Now life is getting back to normal, there’s no excuse for sleeping in (sorry).
Whether you’re heading to an early morning gym class, back to the office or even starting university, a decent alarm clock will make getting back into a routine a little easier.
There’s no question having a proper clock by your bed will always beat using the alarm on your phone. Putting a phone within reach makes it all too tempting to indulge in sleep-destroying midnight scrolling, and there’s always a risk the battery will conk out and fail to wake you.
An alarm clock can also double up as a radio for the bedroom, make a style statement or even simulate sunrise if you find it hard to drag yourself away from the duvet on gloomy mornings.
How we tested
To find the best ones for all kinds of sleepers, we woke up to a range of different clocks over several weeks to test reliability and useability, as well as how they looked on our bedside table. We found our sleep quality improved using all of them simply because our phone was no longer needed in the bedroom, so this is one easy swap we’ll be keeping beyond our tests.
The best alarm clocks for students for 2021 are:
Best overall – Amazon Echo show: £44.99, Amazon.co.uk
Best portable option – Groov-e radio curve: £19.99, Groov-e.co.uk
Best analogue – Wilko grey copper alarm clock: £8.50, Wilko.com
Best alarm that doest look like an alarm – Karlsson cube LED alarm clock – dark wood: £23.85, Redcandy.co.uk
Best space saver – Gingko edge light alarm clock: £34.95, Prezzybox.com
Best quiet alarm – Lumie zest: £150, Amazon.co.uk
Best for music lovers – Amazon Basics radio alarm clock with wood finish: £34.54, Amazon.co.uk
Best to sleep like a baby – Beurer WL75 wake up light with app: £120, Argos.co.uk
Amazon Echo show
This brilliant multi-tasking device is about as far from an old-fashioned alarm clock as it’s possible to get and will revolutionise your bedside. In the morning, it does everything but make you your first cup of coffee and can be set to wake you to a news update, the weather forecast, a reminder of what’s in store later or your favourite music or radio station. It can also be set to control compatible smart home devices as you wake, so you could turn the heating on before you get out of bed or switch on a light to avoid heading downstairs in darkness. You can even ask it to tell you a joke or suggest a recipe for dinner if you need a little wake-up inspiration.
Once you’ve dragged yourself out of bed, you can use the Echo show to make video calls to other users with the Alexa app, stream TV programmes, turn the screen into a digital frame or use it as a camera to check in on your home when you’re away. Our younger testers loved using it to play interactive games, hear stories and follow the lyrics to their favourite songs on the screen, but there are endless skills available to discover on the easy-to-use app.
We particularly liked the fact we could flick a switch to cover the built-in camera for guaranteed privacy, and definitely didn’t miss manually setting an alarm as everything is voice-controlled instead. A real bedroom game-changer.
Buy now £49.99, Amazon.co.uk
Groov-e radio curve
Best: Portable option
Connectivity: USB-C Cable
There’s no need to hunt around for a plug wherever you snooze with this nifty little clock. It comes with a rechargeable battery which lasts for nine hours, making it great for travellers, and will wake you to a standard alarm sound or FM radio, with 20 pre-set stations and an integrated antenna. If you’re still not ready to get up and go, there’s a nine-minute snooze setting too.
We especially liked the sleep mode which turns the radio off after a set amount of time – between 15 minutes and two hours – so we could fall asleep to our favourite radio station without having to worry about turning it off. Though the white LED display is large and easily read, there are four different levels of brightness to choose from so you don’t have to put up with a glaring light next to your bed either. A good no-fuss option when you can’t rely on finding a plug.
Buy now £19.99, Groov-e.co.uk
Wilko grey copper alarm clock
Connectivity: AA battery
If you prefer a classic look, we were smitten by this stylish clock that looked fantastic on our bedside table. It comes in a smooth matt grey with distinct black numbers and copper accents and appears much more expensive than it really is. It needs an AA battery (not included) to operate it, so there are no ugly wires either, although you will have to remember to change the batteries once in a while.
The alarm is a twin bell sound which we found much less annoying than an electrical beep. That said, this probably wouldn’t be loud enough for very heavy sleepers – plus there’s no snooze function so you have to be sure one ring is enough to get you going. It does tick softly too which some people could find annoying, but it’s great to sleep without bright digital numbers lighting up the whole room at night.
