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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pure Avalon 300R Connect review: Freeview HD box with great interface and connectivity

You might know Pure for its range of DAB digital radios and speakers but it's now added a Freeview set-top box to its range. Read our Pure Avalon 300R Connect review to find out more.

The Avalon 300R Connect is a Freeview+ HD box, designed to receive digital terrestrial TV – and to let you pause, rewind and record high-defintion Freeview HD too (for up to 2 hours).

The unit is plain yet stylish, as wide as a normal DVD player. It's reassuringly heavy and feels well-built.

Setting up the Avalon proved about as easy as it gets in consumer tech. After plugging in the relevant cables and switching on we only had to press one button to scan for channels. With this is done, we were away.

The electronic programme guide (EPG) is easy to navigate with fluid transitions. The main window shows six channels covering a two-hour period. You can easily flick through pages and days with the coloured buttons on the remote control. This takes up the top half of the screen while the bottom shows information and a picture-in-picture (PIP) view of live TV.

The graphical wizardry doesn't stop there. You can use PIP to monitor channels while you're watching live broadcasts full-screen. A semi-transparent vertical channel list provides a quick way of switching programmes.

We loved the fluid and good-looking interface, even if Pure sweetened the eye candy too much for our taste with a peel effect every time you switch channels. It really slows the channel surfing process; more appropriate for a slide show, thankfully it can be switched off.

The remote control is good but nothing to get excited about. It's a typical plastic affair but the buttons are quiet and there are dedicated buttons for on-demand, Pure Connect, Media and HDMI features.

Our review unit had a 1TB hard disk inside for recording programmes, good for 600 hours of regular TV or 250 hours of HD. A 500GB model is available too, for a saving of £50.

You can record individual programmes or set to record entire series. The EPG stretches as far as one week ahead, handy for scheduling recordings.

The list of recorded programmes is displayed clearly, with indications of what’s been already watched along with a video preview of the selected recording.

Dual tuners let you record up to two channels at once. We had a couple of issues with the 'intelligent record scheduling' features. It didn't always notify us that a programme was also available in HD as it promises; and it also erroneously reported that the channel needed to be changed to enable scheduled recordings. We saw this frequently when two consecutive programmes were scheduled for recording, one after another.

We've seen no other Freeview box with this range of connectivity options on offer. Starting at source, there are aerial in and aerial out sockets, letting you pass-through to another tuner if needed. Audio output is through a pair of phono sockets, along with both optical and digital coaxial outputs.

As well as the regular HDMI output, the Pure Avalon has no less than four HDMI inputs.

These could be invaluable if your TV has a limited number of HDMI ports and you want to plug several more devices in at once. You simple select which HDMI input you wish to display onscreen via the menu system.

The list of ports continues with two USB 2.0 ports (front and rear) for playback of video files, and an ethernet port for an internet connection. While that may be almost standard, Pure also includes dual-band Wi-Fi, and this may prove a boon for those who have their TV far away from the router.

There's more networking tech, too, with support for digital living network alliance (DLNA) plug-and-play. This enables the streaming of content stored on some smartphones, for example – quite standard on modern TVs, but handy if your set doesn’t have it.

In an age of streaming we've come to expect a lot of on-demand features. The Avalon 300R only offers YouTube and BBC iPlayer so it's a bit lacking in this area. Pure has said it plans to add more in the future via a free software update.

On-demand music is also available through Pure Connect, the firm's own music streaming service similar to Spotify. You can get free access to radio stations, catch-up radio programmes and podcasts. But if this isn't enough Pure Music, which costs £4.99 per month gives you on-demand and personalised access to millions of tracks. Streaming is limited to 128kbps but you can purchase tracks at 320kbps.

View the original article here

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