Alarm clocks remind me of referees – they are necessary, but I am often annoyed with them because they do their job. You want oneReliably wake you from sleep on time, but that doesn't make it any less annoying when a repeated buzz wakes you up and prompts you to wake up and prepare for work.
Fortunately, finding the right alarm clock can do the process for youeasier. As with other smart home products, search for a major U.S. electronics retailer and you'll find dozens of options from a variety of brands at prices ranging from $ 10 to over $ 100. Given that they are all primarily for a single purpose, searching the crowd can feel like splitting hair.
To make matters worse, you are likely to have an alarm clock app and possibly a smart speaker or display that can wake you up and make a separate alarm clock unnecessary. Still, alarm clocks still have their place and I understand the appeal of an app – I like turning off my phone at night and having a watch that I can check at a glance when I wake up from sleep and it's still dark.
To achieve a more refreshing morning, I tested 10 alarms over a couple of months to find the best alarm clock on the market. I checked the recommended products on other websites and looked at top sellers and top models at Amazon, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target and Walmart. I added the common denominator to my list and bought it for testing.
I let each alarm wake me up for at least two nights, taking notes of the experience I had, and was surprised to see large differences in usability even with such a simple task. Extras and customizability were nice, especially at higher prices, but I generally preferred those that got the basics right for an affordable price. Still, I recently got the Lenovo Smart Clock and theThese are smart alarms that feel like worthwhile upgrades. I've added entries for both of the recommended choices for the best alarm clock below.
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The Travelwey alarm clock is characterized by simplicity. It's $ 16, a little more than other competent models I've tested, but still easily affordable for something you'll use every day. There are only a handful of buttons, all of which are easy to understand and use. The large red numbers dominate the LED display, and the snooze button is easy to find and hit if you want to turn off the alarm in the morning.
You can adjust the brightness of the numbers with a slider on the back. At all levels, the numbers are large enough to be easily read in a dark room, and they don't glow, which could interfere with your sleep. The Travelwey Home LED alarm clock also has a separate night light function if you don't want your room to be pitch black while you sleep.
Apart from the night light, Travelwey's alarm doesn't have much to offer. You cannot set the snooze time – it is 9 minutes. You cannot set a second alarm. You can switch between a two-volume alarm setting if you prefer a quiet or loud alarm, but you can't change the sound or have music or radio playing.
It's a simple alarm clock, but Travelwey made sure all the basics were implemented. A simple display shows that the alarm is activated. It has a backup battery if you have a power failure. You can check the time with a button and press a separate button to turn off the alarm. However, leave it set for the same time the next day. The Travelwey Home LED alarm clock doesn't have much to offer, but what's there works well.
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The $ 90 Show 5 has many things I look for in a good alarm clock. You can set different alarms and have them repeated on different days of the week. The alarm can wake you with a customizable sound or your own music. You can have the alarm raised loudly to facilitate sleep. Along the same line, the screen may gradually brighten from 15 minutes before the alarm to wake you from sleep.
When you're not asleep, you can send voice commands to Show 5 thanks to the built-in Alexa voice assistant. You can also use the touchscreen to make video calls, check the weather, control your smart home, and other things. The Show 5 is an intelligent display that is similar to the original Echo Show, but is tailored to your bedside table.
Even when the adaptive brightness is activated, the screen still lights up a little and you cannot adjust the snooze time. Otherwise, it offers all of the customizations and features you need when you're ready to pay more for a Smart alarm.
Read our Echo Show 5 review.
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The Sony ICFC-1 costs $ 18, almost as much as the Travelwey Home LED. It has a built-in radio so you can wake up to your favorite station or a more traditional alarm clock. You can set a sleep timer so that you can fall asleep on the radio during playback. The time is automatically adjusted to daylight saving time. Even the alarm sounds gently to get you out of sleep, and the snooze button is easy to find when you need more time.
Have the manual ready when you set up the Sony ICFC-1 for the first time. Even setting and checking your alarm time is not intuitive at first. There's no button for it – you press the plus or minus button above to display the time, and then press one or the other button to set the alarm time. Once you know what to press, using the ICFC-1 is easy enough, but not quite as brainless as the Travelwey alarm.
The cube design also takes some getting used to, and the orange numbers are not as visible in the entire room as those on the Travelwey alarm. However, you can cycle through three levels of brightness by tapping Snooze, neither of which will produce an unwanted glow. The ICFC-1 also has a button to turn off the alarm, with which it remains set at the same time. It has battery support and a clear indication when the alarm is activated.
I liked the Travelwey alarm clock a little more because it is easier to set up and the clock is easier to see in a darkened room, but the Sony alarm clock is a strong argument in itself, as it does more for the same price and is easy on the You might be a better choice if you appreciate these extras.
