No alarm, no foul

I wrote recently about an alarming experience I had with an Ipod alarm clock from Sanyo and poor usability. Basically, it sucked donkey butt.

Two positives came out of the experience; firstly I got to talk to Sanyo (albeit briefly and via email) about their process, and hopefully they are more aware now that usability really does count. Secondly, they very kindly and very quickly offered a full product refund.

I took that offer, and somewhat more cautiously returned to looking for a usable alarm clock.

Enter the Sony ICFC1IPMK2BC - a catchy name, huh?

I'm not going to blog at length about this clock, but for anyone looking to choose a good solid Ipod-playing radio alarm clock, this might be for you.

The Good This is a pretty good device, on several levels. As an Ipod player the sound is good quality, even at high volumes. It has a nifty remote that fully controls the Ipod player, and interestingly has a retractable support panel that provides just the right depth control to support any compatible Ipod device. This replaces the various little plastic doohickies you normally receive.

The screen is very clear and easy to read, and it's quite easy to see which alarm is set and what time for. Checking the alarm settings is a little tougher though, and takes a few clicks.

My main concerns with the Sanyo DMP-P7 boiled down to poor usability; you couldn't figure out what button to use in the dark, the alarm refused to let you set a quiet wake volume and the screen was way too bright and kept you awake like a halogen torch in the face.

After that, the Sony is a welcome replacement. the buttons on the sony are well spaced out and well designed. There is a large clear snooze button (essential, and missing on the Sanyo) and the off button is easy to locate, in the centre of a circular button set to the right. I haven't accidentally pressed the wrong button once yet, whereas I was regularly doing so on the Sanyo, a sure sign of terrible design.

You can set the alarm volume as quiet as you like, and of course you can configure it for Ipod, radio or buzzer. The screen is far better than the Sanyo, being larger and easier to read in the daytime, and nowhere near as bright at night. It has three settings, to adjust this - but it's not all good news...

The bad The Sony does suffer from being a bit too bright on the lowest setting. It's not on a par with the Sanyo (which would literally wake you up when you turned over to face it), but it's still a tad too much - more like a nightlight in your face, rather than Sanyo's lighthouse. An inverse night function would be absolutely ideal, or at the least one level of brightness lower.

There's also a size issue, in that the Sony is a blocky device - it's more like having a stereo on the bedside table rather than an alarm clock.

Overall though, and especially in terms of usability, this is a dream compared to others out there - highly recommended.

Gary Bunker

the Fore