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Loewe Connect ID 55 DR+ TV Review

LOEWE CONNECT ID 55 DR+ TV REVIEW

German TV manufacturer Loewe is rapidly becoming the go-to brand for high-end TV displays. Immaculately turned out and adventurously specified, they’re the kind of screen that warrants a second glance in even the most premium of pads. The Connect ID line featured here is its most versatile range yet, available in 32-, 40-, 46- and 55-inch screens sizes; they retail for £1,395, £1,595, £1,995 and £2,495 respectively. Our featured sample is the most recently introduced 55-inch model.

ID, incidentally, stands for Individual Design, a moniker more than justified by the wide range of finishes available. You can opt to partner the Connect ID’s thin piano black bezel with white or black back panels, and then mix and match with one of six colour wraparounds (silver, orange, green, beige, black or white). No TV offers interior designers more to play with. Additionally, the set can also be specified with an integrated 500GB recorder, which earns it the DR+ suffix. This typically adds another £300 to the retail price, but greatly adds to the overall functionality of the screen.

Loewe Connect ID 55 DR+: Build and features
Build quality is excellent. There’s nothing insubstantial about the chassis, and the overall appearance is very upmarket. Connectivity includes three HDMIs (one of which is side facing), an AV mini socket (adaptor provided), PC VGA input, Ethernet LAN, two side facing USBs, coaxial digital audio, CI slot and some legacy connectors. Wi-Fi is onboard. The set sports a Freeview HD tuner along with two DVB-S satellite aerial inputs. These can be configured for a single LNB feed, two separate feeds from two different satellites or as many as four satellites inputs via a DiSEqC controller. This versatility makes it a prime candidate for a pro aerial dealer install.

Loewe has optimised the Connect ID TV for life in a networked environment. A dedicated Media button on the substantial remote control offers instant access to networked UPnP devices, local USB, timeshifted recordings and streaming IPTV options. Free services on tap include BBC iPlayer, Daily Motion and Vimeo, but curiously there’s no YouTube client. Subscription offerings include Box Office 365 and Cartoon Network. The TV also boasts a built-in web browser, but it’s not particularly easy to navigate with a standard TV zapper.

File support is top notch. Whether from local USB or networked NAS, we had no problems playing all popular codecs and containers, including AVI, WMV, MKV, MOV, MP3, FLAC, Vorbis, AAC/M4a and WAV.

The integrated PVR module is a seamless and recommended upgrade which allows users to record one channel while watching another. Timeshifted image quality is transparent to the source channel.When multiple Loewe Connect ID screens are installed on the same network, recordings can travel from one to another using the set’s Follow Me feature, a welcome nicety.

Loewe Connect ID 55 DR+: performance
While this TV doesn’t offer a great deal in the way of calibration, it arrives out of the box looking pretty peachy. Colour fidelity is naturalistic rather than candy store and there’s a real punch to its picture. To avoid unwanted edge-enhancement ensure that the Sharpness setting never strays above the minimum setting. Static contrast is rated at 6,000:1, with dynamic contrast pegged at 6,000,000:1. The important thing to note is that while blacks look suitably deep, there’s enough shadow detail and nuance to add extra depth. The LED edge-lighting is not consistent though, sometimes drawing attention to itself in darker scenes.

Curiously the screen’s default 16:9 setting applies overscan; given that most users will presumably be viewing HD content this is unnecessary. The 16:9 PC setting doesn’t overscan.

During our audition, we ran the screen with a wide variety of content from a selection of sources, including satellite and Blu-ray. For the most part it acquitted itself well, however motion clarity was not deemed a particular strength. With a moving test pattern traveling at 6.5ppf, the TV struggles to offer more than 850 lines of horizontal resolution. That said, images are artifact free and look suitably cinematic.

There are two DNC Digital Noise Control Settings, Medium and High, but these tend to rob the image of detail when engaged; for best clarity, keep DNC switched Off. Loewe also provides a DMM Film Quality Improvement processor to smooth out minor horizontal judder, which it does quite successfully, but this also adds motion artefacts to certain moving objects, so it’s also probably best left Off. While this is not a great screen for sports fans, cinephiles will find plenty to relish here. Naturally, the TV is stereoscopic, offering Active Shutter Full HD 3D. USB rechargeable glasses are an optional extra.

