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 to retune all its stations. Our review model was partly charged , so we were able to sample DAB broadcasts straight away. With uncharged batteries you may have to wait several hours before the radio is ready to be taken on a long journey.
For a relatively small radio, the PocketDAB is packed with features. Not only can you scroll between stations, but also full broadcast information is shown 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. This scrolls up the screen like end-credits to a film.
The 40mm (1.6-inch) LCD is clear and bright. It's not vital though, because you don't need a huge amount of information when you're listening to radio -- most people are busy doing something else as they listen. You can record live radio in MP3 format, using removable SD cards which are available in a range of capacities and can be swapped between your PC and the PocketDAB. This is especially useful if you need to stop listening for a while, but don't want to miss the end of a programme.
It's also possible to use the PocketDAB as a standard MP3 player. The SD card can be written to by most computers (PC and Mac) and you can listen to your regular MP3 files using the PocketDAB as a player.
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's punchy low-end and overall tonal balance. You shouldn't expect to have to do much equaliser tweaking on an integrated DAB system and this held true here. The PURE headphones, while not impressive in themselves, are well matched to the radio and were particularly good at defining transient bass-tones which can sometimes be lost by cheaper headphones. The driver units themselves are housed in fairly deep plastic ear-buds, which may be doing something to complement deeper frequencies.
Unfortunately, disappointment is never far away with a portable DAB system. While small analogue radios were never fantastic at maintaining good reception, they were at least subtler as they lost a signal. Where an analogue radio would gracefully descend into static when a signal weakened, DAB radios tend to make odd shrieking and jibbering noises. Under our informal test conditions we sometimes lost the digital signal and the PocketDAB began to make some quite unsettling noises.
Provided you use the PocketDAB in an area of good reception -- if you want a radio to jog with, for example -- this is an excellent machine. But, though the build quality is excellent and the features impressive, this radio -- like all portable DABs -- holds the potential to irritate you when the signal inevitably drops out. How and when such problems will be resolved is difficult to know, but for the moment the PocketDAB is a very good radio limited only by the inherent limitations of current digital radio technologies.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide