Koolio

Thoughts & news on technology…well, mostly

Review: Brookstone (Ambient Devices) Weather Wizard


brookstone-weatherwatcher.pngI bought the Brookstone Weather Wizard (which is made by Ambient Devices) as a Christmas gift for my weather junkie-girlfriend and thought I’d post a review now that we’ve been using it for over a month. And, I must say, it has delivered on its goal of allowing the viewer to get the weather forecast at a glance. For example, prior to buying it, I never checked the weather because it was so time consuming to get the weather forecast from the TV. Now, I get it in 2 seconds.

Overall, I recommend it but there are a few things you should know before you spend your hard earned cash on it:

Pros:

  • The E-Ink display technology is pretty cool – it does a good job of making you feel like you’re reading ink on real paper, which is easier to read than traditional LCDs found in most other weather devices.
  • The various weather icons are very intuitive, have a ‘clean’ design, and are large enough to read from a decent viewing distance.
  • It’s the perfect size – not too big, not too small.
  • Includes a magnet so you can attach it to your fridge.
  • Includes a foldable stand so you can display it on a desk, nightstand, etc.
  • Automatically determines your location (we just inserted a pair of AAA batteries and after 5 – 10 mins the weather was displayed for Boston)
  • Clock is sychronized by satellite

Cons:

  • Price ($85) is expensive compared to other weather devices (but can be had for a fraction of the cost on eBay)
  • Some of the city codes are not intuitive (I had to loook at their website)
  • Weather is only from Accuweather.com
  • There isn’t a ‘real feel’ temperature.
  • Sometimes, the unit is not in-sync with Accuweather’s website. A couple of times, we noticed the unit was reporting a temp that was 10-20 degrees higher than the Accuweather website and it took around 30 – 60 minutes for it to synchronize with the website.

Suggested Improvements:

  • The Weather Wizard should display the ‘real feel’ temp.
  • Add the ability to choose between Accuweather or Weather.com data. Some people prefer Weather.com over Accuweather (I know this would require infrastructure changes to Ambient Device’s weather network but it would be a nice selling feature).

Conclusion:

The Brookstone/Ambient Devices Weather Wizard is designed very well from both a physical and software/user interface perspective. It accomplishes its goal of allowing people to get the weather forecast at a quick glance and would be a great gift item for your friends/family who simply need to know the weather forecast at a high level. However, it may not be enough for those who want detailed weather data such as radar & satellite maps, wind speed/direction, or are just pure weather junkies that “need” to have as much weather data as possible (you know who you are!).

Given it’s retail price ($85), it will appeal to those who either have a bit more disposable income and/or those who are willing to pay a premium for a well-designed product w/Accuweather data. Other weather devices, like those found at Radio Shack or Best Buy, will appeal to those who just want a basic weather device at the lowest cost.

Personally, I’m happy with it because it serves as my primary (and only) source of weather info (and I no longer ask my girlfriend what the outside temp is every morning!). As for my girlfriend, the TV is still her primary source for the weather and she uses the Brookstone Weather Wizard as a complementary source.

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Filed under: Ambient Devices, Gadgets, Reviews, Technology, Weather, Wireless

46 Responses

  1. Sam says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for the excellent detailed review of the Brookstone weather device. I’m also interested in getting one my girlfriend but I have a few questions.

    1) How long do the AAA batteries last? One Amazon.com user complained that s/he had to change batteries monthly. A friend said that his Radio Shack unit uses larger AA batteries which lastsover 6 months.

    As an aside,I’m annoyed by the many devices that use AAA instead of AA, since they often cost the same but AAs last longer. I could understand it if size and portability were important but this Brookstone device, remote controls, LED lamps, etc would not lose functionality by using the slightly larger AAs.

    2) You mention that this uses E-Ink. Are you sure about that? The product description on various sites makes no mention of this cutting edge technology. Since visibility is important, I would love it to be the case. I’m a bit worried that the 3″x3″ display would be too small, but using e-ink would make up for it. Plus, it should enhance battery life.

