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Pure Avalon 300R Connect review

Introduction

The Pure Avalon 300R Connect is the first Freeview set top box from Pure, a brand better known for their high-end designer DAB radios. With YouView now here offering a well integrated library of on-demand content, is there any point in getting a connected Freeview+? 

When things look this good, come loaded with access to a music streaming service and the latest version of YouTube (with Leanback support, natch) the short answer is yes. 

The Pure Avalon is a very slick package with plenty to recommend. Fit for a king? Let’s find out.

Pure Avalon 300R Connect review

The Pure Avalon comes in two differently-sized drives, a 500GB one and a bigger 1TB edition. It’s a Freeview+ HD box, meaning you get access to the handful of Freeview HD channels currently available – that’s BBC One HD, BBC Two HD, ITV HD and Channel 4 HD – which can be output at Full 1080p HD through an HDMI cable.

Thanks to there being two Freeview HD tuners built in, you can watch one channel while recording from another or record up to two programmes at onces.

As well as this, the Pure Avalon can also display high definition content through its two on-demand services, BBC iPlayer and YouTube.

Not content to stop there, Pure has also installed its own Pure Connect music streaming service which lets you access Pure Music playlists and stream tunes through your TV’s speakers should you wish. You can also access a number of digital radio stations and access podcasts on-demand through the Pure Connect interface as well.

Pure Avalon 300R Connect review

Pure Avalon 300R Connect review

Design and Specs: Pure Avalon 300R Connect dimensions

The Pure Avalon is beautiful. It’s a slick black box of svelte proportions and reflective plastic finishes. Measuring just 4.5cm high, the Pure Avalon is so discreet and unassuming it could probably slip in quietly beneath enemy radar. The Pure logo stands out front and centre with just a power switch occupying the left hand side. Why can’t all high-end Freeview gear look this good?

Besides looking great, we liked that you get four HDMI switches on the back. This means you can connect other devices like games consoles and Blu-ray players and access these through the Pure Avalon’s media menu. This is really handy if you’ve got limited access to the HDMI sockets on the back of your TV set. This also means you can quickly switch from watching TV to playing games or watching a film all from one remote.

Given that on-demand entertainment is part of the Pure Avalon package, we liked that there’s the option of connecting to your home broadband router via Ethernet or WiFi. YouView’s almost been out for a year now and the service still doesn’t have WiFi support. What’s more, the WiFi module in the Pure Avalon supports dual band technology, meaning wireless streaming of programmes should be less affected by interference if you’re living in a busy, gadget-heavy house.

Pure Avalon 300R Connect review

Those vital stats in full:

Width: 43cm. Height: 4.5cm. Depth: 26.5cm.

Connectivity: USB 2.0 port, Ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11n a/b/g, 2×2 MIMO dual band (2.4GHz, 5GHz) HDMI, HDMI switches (x4), SCART, antenna output, stereo phono.    

Pure Avalon 300R Connect review                                                    

Controls: Pure Avalon 300R Connect remote control

The remote control of the Pure Avalon is just great. The rubberised material on the back of the remote combined with the chevron-shaped ridges make for the perfect grip. The directional controls, four colour buttons and shortcut keys are all arranged in a concentric ring that, it just so happens, is perfectly positioned to meet your thumb. In the next edition of the Oxford English, you’ll be able to look up the word ‘ergonomics’ and there’ll be a picture of this remote next to it.

As well as the standard controls you’d expect from a Freeview remote, there are shortcuts to services like the on-demand menu, the programme guide, the HDMI switch menu (where you can hop to other connected devices) media (where you can access media from connected USB hard drives) and Pure Connect (the streaming service which we’ll explore later).

The positioning of the back button, due north of the OK button and directional keys, means that navigating menus is easy as breathing. It doesn’t take long for your hand to acclimates to this layout soon you’ll be effortlessly zipping through channels and menus without so much as a glance at your hand.

