The clear easy-to-use aims of the Pure Avalon 300R hardware continue in its software. Its interface is far better-looking than that of virtually every other Freeview PVR used, apart from – sadly for Pure – YouView. They’re roughly as good-looking as each other, though, with an interface comparable in appearance to a Sky box.
However, the way it manages content is less dynamic than YouView. Where YouView tries its best to merge broadcast TV and on-demand content from portals like iPlayer, the Pure Avalon 300R keeps everything separate.
There are six areas to the interface, which represent these different 'pots' of digital content. The main one is Freeview TV, which takes you to the EPG. 'Recordings' is where all your recorded TV is kept – like any decent PVR in 2013 the Pure Avalon 300R supports series link and searching for TV programmes. And its approach to picture-in-picture is particularly dynamic, letting you preview one channel while watching another.
What separates the Avalon from PVRs of old in terms of actual content is what comes next. Pure Connect is the hub where you’ll find internet radio stations, Pure’s library of ambient sound loops and Pure Music. This is Pure’s take on a Spotify-style streaming service. At £4.99 it’s fab value, but with 128kbps music streaming quality is a long way short of rivals. And as Pure is wedded to this streaming service, we bet you’d never see a rival like Spotify appear on the Pure Avalon 300R.
Indeed, a lack of digital streaming services is probably the box’s biggest problem. On Demand is where you’ll find these services, but at present there’s just iPlayer and YouTube. There’s no ITV Player, no 4OD, no Demand 4, no Netflix and no LoveFilm. Pure says that more services will be added in the future, but we have to wonder whether the tenacity of its efforts will be influenced by the sales figures of the Avalon 300R.
The two remaining interface sections are things the Pure Avalon 300R is commendably good at. Media and External are areas where you can play your own media files, including streaming over DLNA. Having a front USB port makes jamming-in a USB stick as quick as a flash, and you can also plug-in an external hard drive into the rear port for a longer-term library.
The remote control makes flicking between these various portals simple, as there are dedicated buttons for the most important ones. You don’t need to spend an age rifling through menus. However, given that Pure is keen to highlight that the Pure Avalon 300R is more powerful than a conventional PVR, we were disappointed by the transfer times between sections. Expect the occasional wait of a few seconds.
Where the Pure Avalon 300R’s internal hardware doesn’t disappoint is picture quality. It’s a real star at making the most of the relatively low-quality streams Freeview offers.
Higher bit-rate channels look excellent. Detailed and with smooth motion - the Avalon 300R knows how to upscale pictures to 1080p in style.
Sound quality will, as ever, depend almost entirely on your speaker/amp setup. It’s most likely that you’ll be outputting digital audio from the box, so the Avalon 300R will have little effect on the signal.
The Pure Avalon 300R is, in most respects, an excellent digital video recorder. It’s reliable, has a good-looking interface and comes with inbuilt features that are often optional extras in other products. However, in other respects this feels like a product that needs a little bit more time in the oven.
Its selection of digital streaming services is depressingly limited and while general performance is good, skipping between some of the Avalon 300R’s sections is a bit too slow. With a bit of hope and a bit of faith, this could turn into one of the very best digital video recorders. But it’s not there yet.
The Pure Avalon 300R is a next-generation PVR. It has the multiple tuners, the series link feature and the big hard drive we expect from digital video recorders. But it also has inbuilt Wi-Fi and support for streaming services like iPlayer. The problem is, at present, iPlayer is the only catch-up service on it. At its heart the Pure Avalon 300R is an excellent PVR, but it needs to add ITV Player and co to fulfil its obvious potential.