- Small form factor
- Built-in WiFi
- SD card slot
- More often than not unable to locate WiFi networks
- Slightly buggy operation
- Low rez screen, not capacitive
- Poor battery life
Unremarkable. That’s probably best how to describe Atlaz’s AZICR101 Touchscreen Internet Clock Radio. In a day and age of touchscreen phones and tablets, Altaz’s touchscreen alarm clock struck me as ‘too late to the party’.
So where to begin? Perhaps a brief explanation of the device is in order. It’s an alarm clock, you already know that, and it sports a 3.5-inch 320×240 touchscreen. There’s WiFi (it’s only WPA compatible), JPG viewer (photo frame), MP3 player, SD card slot, 128MB of built-in storage, calendar, a 1w built-in speaker and a mini USB input for charging and powering the device.
Play/pause, volume and power buttons
Power on the device at anytime, even after initial setup and you’ll be greeted with glaringly loud music and a slide show of stock photos. A few taps of the ‘snooze’ button and it cancels the process.
The home screen contains 6 icons: clock, files, network, i-radio, weather and settings. Until the WiFi is setup weather, i-radio and network are useless. Network strangely enough provides you access to photo applications – the only one I recognized was Picasa.
The settings menu is relatively straight forward and really doesn’t warrant much explanation. There you can set the two alarm clocks (standard noises included – rooster, 80s digital alarm, etc) with your choice of MP3, what kind of clock type you’d like to display (analog or digital) and setup the WiFi.
And this is where things went a bit south. Putting aside the fact that more often than not I was unable to detect any wireless networks – I’m surrounded by about 10 of them – I was unable to join mine. But the pain didn’t stop there. Assuming you can find your WiFi, if you make a mistake entering your WPA key, you’ll be forced to delete the entire string, not just the character. Furthermore you can’t view the password in plain text, so you’ll never know if you’ve entered it correctly; it appears as asterisks only. According to Altaz they’re working on a firmware update to address this, but from what I understand it will only fix the deleting issue.
Since I was unable to connect to the Net the majority of the functionality of the clock was rendered useless. What I was able to test was the alarm clock, the MP3 player and the photo viewer.
Speakers and mini USB port for charging/powering the device
The speaker on the device is loud, but fidelity, I think not. Don’t expect to rock out with this device, though it might serve as a suitable last second love making soundtrack.
It’s nice they’ve included an SD card, though I’m not sure what capacity it’s compatible with. It’s probably safe to assume 16GB, which should suffice for those looking to display pics and play a little music.
There is a built-in battery, which is good for about 2 hours of use. With some tinkering I discovered that you can set the display to power off after just 30 seconds, which extended the battery life enough to last 5 hours, hardly enough for a full night’s rest . I would have liked to see a dimmer setting for the screen while it’s plugged in, but for now it’s full brightness or not at all.
The accuracy of the touchscreen, while not horrendous is questionable. It’s not capacitive, so you’ll need to use a bit more heft than you’re accustom to, assuming you’ve got an Android or iPhone. Entering my WPA password took painstaking effort to insure I didn’t make a misstep. Be warned that the screen might turn off during entry, which happened to me a few times. I assume this was a result of setting the display to turn off after 3 seconds, which should have been negated by use, but at this point it is anyone’s guess. A resolution of 320×240 isn’t terrible, but once you’ve laid eyes on today’s smartphones I guarantee you’ll be disappointed. Pictures looked grainy and videos, well I didn’t test it since it requires them to be encoded in M-JPEG, a process that wasn’t worth going through given the already lack luster experience.
At $100 your money is better invested in an iPod Touch, which sports a higher rez screen and much greater functionality. It will lack the bedside form factor, but that’s nothing an aftermarket device can’t quell. If that’s a bit too rich for your blood there is also the Chumby device, which we haven’t tested, but given its feature set and despite sporting a slightly higher cost it seems like a far more solid buy. It really is unfortunate since I had higher expectations for Altraz’s touchscreen alarm clock and didn’t expect it to be plagued by a set of bugs that could have been avoided with a bit more QA testing.
You can, if you so dare, buy it from Amazon for $99.99