    3) Do you know if magnetically mounting it on a large metal object like the fridge would interfere with reception? Many electronic objects, especially those requiring a radio signal (i.e. atomic clocks), say to avoid being near the fridge. I don’t know if Accuweather’s FM signal is affected. My guess is that your synchronization problem is caused by intermittent failures to connect.

    Thanks in advance for any advice you offer.

  2. koolio says:

    Sam – I’m glad you found the review helpful. Here are the answers to your questions:

    1. I haven’t had to change the batteries, yet, and we’ve been using it since December 20, 2006. So, it’s been almost 3 months and it’s still using those original batteries.

    2. I’m positive that it uses E-Ink because a former colleague of mine helped Ambient design it and he showed me the final prototype that was using E-Ink. Plus, a former colleague of mine is the founder and CEO of Ambient Devices (David Rose). Personally, I don’t think they market E-Ink in the product specs because 90% of buyers would have zero clue of what E-Ink is nor the benefit…until one sees the display. 😉

    3. We have ours mounted onto the side of our stainless steel fridge and the signal went from full bars to one bar. Perhaps, this is the cause of the occasional sync issue but the sync issue is pretty infrequent so we have no plans to take it off the fridge.

    Hopefully, these answers help you decide. I’m sure your girlfriend will like it. 🙂

  3. Sam says:

    MANY thanks for the quick reply. Your positive review has convinced us to get it tomorrow. What clinched it for me is the e-ink display. Thanks again!

  4. koolio says:

    No problem – glad to be of help!

  5. kabababrubarta says:

    Nice site! kabababrubarta

  6. Doug says:

    Great review! I’ve had this product since December, 2006. I love it, but I’ve had some sync issues also. I live in the heart of Washington, DC. The unit occasionally switches to Richmond, which is in a different set of cities altogether. Meaning, I can’t even re-select Washington. Signal strength doesn’t change during this time. It eventually switches back to DC

  7. koolio says:

    Thanks, Doug!

    Pretty strange how your city changes. I can only guess that the Ambient network sees your location bordering Richmond and DC. At least it switches back on its own.

    Once, mine wasn’t displaying any temps – everything was blank. All I had to do was take out the battery and reinsert it to fix it.

  8. Karol says:

    I purchgased a king size memory mattress topper. Upon opening item it sure was not king size I called the store asap and they told me I cannot return or exchange because this was a personal use item I am upset and disgusted I have been shopping as a valued Brookstone customer for years. It sure isn’t my fault I paid for king and got less than king size like a foot short width wise. I am probably not gonna get a refund or even an exchange. I am upset that the store told me that it is illegal for them to accept such return. It should be illeal for them to sell me the wrong item and keep my money too.No longer will I shop at Brookstone. Walmart is way better and would gladly appreciate me as a valued customer.

  9. Karol says:

    This isn’t related to item but Brookstone

  10. Joan says:

    Nice review. I got the Weather Watcher last December as well as a gift. Couldn’t get a signal. Ambient said to drive around with it, that didn’t work. Took it to Brookstone to exchange it. New one worked great and I loved it.

    8 months later …no signal. I had it mounted on the fridge the whole time, so maybe that caused the signal failure. Again, Ambient said ride around with it…no such luck. Took it back to Brookstone…in the store, all the devices got a signal, but not mine. But Brookstone changed its exchange policy in April…no exchange without a receipt. Since it was a gift, they wouldn’t help me. Called Ambient back and they put me in touch with someone at Brookstone that would help. That person was willing to send me a Brookstone store credit in exchange for my device…she was reluctant to send me a new device since this was the second one to fail on me.

    I’d like to get a new one with the gift card…as I really loved having the 5 day forecast at a glance each morning. Do you think that if I got a new one and didn’t mount it on the fridge I could avoid the signal failure problem?