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When you're ready to spend more than $ 30 on an alarm, you can search for various features. Of all possible alarm upgrades, the Philips HF3500's $ 37 sunrise alarm is the only one that makes waking up easier in the morning. The HF3500 is shaped a bit like a UFO with a stand and has a simple circular orange dial surrounded by a few buttons and a wide light ring. 30 minutes before the scheduled alarm time, the brightness of the light gradually increases until it reaches an adjustable maximum at the scheduled time, and a beep sounds with increasing intensity to end the task of waking up the sleeper.
The light is supposed to gently wake the sleeper. On both mornings of my tests I had a good night's sleep and a relatively easy time to get out of bed. Aside from the light, the Philips HF3500 is easy to use with minimal buttons. You can use the light as a lamp and it has 10 levels of brightness. You can go through three levels for the dial, but the orange numbers don't shine particularly brightly even in the brightest areas, so sleep isn't disturbed.
Falling asleep of the alarm is not intuitive because you have to hit the top half of the light – there is no button. I would worry that on a particularly grumpy morning I would accidentally trigger my alarm. Surprisingly, for its price, the HF3500 lacks other extras than the wake-up light, and I doubt that this will be of great help for strong sleepers or those with rooms that are getting light at daybreak.
Still, the HF3500 keeps things simple and elegant as it evolves the basic concept of waking up in the morning. Splurging on the HF3500 could be a worthwhile experiment if you're looking for a more peaceful way of waking up.
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The RCD30 has a lot in common with my favorite, the Travelwey. The RCD30 is simple, with just a few buttons. It has a large red display with two levels of brightness – none are lit and you can easily see both from a dark room. The snooze button is easy to find, but checking the alarm time and resetting to the next day is not as easy with the RCD30 as with the Travelwey. In contrast to the Travelwey, the RCD30 does not have a night light that some prefer to sleep on. Given that it's only around $ 13, it's a great alternative if you want something cheap and easy.
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I hated the Sonic Bomb Bed Shaker alarm – but that's a good thing if you have a semi-automatic sleeper and it is difficult for you to wake up. To be clear, I didn't hate the $ 38 watch because of poor designs or poor performance. I hated her because I woke up with a trembling pillow and thought the world was going to end. The bed shake alarm has an incredibly loud buzzer and a vibrating alarm clock that you can put on your bed if the buzzer itself is not enough. The watch offers two alarms and many adjustment options. The controls are easy to understand. It is worth thinking about sleepers and deserves to be mentioned alongside the Philips HF3500 as a good implementation of a novel alarm concept. But if you don't really know very deep sleepers, the Philips makes for a much more comfortable morning routine.
The following alarm clocks do some things well, but have flaws that make it more difficult to recommend.
Lenovo Smart Clock responds to your voice commands with Google Assistant, so you can use them as smart speakers like Google Home Mini. It has a 4-inch touchscreen and you can switch between pages showing the weather, your commuting and your calendar – useful information when you go to bed or wake up for the first time. It's similar to a smart display, but it's not as robust because you can't watch videos or access a smart home control panel. The touchscreen is specially designed for your bed.
Fortunately, it is an effective alarm. You can set different alarms at the same time and largely adapt them. You can set your preferred snooze length, select an alarm tone, and set each alarm to repeat itself every day. The Lenovo Smart Clock can also be used as a sunrise alarm. The screen becomes brighter 30 minutes before the scheduled wake-up time.
It can also trigger a good morning routine if you turn it off. By default, this routine informs you of your day and then plays news podcasts. However, you can customize them to your liking and also control smart home devices. After a recent update, it can also scroll through your personal images as a screen saver.
The Lenovo Smart Clock is not perfect. You can choose from a variety of watch faces, but none offer the perfect balance between nighttime visibility without glowing. You cannot wake up to the radio or your own music. If you want more than just a basic alarm, the Smarts are well implemented, but the Amazon Echo Show 5 offers more.
CNET test: Lenovo Smart Clock.
The LED display of this intelligent speaker shows the time and weather. It's a small upgrade over a regular Echo Dot, but the visible watch makes it easy to recommend as an alarm. The brightness of the display adjusts to the light in the room, and the numbers ensure that there is no glow in the dark. I was surprised that the dot with clock did well in this test because the numbers are white and you can't change the color to orange or red – which are usually more visible in the dark without glowing.
The dot with a clock reacts to your voice commands via Alexa and shows a display when an alarm is set. You can also hit the top to doze for nine minutes. While the Dot with Clock is still primarily an intelligent loudspeaker, it must now be seen as an effective alarm clock.
CNET Review: Amazon Echo Dot with watch.
