PURE Digital has long been seen as one of the leaders in the DAB market, and with the PocketDAB 1000 they've certainly produced something that looks good enough to stand side-by-side with its housebound models.
For £130, this stylish silver number promises the choice of dozens of radio stations all the way from your front door to the office (unless you use the Underground, but then there's no pleasing some people). With claims of as much as 30 hours of battery life, extremely easy-to-use features, and a clear, well-lit display, it's something everyone can use.
Like so many manufacturers at the moment, PURE have obviously spent some time admiring Apple's design aesthetic: the PocketDAB1000 is distinctly reminiscent of the PowerBook, with its simple brushed metal effect and minimalist styling. Perhaps surprisingly then, it's not as compact as you might expect: at 65 by 110 by 23mm it works out as one of the biggest units on the market, and it's certainly chunkier than your average iPod.
The controls are neatly and sensibly laid out, with the most important functions all given their own silver buttons. There's a central d-pad to navigate with and control the volume. Finally, there's a power button and a lock at the top to stop your house keys accidentally deafening you as they share your pocket.
The headphones double up as the aerial, giving the benefit of a huge antenna without any extra clutter, and the ones supplied are genuinely comfortable to use. There are just two inputs to the unit, one on the right for the headphones, and one on the left for the mains adapter.
As for weight, at 160g the unit feels well built and reassuringly dense without seeming heavy, although much of that is probably down to the three AA batteries needed to power it, which are placed in the back under an easy-to-remove hatch.
Getting up and running couldn't be simpler -- just two minutes after ripping off the cellophane wrapper we were scrolling through the list of stations wondering which one to listen to.
With batteries included, all that was needed was to pop them in the back, plug in the headphones, press the power button, and (after a pretty speedy start-up), cycle through the pre-tuned stations with the control pad. If you don't think you're being shown all the available channels, the 'Autotune UK' feature in the menu only takes a couple of seconds, and updates the list with everything in the area.
Once you've decided which channels you prefer, the PocketDAB 1000 has 10 presets so that you can avoid wading through the myriad stations in search of your favourites. If you've ever tuned in a car stereo, you'll have no problem here. A couple of clicks of the preset button are enough to store a station as a favourite, and changing them once they're set is equally easy.
With its large, blue backlit screen, the PocketDAB 1000 gives you ample opportunity to see all the information supplied by the different radio stations. Using the Info button, you can choose which details are shown, from the usual scrolling text to the bit rate the station is broadcasting at and the quality of the signal.
The space along the top of the screen is reserved for symbols that show volume, battery life, time (supplied by the radio signal), your equaliser settings and signal strength. PURE has also made this model capable of accessing any secondary services a station might offer, but at the moment few do.
That's where the features end: no alarm clock; no recording; no rechargeable battery; and, most importantly, no FM radio. That wouldn't matter if the DAB reception was good enough, but reception is one of the PocketDAB's biggest problems.
You're not going to be buying this radio to mosey around the house with, and for £130, it's fair to say you expect some decent reception as you wait for your bus or hit the rowing machine at the gym.
But that's exactly where the PocketDAB fell down when we tested it: walking around central London was okay for most stations, but one or two were noticeably absent, and it was even worse on public transport.
In fact, sitting on the 17:22 from Waterloo to Woking, Radio 1 sounded somewhere between a burble and plain old-fashioned fuzz. This wasn't when the train went through a tunnel (it was silent then), this was out in the open, lifted up above the streets, surely in an ideal situation to pick up a crystal-clear signal. Attempts to improve things by holding it to the window made a bit of a difference, but who wants to spend their journeys inducing blood-loss to the extremities for the sake of (slightly) better reception?
In fact, a good rule of thumb is that something worth over £100 is best left tucked away in a pocket anyway, which is where a basic remote control built into the headphones would have been very handy -- just something to jog between presets and control the volume. Even the most low-end minidisc players have them these days, so on a snazzy new DAB radio like this it seems a very basic omission.
These gripes aside, when the reception is good the audio quality is brilliant, with some real depth to the sound, and with six different equaliser settings to choose from you can have it sound exactly the way you want. The problems with the reception really do restrict the PocketDAB's usefulness, though -- it's great if you're outside, sitting in a park or watching a cricket match, but commuters should look for another way of livening up their mornings.
Additional editing by Michael Parsons