  11. koolio says:

    Joan,

    Sorry to hear you’ve had so many issues with it. I’ve had mine mounted on the side of my stainless steel fridge for the past 9-10 months and haven’t had any issues with the signal reception. So, I can’t imagine that’s the cause of your problems. So, I say, buy another one, keep the receipt, and mount it on your fridge. Or, don’t mount it on your fridge for 8+ months and see what happens.

    My only guess is you got your devices from a bad batch but that’s a long shot. Has your device fallen or been accidentally knocked off your fridge multiple times?

    I think mine lost it’s signal twice but I’ve been able to get it back by resetting it. Once, it got the signal back on its own.

  12. koolio says:

    I think Joan jinxed me…my Ambient Devices weather station has failed. Instead of showing the weather all I get is a ‘processing’ type of indicator – as if it’s trying to initialize or acquire a signal.

    To top things off, I don’t have the Brookstone receipt so it’ll be a battle trying to get Brookstone to honor the 1 year warranty.

    Btw, if you buy from Brookstone, I recommend buying via their website because they record all of your purchases (my purchase from 2003 was still in their database). If I bought this thing via the website, they would’ve honored the warranty.

    I’ll keep you all updated on how I make out…

  13. Idetrorce says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

  14. George says:

    I got one this Christmas and it worked well for about two weeks, then kaput.

    Processing screen continuously- changed batteries, pressed reset button, same thing.

    Having seen here others have experienced the same thing, there is obviously a quality control problem out there. I’ll exchange mine and see what happens (luckily I have my receipt).

  15. koolio says:

    @George

    Good thing you still have your receipt!

    Yeah, there definitely seems to be a quality control issue with these devices. I exchanged mine for a new one and it’s been working flawlessly for the past month or so but I’m still keeping my fingers crossed!

  16. Chad says:

    I appreciate your review on this particular item. I went out and bought one recently and I can see what you mean about the sync problems with accuweather! Mine will have a full signal but still be way behind the accuweather site. In fact, right now it says 21 on the website, but only 13 on my device. Otherwise, I do love it and it seems to update the forecasts pretty well anyway.

  17. koolio says:

    Yeah, it has it’s quirks but it definitely gets the job done and is very useful. Almost every morning, I take a quick glance at it before heading out to work.

    Just make sure you save your receipt and original box in case if it breaks during the 1 year warranty period! Even better if you bought it on your Amex card since Amex will extend the warranty by 1 extra year.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Most of Brookstone’s products have quality control issues. Make sure you keep your receipts and know their “NEW” return policy. It’s not like the old days of superior customer service.

  19. Don says:

    I just got my second one, and already it has failed – the little icon in the top right corner shows no signal. It was fine for a week, the first one was fine for about 9 months. I am afraid these are garbage, the failure rate is very high. Don’t waste your time on them, after two I am done…

  20. s bruce says:

    I bought mine two years ago. Works great until this week. I live in Chicago, and always got CHI as the weather report. Now, I get weather from Bismark, SD. Not close to Chicago. I reset device, it goes to CHI, then it works for a day and then resets. Any ideas?

  21. bj myers says:

    I got mine as a gift just over a year ago. Worked pretty well until a few months ago when I had to start replacing the batteries about every 10 days. It does lose the signal sporadically, or insist on displaying data from a secondary city. Too bad about these flaws, cause I really love it when it works… I heard Ambient corrected these software issues in the newer model –but not sure I want to risk $100 to find out.

  22. Charles says:

    We got one Christmas of 2007 and it’s worked with no problems and the batteries lasted 11 months.

  23. koolio says:

    Sorry to hear about the issues some of you are having. Hopefully, the new version is made better.

  24. Eric says:

    I got one of these for my wife last Christmas. Worked fantastically for one year. Then, sadly, it stopped working this week with the same “processing” screen (no signal indicator, LED bars cycling in a loop, etc.) It’s now also making a high-pitched whine. We’ve tried new batteries, hitting reset, etc.

    Wahhhh! My wife and I loved this thing. Sad if it only lasts for a year??

  25. koolio says:

    Yeah, I think it’s safe to say there was definitely a quality issue with the first generation weather stations.

