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Loewe Spheros R 37 Full-HD
The Loewe Spheros R 37 Full-HD TV is a luxurious full HD LCD flat-panel TV with a 37" (94 cm) screen and has been on the market since summer 2007 for around 4,100 GBP.
Florian Friedrich, August 15, 2007
- Fully future-proofed with a built-in HDTV capable digital tuner for DVB-T, cable and satellite reception.
- Functioning as a personal TV archive and mini time-machine, the set can record digital TV programs onto its integrated hard disk without compromising quality.
- Some slight weaknesses in picture quality.
- The luxury commands a luxury price.
As a whole, the Loewe is highly persuasive - the operation, reception, recording capabilities and the sound are all excellent. Those searching purely for the best picture, however, can do better for less money. Traditionally, Loewe's TVs do not just distinguish themselves in terms of looks. Under the hood as well the German manufacturer pulls it off with flexible receivers and unique expansion capabilities.
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Progress simply passes some things by. Those used to grumbling about separate satellite receivers or digital set-top boxes (and the accompanying remote controls and spaghetti cabling) must be amazed to find that the situation has not improved, even remotely, with the advent of modern flat-panels.
It's a different story, however, with Loewe:
Since way back in the early 1990s, this German manufacturer has been offering elegant integrated satellite and cable receiver solutions. The Spheros R 37 Full HD+ even receives high resolution TV signals via cable or satellite using its onboard technology, and that is in addition to the multitude of standard PAL programs. The manufacturer also claims that the TV will readily accept HDTV transmissions via DVB-T, which is currently making its debut in France.
The Loewe is pay-TV ready. However, because of the lack of unity in decisions regarding technology in the European cable and pay-TV providers, it may be necessary, in some cases, to revert to the provider's own set-top box. In Germany, for example, the Spheros receives the HD pay channel "Premiere" without any problems - so far at least. But, since the broadcaster wants to change its encryption technology, it is unclear whether this will continue to be the case (the TV is not officially certified by "Premiere").
Integrated 160GB Hard Disk:
The integrated 160GB hard disk records programs from both the analog and digital integrated tuners just like a traditional video recorder. Depending on the reception method and the chosen quality, the disk will hold anywhere between 30 and 200 hours of standard TV or HDTV material. The Spheros R 37 Full-HD+ can even record two programs simultaneously.
"Offset Viewing" Function:
Just as useful is the "Offset Viewing" function. If the viewer has something pressing to do, he or she simply has to press one button to pause playback. At the end of the phone call, for example, the viewer can return to watch the program from the point at which he or she left off.
Various Add-ons Available:
Loewe offers various loudspeaker packages to allow you to build up a complete, visually appealing home-theater setup. A variety of pedestals and wall-mountings can also be found in its product range.
The Spheros R 37 Full-HD+ does not only provide HD-capable digital cable, satellite and DVB-T TV tuners, but also an analog cable TV receiver. At first glimpse, the densely packed group of connectors on the Loewe does not actually look like an excess of inputs. Two Scart sockets, a YUV input, and a side-mounted camcorder connection are standard for a TV of this class, as is the VGA input for computers.
Two HDMI inputs seem a little average, but you have to bear in mind that other TVs would already have one HDMI interface occupied by an additional HDTV receiver (which is built-in here).
High resolution photos can be displayed on the Spheros R 37 Full-HD+ through the USB port, and the TV can display various picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture arrangements, so you can follow two programs at once if you so choose. Subscription cards from pay-TV channels are accepted by the so-called "Common Interface" (CI) slot.
Menu and EPG:
The menu on the Loewe is really clearly structured and easy to read, but the scrolling menu titles are somewhat frivolous and not necessary for clarity. However, the integrated index and the elegant channel overview do, more than compensate for this minor complaint.
The Electronic Program Guide (EPG) is available for all receivers, which work seamlessly within the same interface - with competitor's models, you often get the impression that digital receiver technology has simply been tacked onto an existing concept.
Loewe is releasing a new style of remote control (which goes by the name "Assist") with its 2007 models. It is much more pleasant to use than the previous one, and although it is rather heavy and expansive, it is still easy to hold with big masculine hands.
The only minor pitfall is that, while the picture format button is marked with a well chosen icon, it is labeled "Title", which could lead to obvious confusion for the inexperienced user. With this remote, however, Loewe has really got one up on the competition.
TV and DVD Picture Quality
TV Picture Quality:
The TV's backlight can be controlled manually, so that it can be used effectively in a living room with large windows, for example, during both day and night. In the daytime, the backlight can be turned up, while in the evening it can be turned down again, thereby preventing darker screen patches being excessively bright.
