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Long term review: Pinell Go portable DAB+/FM radio

A premium portable radio with great design and reception

By James Cridland
Posted 31 August 2015, 3.54pm edt

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The "Pinell Go" - available from amazon.co.uk - is a small, portable, DAB+/FM radio from a company that has re-branded itself "Pinell of Norway". It's possibly, the first radio I've seen which highlights the company's design credentials throughout - taking cues from the master of industrial design, Apple, while adding a Norwegian twist. And I love it.

The Go comes in a range of colours - "deep sea green, frosty white, carbon black and fiery red" - colours which already communicate Scandinavian cool. The packaging - a forgotten part of the consumer experience by almost every company - is beautifully produced; two sides of the box contain hand-drawn images that reflect Norwegian country life (I can identify pine cones, mushrooms, a traditional Norwegian wooden house, an axe, a warm jacket, a wellington boot). The list of specifications are on the bottom of the box, not cluttering up one side with techno-babble.

Those specifications, then, before we go any further: this is a DAB+/FM RDS radio, with an inbuilt rechargeable battery that promises "well over 24 hours of playback". It comes with an international power adaptor with plugs for Europe, the UK and Australia. It has an AUX input, and a headphone output. It's difficult to judge the size from the press photographs, but it's smaller than you might guess - I've added my coffee cup, above, for scale.

The unboxing experience is a good one. Opening the box reveals a black card box containing an AUX cable (a nice expensive-looking braided one, not a cheap plastic thing). Underneath, two manuals, then the radio itself, cushioned in foam; and finally the power block. The first manual you see says "Tusen takk" on the front - Norwegian for 'thank you'. Underneath that is another, in English. The manual is a classy, two-color booklet on untreated paper, running to sixteen pages.

At the bottom of the box, in the manual, and at the bottom of the radio comes the company signature "Designed in Norway". What's already clear - even before turning the unit on - is how much detail has gone into the design. The company tell me it's taken one and a half years to develop. It shows.

So, to the radio itself. After selecting a language (it defaults to English - a wise design decision), the set performs a quick auto-tune on both FM and DAB+, and there we go. The user interface is deliberately simple - there's a red power button (marked 'Pinell'), three tuning buttons, and a menu button. On the top, a large rotary volume control, which feels reassuringly well-built. The antenna has a neat little recess on the back of the case to position it perfectly upright, as well as to stow it away.

The set's screen is a swish-looking display which appears visible from all angles, and yet understated in terms of brightness. It is incredibly clear. Again, this has had a lot of thought put into it: the typeface is proportional, not fixed-width; the station name is large and in bold, the additional information beneath is not; and the 'scrolly text' only scrolls when it has to: a simple but crucial detail. A small 'DAB' indicator, a signal strength bar, and a battery indicator are the only other things on the display. The focus is clearly on the station name: something that's crucial in the UK and Australia, where PPMs are yet to take hold.

I was impressed, too, at the unit's sensitivity. Giving it a go in my kitchen, which has issues with a few of the local multiplexes for London, I got all of them plus broadcasts from Herts/Beds/Bucks and Essex: way more than any other device in the same position has received.

The sound is crisp and clear: a tighter bass than Pure's Evoke-1 or Oasis, which I both find a little too 'boomy'. Unlike the Pure devices, there is also an EQ setting for both treble/bass in the settings. It goes quite loud, too.

One slight criticism - the lack of presets for DAB. You could argue that presets aren't needed: we don't have presets for digital TV, we just tune up and down to the right channel name. But the TV paradigm also has channel numbers, whereas with DAB, a flick between BBC Radio 2 and Magic takes 29 clicks (in London). In FM mode, the middle tuning button switches between scanning and preset tuning mode; but on DAB, that middle button gives you irrelevant information like ensemble name, genre and bitrate. I'd make that more consistent between the two modes if it were me.

Long term - after two years of use, this radio is still a fine thing. The battery holds up whenever I take it outside to do the gardening (not that often), and it's loud enough for that purpose too. If I had any niggles, it would be a lack of Bluetooth, and a slightly irritatingly-positioned AUX input on the right-hand side. (I'd stop the socket being an active one, and move it to the rear of the unit.) But that, frankly, isn't much of an issue. Two years' use has revealed no other hidden bugbears or annoyances.

This is not a cheap radio - but a nicely designed one that works well. RRP is £199, though at the time of updating this article it's retailing for £155 at amazon.co.uk. For £155, I think it's worth it.

In short, then - it's lovely to see a premium DAB+/FM radio with genuinely good design. At last. If you want the best, you'll probably want one of these.

Disclosure: I was sent this radio to review and keep. It's now in my kitchen. This is an update of an original review article from July 2013.

James Cridland — James is the Managing Director of media.info, and a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. His website is at james.cridland.net, where you can subscribe to his weekly newsletter.
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