Pure Sensia digital radio: first look
The iPhone has a lot to answer for. Ever since it lit a stick of dynamite under the mobile phone industry, technology companies have been itching to, shall we say, “borrow” its magic dust. Now, with the Pure Sensia, two of the iPhone’s key features are arriving in an internet radio.
The Pure Sensia has two standout features: a 5.7in capacitive touchscreen and apps, combining to produce what Pure describes as the “Radio for the Facebook generation”.
The device breaks from the boxy blueprint of previous Pure radios, such as our Recommended award winner, the Pure Evoke Flow. The unusual oval unit is certainly eye catching, even though my MacUser colleague Nik Rawlinson rather cruelly christened it “a noisy rugby ball”. The unit houses 30W stereo speakers that delivered commendable punch and clarity, even in a crowded demo room with plenty of background noise.
The unit sits on a tilt stand, allowing you to rotate the radio and keep the 640 x 480 screen in your line of sight – although there weren’t any noticeable issues with viewing angles on the demonstration units I saw this morning.
The touchscreen menus are smartly designed, with radio stations listed down the left-hand side of the screen, with the right-hand side devoted to information from the radio stations (such as “now playing” boxes and interactive slideshows from stations such as Absolute Radio and Heart) and the new apps.
The apps are similar to those found on devices such as the Chumby and the O2 Joggler: information-led internet widgets. At launch their will be apps for both Twitter and Facebook, as well as a photo slideshow from Google Picasa and widgets showing the weather and news headlines. Pure will soon release an SDK so developers can build their own apps for the Pure platform, although whether they’ll do so with the same enthusiasm as they have for the iPhone is questionable.
While it’s handy to keep an eye on your social networks from the radio on the sideboard, there’s no way to update your status or issue new Tweets from the Sensia, which rather cramps its utility. The Twitter app we saw this morning was also using an unbearably small font (smaller than the one pictured here), which means you’d need to be practically sitting on top of the device to read it.
It wasn’t the only problem we noted with the screen. There was often a notable half-second delay between touching the screen and the device reacting, with even Pure’s staff struggling to keep the demonstration units running smoothly. Pure explained that the firmware was still at an early stage, and that such snags should be ironed out by the time the device goes on sale in late October.
If Pure does manage to iron out the glitches, the touchscreen interface has considerable promise. Scrolling through radio stations (either DAB, internet or FM) with the familiar flick of a finger is particularly pleasing, and instead of leaving you to jab at tiny icons at the foot of the screen, a fly-out wheel appears to help you move between the different radio modes. A matching RF remote control is also at hand.
There are several other nice touches on the Sensia. A light sensor means the screen auto dims in accordance with the ambient light, which means the screen won’t shine like a beacon if you’re planning to use it as a bedside radio. There’s an optional battery pack (£35) that lets you take the radio down the garden (with the other rugby balls?), although Pure wouldn’t divulge expected battery life figures. And the option to turn the device into a pseudo digital photo frame while playing music is a welcome extra.
But then, the Pure Sensia needs as many nice touches as it can get, because at £250 it’s going to be at the top end of the digital radio range. Are Pure’s trademark superb sound quality, a smattering of web apps and a potentially impressive touchscreen interface enough to warrant that kind of outlay? We’ll reserve judgement until our full review.