Gadget Gary: Dash Addict

Sony calls the Dash a “personal Internet viewer,” but I’m not sure that’s a fully accurate description. Truth be told, I’m not sure exactly how to describe this device since it does so many things: It can serve as your alarm clock, you can watch movies on it, peruse one of 1,500-plus widgets, watch Netflix and YouTube. . . the list goes on and on.

If this feature set sounds a little familiar, it may be because I reviewed a similar gadget in this column exactly 2 years ago called the Chumby. And there’s a good reason for the similarities, since Sony partnered with Chumby and revamped the device.

The improvements are immediately obvious and all for the better. The screen has doubled in size to 7 inches, and the picture has that Sony Bravia crispness that’s a godsend to my 49-year-old eyes. The number of widgets available has increased well into the 4-figure range. And the Dash ($200; sonystyle .com) has a 500-MHz processor, a nice ramp up from the 350-MHz chip in the Chumby.

Dash setup is extremely easy: Take the unit out of the box, plug it in, and fire it up. You’ll then be prompted to join your wireless network. This entire process takes all of 2 minutes. You can set your apps and widgets either directly from the Dash or through their respective Web sites. I set mine directly on the Dash itself by browsing and choosing from the touchscreen, promptly adding some perennials like Facebook, the Weather Channel, the New York Times, TMZ, and my personal favorite, Google Trends. Having gotten used to the 3.5-inch Chumby screen, I instantly found video to be a much better experience on the twice-as-big Dash. The aforementioned Netflix and YouTube, as well as shows like 60 Minutes off the CBS News widget, all play well. There are a few music sites to choose from, like Pandora and Slacker Radio, and the sound is surprisingly good.