This light claims to help you wake up—but does it work?
The Hatch Restore is the newest light in a line of popular smart lights, but it doesn't live up to the hype.
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Editor's Note: July 21
In light of the glitches we uncovered, Hatch reached out to offer us a new unit to re-test, along with its recently updated app. We'll update this review with our findings soon.
The Hatch Restore is full of promise and potential: It’s a bedside lamp, a sound machine, and a sunrise alarm all in one compact device. Initially I was beyond excited to receive it, but after a month of using it, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing it. Why? All that potential is thrown by the wayside by some less than appealing features and technicalities. To be honest, I’m looking forward to rehoming my basic, $15 pull-cord lamp from Target on my bedside table.
What is the Hatch Restore and how do you set it up?
Hatch is a company whose aim is to make everyone’s night better, from infants to adults, through the use of technology. The Hatch Restore is Hatch’s newest sleep technology. Its main selling point is the nightly routine function, which is supposed to help users structure their evenings to wind down before sleep.
The Hatch Restore comes in a box that cradles the light while it’s in transit. When you open it, you don’t find instructions—just the light, a cable, and card with that directs you to the online user manual. Online manuals are a great way to limit paper waste, but as a consumer I found this one irksome. This was doubled by the fact that I had to download the Hatch Restore app in order to set up the device. Toggling between the instructions on my phone web browser and the Hatch app was frustrating, because it dragged everything out unnecessarily. What’s more, I couldn’t get the Restore to connect with my phone via Bluetooth for several minutes, and every time you toggle out of the app, it has to reconnect to the device. Switching to Safari to read instructions meant severing the connection, all of which added time. When the only thing you’re trying to do is set up a clock, this made it feel as though the process took an eternity.
How does the Hatch Restore work?
The Hatch restore has just five “buttons,” if you can call them that. They’re more like small indents that are sensitive to touch: a "routine" button on the top of the device, and two on either side that increase or decrease the volume and brightness, respectively. Though they look suspiciously simple, just divots in plastic, they are surprisingly responsive. Aside from these controls, everything else for programming the device is on the app.
The Hatch Restore is preloaded with a default routine that provides users a good sampler of what it offers and can be adjusted via the app to fit their needs. The routine begins when users tap the top "button" and turns on a reading light for as long as the user wants. It progresses as you tap the top, next to a 10-minute guided meditation session, and finally to the selected white noise track, which includes more traditional staticky sounds, as well as noises like the crickets and rain. The sound lasts until you wake up or tap the device to quiet it.
To set an alarm on the clock, you open the app, choose a time, decide whether it’s recurring, select a sound from 36 options and, if you opt for the sunrise mode, choose from 10 color schemes that use an ombre effect to transition between different hues of light, or from an intense orange to lighter shade. You can’t change anything about the alarm using the buttons on the clock itself, which may prove frustrating for people who prefer to keep phones out of their bedrooms.
In the app, you can customize the routine so that the white noise or reading light turn off after a set window of time, or leave them running until you tap the top button on the Restore. The length of the meditation can’t be altered, as it is determined by the recording, but you can skip over all or part of the meditation—or any piece of your routine, for that matter—by touching the top of the Restore. You can also adjust the preset volume of the meditation and white noise and change the color and brightness of the light associated with each segment of the routine using the corresponding side buttons.
How did I test the Hatch Restore?
I tested the Restore how any person would: I used it, and the accompanying app, for just over a month. I used the alarm clock features, including the sunrise alarm and different sounds, tried out the two free meditations, used various light colors, and played around with the white noise library. I also considered the sound quality at higher volumes, and most importantly, the light’s overall functionality and how it fit into my day-to-day life and routine.
What’s good about the Hatch Restore?
At about the size of a small dinner plate or salad plate, the Hatch Restore is low-profile and follows the minimalist, sleek, white, and clean aesthetic, it’s well designed and I enjoyed how well it fit in with my bedroom furniture. The light’s brightness surprised me, given how small and unobtrusive the Restore seems.
The light is customizable, and I mean really customizable. It can shed light in a plethora of 22 colors, from turquoise to peach to purple. In the app, you can view colors by theme and usage, such as “daytime,” “nighttime,” and even “pastel,” which makes it easy to find something that suits you.
The Restore also has a library of 36 white-noise sounds. These include light rain, sea wind, bird song, and wind chimes. I didn’t enjoy a number of the sounds, but the breadth of the selection compensated, and eventually I found a sound with chirping crickets, vaguely titled “Night’s Tranquility,” which I grew to really enjoy.
One of my favorite features of the Restore was the ability to fine-tune the digital clock display. You can control the type of clock (military or 12-hour), the display brightness, and even the times of day that it’s visible. I set the Restore to turn the digital clock off every night between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. That way, if I woke up at night, I couldn’t see the time and feel stressed or as though it wasn’t worth going back to sleep.
What’s bad about the Hatch Restore?
Shortly after I started using the Hatch Restore, it developed a weird tendency to flash colors as it went through my routine. Rather than just fully fading out the light after the subtle orange glow I selected for the meditation portion, the light would flash red and then green for a split second each, before transitioning to the lights-off sound machine mode. This isn’t a bother, and it doesn’t really impact the device’s functionality, but it was clearly an issue that developed following use, because when I first opened the device, it wasn't flickering the same way in my nightly routine. It concerning that within a couple weeks of opening and using the Restore, it had already developed an obvious malfunction.
