The term "radio" encompasses many types of audio today, including AM/FM radio, satellite radio, online-only music broadcasts, and personalized Internet music services. No single device excels at delivering radio in all its forms. It's up to you to figure out what radio services are most important to you, and what devices will best deliver them.
The Pure Evoke Flow offers an FM radio, podcasts, on-demand radio segments from popular BBC programs, and even a broad selection of relaxing ambient sounds--but what it does best is stream Internet radio broadcasts. There are over 15,000 free Internet broadcasts users can tune in and add to their list of favorite stations. You can browse these stations directly on the radio using the high-contrast OLED screen and controls, but to really dig in, we recommend using Pure's TheLounge.com online portal. Users can sign up on the site for free, sift through stations based on country, language, genre, name, and audio quality, and manage a list of their favorite broadcasts. After associating your radio to the online account, all your favorites are accessible through both your radio and your browser.
Users also have the capability of streaming a music collection from any Mac or PC on their local network to the Evoke Flow. You'll need to install some UPnP software to pull this trick off, though, and the experience of browsing your music collection using the radio controls is less than exhilarating--but it works. More specifically, it works with unprotected WMA, AAC, MP3, MP2, and Real Audio, leaving out DRM-protected songs you may have purchased using iTunes or lossless formats such as FLAC or Apple Lossless.
The Evoke Flow also includes streaming audio options for Listen Again, podcasts, and Pure Sounds, all of which can be previewed freely using Pure's TheLounge.com website. Currently, the Listen Again feature offers a directory of over 1,000 recently recorded broadcasts from the BBC. It's great news for any homesick British expats, but probably not a compelling feature for most Americans until more content becomes available.
The directory of over 4,500 podcasts, on the other hand, offers something for everyone (and includes CNET podcasts). An archive of ambient sounds is also on offer, ranging from chirping birds to café background noise. If you like the idea of dozing off to the sound of a babbling brook, a sleep timer can be set to fade out music after a specified period of time. An alarm clock feature is also included, but can only be set to use the FM radio or built-in alarm tones as an audio source.
In spite of all of the many features included on the Evoke Flow, there are a few noteworthy gaps. Especially when held up against the similarly priced Logitech Squeezebox Radio, the lack of popular Internet music services (such as Pandora, Slacker, Last.fm, Rhapsody, and ShoutCast) is a considerable strike against the Evoke. Granted, Pure has done a better job than Logitech when it comes to terrestrial radio support and construction quality, but the vastly broader feature set of the Squeezebox makes it our preferred choice. (Disclaimer: CNET and Last.fm are both properties of CBS.)
Beyond our minor grumble about how the back arrow is used in the menu interface, there's very little about the Evoke Flow to complain about in terms of real-world performance. We found the 802.11b/g Wi-Fi reception to be stable, with effective range around the home. Thanks to the retractable antenna on the back, terrestrial FM radio reception is good, as well.
As with most Wi-Fi radios this size, audio quality isn't going to knock you out of your chair. You're dealing with a single, 3-inch driver with 7 watts of power behind it. For listening around the house, putting the radio at maximum volume offered just enough juice to project the sound between rooms, and maintained a clean, balanced sound without distortion. The sound quality easily surpasses what you'll hear from the majority of clock radios, but it doesn't measure up to the beefy sound of the larger, more expensive.
If we had our heart set on upsetting the neighbors, Pure sells an auxiliary speaker for the Evoke that can be plugged into the back. A line-level stereo output is also included on the back if you feel inclined to run the radio through your home stereo.
If you invest in the rechargeable battery pack (which we recommend, in spite of its high price) you can expect around 15 hours of playback, listening at a moderate volume.