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Gadget Grab: Chumby

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Is Chumby a clock radio? A tiny computer? A distraction machine? An adorable but fundamentally unnecessary tabletop gadget? Indeed, it is all these things.

We prefer to think of Chumby as a tiny touch-screen TV that’s tuned to your bookmarks bar. You manage your wifi-enabled Chumby from a computer and select free “widgets” from Chumby’s website: stock quotes, videos of David Letterman’s Top 10 lists, Google News headlines, Fabebook status updates, your eBay auctions, your Gmail, Pandora tunes — it’s a robust list. Your Chumby then shuffles through the apps and displays your selected weather info, tweets, whatever. If you’re  savvy enough, you can even code your very own widget and put it in the store.

It’s not that Chumby does stuff other devices can’t do — I can check the weather on my computer or phone, duh. It’s more that Chumby’s always on, a push rather than pull information stream. Its controls are totally intuitive (think Tivo-style clarity), and once I started using it I thought of a million things I “needed” it for.

Except, you know, not. Ultimately, Chumby is a good gift to give someone and a hell of a fun toy, but it’s hardly part of a balanced tech diet — it’s more like the boutique gourmet lollipop. Sure, it’s tasty and different and it makes you feel special. But at the end of the day, you probably would have been happy with a dumdum.

Chumby One, pictured, is $119.95.

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