What's more, some colors display better than others. The “peach,” for example, did not at all look peach when I tried it. It was closer to the preset white, and glaringly bright—not something I would like at night, even if I toned down the intensity a few notches.
I also didn’t enjoy using the Restore as a light outside of the nightly routine. It’s not super easy to turn the light function on and off without using the brightening and dimming buttons. In fact, that’s the only way to turn the light on and off outside starting the nightly routine. If you turn on the light with the top button, which felt easiest and quickest to me, you activate the reading light, assuming that’s the first part of your nightly routine. Starting the routine leaves a few options: Tap through the entire routine until the light is off, hold the button to turn off the routine entirely, turn the brightness up and down manually, or, just leave the light on, even if you leave the room. Maybe I’m just lazy, but I just wanted a single button to turn the light on and off, like a normal, basic light. Perhaps I am too accustomed to my pull-chain lamp that the Restore temporarily replaced on my nightstand.
The Restore’s features and routine sequence can only be modified in the app. That means that once you’ve chosen a meditation, white noise, or light color, you have to log back into the app everyday if you want to change it—and if you don’t, you listen to the same meditation day in and day out. For some people, this might not be a concern, but for others it can be a hassle or nuisance. I prefer more variation, as the meditations became boring with time.
This is confounded by a shockingly sparse selection of just four meditations available to users of the free version of the app. (What’s more, only two are meditations—the other two are a story about coming home, and the last one is just ocean sounds recorded from a Maine lighthouse). To access the full library you have to cough up an additional $5 a month, or $50 annually. It would be nice if the device at least came with a slightly broader selection, given the premium price consumers pay upfront.
The overall sound quality of the sleep sounds wasn’t great or terrible. I initially used the rain sound, cranked up quite loudly to block out other noises and help me sleep. But I found that when I dialed up the volume, the quality isn’t as good and it takes on weird, artificiality. The cricket sound, which became my favorite, is similar to the rain noise in that it needs to be quite loud to even come close to drowning out external noises. And I found some of the sounds just unpleasant—“calm ocean,” for example, didn’t sound “calm" at all, as the water was loud and grainy and really more "rough."
I found the alarm function frustrating at times. My sleep schedule tends to fluctuate here and there, so some days I want to sleep an extra 10 to 20 minutes. Invariably, I forgot that I needed to change the alarm on the Hatch Restore, and would set my phone alarm accordingly (which I use as a backup) only to be woken up by the Hatch. I hated this at first but it actually proved nice in the longer term, because it made me wake up at the same time each day, simply because I was too lazy to edit my morning alarm. Also, for some reason, the sunrise alarm didn’t do it for me. In just over a month of using the Restore daily, I was never woken by the “sunrise” alone, instead it was the alarm noise—I chose chimes—that ultimately made me stir each morning.
It was sometimes difficult to find the small sensor button that stops and starts routines (and turns off the morning alarm), so in the morning I regularly pawed at the nightstand and light trying to turn the thing off. If you’re one of those people who springs up and out of bed everyday then this might not be a bother, but I like to read the news in bed for a few minutes before I get up, so fumbling to turn the light off wasn’t a daily highlight.
Is the Hatch Restore worth it?
In short: I don’t think so. I think the concept is nifty, but it’s not worth the high price, especially given that in order to access additional features and content, users need to cough up even more cash. At a minimum, your first year using the Hatch Restore and unrestricted content would cost $130 for the light, and another $50 for the premium subscription. That's nearly $200 for a souped-up bedside clock. I just can’t think of a scenario where it would be worthwhile, at least for my lifestyle.
There’s just one thing about the Restore that I’ll miss: crickets. And no, I don’t mean “crickets” as in nothing, I mean the white noise track that made my Boston apartment sound more like a remote cabin where those woodland insects chirp through the night. That said, I can find chirping cricket tracks elsewhere, like on white noise apps, and that feature alone doesn’t make the Restore worth it, at least not for me.
Interestingly, the Hatch Baby Rest+, which is marketed as a smart clock very similar to the Restore but geared towards kids, seems as though it has more features, and at a cheaper price. Sure, the app interface isn’t as “adult-y,” offering toddler lullabies, but it would be great to have a smart clock I could control with Alexa, a feature on the Hatch Rest+ but not on the Restore. According to the Rest+ website, the Alexa feature can be used to change “lights, sounds, and more,” without touching the light or using your phone. Our writer who tried the Rest+ said adults could use it, though it would likely be too childish for most. But she adored it for her seven-year-old daughter, who has used it for about a year.
Incorporating Alexa into the Hatch Restore, which seems possible given it’s on the baby version, would solve the issue of not being able to quickly turn on and off the light, and shut the alarm off each morning. It would also address my quibbles about not being able to easily turn the light on and off. For some users, I think the incorporation of voice control would really up the usability and practicality of the device. I’m hopeful that future versions will include Alexa integration, as it would have improved my experience.
Nonetheless, I think certain groups and types of people might enjoy the Hatch Restore. If you’re forced to rise before the sun, then the sunrise alarm could serve you well. While it never was bright enough to wake me up, it may be enough for someone who is more light-sensitive or in a very dark room, as it made a significant difference in the brightness of my bedroom every morning.
Of course, there are other options. You could invest in a dedicated sunrise alarm clock, like the Phillips Wake-Up Light, which another Reviewed writer adores, crediting it for turning her into a morning person.
I’m hopeful that future versions of the Hatch Restore will be more practical and easier to use, but for the time being, I say: Save your money.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.