Sony Dash (review)

So I received a mysterious box on my doorstep (a few days ago), and to my surprise it was a Sony dash!

It’s about 7.5 inches wide (you can see pictures here), you can stand it upright, or on it’s back and the screen will flip accordingly. The Dash runs ChumbyOS and has over 1,000 widget-apps available. The interface is broken up, into: the menu system, an “alarm clock” screen mode with a power save option (it turns the screen off), and the dashboard. Currently the dashboard only has 2 different display layouts and it does not seem to be configurable. What you can configure, is: “channels”. To create a new channel, register your Dash (http://sony.com/mydash); you’ll need to sign-in or create a Sony Essentials account. Once this is complete you can edit the existing default channels or create your own. This is where you add apps to the channel. Once your Dash is registered, pull the power (re-power it) and let it reboot. It will sync to your account and will apply any changes you have made. After I did this I was able to customize and create channels on the device; not just from the website.

Here’s the VLOG I made the other day, when I received the unit…

After playing with the device for a few days, here’s some observations…

the snooze button only snoozes in 5 minute increments. A feature I like on my previous alarm clock, was the snooze default button increments were 8 minutes apart and you could compound them together by multiple taps of the snooze button. With the Dash you can specify multiple alarms and days. However, I would prefer the option of customizing the snooze delay per alarm and at the least have an option like tapping the screen to override the snooze delay temporarily.

networking with the Dash is pretty easy, but it’s only WiFi. There’s no choice for ethernet. For most, this isn’t an issue and it wasn’t for me. However, if I wanted to take the Dash to work it would be an enormous amount of red tape to get the device on the work WiFi network. This wasn’t a problem for me at home and I was able to add the Dash to my secured WiFi network (because I’m the red tape; the argument with myself was pretty short).

streaming music and videos is a nice touch, especially when combined with the alarm. However, in my bedroom, I’m not likely to watch any streaming videos on the device. I can do this directly from my TiVo. Like most households, I already have a TV in my bedroom (bigger than 7 inches). But I do understand this is a nice feature to have, if you put the Dash in your kitchen.

the screen is vibrant and images and video come through just fine.

the touch screen works just fine. I think any comments about the device feeling lagged has less to do the touch screen the more to do with the speed in which the device operates at. However, keep in mind the ChumbyOS is simple by design and is not intended to give you the pinch/zoom gesture experiences you get on iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

ChumbyOS is a very basic operating system. I’m not sure, but it feels flash based. I think Dash would of benefited from a richer operating system; by running something like Android instead. I assume if it was running Android the specs on the device would go up as well as the starting price. But if the Dash was running Android, you would have many more feature filled apps at your disposal. For example, Cooking Capsules running on your Dash in your kitchen I think would be invaluable.

media server / UPnP support is lacking. I wish this device was able to stream content from the media server in my house network. It’s nice that you can play music via a USB jump drive, but allowing this from iTunes or a media server would be a better direction to take, in my opinion.

In the VLOG, I mentioned several minutes of downloading. It turns out that Sony just released updates the day I received the device. So I suspect that this was uncommon and is not likely to happen often. Also worth mentioning, the Dash has a microphone. I didn’t find any applications that made use of the mic, but it’s nice there was some forward thinking on the design.

In summary, I like the device. I can see the potential. Is the Dash fulfilling all that it can be, right now? I don’t think so. But keep in mind, how many alarm clocks have you had in the past that could auto-update itself with new features, and run applications? that’s what I thought. I had a car radio system that could do that (a rio car), and for gadget nerds like me, that’s the “crack topping” to the awesomeness-sundae. Is it worth the cost? (currently at $199) …I would say yes. It’s a nice design and has a lot of potential, especially if you can find a use outside of the bedroom (like in a kitchen, your office, etc).

UPDATE (2010-06-01): Last night (technically this morning) I received an update. I noticed 3 changes: you can now define a snooze interval (from a list of options) per alarm profile, there’s a full screen option for the apps and now there’s more than 2 layouts (aka themes). Remember that potential thing I was mentioning above? yeah, there it is.


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