Friday, February 16, 2007

Brookstone 5-Day Wireless Weather Forecaster

The short version of this review: This little device is cool.

The longer version: Is it $89 cool? I’m not a hundred percent sure, but it seems like it very well may be.

What is it, you ask? Why, it’s a clock, and a magical fancy weather device.

Remember the ambient orb? It was a weird little globe that out a few years ago. A coworker got one of them for his birthday. Via received radio waves, connected on the back end to a website, you could set it to change color or flash depending on different variables. If the weather took a turn for the worse, or if your stocks tanked, the thing blinks or changes color and you consider yourself informed. Interesting, but strange. This weather device is apparently a descendant of the orb, based on the fact that the instructions for the weather device direct you to ambientdevices.com to register the device, the home site of the ambient orb device.

So, I said that the weather device was magical, and I wasn’t kidding. I’m not going to focus too deep on the technology behind this, because I don’t know a ton about it, and I don’t need to. I do know that it works via radio waves. Somehow, the device knows where it’s located, or the radio signal is localized to different regions in the country.

Basically, you just take the thing home, put batteries in it, and you get the weather from AccuWeather.com. It tells you whether or not it’s raining or snowing, if it’s windy or cloudy, and the current temperature. It has today’s high and low, and it also displays the forecast for the next four days, including high and low temperature and weather predicted. If it’s going to snow on Tuesday, the thing will tell you.

It, of course, also tells you the current time, which it also obtains via magic (either over the radio signal, or via the WWV signal that every other auto-setting clock in the US uses).

This thing is pretty amazing and convenient. We keep ours in the bathroom. That way, while we’re getting ready for the day’s activities, we know what the weather’s going to be like when we head outside. I bet these make great gifts too – if you’re a friend of mine, it’s probably on the short list for what to get you at next Christmas.

Pros:

- No monthly fee. Purchase the device and you’re set. (Unless you want weather from some other city; see below.)

- Put batteries in and forget it. It takes a few hours to first gain its bearings and then you’re all set.

- It knows where you are automatically. Take it with you to California, and it’ll work there too.

Cons:

- It only works in big cities. Make sure you check the coverage map before laying out the cash for it. If you live in the middle of nowhere, you’re likely to be disappointed.

- You have to pay extra if you want it to receive weather data for some city other than your own.

- The device becomes a fancy plastic paperweight if Ambient ever goes out of business.

Click here to buy it now from Amazon.com.

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