(This story has been corrected to change "considerable" to "slight" in the final paragraph.)
Sony (SNE) calls its new $199 Dash a "Personal Internet Viewer," but they got it wrong. The Dash might be the world's coolest alarm clock.
The competition isn't fierce. There's Clocky, which jumps off your nightstand and rolls around the room screaming until you shut it off. There's also Chumby, an eccentric, Wi-Fi-enabled device that runs some 1,500 applications.
The Dash is based on the Chumby. It too connects to your home Wi-Fi network and runs the same apps, both the practical (such as one that allows you to scour Craigslist.com entries) and otherwise (another lets you to tickle an animated SpongeBob). Sony has replaced Chumby's funky design with a sleek wedge shape housing a seven-inch touchscreen and stereo speakers. A snooze button on top doubles as a menu controller, ports on the side accommodate headphones and a USB drive, and the built-in microphone suggests the possibility of future intercom or Skype-based apps. The Dash is probably the first alarm clock on which you could, if you wanted, watch a full-length movie. It comes with a built-in viewer for watching Netflix's streaming service as well as videos from Amazon.com. (Additionally, an accelerometer reorients the screen if you decide to lay it flat.)
You can also check Facebook or Twitter feeds, display online photo streams, or wake up to one of your personal Pandora Internet radio stations. If you want to use the Dash primarily as a clock, it has more than 200 different time displays, including one that gives you the time in words rather than numbers. Apps can be added, subtracted, and arranged into custom channels via a Sony Web site.
Unfortunately, the Dash suffers from too many early bugs and oddities. Setup was more cumbersome than it should have been: At first the Dash wouldn't let me manage some settings because it wrongly thought it hadn't yet been registered. Sony says it's pushing out a software fix to address the issue, which is another advantage of being Internet-connected.
There's also the puzzling lack of a battery-power option, which tethers it to the wall and puts you out of luck if there's a power failure when you're supposed to wake up—a slight risk. While the Dash doesn't necessarily provide a solution to any particular need, it slices off pieces of the Internet and pushes them past your groggy eyes without your having to summon them. And it also doesn't jump off the nightstand and run around the room screaming.
A half-dozen happy marriages between form and function
Artist Jonas Damon's LED cubes can be stacked up or set in line. $85, momastore.org
Clamshell Alarm Clock
This old-school pop-up portable has springs, hinges, and classic lines. $30, dwr.com
Modern Gears Table Alarm Clock
Watch the gears turn on an antique auto-inspired model. $45, wrapables.com
Clocky by Nanda Home
Whether it strikes you as annoying or charming, it gets you out of bed. $45, nandahome.com
Lexon On Off Alarm Clock
Pushing this LCD clock to the tilt gives you an extra snooze. $38, switchmodern.com
The Dash predecessor plays podcasts and sends e-cards. $150, chumby.com