by Paul Sanders
Why settle for an alarm clock that just wakes you up in the morning when there are so many cool features available? A clock radio can wake you gently with custom alarms, play music from your MP3 player, or generate ambient noise all night long. Whether you're looking for the perfect gift or just something that will make your mornings a little brighter, consider these cool alarm clock features before you start shopping.
Time projection: If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you are familiar with the fuzzy, unreadable glow of a digital clock's numbers. If you'd like to avoid reaching for your glasses in the dark when you need to see the time, look for a projection clock. Some models let you adjust the size, direction, and brightness of the projection, so you can display the time in the most comfortable viewing position.
MP3 docking: A docking station gives your MP3 player a home base to recharge while giving your digital music library the power of larger speakers. Listen without headphones or replace the alarm with your favorite song. Full MP3 navigation lets you control menus and skip songs with your remote instead of relying on existing playlists.
Remote control: A wireless remote gives you control over music and alarm functions, so you can change volume or hit the snooze button even if the clock sits across the room. Remotes with full MP3 controls will let you skip through your favorite music and podcasts while your player is docked, too.
Noise machine: For a more relaxing sleep environment, try an alarm clock with nature sounds and white noise. The sounds of tumbling surf, pattering rain, and soft white noise are designed to soothe your busy mind and mask ambient sounds that could wake you. Leave the noise machine on all night or set the sleep timer to turn off after an hour or so. These also make great baby gifts.
Powerful speakers: A weak, tinny mono-speaker makes music from your clock radio sound weak and flat. Larger stereo speakers generate a more powerful, multidimensional sound in your room. Check the speakers' power rating for your clock radio, listed in watts (W). Higher rated speakers can handle more power without being damaged, and they produce clearer audio at higher volumes.
Dimming display: With a dimmer-switch, you can adjust the brightness of the clock face to a level that is visible without disrupting your sleep. An ambient light sensor that automatically reduces brightness is even more convenient.