Pure PocketDAB 1500 review
It’s all too easy to see that Pure Digital has taken some pragmatic decisions – otherwise known as compromises – in the design of the PocketDAB 1500. It uses the exact same chassis as the PocketDAB 1000, which was released in the summer of 2003, with the only obvious cosmetic difference being a black front rather than silver.
The shared chassis isn’t an entirely positive thing. The 1000 felt bulky when it was released, so three years later the 1500 feels even bulkier: at 20mm thick and 110mm tall, it will cause an unsightly bulge in any pocket. At 125g it’s much lighter than the 1000, though, and that’s purely due to the use of a lithium-ion battery rather than the trio of AA batteries required by its predecessor.
The trouble is, we that know the 1500 could have been redesigned to be two-thirds of its current size; the only reason it hasn’t, we suspect, is that Pure Digital already had a factory tooled and ready for the chassis; changing would bring an added, “unnecessary” cost. In fact, the lithium-ion battery is left with room to rattle about inside the battery area, a clear legacy of the 1000. And you can’t slip three AA batteries in if the lithium-ion unit runs out. It is removable though, so you could have a spare lined up.
Pure Digital includes a charger in the box, and it took five-and-a-half hours to charge the 1500 from empty. Over the course of two weeks it provided around 20 hours of airplay on a single charge – extremely good compared to the five hours we typically managed to wring from the PocketDAB 1000 on its three rechargeable NiCD batteries.
As it’s so similar to the 1000, we also expected similar reception – not necessarily a bad thing, as we’ve found the PocketDAB 1000 to be the best pocket digital radio for this. That said, as anyone who’s listened to digital radio on the train will know, it can be a nightmare – break-up of signal makes you quickly reach for the off switch. For instance, you’ll become acutely aware of walls and dense trees, as these often cause break-up of the signal or even shrieking. However, on repeated journeys from Marylebone, it was generally happy until the outskirts of Rickmansworth (occasional shrieks, but nothing appalling), but it became impossible to listen to once the tree cover became thicker.
Providing you’re in a good reception area – check your postcode at www.bbc.co.uk/digitalradio – then sound quality is fine. Against a quality CD player it’s disappointing, but compared to Radio 5 Live on Medium Wave, it’ll make you very happy indeed. The Sennheiser MX300 earphones are impressive quality for a set of bundled earphones, and are certainly good enough for listening to music or talk when on the move.
Unlike its predecessor you also now have the option of listening to FM radio – just press the DAB/FM shortcut button on the front – but it’s a final resort. In the office, we found reception was too poor, and when we were outside we always preferred to switch to DAB if at all possible.
Once switched on, the PocketDAB 1500 will scan for all the stations (make sure have the earphones plugged in, as these double up as the aerial), and then you’ve got ten preset channels to choose from. Otherwise you’ve got to cycle through the all the available stations; it found 31 in central London.
The other buttons simply cycle through menu options such as re-scanning for stations, or flicking through the various information streams (time and date, data rate, signal quality, plus the current programme description). There are three lines on the display, which is mono but backlit with an orange light; a hardly revelatory change from the PocketDAB 1000’s blue.