If you use your phone in the bedroom at night, it’s probably messing with your sleep, even if you mute and dim it. An alarm clock can be a healthy upgrade to a distraction-free bedroom, despite its feeling like a technological downgrade. After our phone-free week of testing, we recommend five clocks (including analog, digital, and smart versions) for a more peaceful bedroom. They won’t be too bright at night, and they will dependably wake you in the morning and look nice on your nightstand.
- Why you should trust us
- A classic wooden alarm clock: Lemnos Riki Alarm Clock
- A budget digital alarm with a large face: DreamSky Compact Digital Alarm Clock
- A unique and informative digital alarm clock: Oct17 Wooden Alarm Clock
- A basic but loud digital alarm clock: RCA RCD30
- Best sunlight alarm clock: Philips Wake-Up Light HF3520
- How we picked and tested
- The competition
Why you should trust us
I’m a design writer at Design Milk, and since 2006 I’ve been writing about home design for a multitude of design-focused outlets, including Apartment Therapy, Lonny, Metropolis, and Design Sponge. Previously, as an industrial designer I designed children’s toys and furniture, which allowed me to learn the ins and outs of mass-market product design—from conception to manufacturing. I have an uncanny ability to wake approximately one minute before any alarm—but I’m still paranoid enough to set one as a backup.
A classic wooden alarm clock: Lemnos Riki Alarm Clock
Lemnos Riki Alarm Clock
A handsome, classic clock
An analog clock that’s easy to read and to set (and that has one of the most pleasant alarms that will still wake you up), the Riki is ideal for light sleepers who want to banish electronic distractions from the bedroom.$80 from Amazon
Best for: Design enthusiasts or anyone looking to ditch their smartphone for an uncomplicated, completely silent, and easy-to-use classic alarm clock.
Why it’s great: If you want a dependable alarm clock with a timeless analog design that’s easy to use and dead silent, the Lemnos Riki checks all of those boxes. The only alarm clock among our picks that has a design-award pedigree, the sedate beechwood Riki was designed by Japanese modernist Riki Watanabe, whose work was always known for being simple yet functional. The Riki’s prominent face, which has half-inch-tall numerals and large hour and minute arms, makes it easy to read—even in dim light and from a distance. The clock’s sole button consolidates the light and snooze functions—doling out extra sleep in four-minute increments—and we found it effortless to use, even with our eyes closed. When you press the button, the clock illuminates just enough to make the face legible (a big plus for those of us who like to peek at the time before we have any real intention of waking up). The brightness level seemed more akin to candlelight than to the intrusive modern glare produced by the LED- or LCD-backlit displays on the other alarm clocks we tested. Even the next-dimmest night light, on the Marathon Analog Desk Alarm Clock with Auto-Night Light, seemed much too bright after we’d acclimated to the Riki’s tranquil illumination.
Although it looks perfectly round, the clock actually has a subtle indentation on its base that keeps it from rolling away—and from moving when brushed or bumped. And because it’s battery-operated (it needs only a single AA battery), there are no cords to worry about. The straightforward clock has just three controls (in addition to the snooze button): an on/off switch for the alarm and two dial knobs to set the time and the alarm.
If the tick-tock of some clocks’ mechanical movement tends to keep you awake, rest assured that this clock is completely silent, which is something we couldn’t say about the percussive passing of time produced by the Alessi Optic 02 B or the faint “bzzzz” emanating from the Marathon Analog Desk Alarm Clock with Auto-Night Light. The only sound the Riki makes comes from its alarm—which is loud enough to wake you without being annoying.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: At about $70, the Riki isn’t cheap. Setting its alarm to a specific hour is fairly simple to do, but setting it to an exact minute is more of an estimate because of the clock’s dial face. The ABS resin snooze-and-light button matches the color of the beechwood clock case, but it isn’t made of wood.
A budget digital alarm with a large face: DreamSky Compact Digital Alarm Clock
DreamSky Compact Digital Alarm Clock
An affordable, easy-to-see alarm clock
This budget digital alarm clock does so much for so little. It has the largest numerical display of the clocks we tested, two USB ports, and easy-to-use tactile controls that take the guesswork out of changing settings.$20 from Amazon
Best for: Those who desire a large digital display and want to charge devices overnight via USB—and those who don’t mind a plug-in model.
