Pure Oasis Flow review
With the digital switch over for radio now planned for 2015, you haven't got long to get into the world of digital radio. Well that's the scaremongering out of the way, but seriously can the Pure Oasis Flow offer you decent sound and performance?
Sold as a rugged radio, the Oasis Flow is a solid, rather large (155 x 230 x 140mm) connected radio that is encased in plastic and metal and offers DAB, internet, and FM radio stations for you to enjoy. We say rugged, but this isn't Olympus Tough camera or Panasonic laptop rugged. It's not covered in rubber and ready to be hurled into the back of a Land Rover and given a good beating.
It is rugged enough to withstand being used on your patio, around your pool (read paddling if you are in the UK) and generally out and about on a camping trip or to a picnic. That's partly thanks to a built-in rechargeable battery that gives you freedom from the power socket. Powered by the company's ChargePak tech you'll have to recharge it via the provided cable at some point, but it will save you a fortune in new batteries.
Coming in gloss white with aluminium edges, the main focus is towards the front of the unit. Here you are presented with the speaker, three control knobs for volume, power and scrolling through menus, and finally a large high-contrast yellow-on-black graphical 128 x 64 pixel OLED screen that is also touch sensitive, but only in part.
Before we talk about interaction, it's worth pointing out that around the side there are headphone, Aux in, USB and power sockets, while the back of the device reveals a storage slot for the plug-in aerial and two smaller speakers for the bass.
The top features a socket for the aerial that can be taken off when you don't need it (you don't, for example, if you are listening to internet radio), and a handily placed handle for carrying the device around, although at 2.2kg you'll need to make sure you're tough enough yourself.
That weight does help though. It gives the Pure Oasis Flow a solid feel and one that continues the tradition of Pure's excellent build quality.
At the front of the unit, the main focus is going to be around the controls, as there is no remote in the box it's the only way to control the unit. As with previous Pure radios there is a strange mix between touch and turn dials, which can at times get confusing. In an attempt to reduce the number of buttons, some of the commands for the Pure Oasis Flow have become contextual touch sensitive at the bottom of that OLED screen.
That means things like adding the station you are listening to the Favourites list or pressing Options to access things like the Display, Wi-Fi settings, or Alarm or timer. There is also a back button that lets you get back to where you were, unsurprisingly enough.
But this is where it gets slightly confusing, turn the Select knob and that throws up a different menu selection specific to the radio option you've opted to listen to. Be it internet radio, DAB, FM or Aux in. It's not the end of the world, but it will take a little while getting used to.
Turn on the radio, and the DAB will start its tuning process to grab as many DAB stations as possible. If you're in a good DAB area that means you'll get lots. If you aren't then why are you buying a DAB radio? Of course if you thought you were and then found out you weren’t you always have the FM radio, internet radio service called the "Lounge", or a network music to enjoy as well.
DAB stations came through loud and clear in our tests, working just as you would expect a DAB digital radio to work. Pure has been in this business for some time, leading it in fact, and one thing is for sure, it knows its stuff. The FM radio is equally easy to use and equally good on the performance front.
When it comes to internet radio, it does take a little longer to set-up, only because you've got to go through the boring process of punching in a password for your network (all via a on screen keyboard and that scrolling knob) but once you've set-up you can then access thousands of stations available, either by scrolling through them or via the search function.
Thanks to that 802.11b/g wireless connectivity, you can also use the flow to stream from a networked PC or Mac either from software you might already have (it has to be a UPnP server or PC/MAC running UPnP server software), or via the company's Flowserver software licensed from Twonky Media (As an aside we tried it with our Sonos system and while it could see the tracks it refused to play them).
Software isn't one of Pure's strong points. Pure might make great hardware, but we've said this before and we'll say it again, the whole device is let down massively when it comes to its website.
To get the media server features working you have to register with the company's website, then register the radio, then input a code into the radio having received that via email, then you get a second registration code via another email that you then have to punch into the Twonky Media software you've downloaded. Failure to do any of this in the right order leaves you having to phone technical support (like we had to).
It's not that the software doesn't work once you get it running, it's just that no one has thought support through, merely expecting you to just know what to do. The emails tell you to check the manual, the manual doesn't have anything, and around you go again.
That aside, the streaming element, once we did get it working, works well. Audio codecs supported include WMA (Standard V9), AAC, MP3, MP2, Real Audio (cook), and you can shuffle through your music as long as you've got your PC or Mac turned on and the Flowserver software running in the background. Don't worry it isn't a resource hog.
Back to the website and it's not just about frustration, but actually a chance to set-up some of the elements of your radio like managing your favourite stations. It's just a shame the website looks like it has been designed by someone who has only just graduated from "learn HTML in 24 hours".
But forget all that for the moment, you can actually get away with spending virtually zero time on the website, which is a good thing, and enjoying the cracking radio that is the Oasis Flow. When it comes to sound quality, it is surprising how much volume this little box can generate and we aren't just talking noise. The sound is well balanced and it will happily fill your garden with music over the summer months to come.
The Pure Oasis Flow comes with three criticisms, but plenty of praise. Those criticisms come in the guise of the the price, software, and the fiddly control mechanism. At £169.99 it does look a bit too expensive, even though it offers plenty in the way of DAB, FM and Internet radio. The second is thelounge.com - it's just badly designed. And the third - you'd just better hope you have deft fingers.
Get past these foibles and the radio is a great device, well made, able to withstand being left out in the rain while you duck for cover, and good enough to produce a sound that you and your party guests will be happy with.