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PURE Digital has done well to bide its time. The Web has had radio almost as long as music stores, news and spam, but the British DAB leader didn't leap into the field with both feet, choosing instead to learn from its rivals' mistakes. The result is the Evoke Flow, a smart, attractive digital, FM and Wi-Fi radio that makes Internet listening as easy as tuning in to The Archers. The Evoke Flow is available for around £130.
In form, the Evoke Flow looks like any other radio, but, in function, it's streets ahead of the competition. The black case is dominated by a bright OLED display, which displays information pixel by pixel, rather than letter by letter and line by line. This lets it scroll by much smaller increments and present more information than a standard portable radio's display. It needs to be able to do this because it supplements its DAB and FM tuners with Wi-Fi for receiving online stations. With over 12,000 broadcasters at your disposal, you need a decent interface with which to whittle them down.
The Evoke Flow has a built-in search engine. You can specify the language, country of origin, genre and even quality of the stream you want to hear. If that doesn't turn up the station you're after, you can enter all or part of its name. Without a keyboard, this is a fairly fiddly process, performed by twisting and pressing a single knob and confirming your choices with one of the three soft buttons above. It's very frustrating, until you realise that there's a better way.
PURE has built a portal, PURE Lounge, to which the Evoke Flow connects. This lets you to organise and store your stations using a standard browser, and have your choices fed back to the radio. Likewise, any favourites set on the radio itself are saved in your Lounge account, giving you an unlimited number of Wi-Fi presets (DAB and FM presets are limited to 10 and 30 respectively). If you have more than one PURE Wi-Fi radio, you can also use the Lounge as a preset-synchronisation tool by registering them all on the same account.
While the Lounge remedies the fiddly station search, it does nothing to improve the Evoke Flow's menus, which are deep and sometimes confusing. It takes a while to learn how to step back to the top level when listening to Wi-Fi, and, even after a few months' use, we found ourselves relying on guesswork more than we should.
The Evoke Flow works with 802.11b/g networks with WEP and WPA/WPA2 encryption, but there's no Ethernet port, so, if you have yet to invest in a wireless router, you're missing out on the Evoke Flow's biggest attraction, and should perhaps look elsewhere (the Evoke Mio, which boasts a smaller OLED display, swaps the glossy case for polished leather and suede, and gives you a choice of two real-world wavebands: DAB and FM). Around the back, there are ports for headphones, line-out, line-in, a secondary speaker and USB connections.
The Evoke Flow's sound quality is excellent, particularly if you pick your Wi-Fi stations with care. The build quality can't be faulted.
The radio has sleep and alarm functions, with the carrying handle doubling up as the snooze control. It runs on mains power or an optional ChargePak, which costs about £35 and gives you 15 hours of use away from the plug.
The PURE Digital Evoke Flow helps you make sense of Internet radio, organising the myriad listening choices and letting you find what you want without hunting through a dozen browser windows. Add to this its top-notch build and audio quality, and PURE has a winner on its hands. Our only concern is what comes next. PURE has its Sensia waiting in the wings, offering a bigger, touch-sensitive screen and downloadable, iPhone-style apps. It will be the Evoke Flow's main rival, and one you should certainly check out before making your choice.
Edited by Charles Kloet