The Best Alarm Clocks You Should Be Using Instead Of Your Phone

The Best Alarm Clocks You Should Be Using Instead Of Your Phone

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CNN —  

An alarm clock may seem outdated, with your smartphone’s endless number of tones and apps to wake you up. But using your phone as your alarm can tempt you to use it before you tuck in, and that can lead to lower-quality sleep. Let’s be honest: Don’t you rely on your phone for enough already? So if you’re looking for deep sleep, rid yourself of the tech temptation, put some distance between your bed and your screen, put an alarm clock on your nightstand, and still wake up on time.

To help you replace your phone’s alarm, we put 15 top-rated alarm clocks to the test — from analog tickers to tech-filled wake-up lights. For a whole month, we set alarms, let them ring and snoozed (maybe a bit too often) to find the best of the best. After all our tests, four alarm clocks rose above the others.

Best alarm clock overall

The Jall Wooden Digital Alarm Clock looks great and has everything you need in an alarm clock. It’s simple to set, read, and use, and can wake you dependably with multiple alarms.


An easy-to-use alarm clock without any bells and whistles to get in the way, the DreamSky is simple, durable, and highly readable, and will get you out of bed in the morning with a loud beep that isn’t too startling.

Best sunrise alarm clock (and best with radio)

Able to wake you gently with lights that gradually brighten to mimic the dawn, the Philips Wake-Up Light HF3520 is a great sunrise alarm clock and one of the best all-around alarm clocks we tested, with intuitive programming, a wide range of alarm tones and a radio.

Best alarm clock for heavy sleepers

With the most intense, abrasive sound of any alarm we tested, a strobe light, and a vibrating puck that you place under your pillow, the Sonic Bomb can awaken even the heaviest sleepers

Kai Burkhardt/CNN

Jall Wooden Digital Alarm Clock

The Jall Wooden Digital Alarm Clock has everything you need — and more — in an alarm clock. It’s simple to set, easy to read in the dark and has an alarm that is loud but won’t scare you awake. It’s got a polished feel to it, and its wooden design gives it a look unlike any other clocks we tested. Plus, at $25, the Jall Wooden Alarm Clock is equipped with incredibly useful features, such as the ability to set multiple alarms, humidity and temperature readings and a feature that puts the display to sleep and automatically wakes it back up if it senses movement or sound.

Right out of the box, this clock was easy to use and setup was a breeze. It’s got a 5-foot cord that should reach most outlets comfortably, and comes with a CR2032 battery that backs up your settings (although the small plastic latch that opens the battery door snapped off when we pulled too hard, so be careful when you need to switch the battery). The Jall clock has a panel on the backside that houses all the controls, including three small buttons, four switches and a scrolling wheel. To set the time or alarm, all you have to do is press and hold a button and use the wheel to change the numbers on the screen. Setting the time and alarm took us less than a minute when we first plugged it in, which was refreshingly short compared to other clocks. The scroll wheel was especially useful, allowing you to speed through the numbers for hours and minutes instead of repeatedly pressing a button.

Whenever you set or change your alarm, you have the option to set two other alarms as well, so you can have three different alarms active at once. You can also choose if you want the alarms to go off every day or on weekdays only, which was another pleasant feature that was absent from many of the Jall’s competitors.

Speaking of extra features, this clock can show you the humidity and temperature of your room, which are actually critical factors to getting restful sleep. You can toggle the dimmable display between showing temperature or the date, as well as a “Sound Control” mode, which turns off the display and automatically turns it back on when movement or sound is detected.

While there are plenty of fun and helpful features of the Jall, one of the most striking aspects is its design. We tested the “yellow” clock, which looks like a nice pine. But it also comes in three other finishes (black, brown and white), all of which have a clean, almost Japandi look. When the clock isn’t plugged in or the display is off, it looks like a solid wooden block. But when switched on, the time appears in a gentle white light behind the wood. We can imagine one of its colors matching with nearly any interior decor.

The Jall Wooden Digital Alarm Clock looks nice, but we didn’t name it the best alarm clock just because of its looks. First and foremost, the Jall is a solid alarm clock that will comfortably wake you up. It has a tone that isn’t so loud that it makes you jump out of bed, but it also isn’t so quiet that you’ll sleep right through it. The alarm is also adjustable, with five different volume settings, so you can fine-tune the beeps to ensure you roll out of bed every time. And if you want to roll back into bed, you can set the snooze timer for nine minutes by pressing any of the buttons on the back. To turn the alarm fully off, press any button twice.

