(Pocket-lint) - If you haven't heard of Cello before, you should have. It is, after all, a TV brand that is a) British, and b) very focused on value.
Cello's new C43FVP underlines both these key brand attributes. It uses the largely European-based Netgem TV smart platform, which operates from offices in the UK and France, and despite combining these smarts with a 43-inch screen, it doesn't cost much.
However, despite apparent good value, you can unfortunately get 4K panels that rival for not much more. So does this Cello proposition make any sense?
- 2x HDMI inputs
- 1x USB multimedia port
- LAN and Wi-Fi multimedia options
The Cello C43FVP looks like what it is: a budget TV. Both its main body and slightly awkward looking feet are made almost entirely of plastic. Something which the application of a gloss finish to the screen frame can't disguise.
Not surprisingly from this, the C43FVP's build quality is best described as flimsy. Though its lightness does make it easy to move between rooms.
The Cello C43FVP's remote control continues the plasticky theme, and features a rather crowded layout. The layout is pretty unhelpful for the most part, too, with no real logic to much of its button placement.
The only good thing is the provision of dedicated Freeview Play and Rakuten TV buttons. But Amazon Prime Video and Netflix buttons would have been nice, too.
Connectivity is a touch basic compared with even similarly affordable rivals these days. In particular there are just two HDMI ports, and just one multimedia-capable USB port. The latter can be used for recording TV to a USB drive, though, as well as playing music, photo and video files into the screen.
Given its Netgem TV system, though, the heart of the C43FVP's connectivity is really its Wi-Fi/LAN support. Especially as one of the key features of Netgem TV is the ability to cast content and content choices from the Netgem TV app on your Apple or Android phone to Cello's TV.
- HDR Support: None
- Processing engine: Nothing bar a basic noise reduction system
The main thing to take on board here is that the C43FVP is a Full HD standard dynamic range (SDR) TV, not a 4K high dynamic range (HDR) one.
This comes as a bit of a shock at first, given how well-established both 4K and HDR are across the TV world. Even at the budget end of the market.
On reflection, though, Cello's decision to stick with HD SDR for the C43FVP isn't necessarily a bad one. After all, it's common for budget TVs to make a royal mess of HDR due to their lack of brightness and colour range. It's debatable, too, how much difference between HD and 4K anyone might expect to see from a typical viewing distance on a budget 43-inch TV.
It might have been nice, though, if Cello had built a few more picture features into the C43FVP. Really the only thing of note is a noise reduction system which, with any decent quality source material at least, is actually best left switched off for most of the time, as it tends to make pictures look soft.
- Smart system: Netgem TV, with Freeview Play
The Netgem TV smart system that's at the heart of the Cello C43FVP's appeal is an interesting addition to the UK smart TV landscape.
It stands out from the crowd for two main reasons: first, it takes a truly even-handed view of every video source. Live broadcast TV, live streamed TV, catch-up TV and on-demand streamed films and TV shows are all treated with the same weight by the C43FVP's Netgem-based operating system.
It is possible, of course, to find different sources divided up in the on-screen menus along traditional lines. But the viewing recommendations that form the heart of the the Netgem TV's menus are culled from every available source, with no bias in any direction. And it's really striking how right such a neutral approach feels.
The other string to Netgem TV's bow is how personalised it is. During initial setup, for instance, the TV asks the user to confirm if they like or don't like a series of film, TV show, and genre suggestions. Preferences need to be given for at least five of these suggested titles, though it's possible to keep liking many more to build up a more precise user profile.
The results of this initial effort are an impressively accurate and useful set of recommendations across the TV's many sources. And the platform continues to learn and refine itself as viewers keep watching more things.
It's impressive, too, to see how many apps/streaming services Netgem is able to trawl in the process of compiling its recommendation lists.
The Netgem TV mobile app is the icing on the cake. It connects seamlessly with the Cello TV after a simple setup procedure, and after that selecting content to watch from the mobile app - which is much easier to use than the TV's menus - is child's play.
There are a couple of issues with the Netgem system though. For one thing, if only one person chooses the preferred content during initial setup, the system can feel a bit like it's working just for them, rather than the whole household. Being able to setup different profiles for different members of households would be a helpful addition.
