We tested 10 alarm clocks under $50 to help you find the best replacement for the alarm app on your phone. The Electrohome Projection EAAC601 has an involved setup process, but it has the best combination of alarm and display features of the alarm clocks we tested. The adjustable projector displays time and temperature information on a wall or ceiling in your bedroom and the large LCD screen is easy to read from across the room.
Best alarm clock
A projector is a handy feature if you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night wondering what time it is. This Electrohome alarm clock has an adjustable projector that displays the current time on a wall or ceiling, and you can turn the projector off if it disrupts your sleep.
This alarm clock has a sleep timer that works in conjunction with the 3.5 mm auxiliary input. Play music or podcasts from your phone and the timer turns the sound off after 15, 30, 60 or 90 minutes.
This alarm clock has a large display that shows the time, day of the week and indoor temperature. It has three dimmer options: high, low and off. The clock automatically adjusts for Daylight Saving Time and the battery backup saves your alarm settings in the event of a power outage. We tested the maximum volume by playing the loudest tone available, and the Electrohome projected sound at 74 dB from two feet away. That’s about as loud as noisy vacuum cleaner and loud enough to wake even the deepest sleeper.
Best for travelers
The durable and compact Oregon Scientific RM313PNFA automatically adjusts the time when you travel to a different time zone. Its features make it a good alarm clock to stow away in your luggage, so you can wake up to a familiar tone in an unfamiliar place.
However, its maximum volume is only 59.2 dB, which is about as loud as a normal speaking voice, so it’s not the best alarm clock for deep sleepers.
This alarm clock can project the time onto a wall or the ceiling in your bedroom, which serves as a familiar sight in a hotel room. It’s also helpful if you often wake up in the middle of the night and wonder what time it is. The display shows the date and indoor temperature, but the projector only displays the current time. The Oregon Scientific RM313PNFA’s compact design and large rubber feet make it one of the more durable alarm clocks we tested, as it is less susceptible to being accidentally knocked off your nightstand. Durability, familiarity and size are important factors when choosing an alarm clock to travel with.
Best sunrise alarm
The Homelabs Sunrise Alarm Clock uses a soothing LED sunrise simulation to gently wake you up. The LED display also works in conjunction with the sleep timer to slowly dim the light in your room and simulate a sunset.
Set the alarm time using the touch sensitive buttons on the front panel. The sunrise simulation starts 30 minutes before the alarm time and gradually increases to maximum brightness just before the alarm sounds. There are 10 brightness levels and six decorative color options that convert this alarm clock into a vibrant bedside lamp.
This alarm clock has six nature sound options and an FM radio. Once you choose the sound you want to wake up to, set the volume with the buttons on the front panel. If you prefer to wake up to talk radio or music, hold the radio button on the top panel and the Homelabs Sunrise clock automatically scans FM stations with good reception and makes a preset so you can quickly switch back and forth. There’s a lithium button cell battery in the back panel that saves your alarm settings in case of a power outage.
Best projection alarm
The Mpow Projection Clock is compact, durable and has an adjustable projector that projects the time on a wall or ceiling in your bedroom. You can adjust the brightness of the projector or turn it off if it becomes a distraction.
We found the projector works best if the clock is placed 8-10 feet away from the wall you want to project on. The large curved display has four brightness settings, including an off setting that makes the projected time the primary focus instead of the clock face on your nightstand. The Mpow has a USB charging port to charge your mobile devices and free up a wall socket near your bed.
This is one of the few alarms we tested with a dual alarm setting. Dual alarms allow you and your bedmate to choose different time and alarm tone settings. You can set one alarm to go off early in the morning with a traditional buzzer, and then set one to go off a bit later and play your favorite FM radio station. The Mpow also has a sleep timer you can set for 5-90 minutes for listening to music while you fall asleep.
The Sony ICFC-1T is the most cost effective model we tested and is perfect if you want a solid alarm clock that's easy to use and does the basics well.
Most impressive is its durable design, which helped it stand out from the other cheap models we tried, and should see it survive many years on your nightstand.
It offers dual alarm functionality – an essential if you and your bedmate wake up at different times – as well a power failure alarm backup and automatic Daylight Saving Time updates.
We also liked its progressive snooze function, which increases your doze time by 10 minutes every time you hit the button before maxing out at 60 minutes.
While it doesn't have many newer features, like USB charging ports or Bluetooth connectivity, for under $20 you're unlikely to find better.
Why trust us?
We spent more than 40 hours researching and testing well-known and lesser-known alarm clock features. Our goal during the testing and research phase was to identify the products’ essential and bonus features not commonly discussed in traditional marketing material. For instance, almost every alarm clock we tested has a backup battery, but it is hard to tell what it powers just by reading surface-level specifications. Some backup batteries only save time and alarm settings, but a few we tested power the alarm as well, so you still wake up on time during a power outage.
Alarm clocks spend most of their lives sitting quietly on your bedside table. You usually only interact with them early in the morning when you may not be fully awake or functional. As such we thought it was important to test how durable the buttons were by pressing them hundreds of times with varying amounts of force to make sure they could last for years to come. Our recommendations are based on our impression of each product after using it and abusing it.
I talked to Niki Barwick, Doctor of Audiology, about the proper alarm volume setting to wake deep sleepers. She suggests an alarm tone of at least 70 dB to startle someone who has a hard time waking up. She also suggests an alarm tone with startling noises, like a buzzer or radio station that broadcasts annoying commercials, rather than soothing nature sounds for deep sleepers.
