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Turning to the Individual 40 Compose’s bulging spec sheet, there are a number of headline tricks to report. Perhaps the single most impressive of these is the presence of an integrated digital recorder. And this is no half-hearted ‘add-in’ like the 8GB effort built into some of Sharp’s recent TVs; this is a 250GB affair with an fully developed operating system and the ability to record - in HD or standard def - from the integrated digital tuners with no loss of quality.
The full HD pixel count, meanwhile, is powered by plenty of processing power, with the latest version of Loewe’s previously impressive Image+ picture engine being joined by 400Hz, for crisper, smoother motion handling.
The set’s edge LED lighting is reckoned to deliver a very promising 5,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, while also crucial to the Individual 40 Compose’s appeal are its extravagant multimedia talents. It’s able to connect to a DLNA PC, for a start, from which it can stream digital music, photo or film archives. The same sorts of files can also be played back from USB drives. Best of all, though, the Individual 40 can go online, allowing you to access more than 8,000 Internet Radio stations, as well as Video podcasts and ‘web TV’ channels.
Loewe announced at the recent IFA show that it had signed up with Sharp and Philips to share online platforms, which suggests that at some point open Internet access could come to Loewe’s TVs too.
We really liked the way Loewe’s online features were organised as well. The menus don’t look very flash compared with the graphics-heavy approach of some rivals, but the almost PC-like approach proves exceptionally efficient at organising and presenting the huge amount of content the system is capable of delivering.
Loewe bolsters its user-friendliness by including a genuinely helpful onscreen, interactive ‘instructions manual’. However, not everything about the Individual 40 Compose is a no-brainer. For we’re not big fans of the way the TV keeps all its onscreen menu options within a couple of collapsible, scrollable lines along the TV’s bottom edge. It makes finding and getting to pretty much any of the TV’s options a real chore.
There was one further glaring issue with our Individual 40 test sample, too: no Freeview HD tuner. However, thankfully this is going to be rectified before the end of the year. Phew.
Previous Loewe TVs we’ve seen have tended to be less appealing in performance terms than they are in design and feature terms. But the Individual 40 Compose puts this traditional failing right in no uncertain terms.
The single most significant improvement over past Loewe flat TVs comes with black level response. The set’s edge LED system delivers really deep, natural black colours, troubled by remarkably little of the grey clouding usually associated with LCD TVs. What’s more, provided you’re sensible with the set’s brightness and contrast settings, dark scenes are seldom blighted by signs of inconsistent backlight levels.
With dark scenes and dark parts of otherwise bright pictures also exhibiting clear signs of the subtle shadow detail often crushed out by lesser LCD TVs, Loewe is now up there with the best Sony and maybe even Philips have to offer on the edge LED contrast front.