A neutral white screen is reproduced with the "Soft" preset and at very nearly the ideal color temperature value (measured: 6,600 Kelvin; ideal value: 6,500 Kelvin). Even challenging skin tones look absolutely natural - only a very slight brown cast disturbs the impression, which can leave a blue sky, for example, looking a little grubby.
The picture is rather too striking with its factory settings, and so, to obtain a clean and shadow-free picture without false edges, the sharpness should be reduced and the noise filter switched off (this is an option in the screen menu).
Fine text and details then come across tidily and without excessive enhancement. Motion could look a bit better on the Spheros - the critical eye will notice some trailing effects in the dark areas of the picture, and moving motifs lose some of their crispness. Otherwise, the video electronics handle TV signals with great care, producing a detailed and clear picture. Even picture errors from camera pans hardly ever occur.
DVD Picture Quality:
Sound and video from a DVD player connected by Scart-RGB gave, in test-lab terms, plenty to grumble about. Subjectively, however, the result looks good. The levels of sharpness and detail are acceptable overall, but contrast-rich fine text is plagued with ghost edges. Color details, such as flowers in a summer meadow, are enhanced by the Loewe, but if the surroundings have been recorded with less sharpness, this effect looks a bit unnatural.
Standard video processing looks really good with the built-in TV tuner, which is less capable with movie material, where sloped flat edges can pick up a stepping effect during camera pans. If the picture source is a current DVD player with an HDMI output, then the Spheros really raises its game - the resolution increases and the picture looks noticeably sharper. Even shadowy areas appear clearer than with analog playback; and if the player can scale the picture up to 1080i/p format, then you can deactivate the Loewe's overscan (choose "16:9 PC" mode).
Even in HDMI mode, however, the picture is still imperfect. In the dark scenes from "Panic Room", a light snowy noise pattern is visible on the walls once again, and moving objects have somewhat blurred edges.
What's really impressive is the brightness of this 37 incher, which we measured in the lab to be 400 Candela/m2 irrespective of picture source. Even in a bright room, you can enjoy this TV without compromising detail or color.
In a darkened room, however, black is too bright, and when viewed from the side this turns to a noticeable blue color, accompanied by a reduction in contrast and depth. The adjustable stand helps a bit to combat the TV's viewing angle-dependency by allowing the set to be turned left and right as well as tilting it up and down.
HDTV Picture Quality
With HD material, the Spheros R 37 Full-HD+ gives a sharp, detailed, and simply stunning picture. The complete signal is displayed with "16:9 PC" mode and is pixel perfect with 1080i/p playback. Tiny details on townhouse façades can easily be made out if you stand close to the screen. The detail-packed opening titles of "Casino Royale" absolutely let rip.
Some trailing effects and the occasional flicker are visible in camera pans. At the time of testing, "Fireballs from Space" was showing heavily on Discovery HD, and when the camera pans above a pine forest, for example, the treetops leave slight trails. Skin tones sometimes take on a waxy appearance due to motion blurring, and the TV makes some dark details look a little unclean. Whatever the case may be, the Loewe accepts HD pictures in 24p format, and is therefore an ideal partner for modern Blu-ray players.
Computer Operation and Sound Quality
The Loewe accepts PC signals via VGA up to a maximum resolution of 1360 x 768 pixels. Accordingly, text looks washed-out, and high resolution photos and videos lose some detail. There is, however, a solution. The TV does accept signals in its native resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) via a DVI-HDMI adapter. The Spheros R 37 Full-HD+ is well suited for doubling up as a large computer screen for modern PCs.
Sound traditionally scores well on Loewe's TVs, and the Spheros is no exception. The built-in speakers are audibly better than we are used to hearing from TVs, especially with flat-panels. High tones are clear; the bass is full and yet dry. Only the mid-range is marginally off-color. The hard disk exhibits a slight hum, but this is not usually loud enough to be irritating.
Settings for the best home-theatre performance*
Mode: Picture Adjustment (personal values)
Color Intensity: 8
Color Temperature: Soft (ca. 6,600 K)
Pure Cinema: Standard
Digital Noise Control (DNC): Off
Picture Format: 16:9 PC
* applied to realistic playback from HD DVD/Blu-ray material through the HDMI interface in a darkened environment. Manufacturing and HDMI playback device deviations may necessitate slight adjustment.
Quick Points Summary
Simply beautiful: The timeless Loewe design pulls it off again. The Spheros R 37 Full-HD+ has a 37" screen diagonal.
Tightly packed: Two Scart sockets and two HDMI inputs seem a bit on the low side, but the Spheros boasts no less than five built-in receivers.
Total comfort: The remote not only looks good, but it is also functional. It does seem long and heavy though.