The $90 Show 5 has a lot of the trappings I look for in a good alarm clock. You can set different alarms and have them repeat on various days of the week. The alarm can wake you up with a customizable tone or your own music. You can have the alarm ramp up the volume loud to ease you out of your sleep. Along the same line, the screen can gradually get brighter starting 15 minutes before the alarm to wake you from sleep.
When you’re not sleeping, you can issue voice commands to the Show 5 thanks to the built-in Alexa voice assistant. You can also use the touchscreen to make video calls, check the weather, control your smart home and other things. The Show 5 is a smart display similar to the original Echo Show, but trimmed for your nightstand.
Even with adaptive brightness enabled, the screen still casts a little glow, and you can’t customize the snooze time, but it otherwise offers all of the customization and any feature you’d want if you’re willing to pay more for a smart alarm. Read our Echo Show 5 review.$65 AT AMAZON$65 AT DELL$65 AT CRUTCHFIELDBest features for the priceSony ICFC-1Tyler Lizenby/CNET
The Sony ICFC-1 costs $18, nearly the same as the Travelwey Home LED. It has a radio built in so you can wake up to your favorite station or a more traditional alarm clock buzzing. You can set a sleep timer so you can fall asleep to the radio as it plays. It adjusts the time automatically for daylight saving time. Even the buzzing alarm gently ramps up to ease you out of your sleep, and the snooze button is easy to find if you need more time.
You’ll want to keep the manual handy when first setting up the Sony ICFC-1. Even setting and checking your alarm time is counterintuitive at first. There’s no button for it — you hit the plus or minus on top to see the time then keep hitting one or the other to set the alarm time. Once you know what to press, using the ICFC-1 is simple enough, it’s just not quite as brainless as the Travelwey alarm.
The cube design is also a little hard to get used to, and the orange numbers aren’t as easily visible from across the room as those on the Travelwey alarm. That said, you can cycle through three levels of brightness by tapping snooze, none of which creates an unwanted glow. The ICFC-1 also has a button to turn off the alarm that keeps it set for the same time. It has a battery backup and a clear indicator when the alarm is armed.
I liked Travelwey’s alarm slightly more as it’s easier to set up, and its clock is easier to see from across a darkened room, but Sony’s alarm makes a strong case for itself by doing more for the same price and it could easily be the better choice for you if you value those extras.$18 AT AMAZONBest sunrise alarm clockPhilips HF3500Tyler Lizenby/CNET
If you’re willing to spend more than $30 for an alarm, you can look for all kinds of different features. Of all of the potential alarm upgrades, the sunrise alarm on the $37 Philips HF3500 is the only one that actually makes it easier to wake up in the morning. Shaped a bit like a UFO with a kickstand, the HF3500 has a simple circular orange clock face surrounded by a couple of buttons and a wide light ring. Thirty minutes before the scheduled alarm time, the light gradually starts increasing in brightness until it reaches a customizable max at the scheduled time and starts beeping with increasing intensity to finish the task of waking sleepers up.
The light is supposed to gently ease sleepers awake. On both mornings of my testing, I had a good night’s sleep and a relatively easy time getting out of bed. Aside from the light, the Philips HF3500 is easy to operate with minimal buttons. You can use the light as a lamp and it has 10 levels of brightness. You can cycle through three levels for the clock face, but the orange numbers do a good job of not casting much of a glow even at their brightest, so sleep won’t be disturbed.
Snoozing the alarm is counterintuitive, as you need to whack the upper half of the light — there’s no button. I’d worry that I’d accidentally break my fancy alarm on a particularly grouchy morning. For its price, the HF3500 surprisingly lacks any extras other than the wake-up light, and I doubt that will be much help for heavy sleepers, or those with rooms that already get bright when day breaks.
Nevertheless, the HF3500 keeps things simple and elegant while still innovating on the basic concept of waking up from sleep in the morning. Splurging on the HF3500 could be a worthwhile experiment if you’re looking for a more peaceful way to wake up.$50 AT AMAZONBest ultrabudget alarmRCA RCD30Tyler Lizenby/CNET
The RCD30 has a lot in common with my favorite of the bunch, the Travelwey. The RCD30 is simple, with only a couple of buttons. It has a red large display with two levels of brightness — neither glows and you can easily see either from across a dark room. The snooze button is easy to find, but double-checking your alarm time and resetting it for the next day aren’t as easy on the RCD30 as on the Travelwey. Also, unlike the Travelwey, the RCD30 doesn’t have a nightlight, which some prefer for sleep. Given that it’s only about $13, it’s a good alternative if you want something cheap and simple.$12 AT AMAZON