Just when we thought YouView was the future of digital TV, Pure has delivered a thoroughly advanced Freeview+ HD TV recorder. It might not have the volume of on-demand programming, but the Pure Avalon 300R Connect arguably has a user interface that’s even easier to use than YouView.
We tested the 1TB version of this PVR, which costs 349.99 (around US$534/AU$521), though Pure also sells one with half the capacity for 50 less. Either way, this is one expensive machine. The polished user interface makes it feels like one, too, at least initially.
Aside from that 1TB HDD, there’s no doubt that AV enthusiasts will love the Pure Avalon 300R Connect’s raw specs; on its rear is an HDMI output and a stunning four HDMI inputs, which turn this machine into a conduit that can switch every component in a home cinema setup.
An External inputs tab on the home page brings up a tab for each piece of equipment – which can be named using free-type – and the Avalon switches to it within five seconds. In a move that’s typical of the user interface, it later uses a fade transition to return to the main Avalon home page.
Befitting its ambition to be a core component are other top-spec ins and outs, including both optical and coaxial digital outputs, Ethernet LAN, a USB slot and left and right phono audio outputs.
Those last two analogue connections underline the Avalon’s ambition with music, though the Pure Connect service, which so far has streamed music and web radio to its DAB radios, won’t be to everyone’s taste.
It’s included as a beta service, and though it managed to stream some radio stations and Adele’s 21 album without any dramas during our test, we’re not convinced that streamed music has any place on a TV-centric device. It certainly doesn’t warrant its own shortcut on the remote.
Pure is promising an update soon to activate Pure Stream, enabling music to be streamed to the Pure Avalon 300R Connect from iOS and Android devices. That’s essential, since at present it’s a virtual on-screen keyboard that, frankly, makes the whole thing a pain despite there being plenty of collections and curated content.
Recordings are where the Pure Avalon 300R Connect really gets into gear. It indulges in time-shift features galore, with pause and rewind functions (from 30 to 240 minutes) and the recording of two channels simultaneously.
That’s not as flexible as it sounds, since if you’re recording two programmes at the same time you will have to watch one of them; why can’t someone – anyone – copy the example set by Virgin Media’s TiVo box and include three tuners?
Clashes are common, therefore, though the Pure Avalon 300R Connect does its best by not only flagging up occasions where three recordings will clash, but suggesting alternate transmission slots for any of the three. It’s then a cinch to record one programme at, say, 2am instead.
At least it’s thoroughly functional. Hover over anything either on the eight-day EPG or live TV and press record and the Pure Avalon 300R Connect will offer you a series link, if appropriate.
Better still, if you’re on the channel you’re recording, you can press record to extend the recording time manually, which is useful if you suddenly fear that the tennis or Formula 1 race is rain-delayed.
Recorded footage is excellent; it’s identical to the original and full of vibrant colours and detail. A page presents a percentage bar showing the hard disk usage above a list of programmes within.
Live TV plays underneath this slightly transparent blue page, though the most noticeable design addition is a silent video thumbnail for each recording. Below the video is a message about whether the programme has been watched or not, which might help prevent accidental deletions.
User interface and apps
The Pure Avalon 300R Connect’s GUI is one of the best around. It comprises colourful, nuanced graphics and 3D effects.
It’s based around a home screen of very large panels on a carousel, one each for Freeview, Recordings, Pure Connect, On Demand and External (access to those HDMI inputs).
Freeview goes straight to live TV, with other channels’ current programme details scanned to by going sideways.
Programmes presently being recorded get information bars and other on-screen furniture in red rather than the default blue.
Unlike YouView, Pure doesn’t try to offer the world, or go backwards on the EPG into the previous seven days. Bereft of the likes of ITV Player and Now TV, the Pure Avalon 300R Connect presents just BBC iPlayer and YouTube.
Both are in their highly polished HTML5 versions; YouTube Leanback therefore enables integration with YouTube apps on iOS and Android devices, though it’s not that useful.
After a long-winded process to register a device with the app on the Avalon, it’s possible to use the app on another device only to add videos to a ‘watch later’ list or subscribe to a channel. There’s no Airplay-like transfer of a video from phone to TV.
Oddly for a 350 (around US$534/AU$521) web-connected PVR box there are no remote control apps, or options to remotely configure recordings. A Pure Connect app does exist, though in our test we couldn’t get it to sync with the Pure Avalon 300R Connect.
The Pure Avalon 300R Connect’s got a polished GUI and a huge 1TB hard disk, but for now Pure’s debut stab at digital TV lacks a compelling argument for its high price.
Is access to iPlayer and YouTube, the ability to record two programmes simultaneously, and a thoroughly polished user interface really worth 349 (around US$534/AU$521)?
We’re not sure it is, though with extra on-demand services and apps promised, the Avalon could still become the best Freeview+HD recorder. Though whether it can battle YouView is another matter entirely.
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The recording flexibility is decent, the suggestions for alternative broadcasts is handy, and the 1TB of storage is very useful. However, it’s the large, loud, though somehow still classy and clean – and lightning-quick – user interface that we most like on the Pure Avalon 300R Connect.
Media playback is also thoroughly extensive, including MKV and AVI video files and OGG, FLAC, WMA and MP3 music files. And it’s perfectly executed; music, photos and video files are dealt with from within the polished user interface in an unusually streamlined manner.
Considering some of the contemporary, natural designs of some of its DAB radios, we had hoped Pure’s debut Freeview TV recorder might steer clear of a drab, gloss black look. Not so, though it is pleasingly bereft of buttons and logos.
The remote control, meanwhile, looks and feels cheap, with the rear battery cover slightly loose, and rattling. The provision of two tuners is acceptable, but considering this is an expensive device with no ‘new’ services, it’s a missed opportunity to introduce the first three-tuner PVR for the mass market – and so become a must-have product.
The Pure Avalon 300R Connect is good, no doubt, but it offers nothing new aside from some GUI niceties.
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Pure’s debut effort at a digital TV recorder is good, though we’re struggling to find enough reasons to justify its high price.
Although Pure hasn’t underestimated the importance of a beefy processor, it may have misjudged the importance of a third tuner. The 1TB HDD is nice, but for the high price we had hoped for something more than a large capacity, swish UI, and the double-act of iPlayer and YouTube.
However, a few more on-demand services and a price drop ought to ensure its future as one of the easiest to use Freeview+ HD TV recorders.
The major competitor to the Pure Avalon 300R Connect comes from the Humax Fox-HD T2, which also features a swish user interface. However, at this high price it’s YouView boxes that are the real competition; Humax makes the DTR-T1000, while BT/TalkTalk has its own version for subscribers to its broadband service.
Beyond that, it’s Sky+ HD and Virgin Media TiVo that it will do battle with, the latter of which is the superior service – at least in terms of flexibility, having three digital TV tuners.