Secondly, while Netgem is pretty rich in content, including Freeview Play for all the main UK terrestrial TV catch up services and some exclusive Netgem Live streaming channels, it currently lacks one or two big-hitters: most notably Apple TV and Disney+. These may turn up at some point, but there's no news on them yet.
One last Netgem point in the C43FVP's favour is that it offers all of its Netgem features - including Netgem's TV channels, smart casting and recording - for free. Whereas if you get one of Netgem's own external set-top boxes, you have to pay £/€9.99 a month for some of the platform's 'premium' services.
The Cello C43FVP's pictures feel a bit dated, unfortunately. And not just because they're only standard dynamic range and 1080p resolution.
For one thing, colours look drab and lack subtlety. The drabness isn't helped by the way the TV only manages around 200 nits of brightness, which partly explains the rather drab look to expanses of colour.
It's not all bad on the colour front though. Tones can look quite natural during bright scenes, at least, despite the lack of shading subtlety. But there's no doubt overall that these are the colours of a budget TV.
The C43FVP's pictures are a bit soft, too. And not just because this is an HD TV rather than a 4K one. The lack of colour subtlety doesn't help, nor does the screen's tendency to lose detail and sharpness over moving objects.
Then there's the way the screen tends to lose subtle shading in dark picture areas. This can leave such areas looking hollow and empty - like holes cut out of the picture rather than natural parts of it.
It's possible to improve this issue by selecting the TV's Movie preset, which, unusually, raises the base brightness of dark scenes to a much higher level than the other presets. The only problem is that the extra shadow detail this delivers is accompanied by a much greyer, less convincing portrayal of black colours. Which is particularly unfortunate given that the Cello C43FVP's best picture attribute is actually the black colours it manages to deliver in its other presets.
The set uses a VA-type of panel rather than an IPS one. This gives it an instant contrast advantage over the many budget and mid-range LCD models that opt for IPS, and it capitalises on this head start with a surprisingly effective backlight performance that's pretty much devoid of distracting light 'clouds' or inconsistencies. Even the extreme edges and corners of dark scenes aren't spoiled by the jets and lines of backlight seepage that usually crop up on budget (and some not-so-budget) LCD TVs.
It's genuinely impressive to find such an affordable TV - even one with as little brightness as the Cello C43FVP - managing its backlight so well. Even at the cost of some missing shadow detail.
There is, though, also a downside to the VA panel: the viewing angles. While IPS panels can be watched from pretty wide angles without losing colour or contrast, the C43FVP starts to lose both if viewed from as little as 20 degrees. So it's not a good option for rooms with lots of awkward seating positions.
As a gaming monitor the Cello C43FVP is a solid choice. It handles the relatively simple graphics of current games better than video in terms of colour and clarity - though the lack of shadow detail in dark areas can frustrate at times. It also only suffers with a respectable 25.8ms of input lag (the time it takes to render pictures), even though it doesn't have a dedicated low-lag Game picture mode.
The best that can be said of the C43FVP's sound is that it doesn't try too hard. In other words, it doesn't try to push its speakers to a point where they start to drop out, buzz or sound horribly brittle.
Ensuring the speakers avoid such unpleasant fates, though, does mean the C43FVP has to keep a strict lid on its maximum volume. It's essentially impossible to get enough noise out of the TV to satisfyingly fill anything more than a pretty small room. Especially as the speakers struggle to project the sound more than a few inches beyond the TV's frame.
There is a Surround Sound option that raises hopes of a more dynamic audio performance, but unfortunately this typically just turns movie soundtracks into some sort of noise soup.
The Movie sound mode at least injects a bit more low-end into things, and should be used with any film or high-end drama. But as saving graces go, it's a pretty small one.
While the Cello C43FVP is a very average performer overall by today's standards, it's not without its attractions. For instance, while its pictures are basic, a decent black level performance is commendable. And the Netgem TV smart platform is an impressively sophisticated thing to find in an affordable telly.
It's hard not to reflect, though, that you can get a 50-inch HDR-capable 4K-resolution Hisense TV - with its more comprehensive and easy-to-use Roku TV smart system - for barely any more cash than this Cello. And in 2020 those kind of features are just too good to pass up.
Despite costing a few quid more than the C43FVP, this Hisense model is bigger, carries a native 4K resolution, and supports HDR playback. It also deploys Roku's impressively comprehensive and straightforward smart TV system.