Our expert testing crew researched over 30 of the best clock radios on the market before purchasing 10 top models for side-by-side testing. Our in-depth analysis will give you an extensive look at what each product has to offer. We've made sure to rate each model according to its sound and display qualities, useful features, ease of use, and design aesthetics. Clock radios have come a long way from their simple past, and we are sure to help you find one to suit your bedside needs so you may have a refreshing morning routine.Starting the day off on the right foot begins with the best alarm clock, but it doesn't stop there. From brushing our teeth to pounding coffee, we depend on numerous home devices to get us out the door. That's why we've tested everything from the best toaster ovens to steam irons and the best blenders.
Our Top Picks
The Sony ICF-C1PJ is a stylish, cubical design that takes up little space on your bedside table and looks good at the same time. Its large display has a mirrored finish and white LED digits, and the detailed buttons on top are convenient and easy to use. A projector on the side can swivel 180º with adjustable focus, allowing you to view the time on your wall or ceiling. The Sony is one of the few models we tested that has both AM and FM radio frequencies. Additionally, the clock automatically sets the date and time when plugged in, and you only have to adjust your time zone to get an accurate time reading, making it the easiest-to-use model yet. Two alarms you can set to go off on weekdays, weekends, or both are shown on the LED screen, so you always know you have an alarm ready for what you need.
Our testers loved this clock's many functions and features, finding it easy to use while looking sleek and modern. Our only gripe is that we found the "alarm off" button very small and hard to find when blindly and groggily reaching over to it in the morning. This Sony model is also pricey, but we think it's worth a few extra dollars with its smart features and elegant design.
The Sangean RCR-20 is one of the most comprehensive and intricate clock radios we tested, but it is well worth the effort. Once fully set up, its many notable features are easy and intuitive to use. We like the high-quality speakers, which have bass and treble controls giving out a full, rich sound, whether using the FM radio or your Bluetooth device. But if you prefer an alarm, the beeper on this model is a pleasant alternative since it is not too tinny or robotic. The alarm and radio go on in 1-minute increments for a full hour or until turned off, just in case you like to wake up slowly. Since these testers have had unfortunate incidences with snooze buttons, we always check to make sure that it's not too close to any other controls, and this one is clearly marked and easily accessible. Each alarm includes the option of being set once, daily, on weekdays, or on weekends, with different time setting capabilities for each. Another cool feature is the clearly marked remote control that comes with 2 AA batteries. The soft white display includes everything you need to know in a clear and easily read format.
Bluetooth connectivity, excellent speakers, and many alarms and options come at a price, making this one of the more elaborate and expensive models in our lineup. It is also one of the largest units we've tested, so users with smaller nightstands or bed tables may want to go with a model featuring a smaller footprint. However, our testers kept returning to the awesome sound provided by the Sangean, making this one our favorite.
The Philips AJ3116M/37 Digital is one of the least expensive models we tested and the most intuitive and easiest to use. Welcoming the break from the instructions-heavy models, our testers only needed to take a glance at the manual before being able to easily set the time, two alarms, figure out how to choose the buzzer or FM radio for wake-up, and set the sleep timer function and choose up to 10 radio presets.
Although delightfully simple, this clock radio is not the most high-tech model. It has a tinny, low sound quality and no other wake-up alarms besides an awful buzzer or FM radio. There is also no USB port for phone charging and no ability to dim the LED display, which can disturb your sleep. It isn't as stylish as some of the other models we tested. However, for those who value function over form and desire a simple, no-frills alarm clock for a hard-to-beat price, this is undeniably one of the best options on the market.
The updated USCCE Digital model comes in an attractive, wood-grain finish and is a small device that takes up little space on your bedside table but still has plenty of desirable features. It is easy to set up out of the box, and our testers loved the large snooze button that also scrolls to easily set the time or change an alarm. The USCCE has a convenient switch on the back to set your alarms for weekdays or weekends only or all 7 days if you prefer. Its display is fully dimmable, has an indoor temperature feature, and two USB ports located on the front for easy phone charging.
