Buying Guide for Alarm Clocks
Why buy an alarm clock?
You may think alarm clocks are a thing of the past, as many people now use their smartphone’s built-in alarm instead of a clock. However, there are several worthwhile arguments to be made for sticking with a traditional alarm clock. For starters, if you don’t own a smartphone, an alarm clock will be your best bet. If you have a smartphone, you may forget to charge it before bed. If this happens and the phone dies overnight, your alarm won’t go off in the morning. Some more-modern alarm clocks come with extra useful features that a smartphone will lack, like the ability to shake the bed to help wake you up or double as a hand-free reading light.
What should you look for in an alarm clock?
- Type: Do you want a traditional mechanical alarm clock or a modern digital one? There are also clock radios that wake you up with music or talk radio instead of beeping or sound effects, dual alarm clocks with more than one alarm setting, and light-based models that wake you up with an LCD light display rather than sound. Even novelty alarm clocks with an unusual shape (like an animal or cartoon character) play silly or unique sounds.
- Power Source: Alarm clocks can be electric or battery-powered. If you want to keep your alarm clock on your nightstand but said nightstand isn’t within reach of a power outlet, a battery-powered alarm clock that doesn’t need a plug will likely be the better choice for you. An electric alarm clock must be within its cord’s reach of a power outlet at all times, but you shouldn’t worry about it losing power and dying overnight. Some electric-powered models come with a battery backup in the case of an overnight power outage.
- Size: Desktop or tabletop models are pretty standard, many meant to be propped up on your nightstand within arm’s reach to shut off the alarm or hit the snooze button. These are generally relatively small so as not to take up too much room, but some exceptions will be much bulkier. However, a bigger alarm clock might be preferable for some people. Some wall-mounted options provide this same benefit. Also, remember that the larger the alarm clock, the larger (in general) its analog face or digital display will be.
What are extra features to look for in an alarm clock?
If you’re a heavy sleeper, keep an eye out for extra loud alarm clocks. Around 80 decibels is more or less the standard volume for the average alarm clock, so anything between 90 to 120 decibels may be a better choice for people who find regular models aren’t loud enough. Some alarm clocks come with a “shaker” attached, a little device that you slide under your mattress or pillow to shake the bed. The aforementioned alarm clocks wake you up by shining a light in the room, gradually increasing in brightness until you wake up; these are useful for people who are more light-sensitive than noise-sensitive sleepers.
Some digital models will display the date, day of the week, current weather, and temperature in addition to the time. Some can connect to Bluetooth to play music or set your favorite song as your wake-up noise. Others come with built-in USB charging ports so you can charge your phone or tablet on your nightstand, even if a power outlet isn’t within reach. There are also models with adjustable or tiltable faces or rotating bodies so you can check the time without getting up and out of bed.
Our Picks for the Best Alarm Clocks
SMARTRO SC31B Digital Projection Alarm Clock
This ultra-modern alarm clock boasts many useful features, from projecting the time to dual alarms and more.
Pros: This highly modern projectional alarm clock has a lot to love. It has all the essential functions you’d expect from a contemporary, digital model—a large LCD with easy-to-read numbers, a five-minute snooze button, and several brightness modes to choose from. Most notable is its projection feature, the ability to project the time on your wall or ceiling in bright red letters, anywhere between five and 13 feet away. It has a dual alarm system that’s equally handy for couples and singles alike. There’s a USB charging outlet that you can plug your phone or tablet into to charge it overnight; no electrical wall outlet is required. You can change the backlight to eight colors of your choosing and display the date, day of the week, and time. When connected to the included wireless sensor, the display will also show you the current indoor and outdoor temperatures, plus the weather forecast for the day. This alarm clock comes with a battery backup (batteries not included) along with the electric cord.
Cons: This is not the most stable or sturdy alarm clock, as it doesn’t have a weighted base. Also, note that some of the outdoor temperature features will require some extra setup.
Bottom Line: This alarm clock is about as modern and multifunctional. From dual alarms to the time projector and beyond, it has pretty much any feature you might want or need from your alarm clock.
Miowachi Mirrored Digital Alarm Clock
This reflective, mirror-like digital alarm clock is the perfect blend of aesthetic style and practical functionality.
Pros: This sleek, compact little alarm clock is every bit as functional as pleasing to the eye. The mirrored surface allows you to use it as a small hand mirror in a pinch, in addition to its intended use as an alarm clock. The numbers on display are nice and large, easy to read across the room despite the clock’s small nightstand-friendly size. You can choose between a 12 and 24-hour display time, depending on your personal preference. You can use the included stand, available in six different colors, to prop the clock up on your nightstand or dresser, remove it altogether and use the hanging hole in the back to mount it to the wall. There’s a USB port on either side for charging two different devices simultaneously and a backup memory battery to keep your time settings intact even if the power goes out. The snooze button is adjustable; you can set the snooze time anywhere between five minutes and a full hour.
