Best Clock Radio of 2020
The Sony ICF-C1P clock radio 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. There is a projector on the side that can swivel 180º with adjustable focus, so you can view the time on your wall or ceiling. The Sony clock radio was the only model we tested that has AM as well as 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. There are two alarms that can be set to go off on weekdays, weekends, or both, and this is clearly designated on the LED screen, so you always know you have an alarm ready for what you need.
Our testers loved the many functions and features of this clock, finding it easy to use while looking sleek and modern at the same time. Our only gripe was that we found the "alarm off" button to be very small and hard to find when blindly and groggily reaching over to it in the morning. This clock radio is also on the pricey side, but with its smart features and elegant design, is definitely worth a few extra dollars.
The Philips AJ3116M/37 Digital is one of the least expensive models we tested and also the most intuitive and easiest-to-use. Welcoming the break from the other instructions-heavy models, our testers only needed to take a quick 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 a delightfully simple device, this clock radio is not the most high-tech model on the market. 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 clock radios we tested, but for those who value function over form and desire a simple, no-frills alarm clock for a hard-to-beat price, this is definitely one of the best you can find.
The updated USCCE Digital alarm clock radio comes in an attractive, wood-grain finish and is a small device that takes up little space on your bedside table but still comes with 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, there is an indoor temperature feature, and two USB ports are conveniently located on the front for easy phone charging.
While the radio is easy enough to set as an alarm, there is no option for radio presets. The speaker is located on the back of the device and is quite small, making it not our first choice for sound quality. But the USCCE shines in many other ways and is our runner up for best overall clock radio.
The intriguing HeimVision Sunrise Alarm Clock 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 alarm clock radio has many features, including the ability to use it as a lamp with 8 different color choices and brightness settings, the ability to be voice-activated if you already have Alexa or Google Home devices, a variety of nature sounds to fall asleep or wake up to, or the ability to wake up to only the light for a noise-free morning experience. Its interesting design will add a unique touch to any bedroom.
The HeimVision has a lot of steps to go through in order to figure out how to use all its features. But the instruction manual is clear and concise in describing how to use the device. There is an option to download an app that will connect to the smart clock through WiFi, but we were not able to use this option because our WiFi operates at 5GHz and not the required 2.4GHz. Through the app, you are able to set two additional alarms 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 clock radio and its soothing wake-up light, which made waking up a more enjoyable experience.
The I-Box Dawn clock radio has two features that make it an exceptional product: the fact that it doubles as a wireless charging station for your phone as well as 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 clock radio 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 very hard to discern the smaller font for "PM", and the "AL1" and "AL2" for the alarms. The set-up of the clock 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 volume of the beeping alarm or radio 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, the wireless charging and speaker capabilities of this clock radio are really hard to beat.
The iHome Color Changing Bluetooth speaker and clock radio is a unique, color-changing orb that is kind of like a cross between a Magic-8 ball and a lava lamp. If you are looking for fun decor or want a quirky gift for your kids, this clock radio is a good choice. It doubles as a Bluetooth speaker and even has a built-in mic so that you can use 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 to music from your Bluetooth connected phone. The color-changing cabinet has 6 different setting options and can pulse to the beat of your music or gradually brighten in the morning with your alarm.
Being feature-rich comes with a price, however, as this clock radio is not at all intuitive to set up and requires following many sets of instructions from the manual to change the settings. We preferred clocks that were easier to use and didn't require referencing the manual multiple times to remember how to use the features. The speaker also does not produce the highest quality sound, and we would not choose it to replace a Bluetooth speaker. However, it is nice to be able to wake up to your choice of music from your phone, and the design wins points for adding some flair to your home.
The sleek and stylish PICTEK Projection Clock has a simple yet unique design. The large LED display is a glossy, curved panel and on its side is a small, adjustable projector that will display the current time onto your wall or ceiling. This is a useful feature that allows you to see the time without having to turn around in bed and look at your alarm clock, without being bright enough to disturb your sleep. The large, white LED digit display is fully adjustable, allowing you to dim it down to nothing while you sleep and brighten it for daytime viewing.
There is no option for weekend vs. weekday alarm settings, and the alarm will go off every day, which is a slight inconvenience if you forget to shut it off for your weekend sleep-ins. There is also no battery-backup option for power outages, and you must keep it plugged in at all times for use. The built-in speaker is not of the best quality, and despite being simple, the clock is not the most intuitive to use or set-up, and you must reference the instruction manual to decipher what each of the buttons will do. But our reviewers appreciated the feature that allows you to shut off the alarm by pressing any button, making for easy, no-brain-power-required, morning operation.
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" 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 comes with a bonus indoor temperature display that can be viewed in Fahrenheit or Celcius.
Like the budget Phillips model, there are only two alarm options — either an abrasive buzzer or the FM radio. Our reviewers preferred clock radios with nature sounds or melodic tones to wake up to, but for those who don't mind a sharp buzzer in the morning, this may not be an issue. 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 clock radio. 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, which makes it a great budget pick for those who want a clock radio with a few useful, extra features.
