Timex AM/FM Clock Radio with Nature Sounds, $33.99 When I was in the market for a new alarm clock recently, I purchased this one. My decision was based primarily on the clock's small "nightstand footprint" and its handsome good looks. Out of the box, however, this thing was not easy to figure out. Though it does come preset (like the Brookstone "SmartSet"), figuring out the dual alarm system was akin to setting the timer of my first VCR. The dual alarms, which also each have a seven/five/two-day setting, will wake you with built-in "nature sounds" (which sound ironically computer-generated), the radio, or a beeping alarm.
Ease of Use: 6
RCA RP3720 AM/FM Dual Alarm Clock, $22.99 As far as affordable and simple clocks go, this was my favorite. Being both a musician and freelance writer, I keep pretty strange hours, so napping is a crucial part of my day. But who wants to change the alarm setting every time they hit the hay for a quick "disco nap?" Both RCA clocks I reviewed had an adjustable "nap" feature, which is basically an alarm timer you can set in 10-minute intervals from 10 minutes up to 2 hours. I would buy this clock for that alone, but the other selling point is its "Graduwake" alarm tone, which began beeping faintly and then grew increasingly louder—providing a nice re-entry into the world after my 40-minute slumber.
Ease of Use: 8
Brookstone iHome Clock Radio for iPod, $99 The ubiquitous iPod (and its clean white aesthetic) infests yet more of your world via the iHome Clock Radio. Though it doesn't have an abundance of features (aside from the usual snooze, sleep, and radio functions), the iHome sounds excellent and can easily double as a bedroom stereo. It's fairly simple to master, has three dimmer settings, and charges your iPod while you sleep. The only problem I had was deciding which of my 6,783 songs should awaken me.
Ease of Use: 7
RCA RP3765 CD Clock Radio, $56.99 OK, so it doesn't light up or require you to hunt it down to turn it off, but this alarm clock offers a bounty of cool features: Get a local weather report with the push of a button! Take a nap! Set your own personal snooze time (from one to 30 minutes)! Choose the CD track and music volume you want to wake up to! Listen to American Idol! (Yes, you can actually listen to local network television stations on this unit—why anyone would want to do such a thing is beyond me.) It doesn't take up a lot of nightstand space; it looks good; and, despite its capabilities, it wasn't difficult to figure out. For the money, this alarm clock is a dream.
Ease of Use: 8