We've often wondered why multimedia-friendly TVs don't let you record programmes via their built-in SD-card or USB slots. It's a welcome surprise to find that Cello's C3298FR (also sold under the Murphy and Soundwave brands) does. It's an especially pleasant revelation considering this 32-inch, HD Ready LCD TV only costs around £450, despite also including a built-in DVD player.
For a TV sporting a genuinely ground-breaking feature, the C3298FR doesn't look very cutting-edge. It's just a glossy, plasticky black rectangle, like any other bog-standard TV. The only vaguely interesting aesthetic aspect is the speaker bar that runs along the bottom edge, separated from the main bezel by a slim silver divider.
The C3298FR becomes more interesting as you check out its connections. Tucked away down the set's side, beneath a couple of HDMI ports and various other standard TV sockets, are two SD card inputs. Both can be used for recording programmes from the TV's two built-in Freeview tuners.
The fact that there are two means the TV can record two channels at once -- one to each card. Having two slots also doubles the C3298FR's maximum recording capacity. Stick two 4GB SD cards in the slots and you'll be able to record up to 7 hours of Freeview footage.
That sort of figure doesn't rival the recording potential of TVs with built-in hard-disk recorders, many of which can record hundreds of hours of footage. But raw capacity isn't really the point of the C3298FR. Rather, it provides a simple way for people to watch recorded shows on the hoof, by simply taking the SD cards out of the TV and using them in a laptop or portable video player.
This aspect of the C3298FR could also appeal to people who like archiving favourite TV shows, especially since you could transfer the highly compatible MPEG files that the TV records onto your PC's hard drive, rather than end up with a pile of SD cards.
In case your portable video player won't play the files exactly as the TV records them, we should say that we had no problems converting them to other video formats via our fairly basic PC-based video-manipulation software.
Even if you ultimately archive your files on a PC, don't forget that SD cards don't come cheap. For instance, 32GB cards cost around £70. The TV's £450 price tag potentially isn't the end of your outlay, then, especially as no SD cards are included for free.
In terms of recording functionality, the C3298FR lets you record what you're watching, pause live TV, or set timer events via the TV's slightly ugly Freeview electronic programme guide. The TV will also tell you if there are any SD-card memory-space issues, or recording clashes. But the recording engine isn't sophisticated enough to earn the official Freeview+ badge, with its most striking omission being series-link support.