Hands-on review: Altaz Internet Clock Radio

Earlier this week, Altaz introduced its compact Internet Clock Radio. Here's the hands-on review.

Earlier this week, Altaz introduced its compact Internet Clock Radio. Here's the hands-on review.

SET-UP

Thankfully, once charged, the Altaz Internet Clock Radio is almost ready to go out of the box. But if you wanted to get things going immediately, just plug the AC adapter into the back of the radio and into the nearest socket, and you're on your way.

The Altaz radio is an instant-on operation via the side power button, just below the volume and play/pause controls. Conveniently, the time and date were already set correctly on my trial copy. That doesn't mean that will be the helpful case for everyone, but setting the time and other settings isn't really that difficult.

The biggest difficulty I encountered was setting up the most important feature: connecting to my home Wi-Fi network. On my first try, I actually tried to connect twice within five minutes of each attempt. Each one was met with the response "Connect Time Out." The 3.5-inch touch screen takes some getting used to as it isn't very sensitive, meaning I have to tap a couple times often when selecting a letter or icon on the display. To add to that, sometimes when I tapped a character on the digital keypad, it registered as the icon to the left. This was especially frustrating for the letter "m," which is next to the delete key. And when you hit the delete key...it deletes everything. It is also on top of the "Done" key, which I hit several times by accident, making me have to start the entire set-up process from the beginning repeatedly.

On my next attempt in the next room 30 minutes later, I encountered all of the same problems again. Just trying to enter my network password was a more frustrating experience that it should have been. After 20 minutes of trying again, I finally got the bright idea to use my pen as a stylus (without pushing the ballpoint out). This worked like a charm. However, when my password was finally entered correctly, I still got the same "Connect Time Out" message. I gave up. No product is worth this, but I'll continue on with what I could discern from the Internet-less clock radio.

USE

Upon first turning the Altaz clock radio on, I was immediately brought into a slideshow of preloaded photos. I wasn't quite sure what to do, so after tapping the screen and seeing a slideshow menu at the bottom, I hit the giant silver tab at the device to navigate to the home screen.

From here, you'll find portals to all of the potential uses of this Internet Clock Radio: photos (with help from Picasa or via your own MMC/SD card), videos, an MP3 player, weather updates, settings, and naturally, the time/alarm function menu.

Setting up an alarm (you're allowed two) is pretty straightforward. If you're lucky enough to be able to get this device connected to your home Wi-Fi network, then you'll also be able to view three-day forecasts, view photos from Picasa, and listen to Internet radio stations. The big word there is "if."

AVAILABILITY

The Altaz Internet Clock Radio is available now for $99.99. I might have used the term "pocket-sized" before, and that still rings true if it were the side or front pocket of your backpack or other messenger bag. Maybe not a pants pocket. Nevertheless, this half-clamshell clock radio is still highly portable so long as the battery if fully charged upon departure.

However, given how many problems I experienced just trying to set up the Internet connection, the heart and soul of this device, I'm not sure I'd want to take it on a trip. Traveling is already stressful enough. It's sad that a gadget that should be so simple and have so much potential can produce frustration just at the set-up stage. Not to mention that if I can't get the Internet to work on a device that advertised it, I would have returned it to the store.

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