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The original Chumby, which mixes stuffed animal with internet appliance, was nothing if not memorable. Version two, the illogically named Chumby One, continues its mission of moving the good bits of the internet--streaming music, news, LOLcats, and more--off your Mac and onto its dedicated screen. A touch-interface drives this Wi-Fi-connected unit, so you can put it anywhere you need a lightweight internet station.
After connecting to our network, we configured the Chumby at chumby.com, choosing from more than a thousand single-purpose widgets. You can add news feeds, Twitter clients, animated clocks, games, iTunes remotes, and more.
Don't ask us to explain why the second-gen model is called One.
The widgets you activate will automatically alternate, or you can set the Chumby to display a single widget until you change it. While the quality of available widgets varies widely, we found many that are perfect for the device, including a Flickr viewer that cycles through our photos and Chuck Norris Facts, an amusing look at the Texas Ranger’s fictional feats.
We streamed songs from a Squeezebox Server and from online sources, but Chumby can also play content from certain USB-connected iPods. (Unfortunately, iPhones will only charge.) Since the Chumby One only has a single, warbling speaker, you’re better off tuning into This American Life rather than American Idiot--although you can connect headphones or external speakers.
So what should you use this thing for? The Chumby could easily replace a clock radio on your nightstand with multiple alarms that can wake you with your choice of music. And it can also start playing your widgets in the morning--perfect for waking up to NPR, for example.
Although it’s $30 cheaper than the still-available original Chumby (4 out of 5 stars, Sep/08), Chumby One is a tough sell even with its new features--notably an FM tuner, volume knob, and updated processor. We would prefer that it had retained the better speakers and whimsical styling of the original--its boxy, molded-plastic design looks more hospital than hospitable. While the One will take an optional FujiFilm camera battery for untethered power, the battery has been discontinued, so you’ll need to do some digging online to find one. And like its predecessor, this Chumby forces you to endure ads; we didn’t see many, but they turned us off faster than we could the Chumby.
The Chumby One tunes in internet content and serves as a supercharged clock radio… with ads. Its new features are interesting, but the One lacks the warm-fuzzy appeal of its predecessor.
COMPANY: Chumby Industries
REQUIREMENTS: 802.11b/g Wi-Fi network
Plays range of content from internet sources, local files, and FM radio. You can organize groups of apps together. Motion sensor allows developers to create specialized apps. Optional battery-pack support.
Ads! Can’t program FM radio presets. Video quality is slightly choppy. Interface and attitude sink without the original’s soft physical design. Speaker is lackluster. Optional battery has been discontinued, making it harder to find.