We mentioned the Sony Dash in the January/February issue of Maximum Tech, but we’re long overdue in presenting a more in-depth look at this Chumby device. If you’re not familiar with the Chumby, check out our previous coverage of the Chumby One and Best Buy’s Infocast.
Sony’s take on the Internet Appliance features a seven-inch, 800-by-480 pixel capacitive touch-screen that’s much larger than the Chumby One, and slightly smaller than the Infocast. As with those devices, it’s capable of connecting to your 802.11b/g wireless network (or your “n” network if you configure your router to permit “g” devices) with up to WPA2 encryption. You can download and install most Chumby apps, including Facebook and Twitter, directly onto the Dash without having to use your PC first. We dig the Dash’s wide-screen display, its small footprint, and the fact that it’s capable of streaming video from Hulu Plus, YouTube, Netflix, and other services.
In addition to streaming Internet video, the Dash can play music from several popular Internet radio services, including Slacker, Pandora, and ShoutCast. But it’s no competition for a Squeezebox Radio in this regard, being limited to playing AAC, MP3, and WMA files (at bit rates up to 192-, 320, and 384Kb/sec, respectively). The built-in stereo speakers are utter crap, but you can plug in headphones or a set of outboard powered speakers to solve that problem.
The Sony Dash is one of the more elegant looking Chumby devices we've seen, but it lacks a few of the features you'll find in Best Buy's larger--and cheaper--Insignia Infocast.
Like any good alarm clock, the Dash is equipped with a large snoozebar on its top (this one doubles as a menu button). There’s a set of volume controls right next to that. A rubbery panel on the left side hides the headphone jack and a USB 2.0 port for hosting a USB memory device (the Dash provided enough power to support a 250GB Seagate USB hard drive). Best Buy’s Infocast is much more flexible in terms of its hosting options, since it includes two USB ports, a Compact Flash reader, and a second card reader supporting SD/SDHC, MMC, MS, and xD media.
Given its size, the Dash would make a terrific portable device if only it came with a battery option so you could carry it from one room to another without having to worry about having an electrical outlet nearby. Sony has lopped $50 off the Dash’s original price, bringing it down to $150, but we think Best Buy’s Insignia remains the better buy at its current price of just $100.