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Wake-up call: the best alarm clocks to get you out of bed | Consumer affairs

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If you want to eject your smartphone from the bedroom but currently use it to get you up in the morning, you need something else to do that job instead. From basic models, to smart alarms, what are the best options for your bedside table?

Basic alarm clock

RRP: from £5

If you only want something to make a loud noise at a set time that isn’t your phone, basic models start at about £5, including the well-reviewed Constant alarm clock from Argos. It has a simple alarm, glow-in-the-dark hands to enable you to tell the time in the night and is battery operated, so you can put it anywhere.

More stylish analogue alarms cost about £20. Cheap no-brand digital alarm clocks cost from about £10 with branded products from companies such as Braun, Casio and Seiko costing from £15.

The Constant alarm clock.
The Constant alarm clock. Photograph: Argos

For a similar price you can get a radio-controlled clock that sets the time automatically when it is first switched on. Acctim makes several versions with displays including the day, date and temperature, and a light that comes on at the touch of a button. The £30 Invicta looks stylish with its dark grey case or there are cheaper versions in other finishes.

Brand-name clock radios with DAB start at about £50, such as the Pure Siesta series or the £80 Roberts Ortus 2.

Pitfalls to look out for are screens that are too bright at night, dimmer functions that make high-pitched whines and analogue clocks that make loud ticking sounds.

Verdict: It may be worth spending a bit more to get something good.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock

RRP: £59.99 – deals from £34.99

The simplest smart alarm clock is Echo Dot with Clock – it is Amazon’s cheapest Alexa smart speaker with an LED clock that glows through the front mesh and dims with ambient light. When set, it displays the time and your alarms, which you can set to repeat weekly, on weekdays or only at weekends.

The Amazon Echo Dot with Clock.
The Amazon Echo Dot with Clock. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Otherwise, it is the same as any Echo speaker. Four buttons on top take care of volume, mute and actions. The light ring at the top shows when it is listening to you.

It sounds good for the money and is perfect for radio, or can pair with another Bluetooth speaker or output via a standard 3.5mm socket. It can be grouped with other Echo devices for multi-room audio, too. If you want a version that’s a full smart display there is the £50 Echo Show 5 as an alternative.

Verdict: A small, simple and smart Alexa alarm clock replacement.

Full review: Echo Dot with Clock review: Amazon’s cheap Alexa alarm clock replacement

Lenovo Smart Clock

RRP: £79.99 – deals from £40

The 4in touchscreen Lenovo shows a big clock most of the time rather than photos or other information.

It is pretty compact and there is no camera to be worried about in the bedroom. It is powered by Google Assistant, which can run all sorts of routines alongside various different alarms, so you can set it up to automate your mornings or nights, such as turning lights off, showing you the traffic ready for your commute.

The Lenovo Smart Clock.
The Lenovo Smart Clock. Photograph: Lenovo

The speaker can play all sorts of music and radio stations, connecting via wifi and Bluetooth, with volume buttons on the top if you don’t want to touch the screen. It can display camera feeds and information in response to questions, while a built-in USB socket can charge your phone, if you insist.

Verdict: A small, compact and cute Google Assistant alarm clock.

Google Nest Hub

RRP: £79.99 – deals from £59

If you live in Google’s ecosystem and want a bigger screen on your bedside display, Google’s Nest Hub is one of the best you can buy. The Assistant’s volume reduces automatically and the screen dims at night with an optional clock display, while the built-in speaker is great for internet radio or music services.

The 7in screen makes holiday snaps pulled from your Google Photos library look fantastic as backdrops to the clock, weather and other information. There is no camera to worry about and the design is compact and stylish.

The Google Nest Hub
The Google Nest Hub’s basic time setting. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

You can set multiple repeating alarms, while routines can be used to turn things on and off as you go to bed or wake up. It can act as a good touch-control centre for smart home devices and show feeds from smart cameras.

Verdict: A small and great smart display that’s not too expensive.

Full review: Google Nest Hub review: the smart display to buy

Wake-up lights

RRP: from £105 – deals from £90

These are essentially alarm clocks that wake you up with light, with sound as a backup. The theory is that simulating dawn with increasing levels of light triggers your natural arousal, so that by the time it ramps up to maximum brightness you are ready to wake, feeling refreshed rather than feeling as if you have been dragged out of the deepest, darkest void.

Philips has been making them for the best part of two decades. Its current products are expensive but still popular, with better light than most competitors and fairly simple operation. The standard Wake-up light (HF3520; £90) resembles an old car headlamp, beams light in a diffuse pattern into your room and has five wake-up sounds and an FM radio but the speakers aren’t great.

Philips’ standard wake-up light (HF3520).
Philips’ standard wake-up light (HF3520). Photograph: Philips

The latest SmartSleep Connected lamp (HF3671; £250) has a more modern design, is slightly brighter and more room-filling, plus it is equipped with FM-only radio, wifi and smartphone control.

DAB-equipped premium rivals are available for about £200, such as the Lumie Bodyclock Luxe 750DAB (£199.99). Be aware if you sleep facing away from it that the amount of light these produce might not be enough to wake you.

Verdict: Wake-up lights are particularly effective as we head into the darker winter months.

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Tube ramps up anti-viral regime with dynamo-powered UV lights

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Hundreds of the devices will be installed on London’s tube network.

(c) Transport for London

Over 200 devices that use ultraviolet light to sanitize surfaces are to be installed across London’s sprawling tube network.

In a statement Monday, Transport for London said the technology would be deployed on the handrails of 110 escalators over the next few weeks.

According to TfL, the devices utilizes a “small dynamo” to produce power from the handrail’s movement, which in turn powers the UV bulb used to sanitize its surface.

The rollout comes off the back of a six-week trial at a tube station serving Heathrow Airport. Six escalators at King’s Cross St Pancras have now been fitted with the devices, which will also be used at other major stops such as Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road and Waterloo.

The deployment of the technology comes at a time when concern over the cleanliness of surfaces is heightened due to the coronavirus pandemic, although there is debate within the scientific community about the risk of transmission from inanimate objects.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website: “It is possible that a person could get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.”

However, it adds: “Spread from touching surfaces is not thought to be a common way that COVID-19 spreads.” The most common way the virus spreads is through close contact between people, according to the CDC.

In relation to its own operations, TfL said: “While UV light has been proven to de-activate previous strains of coronavirus, Covid-19 is still too new for similar clinical trials to have concluded in the UK.” 

The transport body did note, however, that the devices in its trial had improved “the cleanliness of escalator handrail surfaces by at least 50 per cent.”

TfL is one of many organizations ramping up efforts to keep high footfall spaces clean. It says its “anti-viral cleaning regime” includes the use of “hospital-grade cleaning substances that kill viruses and bacteria on contact and provide ongoing disinfection.”

In addition, over 1,000 hand sanitizing stations have been introduced to the network, while passengers must wear face coverings when using its services, although there are some exemptions.

There are three main kinds of UV radiation: UV-A, UV-B and UV-C. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has described the latter as a “known disinfectant for air, water, and nonporous surfaces” and it is this which being used on London’s tube network.

Indeed, for many years now, UV-C has been used in a range of sectors, from retail and transport to office spaces.

The consumer market is also turning to UV-C lighting. Signify – a major player in the lighting sector – now offers what it describes as “desk lamps” for sale in select countries in Asia that can be used to disinfect homes.


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