Review: Pure Evoke Flow Internet Radio

By Troy Dreier

July 07, 2010

Pure sets out to reinvent the radio with its Evoke Flow, a Wi-Fi 'net radio that works with iTunes and understands that you might still want to listen to radio stations the old fashioned way.

  • Product Name/Model: Pure Evoke Flow
  • Manufacturer's URL: http://www.pure.com/us/
  • Price: $229
  • Pros: Easy access to thousands of online radio stations; attractive design; online interface for searching out stations and adding favorites; FM tuner.
  • Cons: Display isn't as strong as that of the Logitech Squeezebox; online account setup is a nuisance; no access to Pandora or Slacker.

The humble radio is due for a makeover, but how best to go about it? It's easy to browse thousands of online radio stations and music services on your computer, but putting all that into an affordable counter top box has proven tricky. In August, Pure is bringing three Internet radios previously released in Europe to the United States. We tested the Pure Evoke Flow, which lists for $229.

Design

The design of the Evoke Flow has a touch of retro about it, which might show the influence of Tivoli's gorgeous radios, but it has a bit of modern flair, too. The Evoke Flow is a solidly built box with a bright yellow OLED display, four touch-sensitive buttons (including the power button in the lower right corner), and two dials.

The arcing handle on the top doubles as a touch-sensitive snooze alarm, and there's a long telescoping antenna behind it. The top, bottom and sides don't hold any controls, although the rear holds auxiliary, headphone, stereo out and auxiliary in ports, as well as a miniUSB port. The display shows the time when the radio isn't in use.

Pure Evoke Flow Internet Radio
The Pure Evoke Flow has classic good looks.

Set-up

Naturally, you're going to have to connect to your home Wi-Fi network for any Internet radio, and with most connected radios that's where the set-up process ends. Not so the Evoke Flow. The people at Pure have taken a different approach to helping listeners manage the many stations found online, and it has its pluses and minuses.

In order to connect with streaming radio stations, you first need to link to Pure's online discovery and management site, called The Lounge, and create your own account. It's a bit of a nuisance, but it's not difficult. Once you have an account, you can choose stations from your radio or from the site itself.

Selecting stations from The Lounge is quite a bit easier, although the interface could use some fine-tuning. You can browse stations by country or genre, putting a check mark next to the ones you want in your radio's favorite list. You then need to click the Favorites button in the top right of the screen -- although that isn't clear by the interface -- to send them to your radio.

Selecting stations from the radio itself is a little tedious, as you need to select filters like country and genre from a kludgey interface, and the small screen makes scrolling through long lists a chore. We recommend adding stations to your favorites list as soon as you find one you like, so you don't have to go back looking for them.

Features

Unlike many Internet radios, the Pure Evoke Flow has an FM tuner, which is a big plus. Just because you want an Internet radio doesn't mean you don't want local channels, too. While your favorite local channels likely have online streams, it's easier to find them with a standard radio dial.

This radio also lets you listen to podcasts and nature sounds. We were impressed with the "Pure Sounds," as they're called, which let you put on some singing birds or crashing waves when you just need a little gentle background noise.

You can listen to songs stored on your computer using the free media server software. Downloading and installing the program is quick work. It adds itself to your startup list, so the server software is always running when you need it. The installer also adds two shortcuts to your desktop, one for configuring the software and one for stopping it.

After a little testing, we found we didn't want the server running in the background and de-selected it. The server remained active enough to cause our computer's fans to run even when machine was otherwise idle, and we found the noise distracting. We simply started the media server application by hand when we wanted to use it.

Browsing our iTunes library on the Evoke Flow was simple, but again scrolling through long lists is tedious. Maybe a bigger screen is the answer.

Comparison

So how does the Pure Evoke Flow stack up against the competition? The main competitor has to be Logitech's Squeezebox, which is similarly shaped. The Squeezebox lists for $30 less, although it doesn't have FM radio.

The Squeezebox does offer access to Slacker and Pandora online music services, however, which the Evoke Flow lacks. If you're hooked on one or both of them, it seems like a huge omission. The main benefit to the Squeezebox, however, is the color display. It's simply much easier to use than that of the Evoke Flow. We always felt like we were trying to wrestle with the Evoke Flow's controls, where the Squeezebox's controls felt simple. Pure has a similar model, the Sensia, coming out at the end of the year. While that will likely cost a little more, it should fix the Evoke Flow's shortcomings.



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