The Philips Wake-up Alarm Clock
This thing looks like something from space or Tony Stark's bedroom. Philips says it will imitate the rising and setting sun and that's a spot on description. It's fair to call this an alarm clock/bedside lamp, but it uses light to wake you up. Sitting 16-20" from your face (the recommended distance for it to work), you feel like you're looking into the sun. You can lower the maximum intensity of the light (or light sensitivity, as Philips calls it) from 0-20, but I keep it at 20 for the full effect. It's a lot like looking at 5000K LED lightbulb without a lampshade.
The idea is the alarm clock turns the light on to wake you up. Thankfully it does this over a period of 30 minutes, instead of just going from dark to LED light in your face. The initial setup is very simple. The clock uses touch buttons along the bottom for Select, +, -, and Menu. It's simple to set the clock and your alarm with just these buttons. If you've ever used a TV that uses touch-sensitive buttons instead of physical buttons, you might have groaned when you read that, but these buttons are surprisingly responsive.
There are additional physical buttons around the top of the clock that serve their own special functions. The Alarm button is convenient, but also a reminder of the clock's biggest negative: you can only have one alarm set at a time. That's typical, but if you've been using a phone app for your alarm for a while, you're probably used to having several alarms for different days and times. On the upside, when you press the Alarm button you toggle the alarm on and off. When you toggle it on, you have the opportunity to set a new time. if you want to change the light intensity, though, you do need to go through the menu. That means you can't easily change the intensity and time for the weekend, but you're supposed to find the light level that works best for you and stick to it.
The clock also has two special buttons: a light button and a Fall Asleep button. The light button turns the light on and off so it can be used as a lamp. There are also two + and - buttons for increasing and decreasing the brightness for the lamp. That doesn't affect your alarm, though.
If you're interested in the clock then you're probably going to be interested in the Fall Asleep button. It's basically the clock's function in reverse: the light turns on and slowly gets dimmer. You press Fall Asleep and use the front controls to set a time (00, 5, 10, 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes). The light comes on at the same intensity level you have set for your alarm and slowly dims over the course of the time you entered. The button icon is a little man reading a book and the idea is this is your sleep timer for reading at night. The light gets very dim, so you know it's time to put away your book and (possibly) you're feeling sleepy because the tiny sun next to your bed has "set". The few times I tried it, it seemed to have some relaxing effects, but who knows if it was really the clock or allowing my eyes to rest for an hour without looking at a computer screen. It's a neat feature, at least, a sleep timer for your book reading.
The other buttons are typical. There's a snooze button that'll mute the clock's sound (if one is setup) for 9 minutes, but leaves the light on, and a contrast button for clicking through the four brightness levels for the digital clock display. The clock also has an FM radio function for listening and for use as an alarm sound. There's an FM radio button to turn it on and off and two seek buttons.
The reason you would buy this is the alarm function, so lets talk about that. Everything else is really superfluous--smart, but unnecessary. I've been using the alarm for about a month now.
The light is meant to wake you up naturally without needing loud sounds that jolt you awake. You can add sound to the alarm, but it only plays at the time you have set and the built-in sound options are light and pleasant. There are birds chirping, the sound of water and the outdoors, and a little piano tune. You can use the FM radio for sound if you want music or something a little more jarring to get you up and moving.
I mention the sound only starts playing at the alarm time because the light portion of the alarm begins 30 minutes before the time you have set. The light gradually increases in brightness to mimic the sun rising and lighting the room. Like I said earlier, at level 20, the light gets seriously bright. I found that the light would wake me up about 10 minutes early and it would be a pleasant light, like a lamp with a heavy lampshade. But, of course, I'd try to fight it. That's when the really bright light was useful. By my alarm time, the light would be too much to just ignore and then the little tune would begin to play. At this point I would be forced to turn off the light or get up, so I'd get out of bed.
The light does not shut-off at the alarm time. This is good. If you're a heavy sleeper or turned away from the light, you want it to remain on to rouse you. That's where the sounds come in handy, too. If your face is buried in a pillow (or a cat or dog has laid across your face), the sound should get your attention and the light will take it from there. I found the wake-up experience to be pleasant.
This is actually more useful than you might imagine, so it's good that Philips designed the light to stay on until you press the lamp button. I have had experiences where the alarm sound roused me and prompted me to rollover to investigate--while still very much asleep. Then I would be woken up by the light already at full intensity. So, great, that works, but what about actually leaving bed? Yes, we so often wake-up, turn-off our alarms, and say we just need a moment... before we fall asleep again. When I did this, I found the light would keep bringing me back from sleep again (and again and again). In this way the clock manages to help you get out of bed even on a cold winter morning in Michigan.
After the first two weeks, I found I started resisting the alarm. I would wake-up at 6:30 and fall back asleep listening to the piano tune. I switched to the bird songs and had the same problem. I have now switched to the FM radio to at least encourage myself to interact with the alarm when I wake-up. It's still the most successful alarm clock I've ever owned.
The only complaint I have is the price. My clock was purchased for $60 on a Woot.com sale. They're normally $120. That seems like a lot for an alarm clock, and it is, but I'm happy with it for $60. I will say this, though, the build quality is solid. This isn't the average cheap, plastic clock that you replace every so often. This is much more of an investment. It's a proper appliance and Philips has priced it with that in mind. They packed-in additional features like the Fall Asleep function, radio, and lamp options, but I really only ever found the alarm clock function very useful. My Kindle Paperwhite has its own backlight, so I read in the dark at night, although I have been testing the Fall Asleep function. I don't listen to the radio or have many options around here for radio stations I'd like to wake-up to, so I only used it once to listen to it. It would be great if a less expensive model was available somehow, maybe without these additional features.
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