Pure Avalon 300R Connect review

TV Smarts: Set up and Menus

Getting the Pure Avalon up and running is easy going. After connecting to the aerial and turning it on, it’s a simple case of the box discerning your location and scanning for channel names. Once that’s done you can go ahead and set up your internet connection. You don’t have to do this right away if you want to start watching something right away, but you’ll need to do it if you want to access BBC iPlayer and YouTube.

If you’re going down the wired route, simply plug in your Ethernet cable and the Pure Avalon will do the rest. If you’re using WiFi, head into the Settings menu, search for your wireless network and enter your password like normal.

Pure has really gone to town on the presentation here. There’s neat things like a page-turning effect you get when you change a channel. Menu icons are beautifully animated tiles that flip and rotate elegantly. When you’re scrolling through the big programme guide, the small picture-in-picture frame in the bottom left corner is positioned at an angle, rather than be boring and be 90 degrees to everything else.

Pure Avalon 300R Connect review

When you change channels or press the ‘OK’ button while you’re watching a show, you get a wealth of information including how long you’ve got left of a programme, whether subtitles and audio description are available and whether current or upcoming programmes are shown in standard definition or HD.

All the little details have been considered and every time you spot something new or different it raises a smile. This makes hopping around in the menus a joy rather than a chore and gives the Pure Avalon a premium feel.

Pure Avalon 300R Connect review

Pure Avalon 300R Connect Apps: BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer on the Pure Avalon works very well. It’s the standard BBC iPlayer layout which we’ve come to expect from connected Freeview boxes and smart TV kit now, since the BBC has standardised the appearance, creating a generic universal iPlayer experience for a multitude of devices.

On the Pure Avalon, iPlayer loads programmes quickly and responds quickly to programme searches and is generally really easy to use. This is not always the case with Freeview devices that come with iPlayer built in, which is why we’re making such a big deal of it here.

You can stream programmes in either SD or HD (where available), add subtitles and pick from the majority of BBC programmes from the last seven days.

Pure Avalon 300R Connect review

Pure Avalon 300R Connect Apps: YouTube

YouTube on the Pure Avalon is the latest version of YouTube’s big screen app, coming with the same layout that we’ve seen on Humax’s Free Time from Freesat boxes and the Nintendo Wii U.

Thanks to adaptive streaming, videos load quickly and there’s little lag even on slower connections. Perhaps best of all, YouTube Leanback, the feature that lets you and your friends create collaborative playlists using your phones, works perfectly on the Pure Avalon.

Navigating the acrostic-style menu felt a little sluggish however. We’d like Pure or YouTube to work on an update for this as it spoils the experience a little.

Pure Avalon 300R Connect review

Pure Avalon 300R Connect: Pure Connect music and radio

Pure Connect is Pure’s flagship on-demand service. Costing £4.99/month for access to a wide library of music and digital radio stations, it’s a very competitive alternative to Spotify, which is available on the likes of Virgin Media TiVo and Samsung Smart TVs.

Sadly, of the three streaming services on offer from the Pure Avalon, it’s the least polished. Sound quality is fine but just the simple act of navigating the menus and arranging playlists on your TV is so sluggish, fiddly and time consuming you’re not likely to not want to use it much.

It’s a shame, as the iOS and Android mobile apps are both very polished indeed. We hope that the Pure Connect service on the Avalon gets an overhaul. Great service, not-so-great interface.

Pure Avalon 300R Connect review

Value & Conclusion: Pure Avalon 300R Connect verdict

What the Pure Avalon 330R Connect offers is a well designed, connected Freeview experience. For £300 you get a versatile, Freeview+ HD device with plenty of polish both inside and out.

While there’s a lot to love there’s a couple of things we think are missing. First of all, while BBC iPlayer looks the business and the YouTube app is great we’d like to see some more on the catch-up front, specifically ITV Player and 4oD. At the time of writing, there’s no option yet for you to set remote recordings from your desktop or from a mobile app. Sky, Virgin Media TiVo and YouView can do this and it’s a convenient feature we’d like to see on all premium devices.

The Pure Avalon 300R Connect is otherwise great value for money. It’s a polished, powerful Freeview+ HD device that deserves to be the Freeview equivalent of King Arthur but could do with a bit of extra magic.

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