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Sound the Alarm (Stuart Harris Reports)
Many of us listen to the radio when we get up in the morning and most of us also require some external means to persuade us to get out of bed. Thus we have the clock radio. But how do you pick a good one? Our panel, which consisted of myself plus the inventor Tom Granger and the broadcaster Paul Bridges, tested five currently available.
A The dual alarm function that is advertised with this model does not allow you, as I first supposed, to be woken by the buzzer, snooze a while and then finally be driven out of bed. The instruction booklet advises you to use this funtion to set two different wake-up times, one for work days and one for weekends, but whose life is programmed to this extent?
Since this model costs more or less the same as the second model tested, the inclusion of a cassette player is quite a bargain - you can fall asleep to your own soothing tapes and wake up to a day without news. We all thought the quality of the radio excellent, too - if only the whole thing was smaller. It's as big as a rugby ball. Paul Bridges said: Any clock radio I buy has to leave enough space on the bedside table for my keys, wallet, glasses and telephone. Anyway, I'm completeley paranoid and always book a wake-up call in case the alarme doesn't go off
B This model was voted best in the beauty stakes and overall winner. Paul Bridges declared himself "in love with it", although the clock on the one he tested "kept getting stuck at 16:00". I was fascinated by the digital display, with its classy grey numbers on a gentle green background. The wide snooze bar means you can tap it on the edge with your eyes shut. Unfortunately, teh smooth undulations and tactile buttons, like pebbles on the beache, encouraged me to run my fingers over them as if they were keys on a piano, which proved my undoing when I finally looked at the 80-page instruction booklet.
The clock has a self-power back-up so you don't have to reset it if someone unceremoniously pulls the plug out in order to use a hairdryer or the vacuum cleaner; this met with unanimous approval. However, we all found it a technical geat to set up - though completing the learning curve made us felle "cool" nd sophisticated
C Tom Granger described this model with its extra built-in lamp as "unvelievably tacky" in the way it's made. "You have to wrench the funny light out of this socket to get it to work, whcich makes me wonder about the quality of the rest of it". He complained that he had to read the instruction booklet twice before he could get it to work; the clock kept leaping from 12.00 to 02.00 so he had to go round again.
The light was certainly hard to position; you would never be able to read by it - it only shines on the clock, which is illuminated anyway. Paul Bridges sid he was "very tickled" by the lamp idea but agreed that the radio was hard to tune. The buzzer is reminiscent of "action stations" on a submarine and made me fell like hurling the whole thing across the bedroom. Interestingly, however, this model is the third most popular on the market
D Clearly aimed at young people, with its brightly coloured casing and mathing bootlace strap, this one appealed to the child in Tom Granger and me. "I woulda choose this one because it doesn't disappear into the background like the others", he said. In fact, the traditional design of the controls made it the only one we managed to set up without reading the instruction booklet. Too bad the alarm is allowed a hilarious 20-minute margin for error; the manual notes, "the alarm may sound about 10 minutes earlier or later than the pre-set time". Paul Bridges scoffed at such a notion, adding that this model was "terribly fiddly" and, indeed, "completely useless"
E The simplest and cheapest of all the models tested, this scored points with Tom Granger because it "seemed very standard and took up little space", but also because it has ald-fashioned dial tuning. "It's more intuitive to set up. With modern push-button tuning you're never really suer if you've pressed all the buttons in the right order soyou can't have confidence that the thing will actually work " He acepted, however, that manufacturers had been obliged to improve the quality of radios because of the advent of button-tuning. I thought the tuning rather crude, as did Paul Beredges, but we agreed that the radio quality was fine. The buzzer on this model certainly works it succeeded in getting me out of bed in just two beeps.
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