Cons: Even with the stand, this relatively lightweight little alarm clock does tend to tip over, especially if there’s only one external device plugged in at a time. The memory battery backup only works to preserve your alarm settings in case of power loss.
Bottom Line: This is the perfect alarm clock for anyone who wants their device to be as decorative and aesthetically pleasing as it is functional. It’s an excellent alarm clock and makeshift mirror while also serving as a sleek, highly modern-looking accent piece to your nightstand or wall.
Hatch Sunrise Alarm Clock
This uniquely shaped alarm clock is as modern as it gets, boasting useful functions to help you get to sleep and wake up on time.
Pros: If you’re after a premium alarm clock that’s more than just an alarm clock, you’re in luck. This model is an alarm clock, sound machine, bedside lamp, and even potentially meditation device. When it’s time for your alarm to wake you up in the morning, this clock uses a combination of gentle, gradual light plus the noise or sounds of your choosing rather than just one or the other, sure to rouse even the deepest of sleepers. There are plenty of softer effective noises to choose from if you don’t like to be jolted from your sleep by loud buzzing or beeps; combined with the gradual light, this can make for a much more gentle wake-up call than many alarm clocks provide. There are multiple light colors to choose from, and you can turn on the light and noises anytime you want outside of the alarm. This allows you to use this device as a bedside lamp or a sound machine. A free app for iPhone and Android is included with the purchase, and you can control the clock and settings through your smartphone or by manual touch and buttons.
Cons: This alarm clock is quite an expensive purchase, and that’s before you throw the subscription fee into the mix. There’s also no battery backup should the power go out overnight.
Bottom Line: Another highly functional and modern alarm clock, this model is ideal for deep sleepers thanks to the combination of noise and light that it provides, rather than just one or the other. If you have the budget to accommodate its higher cost, you won’t be disappointed by this alarm clock that is essentially a four-in-one device.
Peakeep Twin Bell Alarm Clock
An upgraded, more contemporary take on a classic alarm clock.
Pros: A traditional round, double-belled, battery-powered alarm clock, the low price of this model compared to most digital alarm clocks make it an excellent choice for those looking for a bargain or on a tight household budget. It’s surprisingly loud for its small size and retro look too. Yet despite its more old-fashioned looks, this alarm clock does have some updated features. No winding is required to set the time; the hands don’t make the irritating ticking noise that many classic alarm clocks hand, and it possesses a backlight that lights up the face and time at night. You can switch the backlight on and off at any time with the flick of a button on the back of the clock. If the sleek black-and-white coloring isn’t to your liking or doesn’t match your room, there are four other color options from which to choose.
Cons: This alarm clock doesn’t have a snooze button option, which can be a plus or a minus. Also, note that this 12-hour alarm clock doesn’t differentiate between am and pm times, so you’ll have to be careful to reset your alarm every day.
Bottom Line: The classics are often considered for a reason, as this traditionally designed alarm clock aptly proves. Though it lacks many of the extra, modern features that many digital alarm clocks have, this is an excellent option if you’re on a tight budget or someone who tends to oversleep your alarm a lot.
IT'S ABOUT TIME Sleep-Enhancing Alarm Clock for Kids
Young kids will love this cute little alarm clock that features some of their favorite TV characters.
Pros: This adorable little model may look just like a cute, unique, decorative alarm clock for your child’s room, but the design has a specific purpose. The stoplights can be timed to switch between the red, yellow, and green lights; when the red light is on, it’s an indication to stay in bed, and the green light means it’s time to wake up. It’s a simple system that even toddlers can quickly pick up on, with the potential to keep your child well-rested for longer and stop them from coming into your room to wake you up before your alarm goes off. If you have a little one who likes to rise before the sun, this can be an invaluable addition for tired parents. Beyond this potential benefit, this electrically-powered alarm clock comes with a battery backup in case of a power outage (though it can’t run on the batteries alone) and you can switch off or even disable the alarm anytime if your child tends to play with the buttons. There are also eight possible, equally cute designs to choose from, each featuring the clock’s signature stoplight.
Cons: This alarm clock is only meant for toddlers and young kids. The stoplights, especially the red light, are also quite bright. If your child sleeps with a nightlight, this might be a plus, but it also means that the light may disturb or disrupt their sleep.
Bottom Line: Buying an alarm clock for your child is a valuable tool for getting them on their schedule and teaching them to wake themselves up, rather than relying on you. If you have a little one who likes to come in and wake you up at extremely early hours, the stop-and-go lighting of this alarm clock can also be a useful tool for teaching them to stay in bed.
No matter how old-fashioned they might seem to some, there are plenty of updated, modern alarm clocks with more contemporary features that make them a worthwhile investment, even if you have a smartphone. Heavy sleepers, in particular, will benefit from a louder, more intrusive alarm clock, and plenty of multifunctional models exist. More decorative and colorful alarm clocks serve as an accent piece in addition to their very practical purposes.