For Christmas I received the Sony Dash as present from my wife. Having worked with computers, networking, and all sorts of technology in general I am both amazed and dismayed by Sony Dash at the same time.
Since this article can live for a long time and the Sony product team does seem to making monthly/bi-monthly updates, some of these comments may become outdated.
The device uses a web application to help install and configure the apps that run on the device. The portal makes it relatively easy to find apps that are available, but if the number grows, it will need to address some things to make it easier to find useful ones.
Unfortunately, a lot of the configuration is via Flash, which makes sense given the apps on the Dash itself are built in Flash. This makes it impossible to use with iPad. If the Dash lives in the bedroom, it is easier to configure it with the iPad rather than laptop that usually stays downstairs. It’ll probably work with Android tablets, but don’t currently have one of those.
We don’t have a TV in our bedroom, and while the prospect of watching a movie on 7 inch screen isn’t going to be the bedroom home theater of choice, it is still an interesting device to have Netflix access on. It is able to access my Wireless-N WPA2 network which is good as I would like to phase out the B/G WEP. Anyway, Netflix runs fairly well on it. Netflix is probably the most ubiquitous service I have access to use.
Given that the Dash does not provide AM/FM radio built-in, this is the best app to use to listen to your local stations. Unfortunately, this looks like one heck of a unfinished app; more to the point it appears to be more proof of concept that indeed Internet Radio can be streamed and is missing the consumer oriented features that make it easy to use. In my world of development, this is would be a manual test harness the backend developer put together to prove the playing of audio streams works.
Then Internet Radio Streamer allows for user to manually add streams that can then be played. By manually adding streams, you have to know the URL of the stream and type it in completely and the content type of stream, m3u or pls. There is no pre-screened list of stations or search functionality. You can only manually add new or edit & delete existing streams. The list of added streams can’t even be reordered or categorized.
OK, so to use the app I need to use my computer to go find stream URLs and add them to the Dash. Not too big a deal since the device does allow adding and configuration of apps on the web site. I can fire up Safari, find the streams and copy/paste to the Dash configuration site. Does this app allow for configuration on the web site? No. So now you have to have computer within eyes view of Dash to enter the stream URL.
I don’t go looking for audio streaming URLs everyday, so didn’t know where to go. My first instinct was to use put in radio stations into search box, “knx 1070 audio stream url”. This had success in getting me to pages that would play the stream online, but made getting the URL difficult. I used Safari Web Inspector to find the URL. One down, many to go.
Eventually, I decided to go a different route. I eventually found some aggregator sites that provided better access to the URL. The main site I used for most stations I eventually added was vTuner. VTuner provides an aggregation list of audio streams and an API to access the list. Their API has been added to many devices, just not the Sony Dash (yet?). It seems the Internet Radio Streamer app can be made vastly more user friendly.
The thing is slow to respond to inputs. I hit a button on screen and then need to wait several seconds most of the time until I can tell whether or not it recognized the input. I understand the device is intended to be inexpensive, which probably limits what strength processor can be purchased, but wow.
While I have explored some apps, I haven’t had an opportunity to fully find the ones that fully interest me. I like the Dash and can’t wait to see what updates come in the future to make it more useful.