By David Ponce
When I got the new Weather Station, from Oregon Scientific in the mail, my heart did a little tapdance. Why? Well, the Weather Station is a very nice clock that happens to also give you more weather information than you can shake a burning stick at… and it does so without using any sensors. It’s got a nice big backlit LCD screen, stainless steel, blue lights throughout and prepaid service from MSN Direct until 2010. It’s based on SPOT technology. It looks sharp, it’s (oh so) easy to use and aside from a couple rather funny interface quirks, works flawlessly.
For the full review, peeps, come inside.
Soon as I opened the box and got the unit out, the first thing that hit me was just how thin it is. It’s got a tiny footprint, and couldn’t be much more than an inch deep. It’s quite light, weighing in at maybe 400g but feels solidly constructed. Nothing is rickety. The base has rubber feet, so it won’t slip on whatever surface you put it. The screen is very large and the entire unit measures 11inches across.
You have the option of running it on 4AA batteries, or with the adaptor provided. They recommend using the adaptor to prolong the life of the device, and I complied. I found a little spot to put it on, and plugged it in. I unfurled the antenna (in this case it’s a twelve inch long metal wire) and tucked it someplace out of view.
That’s when the magic happened. First, as soon as power was applied, on either side of the 6.5inch screen, a strong, deep-blue light came on. It’s a very striking blue that makes the unit really stand out. And then, within ten minutes, it had detected a signal and sync-ed up with MSN Direct’s service. The clock was set, and the weather information started to display. And by jove, do you get info! Here’s what the unit displays (though not all at once):
-Current temperature & humidity with trend
-Wind direction and speed
-Dew point temperature
-Heat & UV Index
-Rain level & 24h history
-3-day forecast with description
-Hi/Lo temperature for the forecast
-Probability of precipitation
Now, the usefulness of all that data will vary from one person to another. I, for one, found it very nice to know how cold it is (and feels) outside, whether it’s windy or not and how the weather will be tomorrow. The unit also happens to have an internal thermometer and hygrometer (that’s for humidity), so you can know if you’ve inadvertently turned your place into a Turkish bath.
It would be easy to overload anyone with that amount of data, yet Oregon Scientific has done a good job with the interface. Everything is arranged in sectors dedicated to different functions. So, for instance, top-right corner is temperature. A simple press of a button will switch between indoor and outdoor.
At the bottom, you have three boxes with the forecast. It uses fairly self explanatory icons to tell you what’s going to happen. So, say it’ll be sunny, you get a nice big sun. Rain? You guessed it: clouds and raindrops. There’s a large number of such icons, and some of them are a little more obscure (like “frigid” and “windy”). Thankfully, they are all listed in the user manual. You also get the high and low temperatures for each day. And in the center of the display, nice and big, there’s today’s weather.
Oh, and if it’s the middle of the night, and you want to check the time or whatever, you can press on the base to trigger the backlight. It’s blue and looks very nice.
Now, the first thing that I found a little odd on the machine was what I had to do to get it to switch from Fahrenheit to Celsius. See, here in Canada, we use the superior metric system, unlike you wacky Americans. Erhm… So you know, I wanted to switch it to Celsius. Turns out that you have to reach into the battery compartment, and press a tiny button! Well, no big deal. You do it once, and that’s it.
The other quirk was that today’s weather seems to only display sometimes. Every now and then, that box in the middle goes empty. I tried moving the device around, thinking it might be poor reception, but no. Of course, you can just look outside and see if it’s raining or what, and the temperature still works, so it’s no big deal. But I found it odd anyhow.
The final big weather related feature was that if there was, say, a hurricane heading your way, the machine would warn you via a scrolling message at the top. Very useful if you want to get into that bunker right quick.
Aside from all the weather related stuff, it also serves as an alarm. You can set it at two different times and there are 5 melodies with adjustable volume levels. Well, I thought I’d try it at the loudest, for kicks. Ha! Let me tell you, this thing could wake the dead. I’ve never been so freaked out by an alarm. If you’re the type that never hears his alarm, perhaps only a thousand simultaneously wailing babies might top it. The melodies are pleasant enough, but boy is it loud! And that’s a good thing.
So to conclude, the Weather Station is great. Unlike the previous models, there’s no tedious setup, no going out and placing sensors and getting dirty and such. It couldn’t be more simple to get it to work: you just have to plug it in. The unit looks great, sleek and modern. The blue lights are a very nice touch. The data is accurate, useful and plentiful. There are a couple of minor quirks, but it doesn’t diminish the value for one bit.
The machine costs $200, and you can get it from Sharper Image. The manufacturer’s website is here. If you want to check whether there is MSN Direct coverage, there is a fun mini site, right here, and at the top, you can check for coverage. Alternatively, visit MSN Direct’s website.