CNet reviews the latest Chumby device, these being adorable little networked appliances that do a little of everything, with loads of engineering smarts and a wide-open platform that invites innovation from all comers. Chumby is the brainchild of Bunnie Huang, the author of Hacking the XBox — a brilliant engineer and great creative thinker. His idea for a general-purpose networked cute computer was years ahead of its time, and it gets even better with every revision.
Breaking away from its legacy as a touch-screen beanbag, the Chumby 8 cuts a trim figure with a modern photo-frame-like design that looks like a boomerang from the side. The device is 8.75 inches wide, 6.75 inches tall, and 5.5 inches deep, giving it a steady base against your touch-screen-jabbing finger.
On the left side you'll find a Tic-Tac-size power button near the top and a pair of memory card slots at the base that can accept SD, MMC, MS, and Compact Flash. There's a speaker grille on each side that can be used to crank your Internet radio or locally stored tunes loud enough to wake you up or keep you rockin' at your desk.
On the top edge, above the Chumby 8's antiglare 800×600-pixel-resolution, 8-inch screen, there's a proper inch-wide button affectionately called the "smash bar." It basically acts as a home button to take you back to the top of the main menu, but pulls double duty as an alarm clock snooze button, as well. Flip the Chumby 8 around, and you'll notice four sockets on the back: one for power, one for audio output, and two full-size USB ports for hosting music or photos.
Overall, the Chumby 8's design is sturdy, functional, and pleasing to the eye from just about every angle. Unlike the softball-size Chumby devices of the past, this latest model is a little large to work well as a glorified alarm clock. We picture the Chumby 8 more as a living room accessory for displaying photos, playing music, or showing headlines. But really, it's meant to be a multipurpose device, and its design is adaptable.