While the radio alarm is easy enough to set, there is no preset radio option. The speaker is located on the back of the device and is relatively small, so it's not our first pick for sound quality. But the USCCE shines in many other ways, making it a worthy contender.
The intriguing Heimvision Sunrise is a slim, spherical orb that will simulate sunrise or sunset with gently changing colors to help you naturally wake up or fall asleep. This model has many features — it can function as a lamp with eight different color choices and brightness settings, and you can also use the light as your alarm for a noise-free morning experience. It can be voice-activated if you already have Alexa or Google Home devices, and it features a variety of nature sounds. Its interesting design will add a unique touch to any bedroom.
The HeimVision requires numerous steps to determine how to use all its features. Luckily, the instruction manual clearly and concisely describes how to operate the device. There is an option to download an app that will connect to the smart clock through WiFi, but we could not use this option because our WiFi operates at 5GHz and not the required 2.4GHz. You can set two additional alarms through the app and configure all the settings directly through your smartphone. This would be very convenient but is disappointingly inaccessible for those with the wrong WiFi frequency. Besides these inconveniences and the higher price tag, we enjoyed this feature-rich device and its soothing wake-up light, which made waking up a more enjoyable experience.
The I-Box Dawn unit has two features that make it an exceptional product: it doubles as a wireless charging station for your phone and a Bluetooth speaker with decent sound quality. If you have a Qi-enabled phone that supports wireless charging, with a case less than 5mm thick, you can simply place your phone on top of the speaker, and it will start charging automatically. The clock also functions as a Bluetooth speaker and has decent sound quality with 6W stereo speakers and a passive subwoofer, making it more than adequate for bedroom use. Because of its stereo speakers, the radio sound quality is better than most of the devices we tested, which rely on small built-in speakers, which are often tinny sounding.
While this unit has many pros in our book, it does have a few substantial cons. The LED display is blurred significantly by the fabric wrapping that encases the speaker. While the brightness of the digits is easy enough to read midday, it is tough to discern the smaller font for PM and the AL1 and AL2 for the alarms. The clock's setup is not the most intuitive, and you must read the instruction manual carefully to figure out how to use all the features. There is no option for waking up to a Bluetooth-connected device. Lastly, there is no way to set the beeping alarm or radio volume for wake-up, which will gradually increase in volume to an abrasively loud level, something our testers found to be a significant downside. If you don't mind these cons, this model's wireless charging and speaker capabilities are hard to beat.
The thin Emerson SmartSet Bluetooth features a unique design that stands out from the competition. The taller height and size of the front LED panel make it easy to see the display when lying in bed or from across the room. Wrapped in a shiny black finish with a shiny silver top, the front panel clearly displays the alarm set and the day of the week, which is a feature we greatly appreciate as it helps to ease the panic you get when you awake not knowing the day. The buttons on the top are well-marked and well-spaced, so there is no mixing up the snooze and alarm off buttons, as the testers have been accustomed to doing. This model is plug-and-play, automatically setting everything once plugged in, but you have the option to manually set the time if needed. In addition to a gentle beeping alarm that slowly increases in volume, this unit also includes an FM radio. Setting up the radio was a breeze — it automatically scanned to the next clear station and didn't need adjustment to get rid of static. Additionally, the FM antenna is built right into the cord instead of having another smaller antenna cord potentially dangling around in front of puppies, kitties, babies, or other curious critters.
One potential downside is using this unit as a Bluetooth speaker, which can be tricky. If it doesn't work the first time, all other previously paired Bluetooth devices will need to be off. Once you have it working, it will automatically pair each time you turn it on. Finally, the directions were in tiny print and weren't always clear, so it took some trial and error to get the alarm adequately set.
