Loewe can be regarded in the same light as Bang & Olufsen. Its products offer state-of-the-art design, specification and performance attached to exorbitant prices. Although the recently reviewed Concept L32 offered an exception to the affordability rule, the top-of-the-range Spheros R26 is undeniably expensive. In today's market, £1,899 can afford you a 42-inch plasma or at least two similarly sized LCD TVs.
If the cost doesn’t concern you, the stylish Spheros does offer class-leading performance and a future-proof specification. It's the first flat screen to integrate all types of digital TV reception -- terrestrial, cable and satellite -- although there's no analogue TV tuner. And the high-resolution panel equipped with numerous picture-enhancing technologies and complete connectivity is high-definition compatible.
The unique on-screen menu system is initially frustrating, but it offers peerless picture and sound quality. That's the real reason to consider spending so much on a mid-sized screen.
Immaculate build quality and understated style are Loewe hallmarks that have been indelibly etched into the design of the Spheros R26.
For a relatively small screen, the construction is surprisingly weighty and comparatively deeper than equivalent LCDs. The sharp, straight-edged design features a 26-inch widescreen flawlessly framed by a glossed black surround. The pristine appearance is preserved by covertly integrating controls into Loewe's circular 'infrared eye', which floats above a wave-shaped speaker system at the base.
The screen arrives with an easily assembled pedestal stand, although unsurprisingly expensive (£75) wall-mounting options are also available.
A removable panel at the screen's right-hand side reveals standard AV inputs -- and a CI card slot for accessing limited subscription TV services like TopUp TV. The side connections can be used to temporarily connect a camcorder or games console -- a feature often ignored in smaller LCDs. And the comprehensive range of connections elsewhere will also embarrass its rivals.
Awkwardly positioned across the underside of the rear panel is a pair of Scart terminals, although only the AV2 input is RGB-enabled for optimum picture quality. Alternative analogue connections include component inputs with support for progressive-scan video, provided you have a compatible DVD player. But it's the inclusion of an HDMI digital input that grants a future-proof specification allowing the screen to accept high-definition content from Sky's upcoming HDTV services or a similarly equipped DVD player.
Audio connectivity is equally impressive with a choice of standard stereo inputs/outputs as well as both a coaxial digital input and output that lets you supplement the sonic performance with an external amplifier or receiver. Unfortunately there's no PC audio input, but computer users and Xbox 360 gamers can still view images via a VGA/XGA input.
Loewe's superior build quality also extends to the tall, tapered remote, which is reassuringly heavy, intelligently arranged and comfortable.
Loewe claims the Spheros R26 is the world's first flat TV to integrate all three types of digital television reception. The screen arrives equipped to receive terrestrial Freeview broadcasts and cable digital broadcasts from its integrated digital tuner. And, on request, the Spheros can be retrofitted to receive satellite digital broadcasts without using an external set-top box.
But an analogue tuner has been omitted altogether so you'll need to check the digital reception in your area to avoid owning an expensive television you can't watch.
The screen's high-resolution panel (1366x768 pixels) will also support high-definition broadcasts and video signals with HDCP protection across various standards, including 720p and 1080i. In addition the specification is littered with a number of Loewe's own picture enhancing technologies -- each bearing a tedious title but all designed to sharpen picture quality.