The best smart alarm clocks: Wake up in style with our top picks

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The best smart alarm clocks
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With the influx of smart displays, companies have woken up to the fact that our nightstands are prime real estate. That's why we're seeing more of these devices shrinking in size and positioning themselves to take over our bedside tables.

And frankly we're all for it, because it's one less reason to rely on our smartphones, which dominate our lives in so many other aspects. Plus, there are lots of benefits in having a smart assistant by our bedside.

Read this: The best smart speakers 2019

We decided it was time to round up the best of these smart alarm clocks. Below you'll find our picks of the options out there right now.

Snooze The best smart alarm clocks

Echo Show 5

$89.99, Amazon

The latest member of Amazon's Echo family is a tiny little thing, making it perfect for placing on a bedside table. If you're used to the 10-inch Echo Show, like us you'll probably be taken aback by just how much smaller this is. Yet it packs a lot in a tiny package: a 4W speaker that's surprisingly good, a built-in camera and even a 3.5mm jack.

Before you worry about that built-in camera, there's a physical shutter that slides across the lens and kills the power, ensuring total video privacy. That's important if you're going to use this as a bedside clock, and its inclusion suggests Amazon expects people to.

Read this: The best Echo Show and Spot skills

The display is vibrant but will adjust to its surroundings, dimming when the lights go off. Again, an essential requirement for a bedside companion. And of course you've got built-in mics for summoning Alexa, whether it's to set a morning alarm, turn off the house lights, or read you a bedtime audiobook. Where we've found Alexa a little deaf when using the Echo Show 5 in other parts of the house, it's close enough by the bed to hear your half-awake mumbles to play the news or announce the weather forecast.

What's odd about the Show 5 is it sort-of displaces the Spot. We've kept the Spot on this list because that one really is 100% meant to be used as a clock, but between the two, we'd choose the Show 5.

the ambient verdict
Echo Show 5
The Echo Show 5 could be our favourite Echo speaker to date. Its diminutive size is much nicer to have in your home than the full-size Show, and the new control panels means there are more ways to use Alexa. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all. The speaker is lacking for big rooms, there’s no Zigbee onboard and Alexa can be a little hard of hearing. But it’s a great balance of discreet integration, top control and better privacy that makes it highly recommendable for smart homes.
PROS
  • Small and discreet
  • On-screen controls
  • Better sound than Echo Spot
CONS
  • No Zigbee
  • Too small for entertainment
  • Visual skills still sparse


Snooze The best smart alarm clocks

Lenovo Smart Clock

$79.99, Amazon | lenovo.com

More of a Google user? Echo Show 5 still too big for you? Meet the smallest member of the wake-up gang, the Lenovo Smart Clock. Designed purely as a bedside clock, the Lenovo is a 4-inch display ensconced in a fabric-coated speaker.

There's no camera here, and the sound quality is less powerful than the Echo Show 5. It's just a 1.5-inch speaker with 3W output. It does the job, but you're not going to be playing any music through this unless you hate your ears.

The ambient light sensor is really good at dimming the screen in the dark and preventing the Lenovo from being a distraction while you sleep. It runs on the same Android Things platform as other third-party Assistant speakers, but it's more stripped down here. While some of this is for the better, we miss Home View, the smart home master control panel you'll find on other Google smart displays. This leaves voice as the primary interaction method.

There are no photos either, but the screen is so small we're not sure many people will mind. There are a few different clock faces to choose from, and we also love the built-in USB, which means this can juice up your phone overnight – so you can get rid of the bedside smartphone charger.

the ambient verdict
Lenovo Smart Clock
Lenovo's clock achieves exactly what it sets out to do, and that's both an achievement and a limitation. At the end of the day, this is still just an alarm clock that's designed to sit on your bedside table. And though there are a couple of neat design quirks – like tapping to stop the alarm and a USB charger for your phone – that will endear it to some, those with other Assistant-compatible devices may be left wanting more smart display features. It's also better priced and better at its job than the ageing Amazon Echo Spot, though whether this remains true against the upcoming Amazon Echo Dot 5 remains to be seen.
PROS
  • Excellent alarm clock
  • Neat design with no camera
  • Decent price
CONS
  • No Google Photos support
  • Limited features for some
  • Low-level sound quality


The best smart alarm clocks

Nest Hub

$129 | google.com

Google currently only has one smart display of its own (the rest of its display family is built by third parties), but there is a larger version incoming – the Nest Hub Max. The Max is sure to be popular and will likely relegate the standard model to even more nightstands.

