Want To Wake Up To Pandora? This Gadget Is Your Bedside Table's New Best Friend [REVIEW]

chumby title image

The Chumby 8 is the newest “entertainment device” from Chumby, which I clearly have trouble categorising.

Click here to take a photo-tour of Chumby and its best apps >

It’s a little bit alarm-clock, a little bit desktop internet radio, and a little bit tons of other things.

Essentially, a Chumby is a little TV screen that pipes in content from your favourite news sites, internet radio providers, weather services, and photo-sharing sites.

It costs $199.99 to buy the Chumby 8 and access more than 1,500 apps, but last time I checked, aren’t we using our smartphones for that? The Chumby has an 8-inch touch screen, so it’s bigger than a smartphone, but it’s not quite as fast as accessing the information you’re looking for.

Is Chumby’s newest, the Chumby 8, worth your time and money? Does it deserve to sit on your bed table as you sleep soundly every night?

Read on to find out.

What’s the point of Chumby?
Chumby begs you to love it from the moment you turn it on.

The octopus mascot joyously swims around the screen as the device boots. The experience is a pleasant one, until Chumby asks you if you have a computer nearby. You’ll need an email address in order to activate your Chumby.

It’s something you’ll be glad you did later on, but you shouldn’t have to activate the thing if you want to use it.

So, Chumby might be the best alarm clock you can buy, but it’s also a really, really expensive alarm clock. You can wake up to Pandora, and have it switch to your local weather when you hit “Dismiss” but you can’t argue with the fact that a lot of this functionality is duplicated by simply having your smartphone on your bed table, like most people do.

When I wake up every morning, I check my Facebook, check Twitter, check the news and emails, then the weather, and only then do I get out of bed. Performing these tasks on Chumby takes longer, because it’s not built for consuming a lot of information quickly.

If you see something interesting pop up on the 8-inch screen, you can tap a little envelope to have Chumby zip it over to your email account for reading later.

Considering the Chumby is an internet radio device, the speakers were not all that good. There are stereo speakers, one speaker on each side of the device, but I noticed distortion when I pumped the volume loud enough to wake me up in the morning (and keep me up). You can, however, plug in your headphones to listen to internet radio, podcasts, etc–Chumby organizes audio content well.

Oh, and the default “Rooster” wake up noise sounds like a gargling baby. I woke up incredibly confused my first morning with the Chumby.

On the other hand, Chumby is perfect if you want a sports, news, or Twitter ticker always at a glance. You can set up ESPN and New York Times headlines to pipe in constantly, and you can tap one to read more. It’s one of the more relevant ways to use the device, but I can’t help thinking that I’d rather be reading headlines on my computer or iPhone.

The Chumby hardware is great, minus the resistive touch screen
Unlike older Chumbys, the new Chumby 8 has built in memory card readers SD cards, Multimedia Cards, Compact Flash cards, and a port for USB thumb drive. This means you can pop your memory card out of your camera and straight into the Chumby to view a slideshow of photos you just took. You can even upload the new photos to photo-sharing sites straight from the device, but why would you?

Another new feature for this device is that it doesn’t have an FM radio tuner, like older Chumbys. I’m not quite sure why this was omitted. Chumby is clearly marketing to people looking for a entertainment device/alarm clock on their bed tables, but these are probably the kinds of people who still would like to wake up to their local stations once in a while.

The last new feature I want to talk about is the WebKit browser, but it’s pretty useless because you can’t pinch, zoom, and swipe the way you’re used to. It’s slow.

Lastly, the 8-inch screen is pretty low-res, especially compared to what we’re used to seeing, and the screen is not super responsive. Here’s why:

Chumby’s instruction manual spits out, “This is not an Apple device. It has a resistive touch screen,” which means that you have to tap it using the tip of your finger like on an old Palm Pilot.

I appreciate the candor and prideful enthusiasm of Chumby, but not nearly as much as I am frustrated by the touchscreen. It’s generally responsive, but it pales in comparison to the glass capacitive touchscreens of smartphones and tablets today. 

Is Chumby worth your money?
At the end of the day, Chumby is a perfect bed table or kitchen top companion. You can listen to a variety of online radio stations, keep your favourite website or RSS feed updating at a glance, or you can just use it as a digital picture frame.

Is it worth a couple hundred dollars? It’s a confusing price point, considering you can buy a tablet for only a little more than that which has a capacitive touch screen, better responsiveness, and more apps. Plus, the Chumby always has to stay plugged in to work.

For most people, the Chumby 8 is probably not worth $199.99. But for some, it could become your perfect at-a-glance news source and desktop radio.

Here's the Chumby. It sits on your desk, kitchen counter, or coffee table like so.

When you boot it up, you see a friendly octopus. Unfortunately, the Chumby always has to stay plugged in.

There are over 1,500 apps you can download for Chumby straight from the device. These apps can be set to run indefinitely, or to alternate.

Pandora might be Chumby's best app. You can set Pandora to wake you up in the morning, and you have full access to all your favourite Pandora features.

When I wake up in the morning with Chumby, I set the device to play Pandora, then switch straight to the weather app.

Love to stay up to date with sports? Chumby's ESPN ticker app is great. Tap the little envelope to send the article to your email address for later.

Chumby's Twitter app is a convenient way to browse tweets at-a-glance. Tweets automatically scroll by default, which is cool.

Here's the Facebook app. There's also a separate Facebook app to turn your pictures into a slideshow. Great if you're looking for a internet-connected photo frame.

Of course, Chumby is also an alarm clock. You can adjust the brightness of the numbers, but I found it to be a lot brighter than a conventional alarm clock, even at the lowest setting.

Chumby is slender, and fits nicely on any table. The screen is canted at a meticulous angle to be viewable from lying down, or from the couch.

Chumby is perfect for viewing pictures you've just taken on your digital camera, or playing music stored on a USB thumb drive or memory card.

Here's the back. Unfortunately, you have to always keep it plugged in. Reboots can take a while.

Now that you've seen the Chumby's big-screen apps....

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