I was torn by the American Lifetime Day Clock because I really liked the large format design and could come in handy if you have vision problems. The watch even shows the day and date, and you can program alarms with a reminder such as "Take your medicine" to help relatives with memory problems. That said, I mostly judge alarm clocks here, and it's not a good alarm clock. You cannot sleep, the display lights up even in the darkest state and the setting of alarms is painful. You need to scroll through a menu that can be a little confusing for an older relative. So you have to get stuck with all settings and even maintenance when a setting needs to be changed. The $ 44 American Lifetime Day Clock may be worth considering if you need a time reminder to remind you. However, you can find better options if you only want an alarm with large numbers.
If you want functionality, the $ 50 iHome iBT29BC is probably the one for you. It has a built-in radio and two alarms, acts as a Bluetooth speaker and is even supplied with an additional cable. It has a battery backup and can also be used as a hands-free device and communicate with your phone's digital assistant. It has a light that changes colors and lots of adjustments for what to play when you wake up. The light will not go off like the Philips HF3500, but can turn on when your alarm sounds. In addition, the sound quality is surprisingly good. The snooze button is a bit too small and you should keep the instruction manual handy when you use it for the first time. The dial glows too bright when it's turned up, and it's hard to see when it's dark. The iHome iBT29BC does a little of everything, but it's not great in any way. If you want a built-in speaker for the price that wakes you up, you can also get a smart speaker.
Given the fact that the Home Sunrise alarm clock supposedly does the same trick as the Philips HF3500 for a fraction of the price – $ 20 for the home clock versus $ 37 for the HF3500 – I was thrilled to try it out. This light alarm clock even has several other functions: the light changes color and you can adjust which color is switched on and how long it is hidden before the wake-up time you choose. It has a radio and you can choose from a variety of wake-up sounds, including classical music and natural sounds like waves. On paper, the watch offers everything you could want from a light alarm clock at an affordable price. It also shows that you get what you pay for. The touch buttons on the front don't respond very quickly – setting the time, setting an alarm and turning off the alarm from your bedside table is more difficult than necessary. Using the radio is surprisingly tedious. The brightness increases too quickly in the morning and the white numbers that indicate the time cast too much light at night. If you can get around the boredom, the watch offers many features for the price.
I do not recommend the following alarms to anyone.
Sharp digital LCD alarm clock: This compact $ 15 digital watch requires two AA batteries and is fully portable. However, you cannot see the time in a darkened room without turning on a backlight that hurts your eyes because you are in a darkened room. The snooze button and the backlight button are identical. When the alarm sounds, the backlight turns on automatically, but turns off after a few seconds. If you take a moment to wake up, you cannot check the time when deciding whether to take a nap or not. If you need an alarm for your home, use another one. If you need a portable alarm, you should use your phone.
Brand stand BPECT CubieTime: This ugly $ 59 alarm costs too much, has a glowing dial, no meaningful functions, and many of the basics are wrong. It is difficult to find a nap in the dark. Setting the alarm is relatively lengthy and the alarm is reset to 6 a.m. each time it is turned off. So you have to reset it to your preferred time every day if you wake up at a different time.
What you should look for in an alarm clock
If you go shopping and don't see any of the above, you can find a good option for your bedside table by keeping a few things in mind.
Red and orange numbers shine less often. This may not be important to you if a glow doesn't bother you or if you actually want a glow, but if you don't like a bright sleeping environment, the color of the numbers is a bigger thing than expected. That's one thing you can learn about the alarm simply by looking at the display.
Concentrate on the basics. Alarms that do a number of additional tricks are nice, but you probably have something in your house that can play music better or has a charging port for your phone. Look for an alarm that is easy to set up, easy to check, has an indicator so you can see it's on, and has a large snooze button that you can find when you're half asleep.
Get the extras you want. After you've found some options that get the basics right, you'll find those with extras that appeal to you. Do you want a night light? Do you want multiple alarms? Do you want to adjust the length of the timer? Do you want a radio The great thing about the breadth of the alarm category is that you can find a model that meets all of your desired criteria. And yes, if you really want to go crazy for a charging port or even a built-in charger for cell phones, these models also exist.
Waking up gently is great. If you don't know which features to prioritize, look for an alarm that is gradually increasing in volume or increasing in intensity to slow you down. That was my favorite feature and I generally felt less grumpy with alarms that didn't shock me awake.
"Smart" alarm clocks are there. Finally, keep in mind that if you want an alarm with smarts, you have options other than the Lenovo Smart Clock and Echo Show 5 – something compatible with Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple's Siri. iHome offers intelligent alarms with Alexa or Google Assistant. And is a great option if you can snap it up when it is ,
Originally published on March 21, 2019.
Update, October 29, 2019: The Amazon Echo Dot with clock has been added.