And that's fine with us because the Nest Hub (formerly the Google Home Hub) is a great smart alarm clock. One reason is the size: it stands just 4.5 inches tall and 7 inches wide, and looks like someone stuck a tablet on top of a speaker. But it does look good, better than the Echo Show in our opinion, and comes equipped with features to make it perfect for bedside use.

First of all is that adaptive display, which is still superior to Amazon's. Google's ambient screen tech means the Nest Hub will adjust its brightness to match the room. Turn the lights off and it will dim down to a level where you can just make out the time, but won't prove distracting. This also makes it great if you're using it to display photos, often making them look like, well, real photos.

Second, there's no camera at all. In its place is the ambient EQ sensor that makes that screen magic happen, and should give you peace of mind when putting this in the bedroom.

Of course you've got all the powers of Google Assistant to draw on here, along with Home View, Google's quick-draw control panel for all your connected smart devices. All told, it's a little smarter than Lenovo's clock, although some of the features may be superfluous to your needs from a smart alarm clock.

the ambient verdict
Google Nest Hub
It's not hard to love the Google Nest Hub. Small but powerful, it's the best looking of the Assistant Smart Displays so far, and a great choice for the nightstand. It's also a great showcase for what this category of smart speaker can do, particularly with that ambient EQ sensor – and for a fantastic price. There's no camera, but that might be a good thing. If it's not, the Nest Hub Max is landing soon.
PROS
  • Small size
  • Decent sound
  • Excellent price
CONS
  • Display will be too small for some
  • No Zigbee/Z-Wave hub
  • May be more than necessary


The best smart alarm clocks

Echo Spot

$129.99, Amazon

The OG smart alarm, Amazon's Echo Spot is modeled on the circular design of a classic bedside alarm. But unlike Lenovo's clock, which strips back a bunch of features to make it more bedroom-appropriate, Amazon's answer is unabashedly an Echo speaker – camera and all.

Bezel dominates much of the face of this clock, leaving just a 2.5-inch display for showing the time, news headlines, video calls – everything you can do on the larger Echo Show. This is either a good or bad thing depending on what you want in a clock and how much you care about privacy. For example, there's no physical shutter on the camera here. But that might not be a concern for you. And if you do want to use that camera, we can report that video quality in calling is pretty good.

There's a 3.5mm jack on the back to plug it into some better speakers, which you may want to do as the sound quality of the Spot is not much to write home about. But it's good enough for Alexa to read the news headlines or for listening to the radio.

If you ask us, it's the design of the Spot that still gives it pull. There are some nice round clock faces to pick from too, making the Spot nicer to look at than many other options, and making it feel more a part of the furniture.

the ambient verdict
Echo Spot
The Amazon Echo Spot is a lovely little Alexa smart speaker, and might be the best looking of our list. However, despite taking on a more classic clock design, this is a fully-fledged Alexa speaker, camera and all. But those extra features come at a cost.
PROS
  • Cute design
  • Sharp display
  • Versatile
CONS
  • Poor sound
  • Screen a tad small
  • Pricier than Show 5


The best smart alarm clocks: Wake up in style

Triby Smart Speaker

$199, Amazon

If you don't like the idea of an LCD screen by your bed, the Triby Smart Speaker is a good alternative. You can still read the time on its E-Ink display and summon Alexa by voice, but with a lo-tech aesthetic. In fact the whole thing looks pretty retro, with – get this – physical buttons, which can be mapped to smart home commands to set scenes, trigger IFTTT Applets, and more.

This system can be fiddly, as each button has three button press combos (and are also the buttons for controlling music playback) making it a bit of a memory game. Best to keep the shortcuts to just a small handful of your most useful.

And though it has Alexa built-in, the Triby also plays nicely with Apple HomeKit, even operating as a temperature and humidity sensor that can be read through the Apple Home app.

AirPlay and Spotify Connect are also along for the ride. Another unique feature of the Triby is that it can run on batteries, but if you're using this as a bedside alarm then chances are you'll just keep it plugged in.

the ambient verdict
Triby Smart Speaker
The Triby Smart Speaker is a brilliantly versatile device, which does more than just belt out tunes. Its ability to cosy up to both Alexa and Apple HomeKit makes it pretty unique, as does its suitability for AirPlay and Spotify Connect. It's not best in class in any quarter, but if you're building a smart home and have a spot for a smart speaker that does more than the average, the Triby is well worth your time.
PROS
  • Alexa built-in
  • HomeKit friendly
  • AirPlay and Spotify Connect
CONS
  • Audio isn't brilliant
  • Can be a little temperamental
  • Fiddly smart buttons

TAGGED    smart home    speakers

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