Chumby One Review: Totally Frivolous, but Totally Adorable

The new Chumby One model ditches the old beanbag casing for a retro-clock-radio-inspired look and slashes the price, though the internals are unchanged. It remains a pretty frivolous gadget, yet I can't help really liking it.

The Price

$100 for a limited time, $120 afterwards. Includes international power adapters and AC charger, but battery is sold separately. Starts shipping 11/25.

Chumby One Review: Totally Frivolous, but Totally Adorable

The Verdict

It's the same questionably essential yet unquestionably adorable Chumby, with a new case and a lower (and very tempting) price. I have no idea what its makers meant the original beanbag Classic (newly renamed) to be used for, but the One is more than a little reminiscent of old-school clock radios. And if you look at it as simply a badass clock radio, rather than an amorphous connected widget device, you really appreciate it. Imagine waking up to Pandora, then rolling over and checking your email and Twitter before hitting snooze for another ten minutes of sleep. Awesome, right? But what exactly has changed from the Chumby Classic?

Instead of the touchscreen-in-a-beanbag look, it's now rocking a smooth white plastic casing with a big honking volume knob on the side and a 3.5-inch resistive touchscreen. I really like the design: It's playful and chunky and thoroughly charming. Some may be bummed that the One loses the beanbag look, which is kind of a signature of the line, but I don't think it'll make that much difference. The Classic (beanbag) Chumby required a power cable so it's not like you could toss it around, and luckily the new design is still distinctive and fun—and if you really want the beanbag, it's not going anywhere. The One is simply joining the Classic, not replacing it.

The Chumby One does lose a few features found in the Chumby Classic—it only has one USB port compared to the Classic's two, and the formerly stereo 2W dual-speaker set is now mono speaker with the same wattage. The speaker is noticeably more distorted and muddier, and could use definitely use improvement, although it's not horrible and is fine at lower volumes.

But the Chumby One also gains 2GB memory (the Classic has 64MB), a li-ion battery (in addition to AC) and a faster processor. I didn't notice much improvement in speed, but it's not like it really needs a whole lot of muscle to display weather and New York Times headlines. The Chumby One's screen also seems sharper than the Classic's, and the overall package is shorter and narrower, though thicker. Chumby's selection of widgets, by the way, is quite good, with a huge selection of clocks, social networking services, news, RSS feeds, games and other fun little timewasters.

I'm conflicted about the Chumby One. On the one hand, it's totally unnecessary—it can't really do anything a modern smartphone with a dock can't do better, and at $100 it's sort of expensive for an alarm clock. On the other hand, I'm undeniably taken with this thing. It does a good job delivering the time, weather, news and RSS feeds, running Pandora and waking me up, and it looks adorable while doing it. If you're comfortable dropping $100 on a little plastic cube of widgets for your bedside table, go for it.

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Chumby One Review: Totally Frivolous, but Totally Adorable

Awesome retro design with clean and simple UI

Chumby One Review: Totally Frivolous, but Totally Adorable

Runs widgets admirably

Chumby One Review: Totally Frivolous, but Totally Adorable

$100—substantial price cut, but not quite impulse-purchase territory

Chumby One Review: Totally Frivolous, but Totally Adorable

Doesn't do anything your smartphone can't