Cello C3298FR review

Cello's budget IDTV offers Freeview recording to SD card and has a built-in DVD player. But it's not as good as it sounds

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Our Verdict

The C3298FR is reasonably reliable as a Freeview recorder, but it has too many shortcomings in key areas to recommend it above buying a Freeview+ PVR and a good budget TV instead. You won't get the benefit of SD card recording, but the overall experience should be much more satisfying

For

  • Records Freeview to SD cards
  • Dual recording
  • DVD player

Against

  • Lacklustre picture quality
  • Poor EPG
  • No series linking

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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Tech Specs

Product TypeTV/DVD Combo
Scan Format720p
Standard Refresh Rate50 Hz
Digital TunerDVB-T (MPEG2)
Video Signal StandardHDTV
Number of HDMI Ports2
Number of SCART Interfaces2
Product Family98
Brand NameCello
Screen Size81.3 cm (32")
Aspect Ratio16:9
Horizontal Viewing Angle178°
Vertical Viewing Angle178°
HDMIYes
VESA Mount Standard400 x 200
Operating Power Consumption179.90 W
RMS Output Power12 W
VGAYes
S-VideoYes
HeadphoneYes
Height with Stand580 mm
Width with Stand800 mm
Depth with Stand240 mm
Number of Common Interface1
CI+Yes
Component VideoYes
SCARTYes
Height545 mm
Width800 mm
Depth110 mm
ColourBlack
Brightness500 cd/m²
Product Series98
Maximum Resolution1366 x 768
Audio FormatsCD-DA
Media SupportedDVD-R, CD-R
FeaturesSleep Timer
ManufacturerCello Electronics
Product ModelC3298F
Product NameC3298F TV/DVD Combo
Video FormatsDVD Video
Manufacturer Part NumberC3298F
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.celloelectronics.com
Marketing Information

The new line up of Cello LCD TV's for 2009 continues to break the mould in the UK market for innovation, style, choice and value. As an electronics brand that focuses solely on the development of LCD TVs we are able to harness all of our resources to create a unique and inspired range of LCD TVs. This year we have introduced leading edge new cabinet designs, more contemporary colour choices and some 'world first' new features.

SpeakersYes
Weight (Approximate)14.70 kg