    Hopefully, the 2nd gen ones don’t have this issue.

  26. mda says:

    I bought one at Christmas in 2007. In June ’08, it began eating batteries. It chewed through a 30 pack (no kidding) in about 2 months. I thought it was because they were a cheapo brand. Then I began feeding it Energizers. Same problem. Immediate high-pitch whine; works for a few days; then a blank screen. Reset button doesn’t help. Tired of paying a subscription fee for local weather. I’m going to cancel the subscription today and trash the thing. Lesson learned – no more first generation gadgets.

  27. Nancy says:

    My mother received one of these as a Christmas gift in Dec. 2008. Worked fine until this month (Mar. 2009). Noticed it had been displaying the same weather for about 4 days, which no longer matched the real weather. Tried the reset button. Now all I have is an uninformative screen that looks like it is receiving signal but doesn’t have any numbers or symbols–just bars where numbers would be and ??? where the city code was. Don’t know if I will be able to get it replaced since it was a gift. Agree that the old Brookstone return policy was nice.

  28. koolio says:

    Sorry to hear you encountered the same issue, Nancy. You can try to go to the Brookstone store and see if the store manager will replace it for you. It’s worth a shot…and the odds are better that a store manager will replace it versus the Brookstone 800 number.

  29. Electrical Engineer says:

    Mine went south in about 3 months. Flashes “No Coverage” in the corner.

    Since I am an EE, I intend on getting after it with the soldering iron to see what is up, but I think the chances of fixing it are slim if it is more than a broken solder.

    Oh BTW, I can state with absolute certainty that this is an LCD display as opposed to E-Ink. Im not even sure I have seen E-Ink on the market yet…

  30. koolio says:

    The quality of the product definitely seems sub-par. A lot of people are having the same exact issue. Maybe their new version is better.

    Are you sure it’s an LCD display? Are you talking about the 1st or 2nd gen version? The first version uses the E-Ink display (Ambient listed it on their website).

    As for a product using E-Ink, there are two that I know of off the top of my head:
    1. Amazon Kindle (both 1st & 2nd gens)
    2. One of Sandisk’s USB memory sticks – I think it’s the Cruzer line (the display shows remaining storage space)

    E-Ink has been in these two products for at least 2 years.

  31. Mark says:

    I think I have the answer to the last few posts. I received my weather forecaster for Christmas 2007. It worked fine until last fall (November 2008), when the signal strength dropped significantly. It continued to work if we kept it on a window sill. Then this past February (2009), it quit altogether (just displayed the reset processing). We still had the box and the receipt, so my wife took it back to the Brookstone store, not really expecting much chance of getting anything for it. When she walked in with it, a salesrep saw it and proceded to trade it for a new one. Apparently the old “ambient” network was an analog signal, which is being replaced with a digital one (just like the tv’s). When a local network shuts down the analog signal, the device quits working. When the salesrep saw the date on our receipt, I think she had second thoughts, but then figured it was too late to back out and went through with an even trade. The new one works great!

  32. koolio says:

    Ah, that’s good to know, Mark. So, there are two reasons for this issue:

    1. The original Ambient device fails.
    2. The original Ambient device doesn’t fail but it doesn’t work because the analog signal was converted to a digital signal and the device doesn’t support digital signals.

  33. FL180 says:

    Here’s the response I got from them when I opened a support case. I like the “sorry” part – that really makes it much better that we spent money on what is now a brick. Unless THEY take care of this, they have lost me as a customer as I will never buy anything made or sold by them again.

    “Thank you so much for letting us know about the reception issues you’ve been
    having.

    Our third party wireless provider has informed us that a transmitter in your
    area has recently undergone a signal reconfiguration. It appears this slight
    change in signal is preventing your device from functioning properly. Though
    some of these changes are temporary in nature, we are unable to determine when
    your device will be functioning normally again.

    Please note that this device will work for you in other locations, but I
    understand that this is not always a feasible option.

