Earlier this year, we took a look at British manufacturer Cello’s 50-inch Platinum 4K TV. Now, we’re looking at a much more advanced model, the C55QLED. As the name suggests, this HDR-capable TV uses the same QLED technology as Samsung televisions, boosting colour reproduction and contrast. Let’s see how it compares to Cello Platinum and competitors at its £800 price point.
- Premium 55″ QLED 4K 3840 x 2160 display (Samsung LSC550FN11 8ms panel)
- Quantum dot technology for better colour reproduction, darker blacks and higher peak brightness
- High Dynamic Range (HDR) heightens the contrast between bright and dark areas
- Smart TV w/ Wi-Fi for streaming online content
- Air mouse remote control with a 9-axis gyroscope
- Watch terrestrial digital HD channels with DVB-T2 tuner
- Two USB inputs means you can connect external HDDs and record live TV or play media files
- Four HDMI inputs for connecting multiple devices such as set top boxes and games consoles
- Thousands of apps available from the Google Play store
- Android 7.1.2 Nougat operating system
- AMLogic 962 A53 quad-core 1.5GHz CPU
- 2GB DDR4 memory + 8GB flash storage
- Gigabit ethernet + 802.11 N (Wi-Fi 4)
- Made locally in County Durham, UK
The Cello QLED has a more advanced design than its Platinum predecessor, which you’d expect given that it is about double the price with only a five inch increase in screen size. The chunky bezels that adorned that earlier TV have been replaced with rather minute metal alternatives, shaved off on the top corners to provide a suitably sleek look. The integrated soundbar of that TV has also been excised, making for a lighter TV but one that doesn’t sound as good out of the box despite two 8W integrated speakers. The crescent-shaped stand is more elegant than its predecessor and easier to assemble, but it does jut out in front of the screen to preclude a soundbar from sitting in an optimal position.
The back of the TV also shows signs of improvements with plenty of I/O: four HDMI 2.0 ports, aerial, composite, ethernet, RCA, two USB 2.0 ports and a Micro SD card slot. A 3.5mm headphone jack, IR and optical audio ports are also included. Two of the HDMI ports are on the side and two on the bottom, with the former a good choice for dongles like Chromecasts and the latter better for permanently attached set top boxes and games consoles. Both USB ports and the Micro SD port are also on the side for easy access. Apart from I/O, you’ll note a thin layer of metal that covers the top sixty percent of the body.
The TV comes with a remote which provides access to common functions and also doubles as a gyroscopic pointer. The previous Cello Platinum required a USB dongle for this to work, but evidently this has now been integrated into the machine which is a nice improvement.
Overall, build quality is impressive and more than lives up to what you’d expect from an £800 telly, even one by a smaller manufacturer.
Setup and software
With the TV plugged into the mains and ready to go, you can begin the setup procedure. This involves signing into your Wi-Fi, putting in your Google account so you can access Android apps and choosing a few common settings like the date and time. This process appears to have been streamlined compared to that of the Cello Platinum, with which I experienced an annoying issue preventing my Google account from signing in. Here, everything was smooth sailing and I reached the Android smart TV mode rapidly. The home screen itself is also quick and responsive, making it easy to switch between inputs, adjust settings or try some apps. However, the interface doesn’t appear to have been made for a 4K set, with most icons appearing ugly and pixelated and the entire display rendering at 1080p. This seems like such an obvious missed opportunity to improve first impressions.
There are several apps suggested for you to install when the TV is first set up, such as the BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Kodi and so on. You are also free to explore the Google Play Store at your leisure or sideload apps downloaded online. The Play Store treats the television basically as a tablet, so you’ll be able to install many apps that don’t play nicely with the remote-based controls, even with the air mouse mode enabled. This can be a frustrating experience – even in apps like YouTube and Netflix, you can’t choose what you want to watch by using the directional pad on the remote; you must bust out the Air Remote. Compared with proper Android TVs where fewer apps are available but remotes are properly catered for, this is a bit letdown – to say nothing of other smart TV systems like webOS or Roku. The remote appears to perform better than its predecessor, but I often had to break out a USB mouse and keyboard to get some apps working – quite an annoyance for a TV that should be sitting in my living room. I also had several apps crash mid-way through using them, including Netflix and the launcher itself.
However, it’s not necessary to rely on the built-in smart TV, as much as Cello have bigged it up. I’d recommend connecting an Nvidia shield, a Google Chromecast or another smart TV box instead – fewer apps will be available, but those that do exist will be much easier to control.
There’s another reason for choosing to abstain from the pre-installed Android operating system: Cello don’t appear to have secured the necessary licenses and/or software setup to get 4K HDR content playable through the base system. Netflix appears to be playing some way below 1080p – only 960×540 according to the Test Patterns! – and YouTube tops out at 2160p, but without HDR. iPlayer is a similar story, with no visible quality controls but a VOD looking at least 1080p or worse.