Why it’s great: If you’re looking for an alarm clock that does a lot on the cheap, the $20 DreamSky is both an alarm clock and a USB charging station. Something that really stood out, compared with other clocks we tested: its enormous digital display (each number is 2 inches tall), which stretches across the entire front of the clock. Although I’m nearsighted, with basically mole-like eyesight, I could read this clock clearly from a distance—without glasses or contacts.
Some digital alarm clocks we tested—specifically those with lots of extra features and controls, such as the Philips Wake-Up Light—required a detailed review of manuals to get them up and running. The DreamSky, on the other hand, was plug and play: The clock was easy and intuitive to set and adjust, featuring clearly labeled buttons for time and alarm and two physical dials for volume control and display brightness. The DreamSky was the only clock we tested that had such a wide range of customization options: It’s simple to literally dial in your personal preferences. The snooze button isn’t a physical button, but there’s a touch-sensitive surface that shushes the alarm in nine-minute increments.
If you’re picky about colors, you’ll like that this DreamSky clock offers eight color variations, with different finishes and display hues to choose from. There’s also a similar DreamSky model that includes a digital FM radio and a 3.5 mm headphone jack.
You should note that this alarm clock is not fully battery-operated—two backup AAA batteries are responsible only for keeping time and alarm settings in case of a power outage. There are two USB ports in the back—one to charge most mobile devices with 5 V output and the other to power the clock via USB (or you can plug directly into the wall).
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The DreamSky logo emblazoned at the top (underneath the snooze button) is downright ugly. The plastic case and buttons feel every bit like what you’d expect from a $20 device. Its batteries only protect time and alarm settings in case of a power outage; for a full display, you have to plug in the clock or keep it connected via USB cable.
Finishes/colors: black case available with green, orange, red, white, or blue digits; white case available with white or blue digits; wood-tone case available with red digits
Dimensions: 5.8 by 2.9 by 2.7 inches
Power: plug adapter
A unique and informative digital alarm clock: Oct17 Wooden Alarm Clock
Oct17 Wooden Alarm Clock
A wooden digital alarm clock you can control with a clap or a tap
This alarm clock has a unique tip-proof, triangular design and you can set the display to turn off automatically after 10 seconds. (Just tap the clock’s face to wake it up again.)$20 from Amazon
Best for: Those who prefer the look of wood over plastic and who value unfussy contemporary design—as well as those who want an alarm clock that displays the time, date, temperature, and humidity at a glance.
The Oct17 displays more information at a glance than any other clock we recommend, showing the time and date (alternating) alongside the temperature and humidity level, all without requiring an Internet connection. If you’re bothered by ambient light glowing from your clock, the Oct17 has three brightness settings, and it’s the only display we found that you can set to turn off completely after 10 seconds. But when you need to know the time again, a clap of the hands or a tap of the clock’s front face will reawaken it for 10 seconds.
If you don’t wake up at the same time each day, this is your digital alarm clock: It has three separate alarms, including one that you can set to skip on weekends (to allow for sleeping in).
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Navigating the clock’s mode settings and feature adjustments proved unintuitive, requiring more button presses than a Street Fighter move combination.
Materials: MDF and wood veneer
Finishes/colors: black (the clock does come in bamboo, brown, and white finishes too, but currently they’re only available from third-party sellers)
Dimensions: 3.1 by 3.1 by 5.9 inches
Power: USB cable (included), four AAA batteries (not included) for emergency power backup
A basic but loud digital alarm clock: RCA RCD30
An affordable and basic alarm clock with a loud alarm
Our most affordable pick, the RCA has an easy-to-read display and a very loud alarm that will wake even the deepest sleepers.$11 from Amazon
Best for: Anyone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money, prefers a huge digital display, and just wants the basics all done right.
Why it’s great: The RCA RCD30 is an affordable digital alarm clock with a bright display, an easy-to-use button layout, and an alarm loud enough to wake even heavy sleepers. It’s also the least expensive model that we tested, making it an easy choice when you need something cheap and dependable, like for a guest room or a vacation rental.
