With today’s 802.11n routers blasting a Wi-Fi signal into every corner of your home and garden, an internet radio has never looked more attractive – especially in areas where FM/DAB reception is patchy. The (1) Revo Pico Radio Station is designed to take full advantage of that Wi-Fi range – it’s the only unit here that’s equipped with a built-in rechargeable battery.
This makes it ideal for listening to Radio 6 Music or catching up on a podcast while you wash the car or soak in the bath – rubber flaps help to prevent condensation from turning the device into an expensive paperweight. Bewilderingly, there’s no battery life indicator, so you’ll have no idea if the radio is about to run out of juice or when it’s fully charged, although the battery has ample capacity for even the tardiest of garden parties.
Its predecessor, the Revo Pico Wi-Fi, was our top pick in last year’s Christmas Labs, and since then DAB has been added to the audio arsenal, alongside the obligatory FM receiver and media-streaming options, plus a handy input for iPods or other MP3 players. What’s more, the Pico is one of the few internet radios that allows you to pause net radio or podcasts. It also has a remote control. It’s a shame, then, that the sole internal speaker offers the weediest output of any radio tested here, with barely enough oomph to fill a kitchen.
If room-engulfing sound is your chief priority, the (2) Logitech Squeezebox Boom lives up to its billing. The integrated stereo speakers and amplifier not only deliver copious volume, but impressively clean delivery of everything from the spoken word to bass-heavy hip hop.
The Squeezebox is intended to be used mainly as a media-streaming device in a multiroom audio system, along with other Logitech devices in the home. This explains its plentiful support for audio-streaming formats (OGG, Flac, Apple lossless, AAC and more), but rather clumsy net radio menus, which make it difficult to find stations. Support for Last.fm streams is an added bonus, but if it’s a pure internet radio you desire, look elsewhere.
To the (3) Pure Evoke Flow in fact, which brings Pure’s DAB expertise to Wi-Fi radio for the first time. The generously sized screen aids navigation through the Flow’s clearly designed menus, and provides plenty of space for the news updates and other text info provided by FM, DAB and net radio stations. Favourite stations are rapidly hunted down with an efficient search facility. They’re easily added to your favourites list with a prod of one of the touch-sensitive fascia buttons, which are also used to unveil a bevy of further options.
Sound quality is admirable, and particularly crisp with the spoken word. However, stereo sound and true portability cost extra: with the optional extra auxiliary speaker (£35 inc VAT) and rechargeable battery pack (£30 inc VAT). Yet, even without the added extras, the Evoke Flow remains the most impressive portable radio on the shelves this Christmas.
This year’s festive bargain, however, is the (4) Magicbox Clarus Plus. While its brittle plastic shell betrays its £77 inc VAT price tag, and entering text to search for stations is more painful than dropping a wardrobe on your big toe, it handles the fundamentals with aplomb.
The 1.5W stereo speakers deliver DAB, FM or internet radio with gusto. Podcasts are located with commendable speed and, while the two-deck LCD panel makes scrolling through lists of stations a little annoying, it’s sharp and clearly readable even when scrolling. The Magicbox might not boast the suave appearance or advanced fripperies of the others on test here, but there’s a recession on, you know.