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The newly released Chumby One arrived in the mail today, and we couldn't wait to see how it compared to the original digital connected companion device. The Chumby, in case you haven't heard of it, is a multi-function gadget that can serve as an alarm clock, RSS reader, gaming device, or music player. It connects to the internet with Wi-Fi, and runs user-created widgets to do cool things like read your Gmail or send you Twitter updates. You interact with it through a 3.5 inch resistive touchscreen, but it also has an accelerometer inside, since it's made to be held and encourages user interaction.
We liked the first Chumby an awful lot, and the One doesn't look like it's meant to be a successor or replacement for that. In fact, we're not sure not exactly sure how the Chumby One is being positioned in the marketplace. One the one hand, it's a budget model, sacrificing the original's squishy appeal for a significant price cut. On the other hand, it also adds new functionality that makes it a better device than the Chumby Classic.
First, the ceremonial unboxing ritual. The Chumby One comes in a utilitarian cube-shaped box, as opposed to the cute canvas sack of the original. This may seem like a minor change, but it's representative of the major difference between the two models -- the Chumby one is now housed in a rigid plastic chassis as opposed to malleable Italian leather.
At the top of the device is a large button, which is actually larger than the one hidden under the first Chumby's "skin." Hitting this button takes you to the home screen or turns off alarms. There's also a new physical knob on the right side of the Chumby One, which is very convenient for quick volume adjustment when you're playing music from a connected iPod or Pandora.
Here it is compared to the first Chumby. The One looks and feels much smaller, though without the soft shell, it's not nearly as comfortable to hold in one hand. Since the touchscreen works best when you're gripping the Chumby with one hand and navigating with your other hand, the experience loses a little bit of charm and whimsy. It feels less like playing with a digital pet and more like, well, an alarm clock. Whether that affects your emotional connection with the Chumby is up for debate.
The back of the device has a few minor changes. There's only one powered USB port, and the speaker is positioned above the ports instead of at their sides (a change from stereo to mono). There's still a headphone jack, DC power connector, and power button, but their placement has been optimized to avoid accidentally turning off the Chumby.