After taking a couple of years out to rethink and regroup, Loewe TVs are back in the UK - and we’re seriously happy to see them. Especially as, on the evidence of the resplendently named bild i.55 and klang bar i combo, the brand’s talent for combining unique, premium designs and build quality with high levels of performance and fully integrated AV systems seems to have actually improved during its time away from UK stores.
The first thing to say about the £2,999 bild i.55 is that it uses OLED picture technology. And the second thing to say is that it delivers all of the gorgeous picture quality benefits associated with that technology to routinely spectacular effect.
Black level response, for starters, is nothing short of imperious. If you’re watching the bild i.55 in a blacked out room and there’s a fade to black, its black colours are so profound that the screen basically disappears into the blackness of your room.
There’s nothing forced about this nigh-on perfect black level response, either; it’s a simple result of the way every pixel in a well-controlled OLED screen can produce its own light, rather than having to do as LCD TVs do and share external backlights across multiple - typically many thousands - of pixels at the same time.
Some of the i.55’s picture presets, such as Dolby Vision Dark and HDR Night, actually press home OLED’s black level advantages a bit too enthusiastically, to the point where the very darkest parts of the picture lose subtle shadow detailing. Provided you avoid those presets, though, the bild i.55’s handling of dark scenes is up there with the very best. Especially as, in keeping with the very latest generation of OLED panels, the screen manages to handle ‘near-black’ details and colours with outstanding subtlety. By which I mean there’s no brightness flickering or instability in even the darkest scenes, and there’s no extra noise or loss of fine texturing over areas of low-lit detail.
The black levels retain their depth and neutrality even if you watch the screen from an angle, too - another benefit OLED can claim over LCD.
Outstanding black levels usually provide a great jumping off point for a screen’s colour performance, and so it proves with the bild i.55. There’s a beautiful richness and punch to its colours across the board that you just don’t get with images ‘polluted’ by the greyness that can come with LCD backlight systems.
Colour tones aren’t just rich and punchy, either. They also look natural, nuanced and balanced, with no tones standing out so much that they draw undue attention to themselves, and enough subtlety in tonal blends to make sure that background shades and skin tones never become blocky, stripy or compressed.
This colour finesse has a knock on effect, too, into the picture’s sharpness and sense of detail. Despite only being a 55-inch screen the bild i.55 delivers an undeniably 4K experience packed with the sort of texturing, delineations, definition and sense of depth that you can only get with four times as many pixels as you get in old HD TVs.
Many OLED and LCD TVs can struggle to retain their sharpness when there’s motion in the frame, thanks to either judder with 24p film signals, or hardware-induced blurring. Initially it appeared that the bild i.55 would fall into this category, as 24 frames a second films often looked a little too juddery for comfort with the TV’s motion processor turned off, but prone to all sorts of distracting processing side effects and weird stutters with the motion processing turned on. Even when using Dolby Vision presets.
Fortunately, though, after some experimentation, a decent solution presented itself in the shape of the motion processor’s ‘Film’ setting, which managed to take the edge off judder without making Hollywood blockbusters look like EastEnders, and without adding really any unwanted processing artefacts to the pristine images we’ve been talking about throughout this review.
Provided you’re careful with its rather uninspiring motion processing, the only significant issue - or perhaps limitation would be a fairer word - with the bild i.55’s picture quality is its brightness. WRGB OLED screens like the bild i.55 just can’t run as brightly as premium LCD TVs can, and actually the bild i.55 doesn’t run quite as brightly as some of the latest OLEDs do.
This does deny high dynamic range pictures some of the most extreme, life-like brightness and light peaking intensity that a few, typically LCD TVs can deliver. Especially if you use any of the default HDR (rather than Dolby Vision) settings, which all run darker than we’d like and, as a result, can crush subtle details out of the darkest picture areas. Fortunately though, these HDR10 brightness issues can be resolved satisfactorily by pushing the provided ‘Backlight’ setting in the OLED Light menu up to near its maximum level. Make sure, too, if you’re watching a film in a dark room that you’ve turned off the ambient light sensor.
While the bild i.55 doesn’t escape OLED’s innate brightness limitations, though, it can deliver the sort of local contrast - where a pure white pixel can exist right next to a pure black pixel, without either compromising the other - that no LCD can. So the intensity of small bright details can actually look higher on the bild i.55 than it does on otherwise much brighter LCD TVs. Something that can actually make some HDR content, at least, actually look more punchy than it would on brighter screens.
While Loewe’s debut ‘we’re back in the UK, folks!’ TV sounds respectable with its built in 20W speakers, I’d strongly recommend that you add the £299 klang bar i if finances allow. For starters, the simple way this attaches to the TV’s rear without having to dismantle the TV or its stand is genius; you’ll be done and dusted in just a couple of minutes.
Its high quality fabric finish looks great hanging below and set just back from the bild i.55’s gorgeous frame too. Most importantly, though, it ups the power to 80W via no less than eight extra drivers that can, since the bar i hangs below the screen, push their sound forward into your room for more direct impact.
The resulting sound has much more presence, clarity and detail than you get from either the bild i.55’s basic sound or the integrated sound of most of today’s TVs. The klang bar i also helps the TV get more value out of its built-in Dolby Atmos decoding, adding another, more forward facing dimension to the wider and higher soundstage the TV produces when playing a Dolby Atmos source. This helps to create a more three-dimensional sound stage into which Atmos placement effects can be positioned - exactly what you want to happen with a convincing Dolby Atmos experience.