The iHome Color Changing Bluetooth speaker and clock radio is a unique, color-changing orb that is like a cross between a Magic-8 ball and a lava lamp. This model is a good choice if you are looking for fun decor or want a quirky gift for your kids. It doubles as a Bluetooth speaker and even has a built-in mic to use as a speakerphone or activate Siri or Google Assistant when your phone is connected. You can set the alarm to wake you up with several tone options, an FM radio preset, or music from your Bluetooth-connected phone. The color-changing cabinet has six different settings and can pulse to the beat of your music or gradually brighten in the morning with your alarm.
All these features come at a price. The setup is more of a pain than other models and changing the settings requires one to follow many sets of instructions from the manual. We preferred more intuitive clocks that didn't require referencing the manual multiple times to remember how to use the features. Moreover, the speaker doesn't produce the highest quality sound. We would much rather keep our Bluetooth speaker than replace it with this device. That said, it is a nice perk to wake up to your choice of music from your phone, and the design wins points for adding some flair to the home.
The DreamSky Decent alarm clock radio is another simple, budget pick for those who prefer a no-frills, easy-to-use device. The large, 1-inch LED digit display is easy to read from across the room and is fully dimmable for restful sleep. The DreamSky is intuitive and easy to set up, with large, clear buttons for changing the time, setting the alarm, and turning on the radio. It also has a bonus indoor temperature display that can be viewed in Fahrenheit or Celsius.
Like the budget Philips model, there are only two alarm options: an abrasive buzzer or the FM radio. Our reviewers preferred clock radios with nature sounds or melodic tones for waking up, but this may not be an issue for those who don't mind a sharp buzzer in the morning. The DreamSky allows you to set the max volume you'd like the buzzer or radio to gradually rise to, which is a welcome touch. The speaker is not high quality, but that is to be expected in a simple, inexpensive device. Unlike all the other models tested, the DreamSky does not allow you to save any radio presets, and you must ensure that you have it set to the right station you want to wake up to before you go to sleep. The DreamSky also has a USB port for charging your phone, making it a great budget pick for those who want a few practical, extra features.
The Housbay Glow Small Alarm Clock has a modern, rounded design with a matte black finish that is not too large for smaller nightstands. The buttons on the top are clearly marked, easy to find, and not too close together. The large blue display is easily seen from across a room, and the seven different nightlight colors are fun, with five different brightness levels. We found that some settings are too bright for next to the bed but are great for across the room and that certain colors seem more soothing than others. A large separate snooze button on the top of the unit makes it easy to find and use when half-asleep. Our favorite feature is the nap button, which can be set for 30 minutes and wakes you up to natural-sounding chirping birds, which we like so much we wish it was an option for the alarm. Directions for this model are very clear and easy to understand, with the pictures outlining the area in question.
There are only two options for the alarm: a buzzer and an FM radio. The buzzer moved very quickly from the quietest setting to the loudest, which was jarring; most times, we didn't even get to the alarm to turn it off before the buzzer became very loud — that makes for an irritating start to the day. The FM radio has ten presets, and the directional arrows on the snooze button can be used to navigate to your desired station. Overall, the testers like the nightlight colors and the display and think it is a solid, easy-to-use clock radio for the price.
Why You Should Trust Us
Each unit was tested for eight days, including overnight, for real-life application. Our testers assessed the various features of each model, noted how easy they were to use, examined the sound quality of the radio and the alarm sound choices available, and considered the display and design to determine where each model excelled or fell short. Our assessment is sure to include everything you might want to know when choosing a new clock radio to enhance your wake-up routine.
This review comes to you from Miya Tsudome and Ruth Bruckbauer, who both have several years of experience of daily alarm clock use for a pre-dawn wake-up. We researched over 30 of the best models available before choosing 10 of the most promising designs to compare side-by-side and give you honest reviews of each. With experience testing the latest technology that will help make your life easier, Miya and Ruth bring attention to detail, generous use of the snooze button, and a strong belief in easy, painless wake-ups to this comprehensive review.
Analysis and Test Results
While most of us think of clock radios as a thing of the past, these devices are a great way to keep your smartphone far away from your bedside, allowing for less screen time and more options for your daily wake-up call. Some of these clock radios allow you to ease into the day with nature sounds or wake up to your favorite radio station. Others even use gradual light to help you wake up naturally, feeling more refreshed. And some are simple in design and function, with a buzzer and snooze button ready to go when you are.