Buy now £8.50, Wilko.com
Karlsson cube LED alarm clock – dark wood
Best: Alarm that doesn’t look like an alarm
Connectivity: 3 x AAA batteries
This small wooden cube clock is perfect if space is tight next to your bed or you just don’t want an ugly alarm always showing the time. It can be set to only reveal the time when you tap it, or to always display the date or temperature instead. When the time is shown, it appears in an orange LED light on the front of the cube, making it very easy to read and gentler on sleepy eyes than brilliant white.
It needs three AAA batteries (not included) to work but has a built-in battery to keep the time accurate, even when power is low for extra reassurance that you won’t sleep through an important meeting. It also comes in different sizes and shapes including a hexagon and rectangular shape so you can choose the clock right for your room. Our main gripe is we found the instruction booklet surprisingly difficult to understand and ended up figuring out how to work this clock by trial and error instead.
Buy now £23.85, Redcandy.co.uk
Gingko edge light alarm clock
Best: Space saver
Room for a light or a clock next to your bed but can’t squeeze in both? This teeny contemporary alarm means you don’t need to choose. Available in go-with-anything grey or soft rose pink, the clock is powered by a rechargeable battery – with a USB charging lead provided – and looks great out on display.
It has a dimmable light so you can see the time when you want but won’t be disturbed by it, and a snooze function activated by a shake so you don’t have to feel around for a button when you’re half asleep. The double alarm is also really handy when you’re sharing the clock with someone else but need to be woken at different times. If you want to read before drifting off, simply turn the clock over and use it as a light instead. A fantastic space-saving investment.
Buy now £34.95, Prezzybox.com
Best: Quiet alarm
Being woken up is always miserable, but a blaring alarm clock is never a pleasant way to start the day. Lumie’s light therapy products are certified by Quiet Mark, an independent programme associated with the UK Noise Abatement Society to prioritise the noise reduction of everyday machines.
We were a little cynical about whether a light would be enough to wake us up though. The device simulates a 15 or 30-minute sunrise which tells your body to naturally reduce the production of sleep hormones so you can wake up gently without a sudden shock. Amazingly, it really does work and we woke up feeling much calmer than usual as we weren’t jolted from a deep sleep.
There’s a snooze button if you really want a few extra minutes, but we never needed to use it as the light is extremely bright at full intensity. It only failed to wake us once when we were particularly tired, so very deep sleepers may need to programme the optional audible alarm too. As an added bonus, the Lumie can also be used as a light treatment for anyone needing a daytime pick-me-up or suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during gloomy winter months.
Buy now £150.00, Amazon.co.uk
Amazon Basics radio alarm clock with wood finish
Best: For music lovers
Connectivity: Mains or battery-powered
If you need a good tune to get you up and out in the morning, this is the alarm for you. It’s all about the music, rather than the time, and is styled like a mini guitar amp in black wood. Mains or battery operated, it has a DAB/FM radio with 40 station pre-sets so it’s easy to find a favourite, but the device can also stream songs from a phone or tablet via Bluetooth.
It’s compact, easy to operate and offers surprisingly good sound so is ideal for anyone looking for an affordable radio to use in their bedroom. The alarm is really a bonus, and has dual settings so it can be used by two people at the same time along with a snooze button and screen dimming for uninterrupted snoozing.
Buy now £34.21, Amazon.co.uk
Beurer WL75 wake up light with app
Best: To sleep like a baby
An alarm clock is not normally recommended as a sleep aid, but this futuristic-looking Beurer device is as good at helping you drift off as it is at waking you up. Like most wake-up light alarms, it gently simulates sunrise to help you start stirring up to an hour before the time you need to be out of bed.
There’s no need to worry about slipping into a deep sleep and failing to wake either as you can also add a radio alarm, choose one of six wake-up melodies or even stream music via Bluetooth. Best of all, it can be used in reverse to simulate a sunset with soft sounds and a dimmable red night light to make dropping off a doddle, which we felt really helped improve our sleep quality.
The light can be used by itself for reading too, with fully customised colour settings that are simple to control via an app so there’s no fiddling around with tiny buttons at the back. Overall, we were really impressed by this clever clock, though be aware that it is on the large side so might not suit anyone struggling for bedside space.
Buy now £120.00, Argos.co.uk
The verdict: Alarm clocks for students
The ingenious Echo show is far more than an alarm clock and makes waking up a uniquely personalised experience, with favourite photos and music, the local weather and any urgent reminders all on hand the moment you open your eyes. But if dark winter days make you want to hibernate under the duvet, try the brilliant Beurer WL75 wake up light instead to (hopefully) wake with a smile.
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