For better or worse, alarm clocks (or smartphones with alarms) probably won’t be disappearing from our bedside tables anytime soon. It’s not a matter of loving them, but learning to live with them at this point.
We set out to test some of the most popular alarms and definitively determine which are the best, and why. Loftie (available at Amazon) came out on top of our rankings, and we elected it as our best upgrade pick, as its cost may raise some eyebrows. Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with the DreamCaster by Sharp(available at Amazon), which has a reasonable price and a huge selection of features—including white noise—to give you a ton of bang for your buck.
Here are the best alarm clocks we tested, ranked in order:
DreamCaster by Sharp
iHome alarm clock
Jall Digital alarm clock
PPLEE alarm clock
Capello alarm clock
Sharp Digital alarm
Dreamsky compact digital alarm
Sonic Bomb alarm clock
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
During testing, the Sharp DreamCaster was the first alarm clock that felt more substantive and, to be frank, easier to set up and navigate than any of the others. It’s intuitive start to finish, from changing the time to setting the alarm.
Rather than mashing buttons for several minutes, the clock relies on a dial atop the body. It makes changing time and setting alarms a breeze. Though the dial may not be the most attractive design choice, it drastically improves the device’s functionality. If you plan to regularly change the alarm time or other settings, this pick could make your life a little easier. The display can also be dimmed, making it sleep-friendly.
An impressive array of white noise features also set the Sharp apart. There’s plenty of settings to use in the evening and throughout the night to help drown out noises that could otherwise disturb your slumber. It was a unique feature that many other clocks we tried lacked entirely. There are six tracks, ranging from various tones of white noise to rain noise and the ocean.
While waking up with the Sharp wasn’t a particularly life-changing experience, it does its job—and then some. A selection of volumes will be ample for most people, though it’s equipped with just one alarm tone, a fairly standard beeping that wasn’t as unpleasant as others we tested.
My only gripe was that I initially set the alarm to PM, unknowingly. For two days, it chimed at 8:40 PM—fortunately I was home, so I was able to turn it off. Less fortunately, it didn’t wake me up the first morning I used it. From there, it was smooth sailing.
I tested the Loftie last, as it was the most expensive option and has a bit of hype from fans online. I was expecting it would be too good to be true. Plus, I couldn’t imagine spending more than $100 on an alarm clock—it seemed outlandish. Then I tried it out.
The very first morning, I opened my eyes and thought to myself that this is what waking up should be. It wasn't more than a minute or two before my phone was in hand, and I was researching how to procure my own Loftie. (We don’t keep products we test, and I didn’t want to even think about a morning without the device.)
The clock stands out for its attention to detail, smooth and intuitive interface, great design, and, of course, the phenomenal experience of waking up with it. The alarm wakes you up with two components. It starts with soft music to gently rouse you. Then, just shy of 10 minutes later, the “get-up tone” goes off. It’s also a calming and soothing experience, with a repetitive note that’s designed to get your attention. There’s several options for both of these alarms, and you can choose them directly on the device or through a mobile app that’s connected through Bluetooth.
The Loftie alarm has a tremendous volume range, and because the alarm tones aren’t blaring beeps, even at the loudest setting it isn’t a painful experience. (Don’t get me wrong, at the highest setting it’s still loud.) The alarm has a bunch of other features, too, that make it more worth the money, including a selection of white noise tracks, meditations, and bedtime stories. The company periodically adds new tracks, and you’ll be prompted to update the device through Wi-Fi when it does.
Finally, there’s a subtle built-in light that can gently illuminate your nightstand if you find yourself waking up to go to the bathroom. You can even program it to come on to subtly cue that it’s time to start your nighttime routine.
I’m Lindsey Vickers, the designated sleep writer here at Reviewed. My regular job runs the gamut, from testing mattresses to reviewing Bose Sleepbuds. But alarm clocks have a special place in my heart, mainly because I wouldn’t make it to my day job or weekend plans without one.
When the opportunity to test alarm clocks arose, I was beyond excited. I’ve struggled to eliminate my phone from my bedroom, so I was thrilled to try something that might be able to catalyze the change (and hopefully help it stick, too).
Here at Reviewed, we take a two-pronged approach to testing. We use lab experiments in combination with home tests to really determine which products are the best of the best. We wanted to see how alarm clocks perform in all regards, so I took all of ’em to my nightstand. I used each for a night or two to assess how easy they were to turn off, adjust, hit snooze, and so on.
Then we took them to our lab for quantifiable testing. I spent hours locked in a room the size of a closet with minimal ventilation, but ample sound proofing, measuring the alarms’ light and sound values at their lowest and highest. We took that range—subtracting the lowest volume measure from the highest—and averaged the values to determine which alarms provide a large spectrum of volumes, and which aren’t as versatile.
What You Need to Know About Alarm Clocks
Alarm clocks are arguably less essential with the invention of smartphones, but as the sleep writer, I’d contend that they’re still an important nightstand fixture—especially if you’re concerned with your sleep quality and trying to avoid having your phone in the bedroom.
Alarm clocks have been popular for several centuries, though they became widely used in the U.S. in the early 1800s, likely in conjunction with the industrial revolution, says Ken De Lucca, the director of education at the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC). That’s because the revolution led to a need for people to be at a certain place (cough, cough—work) at a given time.
Fortunately, choosing an alarm clock isn’t as involved as choosing a mattress in many ways. While having the right alarm clock can make your mornings a better experience, it’s not likely to have a lasting effect. Waking with a start from an obnoxious alarm could kick your fight-or-flight response into gear, but it won’t define the rest of your day.
It can also be good to choose alarms with red displays as opposed to cold colors such as green, blue, or white. That’s because red light is less likely to disrupt your sleep than cooler tones. The disruption comes with the light’s wavelength. Shorter wavelengths, including blue tones, tend to suppress melatonin more than warmer colors like red and orange.
