While the first generation of DAB radios were bulky, dedicated receivers that were far from portable, companies such as PURE have been busy finding ways to pack DAB into increasingly small packages.
The PocketDAB 1500 is (drum roll) a pocket-sized DAB radio. Unlike the PocketDAB 2000, it does not have the ability to record live radio in MP3 format onto removable SD cards. It is however slightly smaller, cheaper and lighter. Although pocket-sized DABs are still bedevilled by reception problems, the 1500 is a welcome improvement. The 1500 moniker would suggest it sits neatly between the previously reviewed PocketDAB 1000 and 2000 models, which it does. So have pocket digital radios come of age, or would you be better off sticking with an iPod?
The PURE Digital PocketDAB 1500 is not far off the size of the original iPod, at 65 by 110 by 21mm. You can squeeze it into a pocket, but it's not as svelte as a dedicated FM receiver.
The chassis is finished in a jet black, with a wrap-around silver edge. It's relatively solid and well constructed, but does feel surprisingly light. The back of the chassis is fairly smooth, and the unit could slip out of your hands during a sweaty workout. The unit collects some dirt, but it's a world away from the greasy mess that the PSP, for example, can build up.
Controls on the PocketDAB 1500 are neatly organised. The central joypad -- used for navigating stations -- is surrounded by a function puttons which control 'info', 'preset', 'DAB/FM' and 'menu' options. At 123g, this radio doesn't compare to the credit-card style offerings from analogue radio manufacturers. DAB technology is new, but this will weigh down a suit pocket enough to be visible to thieves. Hopefully these weight problems will be overcome as receiver technology evolves.
The PocketDAB 1500's LCD screen is resilient. It's slightly recessed beneath the surface of the display. Pressure exerted on the flexible plastic cover will cause the LCD to distort, but it's tolerant of knocks.
A 3.5mm headphone jack is available on the right-hand side of the radio, and a 5V power input on the left. You can listen to radio on the bundled headphones, which are visually unremarkable. Although they bear a resemblance to the headphones you're handed on long-distance flights, we were surprised by the quality of sound they produced -- more on that later.
Power for the PocketDAB 1500 is supplied via an internal battery that inserts into the rear of the chassis. This is a proprietary cell pack and is charged in the unit using the bundled power adaptor.
The 1500 auto-tuned to all the available DAB radio stations straight out of the box -- this took about five seconds. We could then scroll between the available channels using the directional-pad control, finally making our selection by pressing down on the pad. This was without having to consult the manual.
If you move the radio to a new location and you notice the reception becoming unreliable, there's a menu option that instructs the PocketDAB 1500 to retune all its stations.
The PocketDAB 1500 may be small, but it can provide most of the station information a full-size DAB does. You can scroll between stations, and view full broadcast information on the LCD as you're listening to tracks. Depending on the music that's playing you may be given an artist biography, or news about that band's latest gigs.
The LCD is clear and bright. It's backlit with an attractive orange glow and uses a matrix of 16x2 characters to display function icons (volume, battery life, time, equaliser, signal strength, DAB/FM and stereo) and a clock. The key-press activated backlight can be set to 'always on' for optimum visibility or 'always off' for longer battery life.
When you're in an area of good reception, the sound quality on the PocketDAB is excellent. Despite the relatively low bit rate of digital radio at the moment, we were impressed by this radio.
Provided you use the PocketDAB 1500 in an area of good reception -- if you want a radio to jog outdoors with, for example -- this is an excellent machine. But although the build quality is good and the features are impressive, this radio -- like all portable DABs -- can irritate you when the signal inevitably drops out. Unlike FM, which picks up static when the signal is below par, digital radio just stops. This is an inherent part of digital radio listening, and it's hard to blame PURE for the laws of physics.
If you want to listen to DAB on the move, the 1500 makes a viable choice. If reliable reception is more important to you than station choice, you might want to consider a smaller FM receiver instead.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide