Please help me find an alarm clock ...
December 28, 2008 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Please help me find an alarm clock ...

I want to buy a new alarm clock and can't seem to find the perfect one with all of the features I want. I'm willing to compromise, but beyond the obvious basic buzzing alarm function, I'd like the following: digital FM tuner with presets (and/or internet radio) and some kind of MP3-playing capability via an SD card or USB flash drive, wireless network (ideal) or even CD-R (okay, but not perfect). Photo/slideshow capability is a big plus, too, and so is random techy coolness.

What I definitely don't want: an Ipod dock. I don't have an Ipod. I also don't want that cheap looking Chinese-made white cube.

The top contenders so far are The Philips AJL308, the Transcend PF720 (or the PF810, which was just announced) and, at the very high end of what I'm willing to spend, the Chumby. The Philips, the cheapest and most ubiquitous of the lot, has got some fair to middling reviews and the consensus seems to be "wait for 2.0." I can't find much information at all on the Transcend one since it's fairly new. The Chumby, while the coolest, I have some misgivings about, namely the high price, the advertising (is it obtrusive?) and the potential that the company may go out of business leaving me with a beanbag brick.

Do you have any experience with any of the above-listed products? Importantly: is the Chumby worth it?

Am I overlooking any other possibilities?
posted by MegoSteve to Technology (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Neverlate Executive Alarm Clock? USB port for MP3 playback, 21 daily alarms, 20 radio presets, Nap timer, and other shiny features. I have the original Neverlate, with less features, and love it to death.
posted by SansPoint at 8:59 AM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Timex TM80 is well-regarded by Amazon users. It seems to be getting hard to find, but it looks like this place might still have it.
posted by jon1270 at 9:07 AM on December 28, 2008

I think you might want to wait on the Chumby for the next gen. It's a cool concept, but the one I toyed with was slow and had a poor touchscreen. You'd probably need to switch between apps for what you want to do, so that poor responsiveness would be an issue.
But then maybe that Chumby was a dud.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 10:32 AM on December 28, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions. The Neverlate and Timex were both on my radar, but they're both kind of traditional-looking. I guess I have my hopes on something more tech-y, though I'm at the point where I think I might be expecting too much out of a simple alarm clock and should choose function over form.

kingfisher: Thanks. Chumby is definitely high in terms of the cool factor, but for about $50 more I could just get a netbook and sit it on my nightstand.
posted by MegoSteve at 6:07 PM on December 28, 2008

Response by poster: On second glance at the specs, the USB port on the Executive does not support data transfer... it'll only play MP3s through the 1/8" stereo in.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:07 PM on December 28, 2008

I wound up buying a Chumby after asking a somewhat similar question.

It's easy enough to listen to MP3 files on a USB drive with it, but the controls are certainly lacking. You can move to the next track and the previous track, but there's no way to rewind or fast forward. On the other hand, I've really enjoyed listening to Internet radio on it.

That's another place where the UI is lacking — you can search for stations on shoutcast via the Chumby, but there's no obvious way to then add it to "My Streams." It's possible to add stations manually to that list but it would be painful to type in URLs into the device. On the bright side, I added them much more easily by sshing into the Chumby and using vi to edit the /psp/url_streams file myself.

The hardware itself is pretty nice and has a lot of features for the price. The device runs Linux and is readily hackable, but IMHO it's constrained by their choice of Flash as the programming environment.

I am very sensitive to intrusive advertising, but I haven't really noticed it (yet) on the Chumby. The software has been a little buggy though. That's why it became an addition to the alarm clock I already had instead of a replacement for it.
posted by tomwheeler at 7:25 PM on December 28, 2008

Thanks to an unseemly and long standing craving for the world's perfect alarm clock, a search that has resulted in about a dozen clock/radio corpses floating around our house, Mr. Llama talked me into a Chumby.

Yes, the price is a little embarassing, but since he had already blown over a hundred dollars on alarm clocks he turned out to hate, I was pretty happy he'd at least found the perfect one and we wouldn't be pitching any more into the garbage due to low humming, inability to play MP3s without an iPod stuck in it, bright light at night, etc. Etc. Etc. And may I say: etc.

And it is perfect--and the interface is great, has that kind of easily understood user path that Tivo and Garmin GPS's do.

Sort of the opposite user experience from my cell phone. Grrr.

I really like it, and I wasn't too thrilled about the price either, but I think it depends on how much thought you put into your relationship with your alarm clock. Some household items you're perfectly fine with having a 'meh' relationship to, others can drive you crazy with their imperfections.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:12 AM on December 29, 2008

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