    At this point, we recommend contacting your retailer about the possibility of
    a return or other resolution to the issue. You may be able to exchange the
    unit you have with a model called the V2, which operates on a different
    frequency.

    I’m so sorry for the disappointing news; it is never our intention to
    inconvenience our customers.”

  34. ron says:

    It was given to me as a christmas gift in 2007. Has not worked for 4 months just stares at me with no information displayed. I previously tried to return it because it gave weather almost 100 miles from where I live and was told by the store that I would have to spend about 15.00 a month in order to get a location other then where I lived even though they could not give me the local weather. I will not buy anything from them again.

  35. S. Shelton says:

    I have a Brookstone Live Data Feed weather machine that my son gave me for Christmas. The batteries went dead(they were rechargeable) I recharged them, put them in my device and I can’t remember how to reset it and cannot locate my instruction booklet. Please someone give me some help. Thanks

  36. Karen says:

    I have really enjoyed my Weather Cast. Yesterday I had to replace the batteries and now LasVegas and the nearby cities there are forcast. I live in Reno and used to get Reno, plus Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. How do I get it re-set. I have removed the batteries and replaced them several times, but it still goes back to LasVegas. Help!

    Thank you

  37. Karen says:

    I had to replace my batteries and the wrong cities come in, I live in Reno, NV, I now get the opposite ends of the state.

    Would appreciate your help with this.

    Thankyou

  38. Fedup says:

    Just spent about a month of getting the run-around from Brookstone and Ambient. Had same circumstances as many above, recieved it as a Christmas gift. It worked great for about 10 months and then it didn’t. I replaced batteries, moved it throughout the house, could never get a signal (drove from Indy to Pennsylvania with it on the passenger seat) and then tried customer no-services. Went to Brookstone and was given run-around about calling Ambient who then told me I needed to call Brookstone. NOBODY was of any help and I just threw my weather station in the trash.

    I will NEVER buy anything else from either Brookstone or Ambient devices. Save your money, DON’T BUY THIS PRODUCT !!!!

  39. Jeff says:

    I was very very content with my device for about a year, although I do have to admit that it ate batteries like crazy. Recently it stopped delivering data. I too tried to drive around with it and it would not reference a signal. I will try and get some response from Brookstone and see if they stand by their products. For $85-$95, I sure hope they do.

  40. Eloise Baird says:

    The batteries went dead on our unit over the winter. Just replaced them, and the time is correct, but temperature readings are winterish. It’s in the 90’s here, and the unit indicates a high of 30 and low of 13 with current temp at 15.
    I find it odd that the time is correct, but temperatures are way off.

  41. elizabeth says:

    Our unit is 7 months old. When the screen is touched, it reads “No coverage. Try another location” and “Low battery”. We’re in Detroit, so there is definitely
    satellite coverage, and putting in fresh batteries does not eliminate the “Low battery” message. We’ll take it out in the car to try to lacate the satellite, but does anyone know how to remedy the “Low battery” problem?

  42. CL Wood says:

    We received our weather device a couple years ago. It keeps losing the signal, and even pressing reset numerous times and changing the batteries does not help. When I called Ambient, they say they are working on the tower. That is pure baloney. !! Looking for a more reliable brand, other than Brookstone’s.

  43. koolio says:

    @CL Wood Sorry to hear you’re having issues with your weather station. Sounds like getting a different brand is the wisest choice.

    Luckily, the 2nd one I’ve been using has not failed.

  44. Jorge says:

    I did a reset on mine and after putting in fresh batteries the screen only shows 777 and some blinking lines, nothing else

  45. […] Review: Brookstone (Ambient Devices) Weather Wizard … – Feb 14, 2007 · Hi, Thanks for the excellent detailed review of the Brookstone weather device. I’m also interested in getting one my girlfriend but I have a few questions…. […]

  46. I bought the Brookstone Weather Wizard (which is made by Ambient Devices) as a Christmas gift for my weather junkie-girlfriend and thought … terterl.wordpress.com

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