The internet’s killer challenge to the radio set
OF ALL our familiar gadgets, the radio set is perhaps the most endangered by smartphones and tablets, with the internet pulling in thousands more stations than short wave ever could. Two radios just launched added web connectivity, but do they have enough extra features to outmatch the latest smartphone apps?
1. Pure Sensia 200D
I liked the idea of having a bedside radio that would wake me up with the BBC at my home in the US. But Pure’s Sensia 200D in white loomed like an enormous dinosaur egg at night and soon had to be moved to a more spacious kitchen counter.
From there, this funky, futuristic (in a 1960s kind of way) internet radio provided rich, room-filling sound with its 30-watt output.
Pure, a British digital radio brand, has brought out a US version, on sale for $450, that is similar to the one launched in the UK in the summer.
The Sensia’s most notable feature is its 5.7in colour touchscreen, which meant connecting it to my home Wi-Fi network and linking it to Pure Connect was easy. This browser-based service enables you to register Pure devices and select stations and podcasts to be synched to them.
The big screen allows station information and album art to be displayed in an attractive format, with the time and dual alarms also visible. Navigation and controls are easy with the touchscreen, and a cool remote control operates it from a distance.
As well as internet radio, the Sensia has an FM tuner and aerial, but no AM reception and DAB digital radio is not present in the US version.
The screen can also be set to show Twitter and Facebook updates, RSS news feeds, Picasa photos and weather information. A smartphone can plug into the back of the Sensia to use it as a speaker.
Some aspects of the Sensia do not quite add up. A USB memory stick can be inserted in the back to record and store programmes on it, which seems a clumsy approach.
A Tag feature designed to identify the music being played did not work in my tests and a Pure Connect app for beaming music from my iPhone to the Sensia was buggy. And Pure Music, a streaming music service, is also not yet available in the US.
Such shortcomings are frustrating — but maybe they are just the internet equivalent of static and bad reception.
2. Logitech UE Smart Radio
Logitech made the Squeezebox internet radio before it came up with the similarly styled UE, in a new line of high-end audio products under its Ultimate Ears brand.
This is more affordable than the Sensia at $180, and its smaller size, built-in handle and rechargeable battery also make it more portable. It looks more like a standard radio with its twiddly knobs, although a 2.4in colour screen can show album art, track and station information — just not in as much detail as the Sensia.
Music stored on your home PC can be beamed to the radio’s speakers, and services such as Pandora or Spotify added. The radio can be controlled from an iOS or Android app, but like the Sensia’s app, there is limited functionality.
3. TuneIn Radio Pro
A smartphone or tablet with a radio app and a speaker dock could achieve much the same results as the Sensia and UE radios, with TuneIn being my app of choice for this option.
TuneIn (free, available on most platforms) lets me browse thousands of internet radio stations, build a favourites list easily, and provides programming information.
In the 99c Pro version, I can pause and skip back through live radio or record programmes, with a timer if needed. The programmes are stored on my phone for instant playback — not on a USB memory stick.
Its alarm wakes me with my favourite station and a timer shuts it down after I doze off at night, fulfilling my radio needs for every waking hour.
© 2012 The Financial Times Limited