Audio quality is considerably better than its main competitors. The forward facing stereo speakers create a crisp, stereophonic soundstage, powered by a 2 x 10w amplifier with additional 20w mid-woofer back-up. A handful of filters (Speech, Classical, Pop, Custom music and Custom film sound) make it relatively easy to optimise.

Loewe Connect ID 55 DR+: Verdict
Loewe’s flagship Connect ID screen is triumphantly upmarket in design and execution. It also lends itself well to custom installation, particularly if you’re looking to use it in conjunction with a satellite dish feed. Image quality is generally high, although there are caveats as noted. Overall, Loewe has nailed a look that’s somewhere between Apple and Bang & Olufsen, and the choice of finishes on offer make this Connect ID model a very unique proposition.

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Samsung UE75ES9000 Smart TV Review

Samsung UE75ES9000

Screen sizes are on the march. With 50-inch displays now commonplace the demand for larger panels is growing, and that’s good news for custom installers (not to mention TV manufacturers who continue to haemorrhage money).

The UE75ES9000 is Samsung’s largest ever consumer LED LCD offering. Sitting at the top of the brand’s TV range it apes the advanced functionality found on the ES8000 screens, including gesture recognition and voice control, but offers different cosmetics. The webcam which appears as a raised bump on the frame of those models here pops up from the cabinet itself. The 7.9mm bezel is an unusual rose gold colour, while the pedestal stand is utilitarian rather than avant garde.

The UE75ES9000 is distributed to the CI trade by AWE Europe. Product manager James Drummie toldInside CI that the set is proving to be an easy upsell: “Positioned alongside a 65-inch model, clients usually have no hesitation in opting for the larger screen,” he says.

Samsung UE75ES9000: Build and features
This big Samsung is certainly deceptively easy to live with. Viewers quickly get accustomed to the image size. With all the current debate about 4K, it’s easy to forget that 1080p doesn’t betray any pixel grid structure when watched from 1.5 – 2m away.

The set is extremely well specified. There are three HDMIs (one ARC compliant) of which one supports MHL (Mobile High Definition Link is used by Samsung and others to deliver HD from mobile devices). Scart and component connection is available via adaptors. There are three USBs and an optical audio output. Network connectivity comes via Ethernet or built-in Wi-Fi. Consumers concerned about the upgrade potential of the TV should be satisfied with the Smart Evolution upgrade port. If Samsung decides to migrate from dual core to quad core picture processors next year, they’ll apparently be able to purchase a slot-in upgrade.

For installation flexibility, the set offers both Freeview HD and a generic satellite DVB-S2 tuner, which will work with any spare Sky dish LNB feed.

Samsung has made quite a noise about voice and gesture control in its marketing messages this year. It’ll be interesting to see just how much of a draw the set’s physical interaction proves to be. Although promoted as future tech in the brand’s TV advertising, in practice it’s less than satisfying to use. Indeed, gesture control actually becomes more of problem on this larger screen. The integral camera had a real problem indentifying movement if the viewer was sitting close to the display. It invariably took a lot of gesticulation to effect relatively simple commands which could have been done in seconds using traditional control methods. Two remote controls are supplied in the box, a standard Samsung IR and a Smart Touch Bluetooth controller with touch pad, which needs to be paired to a separate BT receiver.

Similarly voice control enjoyed only sporadic success. There was a lot of shouting at the screen required to simply turn up the volume. At times it feels like you’re telling off a naughty child.

Of more immediate appeal is the brand’s Smart Portal, which offers a wide range of IPTV services, including Netflix, BBC iPlayer and YouTube. Media streaming via AllShare over network or from USB covers most codecs.

Samsung UE75ES9000: Performance
Inevitably where this 75-inch display really excels is with sheer visual impact. Offering 60 per cent more glass than a 55-inch panel it’s big, bright, detailed images are positively seductive. The set does need some work to bring out its best though. Direct from the box, the TV’s LED edge-lighting is just too much, with the screen taking on torch-like intensity. The subdued Cinema preset offers welcome relief.