Ease of Use
Some of the models we tested were intuitive to set up without having to read the entire instruction manual. Others were more feature-packed and took a lot of reading and re-reading to figure out how to set up all their special functions. We rated each model based on how easy they were to set up and also examined how easy their functions were to use or access.
The clock radios from Philips, DreamSky, and USCCE are the simplest, most intuitive clocks we tested. Each has clear time-setting buttons, which you hold down for a few seconds and then adjust the hour or minute using the volume keys or a convenient dial in the case of the USCCE. These steps are standard in most simple alarm clocks, and our reviewers loved that they didn't have to painstakingly go through each manual to figure out which buttons did what.
The Philips, the DreamSky, and the USCCE are easiest to use in part due to their lack of extra features that other clocks have, thus requiring fewer buttons and navigation. The Sony ICF-C1PJ is not only easy to set up, but has features that are easy to use, like designated buttons for setting two different alarms, buttons with descriptive diagrams for each nature sound that double as radio preset buttons, and a large snooze button that adjusts the brightness of the display. The Sony is the easiest-to-use model that also has many features. Our only complaint is that the alarm off button is relatively small and hard to find if leaning over groggily in the morning.
The Sony ICF-C1PJ, the Sangean RCR-20, and the Emerson SmartSet radios also earn recognition for their ease of setup, as they are the only models we tested automatically set the time and date as soon as they are plugged in. You only have to adjust the time zone and daylight savings, and our reviewers were impressed by their quickness and accuracy. However, the Sangean and Emerson models also have built-in Bluetooth capability, which adds complexity to the setup if you plan on using that feature.
The iHome and HeimVision clocks had the most involved setups because of their many features. Both can double as lamps and have their own light settings. Both can have alarms that have many options to go through to set up — namely, alarm sound (tone, FM radio, or Bluetooth for the iHome), the volume of chosen sound, light option, light brightness, and time it takes for light to reach full brightness in the case of the HeimVision. If you have the correct WiFi setup (2.4GHz), the HeimVision has an app that makes setup a breeze, but if not, you'll have to use the clock's many buttons to configure all the settings.
Our reviewers assessed the sound quality of each clock radio and noted how many alarm sound options each model has.
The I-Box Dawn has the best sound quality of all the models tested, with the Sangean RCR-20 a close second. Doubling as a Bluetooth speaker, the I-Box boasts 6W stereo speakers and a passive subwoofer, making the radio or Bluetooth-connected music sound rich with good bass. While they have the best quality speakers, they lack variety in alarm tones. The I-Box Dawn's built-in alarm tone gradually increases to a volume our reviewers considered excessively loud. But both the I-Box and Sangean are certainly the best choices for those who value sound quality and will often use their clock to listen to music or the radio.
The Sony ICF-C1PJ, the HeimVision, and the USCCE all have natural sounds as alarm choices in addition to a buzzer or FM radio. Our reviewers favored those of the HeimVision and Sony that not only made refreshing wake-up alarms but provided relaxing white noise to fall asleep to.
Almost all the clock radios we tested had small speakers with mediocre sound quality. The exceptions are the Sangean RCR-20 and the I-Box, but we were disappointed that the other Bluetooth speaker, the iHome, lacked the richness and quality we expect from a clock that also sells itself as a speaker. The Philips, the DreamSky, and the USCCE units only have two alarm sound options: FM radio and a buzzer, making them the most lackluster in the sound department.
The clock radios we tested came with a wide variety of features. We scored each model based on how many features and customizations they provided. All except the Philips came with USB ports for easy bedside accessory charging, and all had battery backup options for power outages.
