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What Should I Consider When Buying a Clock Radio?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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A clock radio is often one of those invisible household appliances which rarely get much attention until they quit working. Buying a quality clock radio with an alarm function can literally spell the difference between following a regular schedule and suffering the aftermath of oversleeping. Most appliance and department stores offer a dizzying array of clock radio models. What should one look for while surveying the shelves?

One important consideration when buying a clock radio is readability. Most modern radio clock models feature digital number displays, but the displays aren't always the same size. A good clock radio should have numerical time displays which are bright and easily readable from your bed. Older clock radios may still feature analog dials which aren't always distinguishable at a glance. Other clock radio models may have digital displays which are too small to read without corrective lenses. Some clock radio models may have a 'talking' feature, which allows users to hear a voice announcing the time.

Another feature to consider in a clock radio is functionality. Setting the time and radio stations on a clock radio shouldn't require the dexterity of a surgeon. All of the function buttons should be marked clearly, especially the larger snooze button. Shutting off the alarm or selecting the radio channel should be simple enough to perform while half-asleep. One useful function may be a sleep timer, which will automatically shut off the radio after a preset length of time. A good clock radio should have a battery-powered backup memory system to make resetting easier should the power momentarily go out.

It is also a good idea to consider which function of a clock radio is most important to you -- the clock or the radio. Lower-end clock radios may have dependable alarms and readable displays, but the radio side is usually average at best. The radio signal comes through a very small speaker, functioning more as an electronic noisemaker than a portable stereo unit. More expensive clock radio models may incorporate Bose-style technology or CD players. A consumer should balance features against the purpose of the clock radio. If the alarm or radio station is not loud enough to reliably wake you up, then the price is incidental.

There is also the question of style when it comes to clock radio models. Smaller clock radios are designed to be as unobtrusive as possible, often in faux woodgrains or muted color schemes. Higher-end clock radio models, however, may have style elements which match a specific decor. Some may feature a sleek, modern profile with stainless steel or chrome casings. Others may have a retro look for a 1950s or 1960s motif. One popular look is the 1930s Bakelite plastic shell with Art Deco curves and an analog clock face. Some clock radio models can even be customized with personal wake-up messages.

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Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to HomeQuestionsAnswered, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon952323 — On May 20, 2014

We want a clock radio to go on the shelf behind our double bed, in the middle where we can both operate it. For that reason, we want dials not buttons, because the dials are at the front and the buttons are on top. In the dark, it is not easy to choose the correct buttons or to regulate the volume.

By Melonlity — On Feb 11, 2014

One of the most important features is a big, reliable snooze button. If you're half awake and want to catch a few more minutes of sleep, what could be annoying than a snooze button that's hard to find and hit when your eyes are shut?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to HomeQuestionsAnswered, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a...
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