It didn’t have the best wake-up experience of all the clocks we tested (that title belongs to the sunrise clocks we’ll touch on later), nor did it have a terribly jarring alarm that scared us awake (we’ll talk more about those too). Instead, it was a pretty standard alarm that woke us up without incident, and was easy to turn off even with eyes half open. If you’re the clumsy type (or semiconscious from just waking up) and accidentally knock it off the bedside table, there’s no need to worry, because it made it through our drop test without a scratch, thanks to its sturdy and lightweight build.

The Jall Wooden Digital Alarm Clock rightfully earned its place at the top of our list. Its functionality, simplicity and design really shined.


DreamSky Compact Digital Alarm Clock

The DreamSky Compact Digital Alarm Clock isn’t quite as full-featured as the Jall Wooden Clock, but it checks all the boxes of a great alarm clock and those in need of an alarm clock without any extra bells or whistles will be more than happy. Small but with a big display, for $18.99 you get an easy-to-use clock with an adjustable wake-up tone. It’s a solid pick to get you out of bed in the morning.

This clock doesn’t have the additional features the Jall does, instead touting just one alarm and an extra USB port. The DreamSky clock had a simple setup, and with four buttons and two wheels on the back, along with a snooze button on top, it isn’t too difficult to use. Just plug in the clock with its 5-foot, 2-inch cord, pop in two AAA batteries as a backup and set the time. To do this, you press and hold a button to enter the settings mode, then press the plus (“+”) and minus (“-“) buttons to change the time. While you will be mashing some buttons, your fingers won’t get fatigued since you can toggle between the hour and the minutes and go up and down.

The alarm itself is similar to the Jall’s, providing a nice and loud beep that isn’t too startling. The beeps increase in speed and volume the longer the alarm goes, and you can adjust the volume so you never accidentally sleep through until noon. The snooze button isn’t really a button but rather a sensor on the top of the clock that will allow you another nine minutes of zzz’s until it beeps again.

The DreamSky scored extremely well in nearly all of our tests, including durability, appearance and wake-up experience, but what made it one of the top contenders was its big and bright display. The numbers occupy basically the entire display of the DreamSky, instead of just being in a small window like some other clocks we tested. It’s easy to tell what time it is with the DreamSky, even if it’s the middle of the night and you’re as blind as a bat. This large screen easily made it one of the most readable clocks, tied only with the Magnasonic Projection Alarm Clock, which can project the time onto your ceiling. While we loved its ultra-visible display, the DreamSky has a dial on the back that allows you to fine-tune its brightness all the way down to a dark screen that won’t bother you at night.

If you’re looking for a solid alarm clock and don’t need the extra features of the Jall, the DreamSky Compact Digital Alarm Clock could be the one for you.

Kai Burkhardt/CNN

Philips Wake-Up Light HF3520

If you want a more soothing and gradual wake-up experience than the standard beep of an alarm clock, the Philips Wake-Up Light HF3520 is the alarm clock for you. Its bulbous display slowly brightens to mimic the morning sun and then plays gentle noises, such as chirping birds, to ease you awake. This sunrise alarm clock gave us one of the most pleasant mornings out of all the clocks we tested, and at $79.95 (cheaper than other sunrise options we tested), it’s a great balance between luxury and price.

If a normal alarm clock just doesn’t do it for you and any beep is too harsh, then a sunrise alarm clock might be the thing you need. Sunrise alarm clocks can help jump-start your circadian system in the morning and can help improve sleep quality. In fact, 92% of Philips Wake-Up Light users say the lights wake them up pleasantly and make it easier to get out of bed.

To see if we felt a difference and to find out how sunrise clocks compared to more traditional options, we tested four of them, including three of Philips’ famed Wake-Up Lights. After our testing, we found that the best sunrise alarm clock — and one of the best all-around alarm clocks — was the Philips Wake-Up Light HF3520.

