The Cello Netgem smart TV may be suspiciously cheap, but it shows how much you can still get for a truly bargain-bucket price television – as well as the usual pitfalls than come with it.
Cello is a British TV manufacturer, and makes television displays better suited to small flats and motor homes than luxurious manors and living rooms, but Cello sets will largely get the job done – and at a fraction of the price of the average home television.
So what’s the story with the Cello Netgem smart TV? This set is the company’s first Alexa-compatible television, offering a way to connect to Alexa speakers and use voice commands to navigate streaming apps, change the channel, and control volume without even having to lift the remote.
It’s not as seamless as it sounds, though you may decide the low cost is enough to smooth over the cracks for you.
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Price and availability
The Cello Netgem smart TV is wonderfully cheap, for all of its various sizes. It’s available in 24-inch, 32-inch, 40-inch, 43-inch, and 50-inch sizes, starting at just £169. The 40-inch model we tested costs just £279 too. It’s available to buy on Amazon.
The design of the Cello Netgem smart TV is predictably basic. You get what you pay for on the design front, and it’s very apparent here: a relatively thick bezel, plasticky black casing, and stodgy little feet that don’t raise the display very far off the counter.
As a 40-inch display, the model we tested isn’t as imposing as a 55-inch set – and Cello making the TV’s largest size 50-inch seems sensible, given the HD resolution will seem more pixelated the larger the screen gets (the resolution is HD for the 24-inch and 32-inch sizes, and Full HD for the rest). Each model is wall-mountable, regardless of sizing. You’ll get a small number of inputs at the back of the TV, too, including two USB ports and two HDMI.20 ports, as well as Ethernet, aerial, and optical ports.
The TV ships with a functional remote, which features a numerical pad, volume and channel controls, as well as button shortcuts for FreeView Play and the Netgem smart platform. There’s also a voice button for Alexa (shaped like a speech bubble) and a cog button that jumps between sources and pictures settings (press once for the former, or twice for the latter).
The remote has a very large, almost bulbous IR sensor, which nonetheless seems imprecise. The television often didn’t pick up our button commands, and we found ourselves having to make sure we were pointing the remote head on, as even a slight angle to the side would render the remote non-functional.
Smart TV (Netgem.tv)
This Cello TV uses the Netgem.tv smart interface, which is basic but largely straightforward to use. As well as live TV, you get access to FreeView Play for on demand UK content, and popular streaming apps such as Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Rakuten TV, Britbox, Hayu, Deezer, Plex, and Mubi.
The layout isn’t incredible, with the Netgem.tv page organizing content by theme (family, Disney, teen, documentaries) rather than the service they’re available on. Given almost each app included has a separate paywall, it’s an irritating way to display content – as you’ll catch sight of a film and then find it will cost you £9.99 because of the platform it’s on. The Apps section is hidden quite far down the page.
It’s not the fastest interface, and we were disappointed not to see Netflix in its list of apps. The universal search function is also highly frustrating, forcing you to use the remote’s keypad to type out letters in the vein of a Nokia 3310 brick phone – but even less precisely, given the remote’s poor IR coverage.
There is Alexa compatibility, meaning you can connect the television to an Alexa device through your smartphone. However, the instructions given onscreen didn’t work for us, and we had to head to the app’s Skills & Game sections to enable the Netgem.tv skill ourselves (rather than through Settings > TV & Video as instructed).
Alexa also isn’t at her best, here. Commands that our Pure DiscovR smart speaker could carry out fine became contentious when attempting to control the television, especially regarding volume controls. We did, however, manage to summon apps (‘Open YouTube’) or play videos without issue.
The main thing to note is that you need a smartphone app to create a Netgem.tv account during TV setup – and we found we couldn’t load any FreeView Play apps such as iPlayer or BBC News until this was complete. You can, however, cast directly from the mobile app when set up.
The Cell Netgem TV outputs a Full HD resolution, meaning the TV screen has a total 1,920 x 1,080 pixels to work with. That’s not a huge amount by today’s standards, given there are plenty of 4K TVs that offer 50-inch sizes – and some that offer 40-inch or 43-inch sizes too.
We wouldn’t recommend the larger sizes, then, as the picture will look less precise the larger you go.
We don’t expect the processor is very high-spec, but it did a decent job in our tests. The TV’s picture does push up the contrast, as many cheap TVs do to increase the overall impact of the display, but the set doesn’t overdo this, and the picture is generally measured.
SDR (standard dynamic range) looks great on the display, too, with a pleasing range of colors aptly brought out by the Cello TV’s processing. Sure, you’re not getting full HDR (high dynamic range), but this is still a set that does what it can do pretty well.
When watching Noughts + Crosses on BBC iPlayer, we found the bright colors and rich textures in the home of the show’s Home Secretary looked surprisingly vivid, even if skin tones could look a bit off at times, without a natural gradation in tone from one side of an actor’s face to another.
There’s plenty of banding in dark scenes, especially for evening skies and dingy interiors, but the set manages to minimize video noise, and the picture isn’t an eyesore if you’re not staring too intently at its defects.
The sound is also perfectly capable, most of the time. Our volume inexplicably reduced to a fraction of its original output in the middle of testing, and we found we had to head to the audio settings and change the sound mode to Home Cinema to bring it up to the original volume.
Given this issue is fixable, though, it shouldn’t put you off too much.
The Cello Netgem Smart TV is a capable HD television, available at a rock-bottom price. You have to sacrifice 4K resolution, HDR, and the conveniences of a more developed smart TV platform to save those pennies, but it’s a set that’s very much worth considering if price is your number one priority.
The Alexa integration is far from perfect, and this isn’t a TV you should buy for its basic smart capabilities – especially since you’ll need an existing Alexa smart speaker already. However, Amazon’s voice assistant does offer the easiest way to load apps, and shouldn’t be ignored entirely.
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