The HeimVision, the iHome, and the Sangean RCR-20 were the most feature-rich clock radios we tested. The HeimVision has a sunrise and sunset simulator, where it gradually brightens or darkens over a set period to ease you into sleep or help you naturally awaken. It also acts as a lamp and can be turned on at any time with adjustable colors and brightness. The iHome reminds our testers of a lava lamp — with five different color settings that range from a set color of your choice, slowly changing colors and colors that will even pulse to the beat of your Bluetooth-connected music. Each of these models has an FM radio, a variety of different alarm tones to wake up to, and the option to wake up with or without light. The iHome acts as a Bluetooth speaker with its built-in microphone. It can connect to speakerphone, Siri, or Google Assistant on your smartphone.
The Sony ICF-C1PJ doesn't act as a lamp, but in addition to AM/FM radio and nature sounds, it has a time projector on its side with focus and orientation adjustments. It is also the only model we tested that has AM radio in addition to FM. While we did not love the display of the I-Box, we loved the quality of its Bluetooth speaker and the fact that it can charge Qi-enabled phones wirelessly by simply placing them on top of the clock, making this clock score high points in our features category.
The DreamSky, the Philips, and the USCCE are the simplest models of the fleet, sticking to the basics of radio and alarm options. However, the DreamSky and the USCCE also provide indoor temperature readings, which is a unique attribute.
When assessing the display of each model, we considered how easy the digits are to read and if the brightness is adjustable for nighttime dimming. We also gave extra points to models with more detailed display screens, with clear alarm on indicators to provide us with peace of mind before bed.
The Emerson SmartSet, the Sony, and the Sangean again scored top marks for their clear, easy-to-read, white LED displays and large, spacious screens that easily showed each alarm, the time they are set for, and their designation for weekday, weekend, or both.
All models we tested had adjustable display brightness except for the Philips and the HeimVision. Adjustable display brightness is a desirable feature for the ability to dim a display so it won't be a disturbance at night. The Philips is one of the most simple, no-frills units we tested, but its green LED light cannot be dimmed for a distraction-free night's sleep, which our testers found to be a considerable downside. The HeimVison clock has a small, orange LED time display that can only be turned off through their app, which was not able to work with our reviewer's 5GHz WiFi and may not work for others as well, making it an unfortunate inconvenience.
While the I-Box's display light has a dimming feature, the fabric-wrapped design obscures the digits and makes it nearly impossible to read any smaller display features. While it is not entirely necessary to read AL1 or AL2 to know they are on, it is a serious design flaw. The light blue LED light is also impossible to read underneath a bright lamp, making the I-Box a better speaker and phone charger than a clock.
When buying a new device for your bedside table, design can become an important purchasing factor. These days it's nice for our technology to look good, and if it's the last thing you see before bed and the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning, your clock having an attractive design doesn't hurt.
Clock radios have come a long way from their basic, utilitarian pasts and now come in different shapes and sizes. Our top choice, the Sony ICF-C1PJ, is unique in many ways, but our reviewers love its sleek, mirror-finished display and cubical shape, which takes up less space on our bedside table. The white LEDs shine clearly on the glossy front display, and this Sony model takes the genre into the 21st century. The USCCE Digital comes in a simple black color, but its updated version and the one we reviewed has an attractive wood-grain finish that makes this clock a stylish addition to any bedside table. Its small footprint and minimal buttons make for a great, simple device that looks good and is easy to use.
While we thought we would love the spherical HeimVison clock, it loses points in the design category for its shiny, plastic exterior. We would have preferred a matte finish for this clock and lamp, making it a more attractive bedside staple. The iHome, with its unique globular design and multi-color-changing cabinet, makes a fun addition to a room, but because it is so large, it's not the most practical clock radio we tested. But it is a great choice for someone who wants a unique product that also doubles as a speaker with fun lights to accompany your music. The DreamSky and the Philips are the most practical of the models we tested and brought nothing special to the table regarding design.
With our in-depth review of the latest clock radios, we hope you can find what you're looking for. With many of us trying to cut back on screen time before bed, having a clock radio to replace your phone may help make your bedtime routine more relaxing and help ease you into the morning with nature sounds or your favorite station on the radio.
— Miya Tsudome & Ruth Bruckbauer
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