Other Alarm Clocks We Tested
This alarm felt like a little tank when I first removed it from the box. It’s got a sturdy, high-quality build that feels as though it will hold up well over time. The display has a small but adequate range of brightness settings, ensuring it won’t disturb you in the evenings if the display is active. We opted for a dark gray model that features an orange display, as that family of colors is more sleep-friendly than cooler tones. You can also set alarms to wake you with beeping or FM radio. The clock supports two different alarms.
Despite its nice build, I found it difficult to operate. Ultimately, this is what prevented it from nabbing one of our top spots. I had to consult the manual almost immediately after taking it out, as it was impossible to gather how to change the time, let alone turn on the alarm. Fortunately, the manual is clear, and the alarm is fairly easy to use once it’s set up. While this product didn’t transform my mornings, it is a solid choice.
The iHome Alarm has a more traditional build than many of the others, harkening back to early alarms with a circular shape and spindly legs to prop it up. I was impressed by its quality. However, the alarm has limited options when it comes to volumes and tones. You can only set two alarms on the clock, giving you one choice for weekdays and another for the weekend—and the volume range was the smallest of all the alarms we tested. This may prove limiting for folks like me who have an incredibly erratic schedule and like to have 50-plus alarm times to choose from.
The iHome comes with a surprisingly effective backup battery, too. After I unplugged it, I forgot to turn off the alarm for a couple days, and it never failed to go off each day around 4:00 PM (the time I’d set the alarm for the sake of volume testing in lab). We don’t think you can go wrong with it, though the DreamCaster and Loftie have a lot more versatility.
From an appearance standpoint, this is one of my favorite alarms of the bunch. (Though don't go thinking it's real wood—it certainly didn't feel real to me.) It’s subtle, with just enough details to make it functional. The display, which can be dimmed, shines through the veneer. Unlike most of the alarms we tested, it even included some bonus features, like the option to display temperature and humidity on the face.
The clock has an option to use three different alarms and toggle them on or off, or set them to a schedule. So if you want to run a few alarms depending on if it’s a weekday or the weekend, it allows for that. With five volume settings, the range is narrower than that of many others we tested.
If you're looking for an alarm with a big display, this may be the best option of the lot. However, the PPLEE alarm feels cheap. It’s very easy to use, despite having far more buttons than you'd ever think an alarm could need. They’re clearly labeled, which makes it easier to know what’s what, but it still felt like an unnecessary number of controls. Unfortunately, it also requires you to look at the back of the clock to know exactly which button you're pushing and what the result will be.
There is one feature that really sets it apart from other alarms in this roundup, and that is the bed shaker. This small disk of plastic connects to the alarm and rests under your pillow or bed. It uses movement to wake deep sleepers or those who may not rouse with the regular alarm. We didn’t test it and Amazon reviewers don't specify whether it works well.
The Capello alarm clock is aesthetically appealing, but it left a little to be desired when it came to functionality. I had a hard time turning it on and setting the alarm.
The hybrid snooze and dimmer button was a head-scratcher, too. For the life of me, I could not figure out how to work the thing. It didn’t seem to really serve as a “button,” as there wasn’t an action or response when you applied pressure to it. I was underwhelmed by the overall performance.
Hard to use
Difficult snooze button
USCCE Digital Alarm Clock
The USCCE alarm was better than some of the others we tested in that it had a small but reasonable selection of five alarm tones. However, it was still difficult to operate and felt cheap.
A rolling wheel on the backside allows you to adjust the brightness of the display, which was a plus as it made it highly customizable. It was also easy to set alarms—though you could only have one alarm time, with no option to set multiple for different days.
While the other Sharp alarm performed well enough to earn a position at the top of the list, this one wasn’t as great. It had a nice range of volumes, but lacked the other features that distinguished the DreamCaster.
What’s more, the interface wasn’t the easiest to navigate or use. The only upshot was that its lowest volume was lower than that of the DreamCaster—you could turn it down to virtually nothing, whereas the DreamCaster bottomed out at about 40 decibels.
The DreamSky wasn't a terrible option when it comes to ease of use. The slim volume range was what really tanked it in our rankings. Its lowest volume was louder than many of the other alarms we used, and its highest volume was lower than most of the others.
The alarm has a USB charging port on the back, like a few of the others in this list, which was a plus. You can easily adjust the large display's brightness with a turn wheel. While those features were fine, it was difficult to set alarms on the device. And while the build quality wasn't bad, it wasn't great, either.
The Sonic Bomb alarm clock is just about as terrible as it sounds. In our testing, the alarm was not only difficult to use, but also simply unpleasant. One quirk? The clock features two buttons labeled “fast” and “slow” to adjust the actual time, as well as the time of alarms. One progresses the time displayed quickly, the other slowly. Nonetheless, if you're even remotely distracted, setting the time could become tedious.
When it comes to volume, the alarm’s upper limit was the highest of all the clocks we tested at 90 decibels. (Not that we’d recommend using it at that volume. To start, it made everyone in the office think an actual alarm was going off. But it could also damage your hearing at that level.)
Though it didn’t perform well, the Sonic Bomb has one feature that’s noteworthy: It comes with a bed shaker that can be used by those who are hard of hearing. Our tester wasn’t equipped to determine its efficacy, but the feature alone is a nice plus. At least one reviewer on Amazon identified themselves as deaf and cited the importance and utility of the bed shaker.
Lindsey writes about sleep, lifestyle, and more for Reviewed. In her waking hours, she likes to spend time outside, read, cook, and bake. She holds a master’s in journalism from Boston University and bachelors' degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from the University of Utah.
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