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This Sunrise Alarm Clock Is Perfect For People Who Hate Alarm Clocks

The contenders: $28 and $120. Waking up peacefully: priceless.

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Hello! I’m Nora, and I could probably sleep forever.

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Seriously. When I learned that sloths sleep 10 to 15 hours per day, I was like, “That’s...not that much.”

I always set a sound alarm just in case, but I’m way more pleasant when I wake up to sunlight — which isn’t super plentiful this late in the year.

With the sun at a premium, I realized that a sunrise alarm clock (aka a wake-up light) could be the solution! But it turns out that there are a lot of well-reviewed wake-up lights available at vastly different price points.

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Wake-up lights simulate the gradually increasing intensity of morning sunlight, ideally waking you up ~naturally~, so you aren't jolted awake by the sound of your alarm. I decided to try a relatively inexpensive version and a pricier one to see how they compared. The contenders: the Totobay 2nd Generation Wake-Up Light and the Philips Wake-Up Light.

The Totobay Wake-Up Light (left) is $27.99 and has 4.1 stars on Amazon with over 100 reviews. The Philips Wake-Up Light (right) is $119.99, and has 4.2 stars with almost 3,500 reviews.

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The size of the Totobay package should give you an idea of how much lower-profile it is than its Philips counterpart. The French copy on the Philips light’s packaging should give you an idea of how fancy it is compared to the Totobay.

Let's continue.

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The Totobay:

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At 0.8 pounds, with a diameter of 7 inches and a maximum depth of 4 inches (where the stand permanently sticks out; the face of the clock itself is at max 2 inches deep), the Totobay fits well in small spaces like oh, I don’t know, NYC bedrooms, and is simple to transport. Sticklers for routines could easily bring it to their parents’ house, their S.O.’s place, or wherever they end up laying their respective heads.

But size is only one thing that makes it so portable; in addition to plugging into traditional outlets and USB ports, the Totobay features battery backup by way of two triple-A batteries (not included, but you can get some here). This means that if for whatever reason the clock’s primary power source fails — an outage, unplugging it for the duration of your travels, or something else — your specified clock time and preferences will be saved, and your sound alarm will still go off (minus its light component).

The Totobay features two types of buttons, both of which give slightly with the press of a finger and are reliably responsive during setup. On the other hand, it only stores one wake-up alarm — and if you take too long to set up said alarm or adjust the time, the Totobay’s digital display will revert to 00:00 (or, in the case of a resetting attempt, whatever other number it read previously). Not the biggest deal in the world, but also, why?

The Totobay and the Philips both have “sunrise” and “sunset” modes, in which the clock’s light gradually increases or decreases with the corresponding time of the day, or whenever else you prefer to set said modes.

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The Totobay, with its 10 brightness levels, doesn’t offer such a nuanced “sunrise” or “sunset” as the Philips does (see GIF below), but it does offer a) six light color options for if you want to go all James Turrell on your morning routine’s ass, and b) a fully dimming digital display that saves people like me from self-destructively peeking at the time whenever we wake up at night.

Sonically speaking, it offers 15 volume level options, six pre-loaded bird, nature, and other noises, and a radio that automatically scans and saves local stations. To snooze, press the designated button at the center of the clock face.

Next up, the Philips:

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At 2.8 pounds with a diameter of 8 inches and a maximum depth of 5 inches, the Philips is decidedly travel-unfriendly. Both of these clocks are oddly shaped (the Totobay because of its stand), but between its weight, dimensions, breakability, and single power source, this one’s particularly ill-suited to stick in your suitcase.

Because it has no battery backup, unplugging or electrical outages will cause a complete loss of power and preferences; you’ll need to reset the display time and your alarm(s), possibly when you wake up three hours late for work.

As on the Totobay, the buttons on the back of the Phillips are fully articulated and clickable.

Nora Whelan / BuzzFeed

The buttons on the front function more like a touchscreen, and as such respond more consistently when pressed at a very specific angle. On the bright side (that’s a light joke), you can take as long as you need to set up the clock time and *two* wake-up alarms without the Philips’ digital display reverting to its previous state.

The Philips allows you to reduce the brightness of the numbers on its digital display, but not to dim them fully like the Totobay — nor does it offer fun color options.

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That said, its sunrise and sunset modes are way more dramatic than its opponent’s:

Nora Whelan / BuzzFeed

In fact the Philips, with its 20 light levels, is advertised for dual use as a bedside lamp (sorry, but my hard-won 1960s chrome eyeball sconce isn’t going anywhere). It also offers 20 volume levels, as well as five pre-loaded bird, nature, and other sounds, and a radio, though not one that automatically scans. The clock has a designated snooze button, but it can be snoozed by touching anywhere on its light as well.

A word about manuals.

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The Totobay’s one-page manual was, at times, unreadable. Not gleefully shitting on whoever wrote this — since Totobay is based in China, it very well may have been written by someone whose first language isn’t English (and goodness knows I can’t speak or spell much of literally anything else), but for a person who’s already mildly panicked by the idea of setting up electronics, doing so using a manual with such a high concentration of typos was…kind of an emotional rollercoaster.

The Philips tome, on the other hand (a 79-page book including directions in English, French, and Spanish), was obviously painstakingly edited, but also overly complicated in execution. Diagrams are helpful to a point; nine-panel illustrations less so. In both cases, well-spelled, lightly illustrated, single-page guides would have drastically improved my setup experience.

The verdict: Since both ultimately achieved what they set out to do, the deciding factor for me (I’m shocked to say in the year 2017) was battery backup — which is why I’d recommend the Totobay wake-up light.

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I used each light separately for a week. It has occurred to me that reviewing a product is hard when you’re mostly just sleeping next to it, but here’s what I’ll say: I mostly woke up to each lamp’s light alarm (before its sound component began), with the exception of one morning with the Totobay and two with the Philips — and it was great! Though I woke at varying times during each one’s “sunrise,” I was not jarred awake by the Totobay’s comparatively rapid illumination the way I worried I might be.

Ultimately, it turns out the issues with each light’s manual were indicative of its larger problems. The Totobay is compact and streamlined, though also, in certain ways, clumsy (the reverting digital display, the too-sudden “sunrise”); the Philips, for its nice features like a second alarm option and gradual sunrise, feels bloated and inefficient (the unresponsive button sensors, the ‘90s-era bulk of it all). Philips is a well known and respected brand for a reason, and while their wake-up light definitely had its strong points, I need an alarm that (if nothing else) I can count on even if the power goes out. It seems like $120 should at least get you that.

Happy waking up!

Get the Totobay light from Amazon for $27.99 and the Philips light from Amazon, Jet, or Walmart for $119.99.

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The Philips clock was provided to BuzzFeed free of charge but we were not obligated to positively review it.