- Review Price: £2920.00
And the prize for the longest TV name in the history of TV names, ever, goes to: the Loewe Connect 42 Media Full HD+ 100 DR+. In fact, it’s such a long name that I’m not totally sure I’ve got all of its various bits in the right order. The cool thing about this name, though, is that it isn’t just there to give journalists and shops nightmares. It’s actually so ridiculously long because the TV it describes has, as we’ll see, such a ridiculously long list of features…
Regular readers may remember that the Connect 42 (by which abbreviated name it shall henceforth be known!) is not actually the first TV we’ve seen from Loewe’s Connect range; we saw a 37in model way back in 2008. However, we’re not just featuring the 42in Connect today because it’s 5in bigger.
As usual with Loewe product lines, the latest Connect TVs are really quite different to last year’s models, since the German brand’s general policy is to keep improving existing ranges rather than adopting the usual path of just introducing a whole new range every time there’s a new technology in town.
Therefore my first – rather complicated – job in this review is to get to the bottom of exactly where the Connect 42 Circa November 2009 differs from the Connect 37 Circa June 2008.
The first change I spotted was an aesthetic one, as the table-top stand Loewe provided with our review sample is a much prettier chrome cross design than the slightly plain-jane one found on the original Connect TVs.
Not that you have to stick with this cross-style stand if you don’t like it, though. For arguably the single most important feature of the Loewe Connect range – and most of Loewe’s TVs, come to that – is the fact that you can actually choose how your Connect 42 looks and the features it carries. More on this in a moment when we’ve finished picking out the differences between today’s and last year’s Connect features.
Another key difference is that the Connect 42 manages three HDMIs versus the previous Connect models’ really rather disappointing two. This makes the current Connect 42 much better equipped to be the central hub of a home entertainment installation.
As does the fact that Connect’s already extreme multimedia talents – the things that inspire its Connect name, in fact – are boosted on the new Connect 42 by the addition of Internet Radio playback, and the introduction of much wider file type compatibility, including FLAC, WAV, DivX, XviD, AVI, H.264 video, AIFFWindows Media Audio, MP3, AAC (compressed and lossless), and WAV.
Given that finding and accessing multimedia files on the previous Connect could be a rather confusing business, it’s also a relief to find that Loewe has improved the interface for the latest Connect’s Media Player, making it more accessible and, crucially, allowing you to input text search data to make it quicker and easier to quickly find specific files within, say, your endless list of audio tracks.
Yet more improvements worthy of note include a free TWONKY account; the facility to update the TV’s system software via the Internet rather than having to have a dealer do it for you; an application that lets you add Internet Radio favourite lists to your iPhone so that you can take the links with you wherever you roam; and finally (unless I’ve missed something, which I probably have), an increase in the amount of ‘DR+’ HDD recording space from 160GB to a very healthy 250GB.
In listing all of the improvements the new Connect 42 brings to the table, it occurs to me that I’ve potentially skimmed over just what a meaty proposition it really is.
Maybe, then, now would be a good time for a summary. So: first, when all the evidence is in, the Connect 42 is arguably currently Europe’s most multimedia savvy TV – especially once you add to all the file compatibility/Internet radio stuff the fact that it’s got two USB ports, an Ethernet jack and even full built-in Wi-Fi. Aside from the stupid-money stuff Vivadi is still playing around with, the Philips’ 9000 Series models are the only other TVs that can fairly claim to give the Connect 42 a run for its money in multimedia respects.
Next, the TV can also be a digital recorder, with its built-in HDD able to record broadcasts from the Freeview tuner in exactly the same picture and sound quality they were broadcast in. In fact, the level of recording flexibility on offer is sufficient to allow the TV to claim official ‘Freeview+’ status.
Third, the Connect 42 is unusually well positioned to become the hub of a wider home cinema installation, with matching audio options available, and the ability to link with and control other Loewe gear around a (presumably very posh!) house.
Finally, returning to a point I touched on earlier, the Connect 42 is about as close as the TV world gets to being a bespoke TV. You can get it, for instance, in high gloss black, high gloss white, or Chrome Silver finishes. Then you can choose to put it on a striking and varied selection of different floor stands or wall mounts besides the table-top stand I tested it with. And finally you can even decide to some extent what features the TV carries, with additional features being retrofittable as they come on stream or your needs change.
Optional features currently available include a Dolby Digital/DTS surround sound decoder module, an RS232 control module to aid the TV’s integration into a wider system, twin satellite tuners (though these aren’t currently compatible with Freesat), and a motorisation module for allowing you to control the TV’s angle remotely.
As you might be starting to think from all this, the Connect 42 is hardly the easiest TV in the world to use. Especially as Loewe has chosen to cram its onscreen menus into a small section of the bottom of the screen. We understand why it’s done this; it doesn’t want to hide the picture while you’re making your adjustments. But man, it doesn’t half make for some convoluted menu/submenu navigation ‘expeditions’.
Just as well, then, that part of the premium Loewe ‘deal’ is that the set will be professionally installed in your home for you as standard. Cool.
Finally getting into how the Connect 42 performs, the news is mostly good. I should kick off by saying that I did, as suspected, forget a key improvement the new Connect 42 carries versus the old Connect 37. And that’s the rather important fact that it uses a newer and apparently more powerful and refined picture processing engine.
This new ‘Image+’ system makes its presence felt right away too, as the Connect 42’s picture looks markedly less troubled by motion blur than its predecessor was. In fact, the fluidity and clarity of moving objects is among the best we’ve seen, delivering results that reminded me of Philips’ HD Natural Motion system – albeit last year’s system rather than the one found on the new 9000 Series.
Colours look more natural and refined too, and it also seemed to my eyes that the picture was generally cleaner, with less noise around. Crucially, though, the improved noise reduction talents of the new Connect 42 do not come at the expense of sharpness. In fact, its HD pictures are impressively crisp and detailed, while standard definition pictures look reasonably pure and textured – though there’s certainly still room for further improvement.
The Connect 42 also enjoys excellent brightness levels and colour intensity, and absolutely blew me away with its audio. Loewe has long excelled in the sound department, and the power, range, clarity and soundstage width produced seemingly effortlessly by the Connect 42’s vast 2 x 40W RMS of amplification makes almost every other TV around sound frankly cruddy in comparison.
(centre)”’A range of matching optional extras are available too”’(/centre)
The Connect 42‘s awesome audio, unique ‘bespoke’ nature, stunning design, immense feature count and full installation service certainly have a great go at justifying its truly premium market position. However, I am duty bound to point out that its near-£3,000 price doesn’t quite get you picture perfection.
The most obvious problem is that the set’s black level response isn’t particularly hot. There’s definitely a grey look to parts of the picture that should look black, which can hide background detail and make dark scenes look a little flat compared with the depth and accuracy with which the set shows bright scenes.
Also, while the set’s motion processing is very potent, there is a price to pay for that potency in the form of some occasionally noticeable artefacts, particularly a slight shimmering halo around some moving objects.
Some people might expect perfect rather than very good pictures for the best part of three grand, I guess. But for me, the Connect 42 as an overall package has the looks, feel, features, unique flexibility and all-round performance quality it needs to more than satisfy the very select market it so assiduously targets.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8
Sound Quality 10
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