Review: Electrohome's new clock radio packs a lot of features into a Retro package

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Gizmag tries out the Electrohome Retro Alarm Clock Radio(Credit: Ben Coxworth/Gizmag)

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By now, you're probably quite used to things like smartphones, cameras and even car dashboards having a bewildering array of features. Well, Electrohome recently decided to give that same treatment to the humble alarm clock, in the rather ironic form of its Retro Alarm Clock Radio. We recently got our hands on the thing, and tried out features such as its autoset clock, sunrise wake-up lamps, motion detector snooze button and … thermometer?

When the Retro is first being set up it can be set to the local timezone, which has already been preprogrammed in the factory (along with a number of others, which you choose between). Once it's up and running, it even knows when daylight savings occur, and adjusts its time back or ahead as required.

There are two alarm time settings, and within each of those, you can stipulate the days of the week when you wish the alarm to go off at that time. This means, for instance, that the clock could be set go off at 6am on Monday thru Friday, and at 8am on Saturdays and Sundays. And yes, it has a backup battery to keep time in the event of a power failure.

Additionally, as with any clock radio, users can choose to be woken up either by a radio station (there are 20 station presets) or by a beeping noise. In either case, the clock's dual LED sunrise lamps will gradually begin to brighten starting half an hour before the set wake-up time. It's a nice way of being "weaned" out of sleep, although it's still noticeable when the lamps move from one brightness level to another – it's not like fancier sunrise alarm clocks, in which it's as if the light is being continuously turned up by a dimmer switch.

When the alarm does go off, you can silence it simply by waving your hand over the top-located motion sensor (there's also a physical button that can be pushed). This puts the alarm into snooze mode, and also turns the light off – the latter can be a little disconcerting, after you've just spent the last 30 minutes getting used to the room lightening up.

Additionally, if you need to check on something in the middle of the night, the light can be temporarily turned on by waving your hand over that same sensor. Unfortunately, this means that the light also comes on every time you reach for the top of the clock, such as when you're adjusting its various settings. We also noticed that the light will come on by itself if the clock is too close to external magnetic fields, such as (in our case) the electric motor of a nearby fan.

Some nice extras include a sleep timer that turns the radio off after a preselected time period (so you can listen to it as you're going to sleep), a nap timer that activates the alarm after a given amount of time has expired, and the ability to adjust the brightness of the numeric display so that it doesn't keep you awake at night.

And yes, there's a thermometer that provides real-time reports on the temperature in your bedroom. It's worked into a ticker tape-like feature in which a display of the time, month/day, and temperature can be made to scroll across the screen. You'll probably never use it.

While all these features (and a few others) might or might not be selling points, it should be noted that accessing some of them can be rather challenging without the instruction booklet close at hand – the clock's button controls aren't as intuitive as we would have liked. In other words, if you walked into a hotel room and this clock was sitting on the night stand, you'd probably end up just asking the front desk for a wake-up call. In your home, though, you'd no doubt get its pertinent functions figured out soon enough.

The Electrohome Retro Alarm Clock Radio is available now, priced at US$29.96.

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