SMART RADIO - THE PURE 'SENSIA'



We've had smart cars, smart phones, and now Pure have come up with a smart radio. This rugby-football-shaped device is an FM, DAB and Internet radio with its own internal speakers and a 3.5mm jack for connecting headphones or your hifi: it can run from the mains or an optional internal battery pack. It's 270mm wide.

The difference from previous devices of this sort is the inclusion of a touch-screen, providing information and navigation: see the screenshots on the right and below.

This is of most use with internet radio, where long lists of stations can be involved: the list can be scrolled in the same manner as an iPhone or iPod Touch, by a sharp movement up or down of your finger. Individual stations can be selected by a tap (actually a tap and hold for about half a second as the whole process is a little slow). Station information is displayed, and in the case of DAB some stations transmit slides which are shown in the top right pane.

This pane can also display 'apps' (small dedicated applications) - so far there are only two: weather, and Twitter: more are promised. You reach them by scrolling the display sideways, then up or down to reach the apps: a tap on the top right-hand corner will expand the display to full-screen.

The weather is a bit slow to update (when first switching on, if it's displayed when you start it usually won't update at first and you need to go to something else and then back). Twitter does seem to update properly, and you can even post to it by using an on-screen 'virtual keyboard', which is also used for entering network information when you first set it up. It's of necessity a bit slow and awkward to use: OK for a 'tweet' but that's about it.

FM radio is tuned, awkwardly, by an on-screen slider: I found it so insensitive as to be useless (whereas my cheap FM portable works fine in the same place) and I wonder what Pure think they are doing with this - assuming it's not an actual fault on my radio, don't think of using this device for FM. As I wouldn't anyway, I'm not that bothered.

DAB works fine, and the list of 30 or so stations is easy to browse: you can also set up favourites.

Internet radio is accessed in conjunction with Pure's website 'The Lounge' (left), in much the same way as some other makes use the Reciva site. The Lounge, once you have established a login and registered the radio with it, enables you to set up favourites, in folders if desired, for easy access to stations - these then appear on the radio. If a station isn't in the list you can enter its URL manually.

The radio can also access podcasts, but here there is a severe limitation. As far as I can determine you can only access podcasts which are in Pure's list - quite a number, but nothing compared to the number of podcasts out there. On the Reciva site you can add a podcast from its feed URL, but not here - you have to submit it to Pure in the hope that they will add it to their list. This isn't really a good solution and needs attention.

You can also access 'listen again' programmes, mostly BBC, to hear items you missed, stream music from your computer (once you have installed some software) and plug an iPod or other device into the set to play from that.

On the whole the set works well, once you have got used to the handling - in particular the slight delays on everything. (The set is switched on or off by holding a button on the top for two seconds, or there is a remote control with basic facilities - not including station changing). The downloadable 'QuickStart' manual and the online manual could do with being more detailed - and the lack of proper information seems to confuse a lot of people to judge by the reviews on Amazon: I found my way round it fairly easily, but then I've had a lot of experience with complicated equipment.

There are some niggles: the podcast limitation is one, and the set truncates displayed programme information over a certain length: this is particularly annoying with Radio IO Classical, where by the time it's displayed the composer and performers there often isn't room for the work's title. Occasionally the set says it can't connect with the Lounge - this doesn't affect DAB but it means you can't change the internet station: I don't know whether this is the set or a failure of the Lounge to keep up with demand - usually switching off and on, or occasionally a reboot, cures it. It's crashed a couple of times, failing to change stations or switch off, and again removing the mains from it cured that.

The sound from the internal speakers is pretty good, though I'm using it entirely with the hif-fi, and there the results are limited only by the incoming quality - DAB is fine (mostly - some stations are a bit edgy) but of course internet radio stations usually have a low bitrate and this can sound a bit off. I have to say I would like to see phono outputs in addition to the headphone output: 3.5mm jacks will give problems sooner or later.

On the whole I'm pleased with it and would recommend it - if you're prepared to splash out 250. I wonder whether, as with the iPhone, this will kick off a series of imitations from other manufacturers

Posted by Roger Wilmut 16 December 2009

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DAB radio: one of the few stations to transmit 'slides'.



The 'Source' virtual button enables you to select from various inputs.



Internet radio, with the weather app. selected in the display pane.



The weather app. set to full-screen



The Twitter app.



The standby display: this can be dimmed or set to turn off after a few seconds for bedroom use.


You can enter 'tweets' using this keyboard, which is also used for setting up the network and selecting your weather area.



Roger Wilmut