One nice option might be connecting the Cello QLED to a PC. This allows for 4K HDR at 60Hz, although you do need to enable the HDMI 2.0 mode in the Options menu to allow this to work – otherwise, you’ll be restricted to 4K at 30Hz, which is an awful experience for anything other than cinematic video. I initially had some issues connecting my PC with my usual HDMI cable – the TV would show a blue status screen rather than my desktop once I switched to 60Hz or turned on HDR in Windows – but this was eventually resolved when a Cello employee suggesting trying a different HDMI cable.
With this problem solved, the Cello TV’s 4K and HDR modes could be properly evaluated. I tried playing games like Battlefield 5, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Forza Horizon 4, all of which natively support HDR displays. In all cases, it wasn’t quite the stand-out experience I hoped it would be.
In Forza Horizon 4, the game proceeded normally during the main menu and the initial ‘home’ screen, where you can choose your car and so on… but as soon the in-game ‘about to drive’ cinematic finished, the TV promptly burst into a colourful pattern of intense white noise. The timing of this was intensely suspicious, but I’m at a loss to explain it.
Battlefield V was a better experience – the HDR mode enabled smoothly, and I was actually able to play through multiplayer and some of the singleplayer War Stories. The HDR mode made the menus incredibly dark, but it seemed to work fine in-game – although I did prefer the SDR look. I did notice a lot of judder in the game’s cutscenes, which play at 30fps, and there’s no setting to turn on to fix this issue.
Black Ops 4 performed the best of the HDR titles I tried, running smoothly at 60fps on our GTX 1080 rig despite some noticeable smearing and a little extra input lag than I’m used to. Again, HDR mode didn’t look noticeably better than the SDR mode, but at least it didn’t cause any issues.
I also experienced several other bugs with the TV outside of games – often, the Windows desktop appeared incredibly pixelated at 4K when the monitor was first switched to this input, which could only resolved by changing resolutions away from 4K and then back or toggling the picture mode. The source menu also only allows detected inputs to be highlighted, which meant that often I had to unplug and replug the TV into my PC for it to be connected – or brute-force the issue by mashing the the relevant HDMI port button on the Android homescreen.
Image quality and settings
The Cello Platinum had few user-accessible options, and that remains the case with the Cello QLED. There are still only five picture modes (standard, vivid, soft, monitor and user), with the latter allowing access to individual brightness, contrast, colour, sharpness and backlight controls. DNR (digital noise reduction) can also be changed between off, low, medium, high and auto. More advanced settings, such as local dimming, gamma, smooth graduation, motion interpolation and so on simply don’t exist. While some of these features are largely superfluous and their omission can be excused at the £400 price point of the Cello Platinum, I felt their absence more keenly on the £800 Cello QLED. Put simply, TVs by almost all major manufacturers include many more features and options, so by going with a Cello TV you are losing a lot of potential tools from your toolkit.
Image quality is hard to judge objectively without performing actual colourimeter readings (something that wasn’t possible with this review), but in general the new TV’s Samsung LSC550FN11 QLED panel shows improvements over the Platinum’s more pedestrian LED-lit LCD panel. With sufficient settings tweakery and by using a proper 4K HDR source – like a games console, PC or HDMI dongle – you can achieve a natural-looking image with rich colours and reasonable contrast. However, 1080p or lower material doesn’t appear to be upscaled at all, something that is normally done on 4K sets to improve the appearance of lower-res content. Similarly, completely black pixels appear dark grey rather than the inky black you’d expect from a high-end QLED or any OLED panel.
The Cello C55QLED is a difficult television to recommend. Its built-in smart TV software has become faster, but even major Android apps don’t play well with the included remote and I found several bugs in testing. The image quality of the 4K HDR panel is noticeably better than that of the Cello Platinum we tested earlier, but lacks many of the settings and features that you would expect on an £800 set. The TV’s input lag is reasonably low even without a dedicated game mode, but poor pixel response times, no adaptive sync support and a somewhat muddy image makes it a poor choice for gaming. The QLED TV looks stylish and feels well-built, but its crescent-shaped stand lies precisely where you’d want to rest your soundbar – and you need an external audio solution, thanks to unimpressive built-in speakers. For every advantage that the C55QLED trumpets, it seems to sprout two more shortcomings.
Ultimately, that isn’t good enough for a television that is competing against the likes of the Samsung NU8000, LG UK6400 and many other solid options around the £800 mark. While I respect Cello’s ambition to succeed as a maker of British televisions and its trajectory remains hopeful, it has yet to deliver a polished product that challenges any of the major brands.