Chumby review: Chumby

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.3
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 6.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Chumby is an adaptable, fun, wireless multimedia device made to bring bite-size Web widgets and streaming Internet radio into your home.

The Bad The Chumby's versatile features paradoxically make it hard to figure just what to do with it. The required power adapter limits its portability. If your home lacks Wi-Fi, then the Chumby is just a cuddly brick.

The Bottom Line Whether you use it as a digital photo frame, Internet radio receiver, an advanced alarm clock, or some Web 2.0 task of your own devising, the Chumby is an extremely fun tech toy for the wired, modern home.

Editors' Top Picks

The Chumby ($179) is a plush, softball-size Linux computer that includes a 3.5-inch touch screen, speakers, and Wi-Fi. An adorable little machine for hosting music, photos, videos, and Web applications, the Chumby distinguishes itself from the world of ultramobile PCs and portable video players with its deliberately simplified scope and approachable, durable design.

Design
With its beanbag shape and soft exterior, the Chumby resembles a computer designed by Teddy Ruxpin. Measuring 5 inches wide by 4 inches tall by 3 inches deep, the Chumby feels like the perfect gadget to place under your arm and take around the house, if it weren't for the fact that it needs to be plugged in to operate. It's tragic that a gadget with all the cuddly appeal of a newborn puppy must be leashed to a wall-wart at all times, but we expect the Chumby's socket-dependence to be undone soon. In fact, the manufacturers include an "unsupported" empty battery terminal in the guts of the Chumby, which industrious hackers have already spliced batteries to.

Gazing at the Chumby's face, you'll find a color touch-screen LCD, a small metal grommet for personalizing your Chumby with decorative charms (a few are included), and three pinhole openings below the screen that conceal a small microphone. Like most computers, all the geek stuff is located on the back of the Chumby, including a 3.5mm headphone jack; power switch; power adapter input; two USB ports; and a pair of stereo speakers. The top of the Chumby is visually bare, except for a dime-size marking that covers a multipurpose button beneath the leather upholstery.


The back of the Chumby includes speakers, ports, and a power switch. The included speakers won't power your next house party, but they're loud enough to make the Chumby a great alarm clock.

Features
The biggest hurdle Chumby faces is its ambiguous purpose. We love that the Chumby can be used as an RSS reader, an Internet radio, an alarm clock, an iPod speaker dock, a photo frame, an IPTV, and countless other things--but it's hard to decide exactly where it belongs in the house. Whatever use you find for the Chumby, its essential features can be divided into three basic camps: clock, audio, and widgets.

Given its small size, legible display, and the snooze-worthy button on its top, the Chumby's suitability as a bedside alarm clock is unmistakable. Putting the Chumby in Night mode dims the LCD and displays the current time in oversize digits. Alarm options range from basic beeps to customizable snooze durations and audio sources (including Internet radio). The Chumby's Achilles' heel as an alarm clock, however, is that should the power or Internet connection give out during the night, your morning alarm may be in jeopardy.

Editors' Top Picks

 

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Where to Buy

Chumby (pearl)

Part Number: CHPEARL3NXXXX Released: Feb. 25, 2008

As shown: $179

Check manufacturer's site for availability

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Feb. 25, 2008
  • Connectivity Protocols IEEE 802.11b (Wi-Fi)
  • Functionality digital audio playback
  • Type digital multimedia receiver
About The Author

Donald Bell has spent more than five years as a CNET senior editor, reviewing everything from MP3 players to the first three generations of the Apple iPad. He currently devotes his time to producing How To content for CNET, as well as weekly episodes of CNET's Top 5 video series.