Top positive review
7 people found this helpful
OK, NOW we're getting somewhere!
on 9 February 2014
Having recently returned a £25 Acctim Madera digital alarm clock due to its pitiful 60 second alarm and poor screen visibility, I decided to give this HOMEtime Washington clock a try, and I have to say it is excellent. It seems that someone has put some proper thought into what an alarm clock is meant to do and has designed this clock to be a 'no-frills' functional piece of kit. For £10.75 delivered it was astoundingly good value too.
I particularly wanted a radio-controlled clock and did not want any annoying ticking sound right by my head at night, and was hoping the lack of a second hand would deliver an acceptable level of silence.
1. Yes, it is effectively silent. Technically it makes a 'tick' every 10 seconds as the minute hand moves but I have it a foot or so from my head in my very quiet bedroom and hear nothing at all. If I hold it right up to my ear I can hear that 10 second tick. I'm a very fussy customer when it comes to noise. I want to hear no sound at all from a clock and I am well satisfied with this one.
2. It shows the exact time, every time, accurate to the nearest second. Here in Oxford it picked up the radio signal with no trouble and within ten minutes of installing the battery it had set itself to the correct time. (Just one weird thing: putting the battery in wasn't easy. There is a kind of metal 'claw' over the positive terminal which means you have to insert the positive end first and then slide the negative end down. I will probably need a small screwdriver to prise the battery out when I change it. Not a big deal, and I guess it means the battery is less likely to fall out accidentally if the clock gets knocked over, which has happened to me with alarm clocks in the past once or twice.)
Another reviewer said his Washington clock's hands didn't line up perfectly and he couldn't tell the exact time to the nearest minute. I found the minute hand on mine was only out by about 30 seconds but even so I did have to puzzle over it a little to work out which exact mark the minute hand was supposed to be pointing to. But this is the same for any analogue clock and has only become an issue at all due to the extreme accuracy of modern radio-controlled clocks. It was very easy in fact to remove the front clear plastic and adjust the position of the minute hand forward a smidgen on its spindle. The error was so small on mine that it was hardly worth it but I was curious, and it was very easy, and now the hands all line up perfectly. (I squidged a big lump of Blutak onto the lens at the 6 o'clock position and used it to tug the lens out. It came out very easily.)
3. The clock face is extremely clear and can be read easily from any angle, ...unlike your typical digital LCD clock! The face is rather large and is set up off the deck by a few centimetres, which means that if one's bedside table is higher than one's pillow (as mine is) the clock can be set back from the edge and still be read without lifting one's head. I have to say the luminous hands are not really up to the job of giving a clear reading of the time in total darkness, but that's a very minor issue, and a 'tap' on the snooze button on the top lights it up very nicely for 5 seconds.
4. The alarm does not actually get louder with time, but it does a good impression of doing so by changing the number and/or duration of 'beeps' it emits. It starts gently and after a minute or so gets quite insistent. It then continues at that insistent level for about half an hour. Very effective. Gentle to start with but ultimately annoying. (I can't believe that Acctim designed their Madera so-called 'alarm clock' to sound the alarm for 60 seconds only! Useless!) Another reviewer reported that their Washington clock only went off 30 minutes after the time it was apparently set for, which does sound excessive to the point of being faulty, but I checked mine, and if I set it for 8:00am it goes off at 8:03. It uses the traditional alarm trip mechanism that clicks up when the alarm pointer coincides with the position of the hour hand and you can't expect it to be any more precise than that. (Again, it is extremely easy to remove the front lens and move the alarm pointer hand so that it lines up with the hour hand when the alarm goes off.) The snooze button pauses the alarm for about 5 minutes (approx) and then the alarm starts again quietly, gradually getting 'louder' again.
The alarm setting knob on the back has a nice kind of 'ratchety' 'clicky' feel and will only turn in one direction. The ratchety clicks mean that each possible alarm set time is 6 minutes earlier or later than the one next to it. I.e the pointer moves in ten discrete clicks for each hour of the dial. Difficult to explain but it means you can set the alarm time for 8:00 or for 7:54 or 8:06 but not for 8:03 or 7:57. A total non-issue for me in an alarm clock used to wake me up in the morning but if I wanted an alarm to go off at a very specific time for some other purpose I would use a digital one, or use the alarm on my phone.
The alarm cancel switch is a large vertical slider switch on the rear. Up is on and down is off. It is easy to feel which position it is in without turning the clock over to look. However, this is one area where the Acctim Madera clock has been better thought out. The Madera clock has its alarm cancelling slider switch on the front, with a bit of red paint underneath it so it shows red when it is in the ON position. It would be nice to be able to see at a glance if the Washington's alarm is on or off. [Update: I took the back off the clock, which was incredibly easy (four recessed screws) and fitted a small red LED on the front of the casing that lights up when the alarm switch is in the ON position. There is so much space inside that this was very, very easy. An emminently 'hackable' clock. The LED doubles as a battery strength indicator, so if the LED is lit I know the battery is good (1.3v+) and the alarm is set.]
So, in conclusion... Don't be fooled by the cheap price: this is a well-designed alarm clock which is adequately built and will do what it's suposed to do. It is not a thing of great beauty but is not offensive in any way either. A simple and practical design. To my great surprise it appears to be better in almost every way than the already excellent Lorus quartz alarm clock I have used for the past 30 years. (More accurate, much clearer face, has a light, has a snooze button, alarm is better, don't have to lift head to read it, doesn't need to be adjusted for summer/winter time, completely silent.) The only thing I can think of which would improve it is to have an 'alarm set' indicator of some kind visible from the front, but very few clocks have that these days so I can't complain. [I have now fitted one. A very easy job if you can use a soldering iron.]
[Update - six months on...] I bought two of these, and I do really like them, but one has developed an intermittent fault where the alarm has occasionally (once or twice) gone off twenty minutes later than expected, or even failed to go off at all. This is a really bad fault in an alarm clock! It may be that the one clock is faulty, but since I've 'hacked' it, I can't send it back. It's OK, as I can use the other one as an alarm clock and the 'faulty' one as an ordinary mantlepiece clock, but I will be monitoring the second one closely for a while in case it turns out to have the same fault. Not good. I still really like them though..]