(Pocket-lint) - Internet radios are gradually increasing in popularity thanks to the gargantuan selection of global radio stations that they offer access to and the Pure Contour goes one better by throwing a retractable iPod dock into the mix. Boasting the official Made for iPod and Made for iPhone credentials, the radio also features DAB and FM tuners so it brings quite a lot to the techie table.
Measuring 370 x 230 x 175mm, the Contour isn't exactly small, but thanks to its distinctive curved shape, it has a relatively compact footprint, so it won't take up too much room. Weighing in at 2.9kg, the Contour is a bit of a beast, but the bulk and the tank-like build quality make it clear that this is a quality audio product. The glossy black control panels with silver trim, along with the silky smooth rubber finish that covers the back of the unit also combine to make one very good-looking radio.
The fascia of the Contour is dominated by the speaker, with a small, central control panel at the base. Along with a 128 x 64-pixel LCD screen, the panel includes three touch sensitive buttons underneath for choosing the various functions that are shown on the display. There are also touch buttons for Home, Back and for navigating up and down, all of which are lit up green. Although reasonably responsive, we found that these could be a little temperamental at times. This made particularly hard work of typing in our Wi-Fi key, although thankfully that's something you should only have to do once.
In general, navigating around the menu screens is very intuitive, so you'll get the hang of it in no time. Unlike some of Pure's more portable models, there's no option for inserting a ChargePak, so you'll be reliant on the mains power supply for juice. The radio takes a fair few seconds to power up from standby, but the short delay is hardly a dealbreaker.
The top panel, which runs over the top of the radio in an arc, sports the same shiny black finish as the front control panel and features touch-sensitive, green-lit controls for standby, volume up and down and mute.
When it comes to connections, the Contour is pretty well equipped, sporting the usual suspects plus a couple of nifty extras. The back panel reveals a 3.5mm aux-in along with a headphone socket and a Mini-USB for software updates (or an optional Ethernet adaptor if you require a wired connection) along with a composite output for hooking up to TV or monitor for watching video video from a docked iPod or iPhone. There's also a Component/S-Video output for watching video from an iDevice, although there are no cables supplied in the box (except for the power lead). Obviously you're limited by the quality of the video on your iPod and the non-HD interface, but it's a nice feature if you want to play back the odd video on the big screen.
Give me the music
The Contour sports a pop-out integrated dock for hooking up your iPod or iPhone. All you need to do is press in the the dimpled areas on the control panel and the dedicated dock will slide out smoothly. The radio is compatible with a large range of iDevices - including all handest models up to iPhone 4, all iPod touch models up to 4th gen, iPod nano (3rd to 6th gen) and the iPod Classic (80GB and above) - and several dock adaptors are supplied to ensure a cosy fit. However, it's worth noting that the headphone socket won't work when an iDevice is docked.
The Home touch-button brings up the audio source screen, where you can choose from digital, or FM radio, internet radio (under Pure's The Lounge banner), iPod, auxilliary input or media player. The Lounge is Pure's online radio management service, which is a handy place to browse for radio stations and keep all your favourites stored in one place. It will also enable you to make podcast playlists or choose from a library of sound effects such as lapping waves or rolling thunder. However, if you don't want to sign up for The Lounge, you can just skip this step and search for online radio stations directly from the radio itself. You can search by name, genre, country, language or quality (or a combination of any of these), so it shouldn't be too hard to find something you like - the biggest difficulty is making up your mind as there's so much choice.
If you do decide to sign up for The Lounge, you'll have the option of shelling out for a FlowSongs subscription, priced at £2.99 a year (currently only available as a beta in the UK). The idea behind the service is that you can identify any track that's being played on the radio simply by tapping the Flow button under the screen, after which you'll be given the chance to buy the track as an MP3. This can then be streamed to other Pure radios or downloaded to your computer and transferred to portable devices such as your iPod (thankfully, the tracks are DRM free). If you're not sure whether you want a subscription or not, the good news is that Pure offers a free 90-day trial so you've got plenty of time to make up your mind.
As well as hooking up to internet radio, the Contour can also act as a media player, so that you can stream tunes from your computer (or any kind of UPnP-compatible storage device) and there's support for WMA, AAC, and MP3 audio formats The manufacturer suggests that you use its downloadable Flowserver software, but you can also stick to media servers such as Windows Media Player if you prefer. It's a piece of cake to connect to your computer or storage device - and once the initial setup is complete you can just tap the Media Player option on the screen for direct access to your music library.
There are 30 presets (or favourites) for the DAB and DM tuners, and unlimited scope for bookmarking internet radio stations. Like most other radios, the Contour can also be used as a alarm clock.
The supplied remote feels a tiny bit flimsy and doesn't have the premium look or feel of the actual radio, but it is functional and does the job required. Unlike the handsets supplied with many radios and speaker docks, the Contour's zapper is reasonably sized, more in line with a standard TV remote. Buttons are well spaced and clearly labelled, making it nice and simple to use and also pretty comfortable to hold. It runs on two AAA batteries, which are supplied in the box.
So, does it actually sound any good? Indeed, it does. The Pure Contour packs an audio output of 36W RMS, along with dual bass ports, resulting in a clear, dynamic bass response. The room-filling capability of the speakers is certainly impressive for a radio and although not quite up to the near-audiophile standards that you'd find on something like the B&W Zeppelin Air, the Contour is a quality iPod dock. Cranking up the volume too high reveals a few chinks in the audio armour, with the sonics losing some of their clarity, but we didn't have any problems when playing our tunes at reasonably loud levels (apologies to our neighbours).
The Pure Contour does what it sets out to do and it does it well. As an internet radio, it's easy to use and the added bonus of access to Pure's The Lounge online service, as well as the ability to stream music from your computer combine to make a great package. Add to that the DAB, FM and alarm capabilities and you've got a very fine radio. Where the the Contour sets itself apart from some competitors is with its distinctive curved design which, combined with the high-quality finish, makes for a a good-looking product. What's more, the unusual shape means that it won't take up too much room.
The audio isn't the best we've heard, but it's still well above average, especially given the relatively reasonable sub-£180 price tag. If you're after an internet radio that can handle an iPod and also has the audio skills to fill a room, then this a good buy.