Image clarity is high, and when using Blu-ray as a source the screen looks positively spectacular. Black level performance is good and generally noise-free, provided you sit square on. Installers should note that the ES9000’s off-axis performance isn’t great, with deep blacks turning rapidly to light greys. This can give a very different viewing experience if you’re relegated to the cheap seats.

Motion Plus requires some juggling. It needs to be engaged to preserve motion clarity, as without it resolution drops to around 700 lines. However engaged, the set can create a fair number a lot of motion artefacts – the compromise solution is to use the Custom setting with Blur Reduction at around 7 and Judder set to 0.

Interestingly, the screen exhibits a vertical anomaly at the extreme right and left dges. Looking not unlike a slight shadow, it resembles the ‘crease’ seen previously on Sony’s KDL-55HX923 and appears a consequence of the panel manufacturing process. For the most part, it’s not intrusive, although videophile viewers will probably find it an annoyance.

The set is 3D compatible, with four pairs of Active Shutter glasses bundled. While there’s some crosstalk double imaging evident if you’re determined to find it, it’s not intrusive and doesn’t diminish the entertainment value of Ice Age 4: Continental Drift and its ilk.

Perhaps surprisingly, the built-in 2 x15w sound system is rather good. Clearly there are big benefits to be had by providing a separate audio solution, but the set’s sound is not too shabby in its own right and is certainly superior the rear-facing speakers favoured by Panasonic on the TX-P65VT50 plasma.

Samsung UE75ES9000: Verdict
Overall the Samsung UE75ES9000 can be considered a high impact display that highlights just where the ‘considered purchase’ screen market is going. It’s arguably not a videophile grade TV, but it is undeniably compelling. It’s a panel that’s surprisingly easy to live with (even in a modestly sized room) and even easier to sell-up.

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IMS Research predicts that image quality will be the new battleground for camera manufacturers in 2013. Image quality covers a very broad number of factors and features that go into capturing and displaying image data.

This should make for a very interesting year. We may see different manufacturers experimenting with new lenses, image sensors, and compression algorithms. However, what I would like to see is a manufacturer that dares to mainstream a completely different type of technology: plenoptic cameras.

These cameras (also known as light field cameras) use image sensors with multiple lens arrays to capture all available light. Put simply, this allows users to focus images after they have been captured.

Plenoptic cameras have been around for several years but have had a very difficult time gaining any real traction in mainstream electronics. The costs associated with these cameras (and the complex software and processing power required to edit such images) made them difficult to market. But that changed in 2012 with the Lytro plenoptic camera, which captures images at a size of approximately one megapixel. Focus can be adjusted after the fact on the camera or on a computer using special software (you can try this out for yourself by clicking on the picture below).

This picture shows the capabilities of light field cameras

Ren Ng, Lytro’s inventor, has redesigned the plenoptic camera to greatly reduce the cost. By creating an almost watered down version of commercial-grade plenoptic cameras (like those manufactured by Raytrix), Ng has been able to make these cameras fun but functional household gadgets.

Though Lytro has enjoyed great success in the consumer market, the most valuable uses for such technology reach far beyond consumers.

Re-investigating old images
The possible uses for plenoptic cameras in surveillance are limitless. Focus is just the start; plenoptic cameras collect enough light data to recreate 3D models of suspects. They can even slightly alter the viewing angle of an image after it has been captured.

Think of what science has done for DNA. As technology has improved, scientists have been able to apply new tests to old samples (just ask Lance Armstrong). The same is possible for images captured using a plenoptic camera. As software improves, new processing techniques can be applied to old images. Lytro recently added perspective shift (through a software update), which users can now apply to old Lytro images.

If the race for pixels is over and image quality is the new challenge, I think it is time for manufacturers to start exploring truly unique offerings like plenoptic technology. If Lytro can create a consumer-level camera for $400, video surveillance manufacturers can surely create an affordable plenoptic surveillance camera in 2013.

Light field technology is undoubtedly the future of imaging, but is there a manufacturer in our industry brave enough to take on the challenge?

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