Why You Should Trust Us
This review comes to you from a gear tester who has relied on her phone as an alarm for the past several years but has recently realized the benefit of having a clock radio around to replace it. Miya Tsudome researched over 50 clock radio models before choosing 8 of the best on the market 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 brings an attention to detail, a generous use of the snooze button, and a strong belief in easy, painless wake-ups to this comprehensive review.
Each clock radio was tested over the course of 8 days and tested 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 as well as 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 be inclusive of everything you might want to know when choosing a new clock radio to enhance your wake-up routine.
Analysis and Test Results
While most of us think of clock radios as a thing of the past, these devices are actually a great way to keep your smartphone far away from your bedside, allowing for guaranteed 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 instead of searching for music or news in the morning. 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 clock radios 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 Phillips, DreamSky, and USCCE were 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 the fact that they didn't have to painstakingly go through each manual to figure out which buttons did what. The Sony ICF-C1P radio wins top marks for ease of set-up, as it was the only model we tested that automatically sets the time and date as soon as it is plugged in. The only thing you have to adjust is the time zone and daylight savings, and our reviewers were impressed by its quickness and accuracy.
The Phillips, DreamSky, and USCCE are easiest to use in part due to their lack of extra features that other clocks had, thus requiring less buttons and navigation. The Sony ICF-C1P was not only easy to set up, but also had features that were easy to use with designated buttons for setting two different alarms, buttons with descriptive diagrams for each nature sound that also double as radio preset buttons, and a large snooze button that also adjusts the brightness of the display. The Sony clock radio was the easiest to use model that also had many features. Our only complaint was that the "alarm off" button is quite small and hard to find if leaning over groggily in the morning.
The iHome and HeimVision clocks had the most involved set-ups because of how many features they have. Both can double as lamps and have their own light settings, and both can have alarms that have many options to go through in order to set up — namely, alarm sound (tone, FM radio or Bluetooth for the iHome), 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 right WiFi setup (2.4GHz), the HeimVision has an app which makes set-up 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, as well as noted how many alarm sound options each model has.
The I-Box Dawn has the best sound quality of all the clock radios tested. 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 it has the best quality speaker, it lacks variety in alarm tones and its built-in alarm tone gradually increases to a volume our reviewers considered excessively loud. But the I-Box is definitely the best choice for those who value sound quality and will use their clock often to listen to music or the radio.
The Sony ICF-C1P, HeimVision, PICTEK and USCCE all have natural sounds as alarm choices in addition to a buzzer or FM radio, and 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.
Most all of the clock radios we tested had small speakers with overall mediocre sound quality. The exception is the I-Box, and 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 Phillips and DreamSky clocks 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 except the PICTEK had battery backup options for power outages.
The HeimVision and iHome 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 of time to ease you into sleep or help you naturally awaken. It also acts as a lamp, and can be turned on at any time of the day with adjustable colors and brightness. The iHome reminds our testers of a lava lamp — with 5 different color settings that range from a set color of your choice, slow changing colors, and even colors that will pulse to the beat of your bluetooth-connected music. Each of these models has FM radio, as well as a variety of different alarm tones to wake up to and the option to wake up with or without light. Additionally, the iHome acts as a bluetooth speaker and with its built-in microphone can connect to speakerphone, Siri, or Google Assistant on your smartphone.
The Sony ICF-C1P 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. The PICTEK also goes beyond being a traditional clock radio with its rotatable time projector. 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, Philips, and USCCE were the simplest clock radios of the fleet, sticking to the basics of radio and alarm options. Although the DreamSky and USCCE do provide indoor temperature readings, which is a unique attribute.
When assessing the display of each clock radio, we considered how easy the digits are to read and if the brightness is adjustable for nighttime dimming. We also gave extra points to those models that had more detailed display screens, with clear "alarm on" indicators to give us peace of mind before bed.
The Sony ICF-C1P again scored top marks for its clear, easy-to-read, white LED display and its large, spacious screen that easily shows each alarm, the time they are set for, and their designation for "weekday," "weekend," or both. The PICTEK Projection Clock has the largest digit display out of all the clocks we tested, easy-to-read white LED lights with a black background for good contrast, alarm indicators, and a sleek, curved screen.
All of the models we tested had adjustable display brightness except for the Phillips and the HeimVision. Adjustable display brightness is a desirable feature for the ability to dim a display so it won't be a disturbance in the night. The Phillips is the most simple, no-frills clock radio 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 of the smaller display features. While it is not entirely necessary to read "AL1" or "AL2" to know that 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 all different shapes and sizes. Our top pick, the Sony ICF-C1P, is unique in many ways, but our reviewers loved 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 really takes the clock radio into the 21st century. The PICTEK Projection Clock also boasts a sleek LED display that even curves slightly, making for an attractive design. We liked the minimalist approach to this clock radio, with its projection feature being an added bonus. 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 as well as being easy-to-use.
While our reviewers 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, which would have made 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 of the ones 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 Phillips were the most utilitarian of the models we tested and brought nothing special to the table when it comes to design.
With our in-depth review of the latest clock radios, we hope you can find what you're looking for. Research shows that the less screen time we have before bed, the better, so 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