Pure is all set to go live with its FlowSongs service so we thought it was about time we gave its flagship Flow model, the Pure Sensia, the Pocket-lint once over to see if it really is the game-changing radio device that it is talked up to be.
If you don't know the details regarding the Pure Sensia then let us entertain you first with details of its spec. It is a three-in-one radio - DAB, FM and internet - that also uses its Wi-Fi connection to offer some additional apps and services that you usually wouldn't associate with a radio. Pure likes to call the Sensia: "Radio for the Facebook generation".
So how does it live up to this tagline? Well, firstly to label it simply a radio seems a bit harsh. Sure, it can play radio from all over the world via its connection to Pure's Lounge internet radio menu, as well as the DAB and FM offerings, but it also has tablet like qualities as a result of its 5.7-inch, 640 x 480, TFT touchscreen.
These tablet qualities extend to a small array of apps that come built into the Sensia's software. The apps on board are Facebook, Twitter, Picasa and AccuWeather.
To set up the Facebook app you need to first register your Sensia with Facebook and get an access code in order to enable Facebook use. When this is done you'll be able to post updates as well as read your news feed and liking and disliking statuses. Twitter and Picasa are more straightforward - you simply have to log-in as you would on a PC. Apps can be played in the top right corner of the screen or you can go full screen with them.
Back to the radio capabilities the hook up with Pure's Lounge service means that you'll also get access to listen to Podcasts and Listen Again shows. You can manage your Podcast subscriptions as well as your favourite stations within the Lounge's website. You can add folders and download content directly from the Sensia, but you get far more organisation tools within the browser.
As well as radio, you can also stream your music (WMA, AAC, MP3 and MP2) and your pictures directly from your PC or home network. The Sensia doesn't play very nicely with Windows 7 when it comes to WMP streaming but the Flow Server software, which is available free, does the trick. The Sensia also has a line-in port for any other alternative audio device.
The Sensia is loud for quite a small speaker device. In fact it has two 3-inch drive units with a total output of 30W RMS and it handles deep bass quite well. It's no audiophile grade speaker, but as a radio/iPod docking station for the kitchen or the bedroom it definitely does the job. With the Aux-in option you can also add a boost to the top volume setting, but this just seems to seriously distort the sound without giving it any real increase.
First impressions on build quality and design are that the Sensia resembles one of those 1970s TV sets that tried to appear futuristic. It looks a bit like a monitor from a low budget sci-fi film. But it is charming in its own, rugby ball shaped way despite the thick plasticy appearance.
The power button is a bit weird, it looks as if it could be pressed in, but really it is more of a sensor. It takes a while to get the hang of turning it on and off because of this. If you're not using the DAB or FM settings then you don't need to extend the captive telescopic aerial as the Wi-Fi antenna is built-in. If you do need to extend it to its fullest, it's a bit bulky, but then Pure would argue that it gives a strong reception. The RF remote control looks quite cheap and tacky although it seems to work well.
The touchscreen is okay. Just okay. It's nowhere near as responsive as an iPhone or a Nexus One for example, but it is no slouch either - although it does take a much firmer press than a smartphone.
We've said it before on Pocket-lint and we'll no doubt have to say it again - software isn't one of Pure's strong points. The whole Pure Sensia experience is kind of ruined by the back-end software that supports it. The Lounge is the only place where you can seriously configure your device's settings and the Lounge is, sadly, still a poor showing. If only the device could bypass the need to log on to this painful platform then the experience would be a much nicer one.
And again, the manuals that come with the device leave a lot to be desired. To get the Pure Sensia up and running to its full abilities then, you're going to have to do a lot of digging around online to see what's what as out of the box you're told pretty much diddly-squat.
Also, we experienced a problem updating the device to the latest software. An over-the-air update was offered but this crashed, causing the device to pause on a screen stating that it was "waiting for a USB update". A quick look on the web revealed that this is quite a common problem although Pure has published a workaround.
The only trouble is the USB update only works with Windows XP and the 32-bit versions of Windows Vista and 7. Now call us crazy, but surely a flagship device should support Windows 7 64-bit by now? We had to dust off an old laptop in order to get the Sensia out of its state of vegetation.
The Pure Sensia is, without doubt, a fantastic radio device that adds some nice extra features. But that's all it is - a radio device. The apps make it a bit more interesting than your average DAB radio but you're not going to want to spend a lot of time using the Facebook or Twitter apps - it's just not a very fluid interface.
The media server feature is nice, but we can't help but feel that Pure has missed a trick by not getting Spotify, Napster and the likes on board.
Our overall opinion on the Sensia is nice idea, but must try harder. We like the idea of a radio hub that could sit on the kitchen top and provide access to the web. But the Sensia feels like its web apps have been ham-fisted on board leaving a sour note to what is otherwise a fantastic internet/DAB radio device.