Pure’s Avalon 300R PVR: Hands On Review

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We were excited to learn at this years CES (doesn’t January seem like a long time ago?!) that Pure, one of our favourite audio gadget manufacturers, was branching out into the crowded market of Freeview set top boxes.

So when Avalon 300R Cpmmect was released; like all sensible men we started setting up without too much reference to the instructions. Easy to configure, the auto tune function got the Freeview HD side of things up and running, and apart from a tricky caps lock issue with the wifi password, the network connection was also up and running in double quick time.

Almost immediately, however, the box set about updating itself to the latest software, which once it had run, left the box in standby, mode which I hadn’t been expecting. Once back on, the network connection seemingly was forgotten, but resetting the network connections got everything back on track.

The interface moving from web based content (iPlayer or YouTube) to Freeview was a little clunky, appearing to power the box down and up again (as the tv displayed the “source lost” message), but after a few seconds it was back to the Freeview content.

A little irritation was that when you’ve viewed information on the screen regarding your program, pressing the “back” button removed the info but left a general channel banner, which if you try to remove with the back button, you end up changing channel to the last one selected (exit is the right button to remove the channel banner).

On searching for particular programs, and series linking where applicable, both were easy to use. The auto offer HD when available (a prompt that tells you if you could be watching in better quality) is a useful feature that really does add value.

Another quirky feature which we found strangely addictive (maybe because we hate the thought we’re missing something better on the other side!) was Avalon’s use of picture in picture. If you’re just browsing, you’re given the option to watch what’s on the other channel in a mini screen.

Now, I know you’re thinking picture in picture’s not that innovative, certainly been possible on Humax boxes for some time, but the design of the interface linking to channel browsing is certainly helpful.

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The EPG, or electronic program guide, appears a little cramped, with only 6 channels info showing at any one time, with the rest of the screen pretty much empty, which feels like a waste. There are animations on moving between channels (like flicking pages of a book) which are cute to begin with, but don’t offer any functionality, and leave the interface with a “gimmicky” feel.

As Bill Gates once said, “content is king”, and in the world of Freeview set top boxes, never has that sentiment been more appropriate. With no Netflix, Lovefilm or Now TV (Sky’s “lite” offering for consumers who are commitment phobic (their marketing speak, not ours!)) or even the free ITV or 4OD players, Pure does risk looking restrictive in this respect. Particularly when you consider that the content in these areas is expanding rapidly (Sky now offer Sky Sports via the Now TV platform), and Netflix ever growing library of box sets.

Pure’s entry into the market has two key features that will make it stand out; the Pure music subscription content service and built in wifi connect-ability. The Pure Connect interface was easy to navigate, and while it’s no Apple TV, we were able to get around with no problems. The Connect service, which allows users to either buy tracks or albums for playing on their Pure connected devices, or stream unlimited content for a monthly fee, is well established on the brands audio devices. At present there is no video content available to buy or rent via this service, although Pure say expanding on demand video offerings is an area they are working on.

Overall the lack of on demand providers at present make this entry look quite expensive at GBP349.95 for a 1TB unit, (YouView 1TB box is £50 cheaper; johnlewis.com), but if you’re already a subscriber to the music service, or want to take advantage of the wifi being built in and avoid another trailing wire in the living room, this maybe a great solution for you.