Cello C3298FR television review

Most Freeview "PVR" TVs that can record - still a relatively rare occurrence - do so to built-in hard disks and use a single digital TV tuner.

This 32-incher takes things much further by offering not only two SD card slots, but also two tuners, making it possible to record one channel while watching - and even recording - a second channel.

Forget all about pre-loading SD cards with DivX files and suchlike - the Cello isn’t at all interested - and instead revel in its nifty recording software.

Shove in an SD card, press the red button on the remote and the TV starts recording whatever you’re watching. If you insert another SD card, you can change channel without interrupting the recording.
Select the SD card you’ve just used from the inputs menu, and you’re presented with a simple list of recordings you’ve made. A preview box then plays whichever recording you scroll to, with an option to go full screen using the remote’s blue button. Easy, and with scanning possible up to 20x, it’s then just like any other personal video recorder, such as a Sky+ or Virgin V+ box.

A 30-minute recording takes around 750MB of space, so you’re going to need as big as card as possible to make this unique feature worthwhile.

A 2GB SD card will record for around 1 hour 20 minutes, a 4GB for 2 hours 40 minutes and an 8GB for 5 hours 20 minutes.

The maximum size card this Cello can take is 32GB, buy two such SD cards and you’ll squeeze on around 40 hours of recordings in total, though it will mean spending at least £100 on flash memory.

Impressive though SD card recording may be, the Cello’s headline feature is surely archiving. If you need to clear some space or simply want to keep your recordings for posterity, simply remove the SD card and hook it up to your PC or Mac. The file is revealed as a MPEG file, which almost all video playback software will accept – and a format that can be easily converted into any video file you need (for an iPod, for example).

We actually had problems getting our Mac’s native QuickTime software to play a MPEG recording of Sky News, but the versatile VLC software we downloaded had no problems playing it back.

The quality of the MPEG file is excellent, though scrolling news headlines do appear smudged, though still readable. Colours and brightness are top notch, and the sound was arguably far better when played on a Mac than from the TV itself.

Fat with features, this Cello is a chubby telly; its depth is really quite off-putting at first, though if you plan to use it on its desktop stand it’s of little consequence.

The reward for putting up with a fat "flat" TV is, of course, the built-in DVD player. Running both PAL and NTSC discs – the latter very useful if you’ve lots of DVDs from the States – it also plays MP3 and WMA music files stored on a blank CD or DVD. What it doesn’t do is play any digital video files, something that’s probably the biggest surprise on this otherwise extraordinarily media-savvy set.

What isn’t much of a surprise on this budget, feature-packed set is its rudimentary picture and sound quality. It’s fine for a bedroom, but its soft, noisy and occasionally streaky pictures lack any punch – and certainly don’t impress with Blu-ray, which lacks pure detail and is subject to some blur and judder. Sound, meanwhile, is rather basic and lacks clarity.

This Cello is sold in the Studio and Ace catalogues and is soon to be found in Littlewoods Direct and M&S under the Murphy brand. It’s also on sale with a Soundwave badge from Freemans and Grattan.

Verdict

From a purist’s point of view this TV is below average in terms of picture quality – and is arguably loaded with extra features merely to attract your attention.

That said, it’s dual SD card recording – and valuable archiving options – make this one-of-a-kind TV an excellent and affordable candidate for a bedroom. It’s certainly a lot of fun to use.