Vocals are clearer, more rounded and more effectively locked to the onscreen action with the klang bar i in play, too, while bass is both more plentiful and better rounded. Though I would say that if you really want to get bass up to properly cinematic levels, you’ll need to step up to Loewe’s much bigger klang bar mr (which we’ll be reviewing soon).
There are a couple of limitations with the klang bar i, though. First, voices can sound a touch detached from the onscreen action, as if they’re coming from below the screen (which, of course, they are). Second and more surprising, the soundbar’s sound can fall away/shrink back quite substantially when pushed hard by a particularly loud, dense or sudden Dolby Atmos crescendo. Such behaviour is far from uncommon with the TV audio world, but given how much clarity and projection the klang bar i manages with most soundtrack content, I’d kind of expected to find it capable of shifting up a few Dolby Atmos gears quite comfortably when required.
Made at Loewe’s HQ inKronach, Germany, the bild i.55 is a gorgeous looking thing even by Loewe’s historically high standards. The main screen is exquisitely thin at its outer edges, and backed by a resplendent black brushed metal panel from which a Loewe logo stands out in gleaming relief. A high quality fabric cover sits over much of the chunkier parts of the rear, too, while the section of the rear housing most of the connections and the various mounting support points is carefully designed to completely eradicate cable mess.
The desktop stand that comes in the box features an elegant pole neck fitting, through which cables can be passed, which fastens onto a beautifully finished plate stand. As ever with Loewe, though, numerous other mounting options are available as optional extras, including a pole-based floor mount and another pole fitting that runs all the way from floor to ceiling.
The screen can be rotated round on its base, and if you want to add the klang bild i all you have to do is slide the soundbar’s mounting section behind the screen without removing it from the desktop mount pole and insert a couple of screws. It really is lovely to find a brand offering optional extras for its products that look and feel like such natural complements for each other.
The bild i.55 sees Loewe adopting Hisense’s Vidaa smart platform - which seems for the most part a sensible decision given the difficulties relatively small brands tend to face when trying to work with content providers to get apps on their proprietary smart platforms. Vidaa provides a nicely presented, pleasingly uncomplicated interface these days, and carries the majority of video streaming apps most households will want (the only major exception being Apple TV). These apps can typically take advantage of the TV’s Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound capabilities, too.
The bild i.55 sees Loewe retaining a familiar smart feature, too, that you just don’t get with any other TV brand these days: A built in video recorder. This so-called DR+ system provides 1TB of storage, and is far more convenient than trying to attach an external third-party USB hard drive.
The bild i.55 is controlled using a fantastically premium, exquisitely finished, gloriously heavy metal remote control that reminds you how special your TV is every time you pick it up. The button layout isn’t entirely logical and the main navigation and select buttons at its heart could have done with a bit more separation, but honestly the remote is just so enjoyable just to hold that you don’t mind if you end up selecting the wrong button every now and then.
One final thing to discuss is the bild i.55’s connectivity. This is very good for home cinema fans, thanks in particular to its four HDMI ports and support for the eARC system for passing lossless Dolby Atmos sound on to suitably featured AV receivers and soundbars. There are three USB ports, too, and the now expected Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cable-free file sharing options.
The only disappointment is that none of the four HDMIs support the 4K/120Hz feeds possible from the latest Xboxes, PlayStations and PCs. Though VRR is supported up to 60Hz, and the TV can use HDMI’s Auto Low Latency Mode switching system to automatically switch to its Game mode for faster response times when a game source is detected. This response time is a little higher at 43.5ms than we’re seeing from many rival TVs these days, though, which could be a problem for really competitive gamers.
Loewe’s return to the UK TV market is pretty much everything we could have hoped for. For starters, its design is every bit as premium and unique as we’ve come to expect from the brand, and it still offers a brilliant and equally gorgeous range of different mounting options and accessories.
Actually more exciting, though, is the way the bild i.55 hits the ground running with its features and performance. The days where Loewe TVs could, due to their long development cycles, feel a little out of date as soon as they’d launched appear to be over, which means, crucially, that their luxury appeal is now much more than skin deep.
Everything Everywhere All At Once 4K Blu-ray
As well as being more of a miracle than a film, this fantastic non-Marvel twist on the Multiverse looks and sounds great on 4K Blu-ray. Its combination of natural lighting and fast martial arts action look lovely on the bild i.55, while its klang bar i adds more precision and scale to the lively Dolby Atmos soundtrack.
The Greatest Showman 4K Blu-ray
The 4K Blu-ray of The Greatest Showman features some of the most aggressive high dynamic range effects and wide colour gamuts the movie world has given us to date. All of which is unlocked to dazzling effect by the bild i.55’s beautifully managed OLED pictures. Plus, of course, the klang bar i if you add it makes Jenny Lind sound like she’s actually singing in your living room.
1917 4K Blu-ray
While 1917 on 4K Blu-ray enjoys excellent, true 4K picture quality, we’ve actually picked it to go with the Loewe bild i.55 for its sound. Its Dolby Atmos soundtrack features a fantastic mix of huge dynamics and exceptional sound stage building that really helps to illustrate just how effective the klang bild i soundbar attachment is versus most integrated TV sound systems.
We’ve partly covered this in the main review, where we looked at the bild i.55 screen in conjunction with the optional extra klang bar i soundbar. This soundbar is specifically made for the bild i.55, but you can also add the more substantial klang bar M to the system too if you wish, complete with a special bracket designed to attach it to Loewe’s pole-style stand options if you’ve decided to go for one of those.
The bild i.55 delivers pretty much everything you could hope for from a luxury TV. Its design and build quality are exquisite, its sound - especially with the klang bar i in play is good, its picture quality is excellent, and it can be partnered with any number of equally lovely design and mounting options.