Pure Avalon 300R Connect Freeview HD+ pictures and hands-on
With YouView arguably landing with a plop. rather than then splash LordSirAlanSugar would have liked, the set-top-box arena still has plenty to play for. So, with that in mind, Pure is stepping out of its radio comfort zone, and into making Freeview PVRs.
Pure has some interesting technology in its recorder that make it worthy of attention, which is more than we can say for a lot of recorders we've heard about of late. There's the usual stuff though, a choice of two storage capacities, one 500GB and a 1TB model. Both have Wi-Fi built-in too, to get them on your home network.
And that's where the fun starts. As with most set-top-boxes now, the Avalon has network connectivity, it can talk to your PC and network drives. We asked if it was DLNA certified, and were told that it was compatible, but the firm isn't sure it's going to have it officially recognised. Even so, we're really pleased to see the company offering a box with good media support.
There are two USB sockets, too - one at the front, one at the back. These allow you to connect USB keys and drives to play your own media. We checked, and it can cope with HD in an MKV wrapper. That's great for internet content.
And although this might sound like a normal Freeview PVR, there's a bit more too it than that. For a start, it has one of the best designed and graphically impressive user interfaces we've ever seen. It uses PowerVR technology - Imagination Technologies the parent of Pure also owns the IP for PowerVR - to make the menus a lot more impressive.There's also an Intel chipset to power the PowerVR graphics, which allows some really impressive 3D effects.
To give you an idea, when you change channels, there's a fantastic page turn effect to transition from one channel to another. There are also other transitions, or you can switch them off entirely. The best feature though has to be the PiP (picture in picture) preview you get when you scan through for another channel. The show you're watching fills the screen, but a preview appears in the bottom left with your next selected channel: it's very cool, we have to say.
You also get a 4-port HDMI port, which allows the 300R to act like a AV receiver allowing you to use the box to switch between your HD devices. It's a clever idea, it means that you'll end up with the Pure at the centre of your AV system. But you'll almost certainly want to use the PVR instead of your TVs built-in Freeview receiver because it's so much more snazzy.
Pure is also planning to launch a range of on-demand content. The firm also has a lot of audio-based services which it offers to owners of its digital radios. You also get HTML5 versions of the BBC iPlayer and YouTube. We hear 4oD and the like are on the way too, which is good news.
We also asked Pure why it hadn't bothered launching a YouView device. The answer was that there simply isn't enough flexibility for the company; all of the work it's put in to the UI on the Avalon wouldn't have any benefit on a device where the company doesn't get to control the look and feel of the PVR. We wonder if this spells doom for YouView. Certainly, the Avalon 300R offers every bit as much potential as a YouView box and arguably a more impressive user interface.
The price for the 500GB model is £300 - the same as the Humax YouView box - and the 1TB model is £350. Pre-orders are possible from tomorrow, Friday 21 September, at John Lewis.