If you're looking for a new alarm clock, we tested many of the best models on the market. We made an in-depth analysis of everything from sound to display, from ease of use to customization. While there is a lot of variation in these simple-looking little machines, we have organized our review such that you will be able to make side-by-side comparisons of the models that meet your criteria. While waking up to an alarm isn't always enjoyable, that doesn't mean that picking one out has to be a pain, too.If you're seeking a clock with a built-in radio, our clock radio review can help point you in the right direction. We've also tested various other home goods for your bedroom, from the best comforters and Egyptian cotton sheets to sleep masks and aromatherapy diffusers.
Our Top Picks
With all the overly complicated contraptions out there clogging up the flow of life, the Travelwey Home Digital's simplicity is much appreciated. The slider dimmer for the display is intuitive and effective. The redundant battery power source and the night light are welcome features for those traveling with the clock. Additionally, the grippy rubber feet are a nice touch for those groggy users swatting at the snooze button.
Speaking of the snooze button, we would have preferred the ability to adjust the length of the snooze interval. As it is, the Travelwey is fixed at 5 minutes intervals. This alarm is also limited by its lack of display colors, a radio, and a phone charger port. However, you can adjust the alarm volume to either high or low with the flip of a switch, which is a nice touch. All in all, this is a simple and practical machine at a reasonable price.
While simplicity is nice, so too is having a highly customizable alarm that eases you awake as opposed to shocking you into consciousness. The Jall Wake Up Light Sunrise alarm specializes in gentle alerts. The clock offers 7 light settings that slowly brighten over a customizable period before the alarm sounds. The alarm settings range from bird sounds to soft music to a more traditional beeping, and the volume is adjustable. The text brightness is also adjustable.
Unfortunately, this alarm requires quite a bit of fiddling to get it all set up with your preferences. For example, you must first set time, then ringtone, then volume, then wake-up brightness, then how long to simulate the sunrise — oh yeah, and don't forget the color of the light. That said, it's really not that tough; it's just a lot more work than the competition. Once customized to your liking, it is straightforward to use and can make mornings all the more pleasant.
If you need an inexpensive, reliable, basic alarm, look no further. The RCA Digital boasts easy time and alarm settings, simple high/low brightness adjustment, and a wide snooze bar on the top for eyes-closed silencing. The snooze is repeatable, too.
Some consumers may find the RCA a bit too simplistic, however. Case in point, there is no radio, no phone charging, only one text color (red), and no night light. When setting the time or the alarm, if you overshoot your target, you can't back up, which is annoying. Despite these limitations, the alarm is super easy to set up, and the price reflects its minimalistic design.
The Travelwey Digital Travel is a barebones alarm where the display cover hinges out to become the unit's stand. It is powered by 2 AAA batteries and has a minimal footprint on the nightstand. Both the time and alert are easy to set, and the snooze is repeatable.
While we like the simplicity of the Travelwey, it lacks almost every feature offered by the competition. For example, the alarm won't charge your phone, the snooze interval isn't adjustable, and it lacks a radio. Moreover, the alarm volume and tone are both fixed, and it lacks the memory for more than one alarm at a time. While that might seem too simplistic, it is just what those traveling light need and no more.
The Sonic Alert Sonic Bomb Dual alarm is designed to wake the dead. In addition to its loud alarm, it also has a bed vibrator that will stimulate you awake. This later feature will help you keep on the good side of those sleeping nearby as they won't have to listen to your alarm blaring while you saw logs. We appreciate the adjustable alarm volume and the customizable snooze.
While the Sonic Bomb could be a standby in the modern necromancer's tool kit, its operation is no mystery. It lacks adjustability in the color and brightness of the text. Adjustments to both the time and alarm are one way, and there is not a nightlight or a radio. However, it does have a redundant power supply using both batteries and a cord, so your time and alarm settings will be saved when the unit is unplugged or the power goes out. All in all, this is a solid alarm for heavy slumberers.
The DreamSky Compact Digital is an easy-to-use, push-button, large text alarm clock featuring dual USB ports that can be used to charge a phone while powering the clock. Use of the optional auxiliary battery power will save time and alarm settings during a power outage or travel. This unit also offers customizable features such as alarm volume and text brightness. Additionally, the hours and minutes are set separately, which saves time when programming the alarm.
An annoying aspect of the DreamSky was that to check the alarm time, you have to go into the alarm settings mode — an extra step that other clocks didn't require. That said, the process of actually setting the alarm was quick and easy. All in all, this is a reasonably priced model that is easy to read, even at a distance.
The American Lifetime Day Clock is a good choice for those with inconsistent or hectic schedules where losing track of the day — or even the month — is not uncommon. Given that this clock is more like a digital calendar, it's nice that it allows users to set several alarms for a variety of events, not just waking up. The frame can be purchased in five color options and comes standard with two text colors (white/yellow). The display's brightness is set to dim between 7 PM and 7 AM, but this feature can be turned off. Additionally, this machine can be set to chime on the hour, either from 9 AM to 6 PM or all 24 hours of the day.
Our main gripe with this clock is that it lacks a snooze function, which speaks to its focus as a living room or office device rather than a bedroom one. The clock's internal battery is for backup purposes only and thus will not display the time without being plugged in. This redundancy is put in place to save all of your settings should the power go out. As a final concern, we found it annoying to have to manually press a button for every minute and hour in the time and alarm setting process. That said, this clock is a great tool for those needing a little help remembering what they are doing each day.
The Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is a highly customizable alarm designed to help the user develop better sleep habits. This "clock" uses a light fading feature to inform you when it's time to start preparing for bed and wakes you up by gradually turning on the same light. While the yellow "sunrise" light is fixed, the time it takes to brighten/fade is adjustable. Additionally, you have the option to choose from several alarm sounds that are anything but alarming, and the volume of said alerts is adjustable.
As with the other easy wake-up alarms that we have tested, this model's setup is relatively involved. Unfortunately, the volume adjustments can only be determined by setting the alarm and letting it go off. Finally, the unit is large and thus consumes a fair amount of that precious bedside table real estate. Given the Wake-Up's programming hurdles and its exorbitant cost, it is less than desirable as a sleep aid.
The JALL Wooden Electronic LED is a sharp-looking alarm clock that aspires to be a weather station. Unfortunately, it struggles at both functions. First, the good news: this alarm is easy to read, set, and customize. It has a 3-tier adjustable brightness, a backup battery to save settings when unplugged, and repeatable snooze. Additionally, the clock will tell you the temperature and humidity.
The main problem with this clock is that the temperature and humidity readings are not accurate. For example, if the clock is in the sun, its temperature readings will be off. Additionally, one can hit any button to put the alarm into the snooze setting, which is great. However, if you accidentally hit the button twice, the alarm and the snooze are turned off — which is not great. Despite this clock's sharp aesthetics, we were less than thrilled with its performance.
Why You Should Trust Us
Senior Research Analyst Austin Palmer is a veteran home electronics tester. More to the point, he uses stopwatches, alarms, and other alert devices weekly to test other products under review in our lab. He knows good functionality and ease of programming, having used dozens of these products. Complementing Mr. Palmer's expertise is Senior Review Editor Nick Miley, who hates to wake up to a beeping machine. His disdain for poorly designed clocks and lazily selected alert tones are well known amongst his friends and family.
We purchased and tested all the products in this review. Our tests are thorough and provide clear insight into how these machines will perform in real-life situations. From time and alarm setting to light and sound customization, we explore the full capability of every alarm we review.
Analysis and Test Results
To ensure that we covered all the uses and applications, we developed four metrics — ease of use, customization, display, and sound — that span all aspects of alarm clock functionality. Below is a detailed look at each metric, which clocks performed well in the underlying assessments, and why.
Ease of Use
The ease of use metric assesses how easy and/or intuitive it is to set the time, the alarm(s), what the power source is and whether it has a redundant source such as a battery, and if the clock has a phone charger and/or nightlight. Few models contain all of these features, nor do we expect all customers to desire all these features on one clock. However, if you are looking for a fully loaded machine, the Jall Wake Up Sunrise is a great option as it checks every box in the ease of use metric except setup, which is fairly involved.
If you want an alarm clock that is super easy to set up, take a look at the Travelwey models and the RCA Digital, as these proved to be intuitive and quick to program. Several clocks have redundant battery/outlet power sources, but few of these clocks will remain fully functional when running on batteries alone. One model that will maintain its full suite of features when unplugged is the Travelwey Digital. Alternatively, the Travelwey Digital Travel runs on batteries alone.
As for phone charging and nightlights, the Jall Wake Up Sunrise has both features. The Travelwey Digital has a nightlight only, while the DreamSky provides users with twin USB ports for charging electronics and powering the clock.
As the name implies, the customization metric assesses the ability to alter the clock's features. Specifically, we look at the ability to adjust the display brightness, the snooze interval, as well as the number of settable alarms. The volume adjustability is covered in the sound metric. When it comes to customization, the gentle wake-up alarms like the Jall Wake Up and the Philips SmartSleep are second to none. You can adjust just about everything on these alarms except snooze time and text color. As an example of these models' customization, they offer 7 and 3 alarm sounds, respectively, plus a radio option.
If you're looking for a clock with text color options, the American Lifetime Day Clock will switch between yellow and white. The DreamSky offers five color options, but the color is fixed and must be selected at the time of purchase. While text color options are limited, the brightness of the text is often adjustable with these units. We really liked the DreamSky's brightness dial, which is quite easy to adjust when it's time to go to bed.
While the display may seem like there isn't too much to it, there is, in fact, quite a bit of variation in dimensions, displayed information such as the time (12 or 24-hour clock), AM/PM indicator, alarm, and text size. If you're seeking a clock with large text, the Travelwey Digital, American Lifetime, RCA, and DreamSky are all good choices.
Clocks that offer a 24-hour option are the Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light and DreamSky. All other models will at least let you know when you're in the post meridiem portion of the day. One outlier, the Jall Wooden, will even display the temperature and humidity, though its accuracy is somewhat fickle.
The sound metric is an assessment of the alarm volume adjustability and the FM radio. Almost all the alarms have some level of volume adjustability. This includes a high/low setting in the case of the Travelwey Digital or a range of volumes (and tones) in the case of the Sonic Bomb. However, FM radios are less common on these models. If you'd prefer waking up to a radio program, have a look at the Jall Wake Up Sunrise and the Philips SmartSleep.
In this hands-on review of alarm clocks, we looked at all aspects of product functionality. We collated the information gathered from our tests to easily show which models satisfy specific user needs. Namely, we assessed each model for ease of use, customization, display, and sound. Having read this review, you now have all the pertinent information to make a clear-headed selection of a device to conclude your next night's rest.
— Nick Miley and Austin Palmer
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