The RCA is a basic unit, but it has all you really need in an alarm clock. It’s one of the smallest clocks we considered, so it won’t take up much room on your nightstand. But it’s also easy to read, with a 3.75-by-1.4-inch illuminated display that’s visible in daylight and at night from at least 20 feet away. The large display size is a boon for people who wear glasses because there’s no need to fumble for them in order to check the time. If a big display keeps you up at night, know that the RCD30 does offer a dimmer setting.
The no-frills RCA is also easier to use than other, more complicated clocks we tested. It has a large snooze button across the top, so you can usually hit it without much trouble. On the back, there are three switches: one for setting the time and alarm, one for dimming the front display, and one for turning the alarm on and off. The alarm emits a loud, constant beep that can be heard from at least 20 feet away. That wake-up call continues until you shut off the alarm or hit snooze, which provides an extra nine minutes of slumber every time you press it—for well over an hour.
The RCD30 also comes with the option for backup via a 9-volt battery, so you won’t lose your settings if the power goes out at 2 a.m. Like most of the alarm clocks we tested, when the RCD30 is using only battery power, it will not display the time, but the alarm will still go off.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: A few of the alarm clocks we reviewed have up and down buttons for setting the time. The RCA does not. The minute and hour buttons go in only one direction, so if you get distracted while setting the time and go too far, you’ll need to cycle through again. This is not unique to the RCA, though; setting the alarm with the Alessi Optic 02 B presented a similarly frustrating, “careful, don’t miss it” experience.
Best sunlight alarm clock: Philips Wake-Up Light HF3520
Philips Wake-Up Light HF3520
Best sunrise alarm clock
A serene alternative to loud alarms, this clock induced a gentler wake-up (a simulated sunrise accompanied by birdsong) than any other clock we tried. But it’s pricey, and it’s harder to navigate than the others we tested.$140* from Amazon
*At the time of publishing, the price was $102.
Best for: Anyone who hates being jolted awake each morning with a wailing alarm and those who prefer easing into consciousness with increasing luminosity.
Why it’s great: A top pick in our guide to sunrise alarm clocks, the Philips Wake-Up Light HF3520 is still our favorite sunrise alarm clock for anyone who hates being woken abruptly. The luminous LED orb produces a convincing simulation (over the span of 30 minutes) of dawn or dusk. It provides a kinder, gentler wake-up than any other alarm we recommend, and it’s the only clock we tested that can help lull you to sleep at night. The Wake-Up Light also includes more alarm options than most clocks we tried, with five nature-themed tones, along with a built-in FM tuner and a backup alarm. (Navigating the clock’s touch surface and icon-based menu system isn’t very intuitive, and it’s not always responsive.) Our favorite setting was a combination of the simulated sunlight paired with the convincing sounds of cheerful chirping birds.
We also found the clock’s light sufficiently bright enough to operate as a decent reading lamp, making it the only one we recommend that can do so. Measuring 8 inches wide, the Wake-Up takes up a lot more room on the nightstand than other clocks we tested. But when you think of this clock as a combination alarm clock and bedside lamp, it presents a pretty efficient use of space.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Despite the Wake-Up Light’s overall size, its numerical digital display is just ¾ inch tall and not as easy to read as those of the other clocks we tried, especially with its light at full brightness. The secondary set of tactile buttons across the unit’s top are more intuitive to use than the icons on the clock’s display, but they’re small and all the same size, making it easy to press the wrong button. The FM radio is a plus, but given that the clock costs $100—it’s our second-most-expensive pick—the silver-dollar-size rear-facing speaker is tinny and disappointing. The LED bulb is rated to last seven years with regular use, but it cannot be replaced, meaning that in time, the clock could lose its most distinguishing feature.
How we picked and tested
Alarm clocks may seem a bit old-fashioned, since everyone and their grandmother now uses a phone as an alarm. A search for “alarm clock” on Amazon returns a paltry seven pages of models to choose from, many only minutely different from the next (and most so ugly that the thought of sleeping near them is enough to induce mild insomnia).
But there are still some great options available today, and here’s what we looked for in an ideal alarm clock:
- Easy to read: Whether it has hands or a digital display, a clock should be legible at a glance, even without contacts or eyeglasses.
- Produces a pleasant alarm tone: The ideal alarm will wake you up without creating a jarring effect. We favored models with pleasant tones and the option to change them based on personal preference.
