As Forrest Gump so very nearly said, Loewe is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. Thanks to the German luxury brand’s unique ‘consumer choice’ approach to design, it’s impossible for a reviewer to predict for sure what colour TV is going to emerge from the box, with which speaker options, or design of stand.

So, in the case of the Loewe Individual range here, we don’t know for sure what coloured side panels we might end up with. For Loewe’s almost ‘bespoke’ range, you can choose the colour of the insets your particular model has, with the different options adhering to the TV’s edges magnetically.

In fact, the 46in Individual Compose 3D I received was finished in high-gloss black with chrome inserts, and came with a matching black speaker bar that simply attaches to the TV’s bottom edge. And the whole thing was then mounted onto a gorgeous, cross-style chrome floorstand. Loewe even designs full surround sound speaker options to accompany its TVs, including a sumptuous, floorstanding, electrostatic ‘flat’ speaker set that I couldn’t resist adding to my test package for a bit of fun, and which sounded every bit as good as it looked.

You pays your money…

Hopefully you’ve got the idea by now that Loewe currently offers comfortably the nearest thing the TV world has to bespoke design, short of going for a megabucks custom-built installation.

The catch with offering so much design flexibility, of course, is that Loewe kit isn’t cheap. After all, every single part of the design ‘story’ has to be specially manufactured and distributed – a tough ask for a brand that hardly manufactures on the same scale as the Panasonics and Samsungs of this world.

The Individual 46in 3D by itself costs a cool £4,100, with the £555 stand and £295 speaker bar costing extra. But while this clearly limits the number of people who might be able to buy one, the fact of the matter is that for the niche market Loewe is targeting with its branding and design ethos, price isn’t an issue. Features and performance quality may pose an issue, though, however much it might be the Individual 46 3D’s design that initially attracts a prospective buyer. So it’s rather handy to find the set scoring well in both departments.

The Individual Compose 3D is Loewe’s first TV to carry 3D playback. And this is of the active variety, so you have to factor in an additional £130 per pair of glasses, too.

Another key and unusual feature is the Individual 46 3D’s built-in digital recorder, complete with 500GB of space for recording from the integrated Freeview HD or satellite (not Freesat-‘wrapped’, though) tuners. The full HD screen is driven by edge LED lighting, with image processing coming courtesy of the latest iteration of Loewe’s Image+ engine. As usual, this targets improving colour, sharpness, motion reproduction and contrast.

Loewe was one of the first brands to ship a Smart TV, so it’s no surprise to find the Individual 46 3D carrying built-in wi-fi, which provides access both to video, photo and music files stored on a DLNA PC and to Loewe’s MediaNet online service. This is broadly similar in content terms to current Philips TVs, which isn’t surprising given that Philips, Loewe and Sharp are now engaged in a content-sharing deal.

Highlights of MediaNet include Viewster, iConcerts, CineTrailer, Box Office 365, HiT Entertainment, Discovery Channel Videocast and Cartoon Network video platforms, the Picasa and MyAlbum.com photo sites, a weather site, and multiple utility, game and ‘service’ apps. There’s also an exclusive Napster music app, and Loewe assures us that it’s just waiting for a final sign-off from the Beeb’s slow bureaucratic machine before it will also offer the BBC iPlayer.

Colour rich

In many ways the Individual 46 3D’s pictures are very good. Starting with 2D, Loewe has a long tradition of producing stable, ultra colourful pictures, and this telly continues the trend. Colours with 2D are generally as believable as they are rich too, (just as well given how little control over colours Loewe’s rather tedious, over-complicated onscreen menu system gives you).

There’s also impressive subtlety and range in the way colours are displayed, a fact that’s underlined superbly by the screen’s excellent hi-def fine detail response, which ensures that colour blends never look stripy or patchy.

This detail response also ensures that Blu-rays and other HD sources look crisp and textured, and this isn’t diminished by LCD motion blur – not once the TV’s warmed up, at any rate.

Moreover, the set is a decent contrast performer with deep blacks sitting right alongside bright whites and rich colours in a single frame. That said, the biggest problem is that dark scenes reveal noticeable backlight ‘clouding’, where some areas of what should be even blackness look lighter than others.

Reining in this problem requires nudging the screen’s brightness down to around its ‘8’ setting, but at this point dark parts of the picture start to look crushed and devoid of shadow detail. In other words, it’s not quite possible to get a perfect black level result.

One other point to stress is that you should not use Loewe’s DNC (digital noise cancellation) system, for this routinely makes pictures look soft and blurred.

Turning to 3D, the Individual 46 scores immediate Brownie points for not reducing brightness and colour saturations as much as many active 3D TVs. There’s lots of detail on show with 3D Blu-rays, too, and Loewe’s processing also handles Sky’s side-by-side 3D broadcasts capably enough. The sense of 3D depth isn’t quite as pronounced as some, perhaps, but at least this means it isn’t tiring.

The Individual 46 3D does suffer with one notable 3D flaw, though: crosstalk noise. This is quite severe if you try and watch stereoscopically before the set has fully warmed up; I’d recommend having it on for at least an hour before watching any 3D. But even once the set has been up and running, it’s common to see ghosting over background objects, especially during dark scenes. And as usual, whenever this happens, it reduces the image’s sharpness and can prove distracting if you find yourself looking for it.

Ethereal crosstalk

To clarify, the crosstalk isn’t particularly aggressive; it’s more shadowy than solid and doesn’t contain any colour. But there’s no doubt that it diminishes the 3D watching experience. Nothing diminishes the quality of this flatscreen’s audio, though. If the TV seems expensive, then the speaker bar is value for money considering how rich, open, powerful and clean it sounds. There’s even some bass around, for heaven’s sake. Essentially it’s like having a separate audio system without the usual clutter or expense.

The Individual Compose 46 3D’s backlight inconsistency and 3D crosstalk issues mean I can’t give the set a whole-hearted recommendation to die-hard AV enthusiasts. But if you’ve got deep pockets and are after an all-round TV that includes awesome audio and peerless integrated design alongside good overall picture quality, then this Loewe set is uniquely well qualified.


HCC VERDICT

Loewe Individual Compose 46 3D
Price:
£4,600 Approx

Highs: Near-bespoke design; very good 2D pictures overall; excellent built-in lossless video recorder
Lows: Crosstalk with 3D; some backlight inconsistency

Performance: 4/5
Design: 5/5
Features: 5/5
Overall: 4/5


Specifications


3D: yes
Full HD: yes 1080p/24  
Tuner: yes Freeview HD and open satellite
Component video: yes one input (rear)
HDMI/DVI: yes three, v1.4  
PC input: yes one D-Sub
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
Sound: 2 x 20W 
Contrast ratio: 5,000,000:1
Dimensions (off stand): 1030(w) x 630(h) x 55(d)mm  
Weight: 27.5kg
Also featuring: Active 3D playback with transmitter built in; pseudo 400Hz processing; USB media playback; noise reduction system; DLNA streaming support; Media Net online service; built-in 500GB HDD video recorder