How We Tested
Our first step in testing alarm clocks was to survey available features and see how easy it was to set the time, alarm time, and date and temperature when available. After we set the clock, we triggered the alarm and measured the maximum volume of the loudest sound profile from two feet away.
We then tested how durable the buttons were by pressing them hundreds of times with varying amounts of force. We made note of any durability concerns and reported our findings within each product’s review.
How Much Does an Alarm Clock Cost?
A wide range of alarm features determine the cost of an alarm clock. The simple clocks we tested start around $20 and have all the traditional features. Sunrise clocks and Bluetooth compatible alarms range from $40 to $90, and some of the quirky products that run away from your bed and require advanced motor functions to stop the annoying tone can run well over $100.
Important Alarm Clock Features to Consider
If you use an alarm clock to wake up every day, choose one that emits sound at a volume that is loud enough to wake you up under any circumstance. Some clocks only have a buzzer tone, which is sufficient if you need an annoying sound to force you out of bed. If you prefer to wake up to music or talk radio, consider a clock that has a radio alarm feature too.
A few alarm clocks we tested can project the time, and in some cases the date and temperature, on a wall or the ceiling in your bedroom. The projection feature is most important if you often wake up in the middle of the night wondering what time it is. One of the clocks we tested can project the outside temperature as well as the time. That valuable information can help you wake up on the right side of the bed and prepare you for the day.
Why You Should Ditch Your Phone App for an Alarm Clock
There are too many distractions on smartphones, especially around bedtime. To get to bed and fall asleep in a timely manner, you need to eliminate as many distractions as possible. News alerts, social media content and games on your phone can keep you informed and provide an escape from the day-to-day doldrum, but they don’t help you wind down at night or get out of bed in the morning. In addition, there are plenty of alarm clocks with features not found in alarm apps. A good alarm clock allows you to keep your phone out of arms’ reach so you fall asleep and wake up free of distraction.
Here’s a helpful article that outlines one woman’s sleeping experience after trading her alarm app for an “old-school” alarm clock
Best Voice-Assistant Alarm Clocks
We focused our testing on traditional alarm clocks that cost less than $50. The benefit of a traditional alarm clock is that it helps to remove the distraction of having your phone next to your bed. But if you want a more technologically advanced clock with interactive voice commands, check out some of our favorite Amazon Alexa-enabled alarm clocks:
This alarm clock has a great combination of traditional alarm attributes and future-proof voice-control features. The large, dimmable display on the front panel shows the time, date, outside temperature and alarm time. This clock wakes you with music from streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, or with a gentle sunrise lighting feature. There are buttons on the top panel for snoozing the alarm and answering phone calls, as well as one-touch controls for triggering multiple smart-home devices. If you are nervous about having an active listening device in your bedroom, you can use this alarm clock's mute button, which turns off the microphones.
Amazon Echo Spot
The Echo Spot is a compact smart speaker with a customizable touchscreen display that shows the information you want when you wake up. You set the alarm by asking Alexa to wake you at a certain time, and you snooze the alarm with voice commands. You can ask Alexa things such as what the weather is like and how the traffic is on your commute route. Or, you can ask the voice assistant to give you a flash news briefing. The Echo Spot has a camera that lets you make free video calls to other Amazon smart speaker users, and if you add a smart doorbell to your home network, you can see who is knocking on your door and talk to them without leaving the comfort of your bed.
|Product||Price||Overall Rating||Pricing||Usability||Display||Alarm Options||Maximum Volume (dB)||Battery Backup||Weekday and Weekend Mode||USB Charger||Audio Input||Projection||Daylight Savings Time||Date||Temperature||Sunrise Simulation||Radio Alarm||Dual Alarms|
|Electrohome Projection EAAC601||View Deal||4/5||3.5||4||5||4||73.4||Lithium Button Cell||✓||✖||Aux Input||✓||Auto||✓||Indoor||✖||✓||✓|
|Philips AJT4400B/37||View Deal||3.5/5||3||5||1.5||4||86.5||2 AA||✖||✓||Aux Input, Bluetooth||✖||Auto||✖||✖||✓||✓|
|Homelabs Sunrise Alarm Clock||View Deal||3/5||5||2.5||0||5||79.2||Lithium Button Cell||✖||✖||✖||Manual||✖||✓||✓||✖|
|Mpow Projection Clock||View Deal||3/5||4.5||2||2||4||76.3||Lithium Button Cell||✖||✓||✓||Manual||✖||✖||✓||✓|
|Oregon Scientific RM313PNFA||View Deal||3/5||4.5||2.5||4||0||59.2||2 AA||✖||✖||✓||Auto||✓||Indoor||✖||✖||✖|
|Sony ICFC1T||View Deal||3/5||4.5||2.5||0||4||64.1||Lithium Button Cell||✖||✖||✖||Auto||✖||✖||✓||✓|
|Timex XBBU Dual Alarm T128||View Deal||2.5/5||5||4.5||0||0||57.3||Lithium Button Cell||✖||✓||✖||Manual||✖||✖||✖||✖|
|Travelwey Home LED Clock||View Deal||2.5/5||4.5||4.5||0||0||81.9||2 AAA||✖||✖||✖||Manual||✖||✖||✖||✖|
|La Crosse Technology 616-143||View Deal||2.5/5||3.5||2.5||4.5||0||57.8||3 AAA||✖||✖||✓||Auto||✓||Indoor, Outoor||✖||✖||✖|