Pure Digital has been at the forefront of DAB radio for some time. Its Evoke range of players are considered some of the best in the market and it, along with Roberts Radio, dominate the DAB radio market. But as Bob Dylan once said: "These times are a changing" and that means internet radio. So can Pure achieve for internet radio what it's achieved for DAB? We tune in to find out.
The Pure Evoke Flow at first glance looks like any other Evoke radio the company has launched in the last couple of years. A solid looking rectangular box, the front of the radio is dominated by a circular speaker to the left and screen with buttons to the right.
It's typical Pure Digital style and one that is not only instantly recognisable, but one that is likely to appeal to Pure Digital fans, of which there are many. This isn't an iPod dock that happens to be a radio. This is a device that looks 100% radio.
Around the back of the well-built gloss black finished box is the battery compartment accepting regular batteries or a ChargePak so you can take it with you on the go and an array of sockets so you can connect other devices like an MP3 player, another speaker, headphones and USB.
All sounds straightforward, however it is not until you take a closer look that things aren't what they seem.
First off is the addition of an OLED screen that is big and bright, but not to the point of blinding. Information, displayed in yellow, is clear and easy to read and it's your main interface for doing stuff on the radio.
Below that OLED screen you'll find four touch buttons like the LG Chocolate mobile phone. Unlike some devices we've seen where you really have to push hard on the surface to get a response, these buttons responded perfectly every time allowing you to glide through menus quickly and easily.
Cleverly, perhaps realising the type of person who is going to buy this radio, the two most important controls, the volume and menu scroll, are still big manual dials that are solid and well-built to touch.
But the new aesthetics aren't the main sell here though, it's the internet radio capabilities beyond the core DAB/DAB+ and FM radio tuners of the Evoke Flow that are the reason you are going to buy this device.
That's right, this radio has Wi-Fi built-in (no Ethernet however) so you can connect to your home Wi-Fi connection and access the thousands of radio stations that are available all around the globe at the press of a couple of buttons.
Managing the selection of stations available is a bit of a minefield, however Pure has included a search feature on the radio that allows you to search via Name, Genre, Country, Language and even Quality. Text input is via spinning one of those big dials mentioned above through the alphabet and it's all a bit of a hassle to be fair.
Realising this to be the case, Pure Digital has tried to come up with a solution: launch a dedicated website to help you manage your internet radio stations, create folders with favourites and add stuff like favourite podcasts.
While you don't have to ever visit the website to use the Pure Evoke Flow, users who want to can log in, pair up their radio with the service and then manage favourite stations and other features via a browser on a PC or Mac.
The move means that you've got a lot more control over setting-up the system than sitting in front of your radio turning a knob for half the night.
While Pure Digital may be great at making DAB radios, it's clear they aren't the hottest when it comes to website design or usability.
The lounge, which is a bit rough around the edges from a design perspective (certainly compared to competitor Radiopaq), gives you access to internet radio stations, podcasts and something called Pure sounds, which in reality is just a bunch of random noises (like dogs barking) that Pure say will be good to wake up to.
Overall it will help you do what you want to do, but it’s not the easiest of sites to use and could detract from the Evoke Flow's otherwise good quality. It would have been nice, for example, to work out a way you could subscribe to podcasts rather than just finding the latest ones and while we acknowledge that it's not officially launched, compared to the competition it is lacklustre.
Beyond the internet this radio will also live stream from a media server on the network, handy if you've got a stack of tracks on your PC that you want to share.
The Pure Evoke Flow is launched at a time where more and more manufacturers are getting into the internet radio market. Its offering on the hardware front, as we've come to expect from Pure Digital, is second to none.
That's not to say it’s completely perfect, there are a few glitches with the radio: no live pause for example and the menus can be confusing at times with no direct button to get you to the home page, but on the whole, the radio's performance listening to DAB, FM or internet radio is very good. Sound quality and speaker capabilities are excellent and as a piece of hardware we love it.
Where the chink in armour occurs is in thelounge.com website that accompanies the radio. It's just rough around the edges and, compared to the competition, not very Web 2.0. It's not that there isn't some good functionality tucked away in there, it just doesn't match up to the player in performance or aesthetics.