Best Clock Radio of 2021
The Sangean RCR-20 is one of the most comprehensive and intricate clock radios that we tested, but it is well worth the effort. Once fully set up, its many notable features are easy and intuitive to use. We really 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 sounding. Both 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 buttons, and this one is clearly marked and easily accessible. Each alarm includes the option for being set once, daily, weekdays, or weekends, with different time setting capabilities for each. Another really cool feature is the clearly marked remote control, and it even comes with the required 2 AA batteries. Wrapped in a shiny black case, the soft white display includes everything you need to know in a clear and easily read format.
Bluetooth connectivity, excellent speakers, and lots of alarms and options have a price, making this one of the more elaborate and expensive models that we tested. It is also one of the largest units we've tested, so users with smaller nightstands or bed tables may opt for something with a smaller footprint. However, our testers kept coming back 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 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 models 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 model 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 radio preset option. 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.
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 model has many features, including the ability to use it as a lamp with eight 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, 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 many steps to go through 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 could not 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 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: 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 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 very hard 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, the wireless charging and speaker capabilities of this model are really hard to beat.
Our testers found the Emerson SmartSet unique because of its taller height and the size of the front LED panel. Measuring 3.5 inches tall, the 1.5-inch display is easily seen while lying in bed or from across the room. Wrapped in a shiny black finish with a shiny silver top, the front panel of this thin clock radio clearly displays which alarm is set as well as the day of the week, eliminating that panicky wondering what day it is when waking. 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 known to do. One of the nicest features of this model is the way everything set automatically once plugged in, although the user can manually set the time if desired. 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. Another great feature of this device is that 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 pairing 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 turned off. Once you have it working, though, it will automatically pair each time you turn it on. Finally, the directions were in very small printing and weren't always clear, so it took some trial and error to get the alarm properly set.
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 model 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 music from your Bluetooth-connected phone. The color-changing cabinet has six 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. This model is not 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 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 comes with a bonus indoor temperature display that can be viewed in Fahrenheit or Celsius.
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 for waking up, 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 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, which makes it a great budget pick for those who want a few useful, extra features.
The Housbay Glow 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 are 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 of the settings are too bright for next to the bed but are great for across the room and that certain colors seem to be more soothing than others. A large separate snooze button on the top of the unit makes it very 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 being talked about.
There are only two options for the alarm: a buzzer and the 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 10 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
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.
Each unit was tested over the course of eight days and was 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 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 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 Phillips, 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 the fact that they didn't have to painstakingly go through each manual to figure out which buttons did what.
The Phillips, 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 Sangean RCR-20 and the Emerson SmartSet radios also earn recognition for their ease of setup, as they are the only models we tested that automatically set the time and date as soon as they are plugged in. The only thing you have to adjust is 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 a little bit of 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, 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), 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 right 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, as well as 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, and the I-Box Dawn built-in alarm tone gradually increases to a volume our reviewers considered excessively loud. But both the I-Box and Sangean are definitely the best choices for those who value sound quality and will often use their clock to listen to music or the radio.
The HeimVision, the PICTEK, and the USCCE all have natural sounds as alarm choices in addition to a buzzer or FM radio, and our reviewers favored those of the HeimVision 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 overall 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 Phillips, 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 except the PICTEK 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 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 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, 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. It can connect to speakerphone, Siri, or Google Assistant on your smartphone.
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, 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 do 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 those models that had more detailed display screens, with clear alarm on indicators to give us peace of mind before bed.
The Emerson SmartSet and the Sangean RCR-20 again scored top marks for their clear, easy-to-read, 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. 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 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 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. The PICTEK Projection Clock 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 the Phillips are 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. 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