- Dimmable: A persistent, noticeable bright light can be a detriment to falling asleep. We highly recommend a clock with the option of manually or automatically dimming the display.
- Compact and stable: A good alarm clock has a low center of gravity and sufficient weight to counter the clumsy hands of the half-awake.
- Simple to set: Accessing alarm on/off settings or adjusting features like snooze, brightness, and alarm volume shouldn’t require a PhD or a YouTube tutorial.
- Unobtrusive: An alarm clock should not be the first thing you notice in a bedroom—perhaps it should even be the last. Leave the statement pieces to the living room.
- Has extra features: Radio, USB ports, Bluetooth and Internet connectivity, multiple alarms, alarm sound and tone options, and a backup battery are all welcome (but not necessary).
After looking through customer reviews on Amazon and other retailers, focusing particularly on the qualities listed above, we called in the 10 most promising alarm clocks and put them to the test. We also looked out for cosmetic defects and inspected the durability of materials and construction, imagining the litany of abuse an alarm clock may have to endure over its lifetime. Aside from the largest clock, the Philips Wake-Up Light, our picks are small—they should fit on most nightstands—and won’t slide or knock over easily.
Amazon Echo Spot: Amazon discontinued the Echo Spot, so we can no longer recommend it. Although it was the most expensive clock we tested, we loved how small and simple it was to set up. It also offered more features than any other clock in our tests. Amazon is folding features from the Echo Spot into the Echo Show 5, the latest successor in its series of smart displays. We plan to test the Echo Show 5’s alarm clock functionality, and if it performs well, we’ll add it as a pick.
Marathon Analog Desk Alarm Clock with Auto-Night Light: The Marathon has many great features. In addition to its compact design—the clock measures 3.5 inches wide by 1.5 inches deep—it has a sensor night light, dead-quiet movement, 10 color options, clearly marked alarm and snooze buttons, and a low-glow light that’s similar to (but not quite as good as) the one on the Riki. Its one and only shortcoming was legibility: The clock’s printed numerals were small and hard to read at a glance. We’d still recommend it if you want a battery-operated alarm clock that’s easy to throw into your luggage.
Lexon Flip On/Off Alarm Clock: The Lexon Flip is fun to use and has a novel design that works well: To turn the alarm on or off, you flip the entire clock over, instead of pressing a button or a switch. Each side is clearly marked, with “on” written across the clock’s rubber coating on one side and “off” written across the other side. The Flip (which is nearly impossible to tip over) takes up little space, but its small size also means it just isn’t as legible as we’d like for an everyday alarm clock. Its LCD display is hard to see in standby mode and easy to read only with the backlight on. And its high-pitched digital tone is effective but also annoying. (The clock also now appears to be unavailable in the US.)
MoMA Alume Cube Clock: We liked the Alume for its compact, 2.75-inch minimalist silver-cube design. It should fit on any surface with plenty of room to spare, displaying the time, date, and temperature with a snap of the fingers or a tap on its top. Where the clock comes up short: the absence of snooze or dimming options (the display turns completely off between snaps or taps) for an LED display that glows a bit too cold and bright for tired or still-waking eyes. If you do like this design, there are several knockoffs—with similar features—for a lot less.
Capello Round Time Table Clock: The Capello is a small and lightweight plug-in alarm clock with an easy-to-read LED display and a stylish gray-fabric front. A USB port in the back works great for overnight charging, but the listed “option to plug in your phone so you can listen to music” didn’t really work for us (with an iPhone). And the clock’s lightweight plastic construction made it easy to knock over. The snooze button isn’t a real button—touches or light taps won’t register. Snoozing the alarm requires a firm, palm-down press across the entire clock. If you’re sensitive to light, you should note that even at the dimmest of this clock’s three settings, the LED display was distracting. We eventually had to turn it facedown.
Alessi Optic 02 B Alarm Clock: Here’s an example of high design being hampered by low-quality features. This clock was too audible to be a peaceful bedside companion, producing a tick-tock sound so loud that it bothered us even when we were in the next room. No doubt, the Italian space-age design is eye-catching, but having this clock near the bed made the passing of time a torturous, second-by-second affair. And we found the Alessi’s plastic construction flimsy, with tiny and difficult-to-set dial controls that had more in common with a cheap, drugstore alarm clock than something sold for many times the price.