Read It and Sleep
A guide to the best alarm clocks.
Ease of Use: 3
Total: 15 (out of possible 40)
BioBrite EZ Wake SunRise Clock, $89.95 The BioBrite Company calls its EZ Wake a "dawn simulator." What sophisticated technology enables this amazing innovation? Why, a 60-watt light bulb, of course. The bulb sits inside a plastic globe that glows gradually more luminescent for half an hour before your wakeup time. The clock then makes an infernal beeping sound like a truck backing up. BioBrite touts EZ Wake's ease of use and low price. With only four buttons, it is straightforward, but $89.95 hardly seems inexpensive. I liked the gradually increasing glow, and in a dark room, it offers a decent sunrise simulation, but overall the clock looks a little cheap, and it has no snooze button.
Ease of Use: 9
Curtis AM/FM Clock Radio CR1274, $9.99 This clock scored high on ease of use—it's about as bare-bones as they come—but that's about all it has to offer. The built-in radio sounds as tinny as a drive-in speaker, and the alarm tone is harsh and grating. As for looks, well, it looks like a clock radio from a cheap hotel room. But then, what do you want for under $10?
Ease of Use: 10
Brookstone SmartSet Digital Alarm Clock, $35.00 Many new alarm clocks boast the "smart set" feature, meaning the clock comes magically preset to the correct time—all you have to do is adjust it for your time zone. Thanks to "innovative technology" (aka a lithium battery) it even remembers the correct date and time after a power outage. Another nice feature on this model is the dual alarms, and the ability to set each alarm to wake you every day, just weekdays, or just weekends. This may sound complicated, but it was very easy to set—I didn't have to resort to the manual. The drawbacks? No radio, and the alarm's tone is piercing—which is good if you have trouble waking up, bad if you have tinnitus (as I do).
Ease of Use: 10
Phillips CD Clock Radio With AM/FM Digital Tuner and Dual Alarm, $39.99 Waking up to the music of one's choosing is a pleasure. With this clock, I selected M. Ward's album Transistor Radio. The first song on the CD (the clock does not let you choose the wake-up track) begins with an acoustic guitar fading in—a splendid way to greet the morning. The unit is simple and intuitive, with dual alarms (either can be radio, CD, or beeping) and two levels of display dimness. It lost points for looks though, as its faux beveled glass plastic shell looked sort of '80's—and not in a hip, retro way.
Ease of Use: 6
Hammacher Schlemmer Peaceful Progression Wake Up Clock, $49.95 Similar to the BioBrite dawn simulator, Hammacher Schlemmer's Peaceful Progression Wake Up Clock grows brighter for a half-hour prior to the alarm going off. But this clock's real kicker is its aromatherapy feature. Place a few aromatherapy beads (four scents—including artificial coffee flavor—are included) in the reservoir on top of the clock, and the heat from the lamp gets them oozing with scent. OK, perhaps "oozing" is a bit strong—I could just barely smell the treacly synthetic brew; but the smell, combined with the light and the built-in nature sounds made me feel like I was waking to the sunrise, somewhere deep in a forest … with a Starbucks just around the next tree.
Ease of Use: 8
Dan Crane is a writer and musician living in Los Angeles. He is the author of To Air is Human: One Man's Quest to Become the World's Greatest Air Guitarist.
Photographs by Dan Crane.