Sony Dash Price: $200 Rating: Weak Recommend* In the world of the incredibly efficient (or lazy, whatever you prefer), the Internet comes to you, not the other way around. Alas, a market is born for personal Internet viewers that's neither smartphone nor tablet, but interactive screens that have replaced alarm clocks on our bedside table. Priced the same as an an entry level netbook, can Sony's Dash pull off the luddite experience we've all been waiting for?
Let's start with the setup. You'll have the thing up and running in less than 15 minutes, no problem. The box comes with just the Dash and a power cord, but no battery. You'll need to keep this guy plugged in on your bedside or on the kitchen table. It's designed to stay in one spot at a time, much like a TV and less like a tablet PC. The quickly dove into the built-in features. Now, these were great, we tell you. The Dash allows you to quickly get weather and traffic info at a glance, set up multiple alarms per day, each with their own sounds and configurable schedule (with repeats!). Snooze duration is also highly configurable, which makes it pretty much the ultimate alarm clock.
Now, the bad. We've always had one big complaint about Sony's interfaces; sluggishness. This includes the majority of the TVs and products with any type of overlay interface. There just doesn't seem to be enough memory for all those anti-aliased shadows and smooth icon transitions. The Dash, while quicker than its predecessors, suffers a similar fate. There are times when I felt like there were one or two follow-up taps required just to get from one menu to the next. And scrolling, well, is completely unusable. As for the online interface, it's pretty simple and intuitive, but nothing special.
What we'd consider the saving grace for the Sony Dash is its presentation. The industrial design has taken cues from the cheaper, more playful Chumby one and taken it up a notch. What you get is a simple, yet very attractive design. The smooth silicon surrounding everything other than the screen and back lends a playful, but modern tone. It's very much "Sony," if a brand could ever be considered an adjective. It's also sits quite stable in case you're wondering if your cat will knock it over.
Our favorite feature is the video playback. You'll get tons of customizability here to get your money's worth. Netflix, YouTube, Amazon VOD, and Hulu Plus (planned for later this year) are all there, just to name a few. With the excellent screen, it makes the perfect bedside mini-HDTV, but lack of battery forces the user conform to position of the Dash instead of the way around. However, we do wish there was dLNA support or SD card slot instead of just a USB drive to load in your pictures. We've enjoyed the experience on the Sony Playstation 3 when viewing pictures over the network so we don't understand why that option was omitted on a media device dedicated to showcasing photos.
As for the "apps," there's plenty to choose from, but there are a few things that irk us about Sony's app store: 1) Lack of intuitive organization, 2) apps that are really just widgets in disguise and 3) poor interface integration. All tend to crap on the experience quite a bit, often making the user browse for long durations at a time looking for apps that aren't thrown together by a freshman university student, but integrated well into the interface so it doesn't look like an Angelfire website pasted on a device made for the future. It's a hard thing to moderate for sure, but we wish someone would do it. All that said and done, the Sony Dash still manages to still feel likable for what it is. With hundreds of apps to choose from (they claimed 1000's, but we couldn't find nearly that many), an attractive interface, and easy setup, the Sony Dash will keep you connected to the Internet more so than you'd ever expect. We just wish the other aspects of the system (app integration, touchscreen feedback, more features for what you pay for) were better integrated. There's also a heavy lack of features for the price. We wish were was dLNA support, multitouch, and other valued options expected in upcoming Internet connected devices today. Still, being a luddite ourselves, the ability to check e-mail messages, weather, and almost everything else you do on your phone every morning without ever having to leave the side of our beds, is a dream device we now find ourselves drooling for in our sleep. Pros: Slick case design, great WiFi reception, plenty of apps, good onscreen keyboard and screen. Cons: Much more expensive than Chumby one, sluggish interface (scrolling is impossible), no multitouch, no copy and paste, no DLNA, no battery, and app organization/integration is very, very messy. Our Ratings: Strong Recommend Recommend Weak Recommend* Don't Recommend Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did loan us the product for testing and review purposes.