Beginning in 2009, a number of companies began building small "plug" computers, some of which plugged directly into an AC adapter (hence the name). One such manufacturer is Cloud Engines, which sells a series of plug computers aimed at making files available online without having to leave a PC running. A few months ago, Cloud Engines launched the Pogoplug
Unlike previous systems, which were aimed at sharing photos and music, the Pogoplug Video was capable of streaming 1080p video content to multiple devices. One of the features of the Pogoplug Video was its ability to stream the AVCHD
format used in high definition camcorders.
On a completely unrelated note, whoever designed this logo was bidding to replace Comic Sans as the most loathed font of all time
The device sold for $199 and was generally well regarded...right up to the point where it began to catch fire. Or smoke, at least--the company isn't quite sure. The official recall states:
We recently became aware of hardware-related problems that uniquely affect the newly released Pogoplug Video product. We now have two cases of smoke (and potentially flame) issuing from the unit. We don’t know how common this problem could be, but we’re not taking any chances. As a result, our company is undertaking an immediate worldwide recall of the product.
The new Pogoplug Video product adds specialized hardware (an advanced processing chip that can consume lots of power if there is a system malfunction) to process video files in real-time. As an extra precaution, our manufacturer added a fan to the unit, and the system passed all of the certification tests necessary for us to bring it to market. It now appears that there is the possibility of overheating that can cause the problematic situations.
For the record, we genuinely applaud Cloud Engines for taking a proactive stance, warning consumers, and issuing a recall. The company notes that it will work with its customers "and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to process the recall and refund your purchase." All of that is to the good and a job well done.
The actual description of the problem, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired. We can't find information on what
chip, exactly, the Pogoplug Video uses, but Broadcom's Crystal HD is an example of a chip that could be used to add precisely this sort of video streaming capability (this is strictly an example). The Crystal HD uses 1W or less. Whatever solution Cloud Engines utilized, its power consumption shouldn't have been all that high, malfunction or not.
Despite what the company says, adding a fan isn't exactly a high-tech, difficult engineering problem. The implication behind the company's admission is that it pinched pennies by adopting the sort of really terrible little fans that used to plague motherboards years ago.
Troublingly, Cloud Engines isn't talking about a relaunch timeframe. The product's merits and reviews are fairly good--if
the issue is the result of poor fan quality or some sort of burnout, it hopefully won't take too long to repair the problem. Even if we're dubious of exactly what's going wrong, the idea of a tiny system capable of streaming HD video is rather attractive.