My dream is to find a very customizable alarm clock that is functional and also looks good. I have tried a few, researched a lot, and three years ago I found one which is near perfect but still leaves a few things to be desired.
Here is a list of the things I am looking for:
- Maintain all settings via backup battery in case of power failure
- Alarm still functional even when on backup power; it is OK if only the buzzer works in these cases
- Two separate alarms, one buzzer, one radio
- Sleep timer with volume setting independent of alarm volume
- Snooze button
- Gentle wake-up with increasing volume level
- Ability to set each of the two alarms independently for each day of the week, e.g.,
- M,W,F â€“ 6:05 radio, 6:10 buzzer
- T,R â€“ 4:55 radio, 5:05 buzzer
- Sat â€“ 10:00 radio, no buzzer
- Sun â€“ 8:00 radio, 8:20 buzzer
- Auto-dimming display to adjust for night time
- Adjustable brightness
- Easily legible display
- Automatically adjust time based on atomic clock in Denver
- Good sound quality.
I finally settled on a model from Sangean (pictured below) that is near perfect, but alas, not quite. It currently costs $99 at Amazon.com.
- It has both digital and analog clocks. The digital shows all pertinent information about alarms, daylight savings time, nap, and sleep timer. The analog display is very nice because it tells you the time at a glance. This is good at night or during the day when I need to see the time from a distance at which the digital display is not legible.
- When the alarm comes on, the display brightness automatically switches to maximal brightness. It also changes color from blue to orange, which is nice if the clock is close to your pillow because it gives you a visual wake-up signal. When you snooze it, it stays orange, but dims again.
- For its size, the radio sounds exceptionally good.
Here is a list of the things it does not do, or does not do as well as desired:
- It does not have a backup battery, but a capacitor that lasts for ~10 minutes. If the power goes out for 10 minutes or less, all settings including time are saved. If it goes out for longer than that, all settings are saved as well, but not the time. The time will be off by however long the power was out minus 10 minutes. It is not clear to me, why the proper time cannot be restored, once power resumes. This is probably the single biggest drawback; it should disqualify this clock. However, since almost all other features are near perfect I kept it.
- I do not know if the alarm works when on backup power, but given that it lasts only 10 minutes it does not make a big difference.
- It has two different alarms that can be set for two different times. One, both or neither of the alarms can be assigned to any day of the week. However, it is not possible to assign different times for each day of the week as discussed above.
- The display is not auto-dimming, but it has a display brightness button that lets you switch between full and reduced brightness, where the reduced brightness can be adjusted via a knob on the bottom.
- There are certain angles at which the display is not well legible. The display for Friday is always very dim and can only be read when looking from a particular rather steep angle.
- The time does update automatically, however, the update rate is rather slow and it seems to update only once per night. There is even a button to force an update, but it does not always work, probably due to a weak signal. The update feature is not good enough to rely upon in case of a power failure.
- The wake-up sound of the radio is independently adjustable from the regular listening level. It can be adjusted via a knob on the bottom. It would be nice if a wider range of volumes could be adjusted. Even on the quietest setting I still find it rather loud. This is acceptable since the volume level gradually increases.
Things I did not mention so far are an iPod dock, or more generally, an auxiliary audio input and a remote control. While those would be nice, I do not consider them alarm clock features. Recently there has been a slew of new iPod dock based alarm clocks on the market, and of course I read all their specs, but none of them has more flexible alarm settings, so I will stick with my Sangean for a while.