly, is it worth as much as a good, second-hand car?
If Apple made TVs, this is probably how they'd look. Our Compose was finished in a lovely glossy white, with some hints of black and silver scattered about. You can select a series of finishes, including the colour of the main TV, and some delightful side-trim options that even feature some wood-effect materials.
The screen is hidden behind a sheet of coated glass, which no doubt helps to improve the black levels, but also gives the TV a very sleek look. This is the television equivalent of wearing a pair of sunglasses indoors -- not entirely necessary, slightly pretentious and painfully trendy.
Connectivity is handled at the back of the set, under cover of some concealing panels. This is a little tiresome at times. If you want to bung in a Scart lead, you'll have to mess around for some time, opening things and ferreting around behind your TV. This problem is compounded by the way the sockets are placed. With two rows, if you're trying to plug something in behind something else that's already connected, it can be tricky to get to the socket. Of course, the upside is that the connected cables look quite neat, and, if your TV stands away from a wall, this can make a big difference.
In terms of actual sockets, the Compose is disappointing. There are only two HDMI inputs for a start. You also get a component video input and, surprisingly, one of the Scart sockets is configured to accept component video. There is also an RGB-enabled Scart input. Digital audio is both accepted and sent by the TV and there are two RCA jacks for this. If you get the soundbar option, your output will be used to feed ita signal.
It's also worth pointing out that, when you buy a Loewe TV, the dealer will arrange for someone to come and install it for you. This is incredibly helpful, and likely to appeal to the sort of people who have the cash to spend on this set. Our engineer took around 2 hours to get the whole thing up and running, and, afterwards, took us through the features of the set and answered our questions. This is a very welcome bonus that makes you feel like you're getting the service level appropriate to your purchase.
The other advantage of an engineer installing your TV is that you don't have to plug everything in yourself. Trust us, that's a big deal with this TV. The soundbar and motorised stand both add complications to the set-up.
What makes Loewe TVs so special is the level to which you can customise them. Virtually everything can be adjusted or tweaked to perfection. For example, you can opt to have a satellite tuner built in or a digital TV recorder. There are options for surround-sound speakers and even soundbars.
It seems only fair to explain our set-up, as tested. The central component is, of course, the TV. The 40-inch LCD cost £3,825 in the configuration supplied to us, including its Freeview and satellite tuners. Because we wanted to be able to record TV, we also got the recorder option, which allows you to save your favourite shows to the Compose's 160GB hard drive.
As regards the satellite tuner, while this TV can access high-definition satellite channels on freesat, it can't use the freesat electronic programme guide or access ITV's HD channel. For this reason, it's not badged as a freesat TV, so please don't expect anything like the functionality found with Panasonic freesat TVs.
Our review sample was also fitted with a soundbar, which costs an additional £1,220, and an optional subwoofer, which costs a further £580. We also added a floor stand, which costs £530. The final tally for the unit comes to an eye-watering £6,155.
The Compose can also play music and photos from a USB drive or via your home network. Playing from USB is simply a matter of plugging a drive into the back of the TV. To connect the TV to your network and access media, all you need is something like Windows Media Player sharing your files, and the TV will happily find and play them back. It's all very slick, and easy enough for non-techies to cope with.
At around £6,300, we would expect this package to perform brilliantly, and indeed it does -- for the most part.
Freeview picture quality, however, is a little disappointing. We're never thrilled with the quality of standard-definition over-the-air broadcasts, but we don't think the Compose does everything it could to help. By way of comparison, our reference TV, the Pioneer Kuro PDP-LX5090 does a much better job with Freeview and is nearly two-thirds cheaper -- a comparative bargain.
Hooking up Blu-ray to the TV, though, illustrates that the Compose really is an incredibly capable machine. We found that there was plenty of detail in HD movies, with strong blacks, decent contrast and excellent, vivid colours. Movies such as The Dark Knight made us drool with excitement and the start of Serenity is well worth catching in 1080p too, if only to appreciate how well this set handles motion and black levels.
On the subject of motion in films, Loewe includes its own judder-reduction mode in this TV. Unlike such processing on other TVs, the Compose seems quite well balanced. There weren't too many occasions where we noticed artefacts resulting from the mode, and motion retained enough of its film quality to keep us happy.
Running HQV benchmarks on the TV led us to some interesting conclusions. For example, the TV's noise-reduction, de-interlacing and motion handling are all excellent. The TV did, however, fall down in one area -- the film-resolution test. This will not affect Blu-ray material, nor should it be a problem for most DVD material. In certain rare circumstances, NTSC DVDs may not look as good as they should do -- generally, they will have half the resolution in moving scenes. But that's unlikely to be a major problem for most people.
Functions like the built-in personal video recorder all work like a dream. The user interface for the menus is so well thought-out and stylish that it's impossible not to enjoy using the TV. PVR recordings are scheduled through the TV's EPG, and played back through a customised menu. This system is also designed to handle video, pictures and music from network sources such as Windows Media Player.
As much as we like the Loewe Individual 40 Compose Full-HD+ 100 DR+, we can't see past the price. It's very hard to justify spending nearly £4,000 on a 40-inch TV when you could have an amazing 60-inch Pioneer Kuro PDP-LX6090, and all the benefits of plasma, for about the same price.
That's not to say that this isn't a great TV, because, in many ways, it is. If you're in the position to buy one, we think you'll be getting a terrific package and one that offers everything you're likely to need in a TV.
Edited by Charles Kloet
Update: Some minor changes were made to this review to reflect some information provided to us by Loewe. We previously stated the TV was covered with a plastic screen -- in fact, this is specially coated glass. We also suggested that the stand was mandatory with the Loewe speaker system. This is not the case and other options are available.