With its latest range of Freeview equipped LCD IDTVs, manufacturer Cello Electronics has given users the option of recording and timeshifting TV to inserted SD cards. The format is cheap (you can buy 16GB cards online for less than £20) while having the benefit of enabling easy transfer of recordings to the numerous computers with compatible card readers. Twin tuners enable the TV to record two channels at the same time, but you'll need two SD cards to make this happen.
The other noteworthy inclusion to the Cello C3298FR is a side-mounted DVD player, but this bare-bones effort stops short of offering desirable features such as upscaling.
The set has 'budget' looks. There's no hard disk inside, so why's it so bulky? It comes with a pedestal stand or can be wall-mounted (no bracket is supplied).
Hit-and-miss EPG recording
On the right-hand side is the DVD drive slot, which is surrounded by operating buttons. A separate row of buttons covers the main TV functions. Rear connectors comprise twin SD card slots, a CI slot and twin HDMI inputs and component inputs for HD. These are joined by two Scarts, S-video and a VGA PC input. Phonos are provided for hooking up to external speakers.
The remote design is familiar from other kit we've tested recently. It has a rubberised feel and adequately labelled buttons arranged in an accessible pseudo-Sky fashion. But jabbing coloured buttons in a bid to start a recording via the EPG proved very hit and miss. A button is included for accessing BBC iPlayer but this feature is not supported on these particular sets.
The seven-day EPG feels unfinished. Overlaid on the current channel and occupying two-thirds of the screen, it shows a grid of data for five channels at a time (you can toggle between TV and radio) which is skippable day by day. But the details in the grid are so cramped that programme names are only partly displayed. Only when you select them does the full title appear at the bottom of the EPG. You can't view synopses from the guide either and it's very slow to fill with data. Synopses can be viewed from the programme info banner but this doesn't let you see what's on other channels without switching channel first.
There's no capacity for external recording but you can record while in standby or while watching a DVD or something from an externally connected source. You can record by hitting 'record' or via the EPG, but there are no Freeview+ features such as series linking. You can record two channels at once, or one while watching (but not timeshifting) another. You can't record radio channels.
The SD card slots are colour-coded red and green with buttons on the remote to match. A coloured icon appears onscreen to tell you to which you're recording to. You can view a list of recordings scheduled for each SD card and add buffers either side. You can't watch a recording from the start while still in progress.
Recordings stored on each card are displayed in list format with selections shown in a preview window. They can be fast-forwarded and rewound at up to 20x normal speed. Recordings are stored in their native MPEG-2 format (playable in Windows Media Player) equating to 1.7GB an hour, so high-capacity cards are a must.
Using a Class 4 8GB card, audio and picture quality of recordings was much the same as that of the source.
The TV's display capabilities are lacklustre. A resolution of 1,366 x 768 limits it to displaying HD video in 720p or 1080i. Pictures from the digital tuner all exhibit slight fuzziness and contrast levels are generally poor.
Overly bright colours are a problem whether watching TV, a DVD from the internal drive or a Blu-ray disc from a connected player. HD pictures from the latter looked sharp enough, but the tweakable (but basic) display settings still tend to generate a very hot colour palette – explosions in our Man On Fire test disc were excessively orange.
Audio from the 10W speakers is reasonable, but it lacks punch during action sequences and music can sound a tad muddy. Considering the DVD playback, it's a shame that no digital audio output is provided.
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