To be transparent, the title for best sunrise alarm clock was extremely close between the Philips Wake-Up Light HF3520 and its more expensive sibling, the Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light. The SmartSleep Connected Light was a fantastic alarm clock and almost took the crown. It has all the features of our winner and more, but during our drop tests the port where you plug in the power cord broke, making it unusable. Even though it scored higher and offers more benefits than the cheaper Philips light, the fact that it broke, not to mention its lofty $199.95 price, make us believe the Philips Wake-Up Light HF3520 is the smarter and better investment.

So let’s get into why this Philips Wake-Up Light really is so great. First and foremost, the wake-up experience was second to none. We live in an apartment lucky enough to get some morning light, so even though it probably didn’t impact us as much as someone who has blackout curtains, the light still eased us into the morning, and the pleasant natural noises were a gentle alarm that was a much better experience than the other clocks we tested.

The natural sounds were truly our favorite part of this clock, with tones including waves, chirping birds and a calming piano that increase in volume as you wake up. There are five options to choose from, so you can pick your favorite, or you can even tune the clock to the radio if you prefer.

Besides the outstanding morning routine, the Philips Wake-Up Light has tons of features that many other clocks didn’t have, such as a radio and wake-up profiles that allow you to choose a different experience for weekdays and the weekends. Plus, you can use the light as a standard lamp while you’re winding down or reading during the evening.

The setup was also extremely easy, thanks to the small screen at the bottom of the light that has little touch sensors so you can quickly navigate through the menu and change the time and alarm settings. Programming the alarm was simple and intuitive, even though you have to pick several settings, including your time, brightness, sound and volume.

One aspect of the Philips Wake-Up Light that knocked it down a few points, though, is its sheer size. The face and light itself is about 9 inches in diameter, and the base is quite big at about 4.5 inches, so you’ll have to clear out a bit of space to put it next to your bed. And you’ll want to make sure it’s close to your bed, as Philips suggests placing the light 16 to 20 inches from your head.

Since it is such a big alarm clock, it’s also got some weight to it, which made the drop test extra scary. Smaller clocks, such as the Jall and DreamSky, can probably fall off a bedside table dozens of times before anything happens to them, just because they’re so light and the impact is minimal. The Philips, on the other hand, weighs in at about 2.5 pounds, so the drops had a lot of force behind them, so we could see it breaking after a few more falls.

The Philips Wake-Up Light HF3520 is quite an investment for an alarm clock at $99.99, but for the price, you’re getting the best wake-up experience on the market that will make your mornings brighter and happier.

Kai Burkhardt/CNN

Sonic Bomb Dual Extra-Loud Alarm Clock With Bed Shaker

We’re not going to lie: We were terrified of the Sonic Bomb Dual Extra-Loud Alarm Clock. Meant for heavy sleepers who aren’t awakened by average alarm clocks, not only is the Sonic Bomb’s alarm tone incredibly loud and unpleasant — it’s one of the most abrasive we tested — but the device drives the point home with a set of flashing red strobes, and it augments this sensory assault with a “bed shaker,” a vibrating puck that you place under your pillow. When we tested the alarm for the first time on a table, we were shocked to see how violent the buzzing bed shaker actually was. And the manufacturer underscores the clock’s seriousness by offering it in a range of intense designs, including a camo version and one adorned with skulls, in addition to a more typical palette of sedate and bright colors.

But after weeks of putting off testing, we finally put the Sonic Bomb on our nightstand and woke up with it — and, in reality, the experience wasn’t as bad as we had feared, and the additional features — especially the bed shaker — should awaken those who haven’t been able to find an alarm clock that does the job.

Average sleepers should know that the beeps don’t start on full blast, and if those manage to awaken you, you have a second to brace yourself before the vibrations start. And the strobes aren’t unreasonably bright — not enough to wake you on their own, though bright enough to act as an added incentive. The alarm does increase in volume and speed, and we don’t know what kind of person could sleep through that bed shaker if they put it underneath their pillow. And you can set how long the alarm goes on, from 1 minute to 59 minutes, so if you really need to you can make it last a long, long time to really make sure you get up. A battery backup keeps the racket going in case of an outage.

So if you have a bad habit of sleeping through multiple alarms and just can’t count on a normal, everyday alarm clock to awaken you, the Sonic Bomb Dual Extra-Loud Ala

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