After over 20 years of usage, I recently declared that my trusty alarm clock was to be banished to the guest bedroom, which previously had no clock at all. I was eager to replace it with something with a higher geek-approval rating while remaining inexpensive.
I’ve worn a Casio “atomic” wristwatch for six years. Each night, the watch turns on an internal radio that listens for the time broadcasts from the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – home of the U.S. Cesium atomic clock. These broadcasts, from Fort Collins, Colorado, bounce off of the ionosphere late at night to provide very accurate (less than 1/100th of a second delay) time signals across North America. My wristwatch synchronizes with these signals each night.
I really wanted an alarm clock that featured similar synchronization technology. In addition, I was hoping to find a clock that would provide the outside temperature so that I’d be able to dress appropriately in the morning.
We’ve owned a small Oregon Scientific temperature station, with atomic clock, for several years. My father gave it to me one year as a gift. The outdoor temperature sensor is wireless and has survived Florida hurricanes, and near zero conditions, without missing a beat. This historical evidence gave preference to an Oregon Scientific solution.
As usual, I spent several days researching potential solutions – scouring the Internet for reviews. My final choice: The Oregon Scientific Elements Collection EW 98. I paid $30, ordering directly from Oregon Scientific.
In addition to the features I desired (atomic time synchronization, outdoor temperature), the clock includes indoor temperature, an “ice alert”, and ceiling projection.
After freeing the clock, external sensor, and clock AC power-supply from their blister pack prison, I loaded the clock and sensor with (not supplied) batteries. Note that you must reset the sensor and the clock to get accurate temperature readings from the external sensor. Just resetting the external sensor won’t do the trick.
For $30 I didn’t expect a laboratory grade device and it appears I was correct. The temperature sensor in the clock, and the external temperature sensor, never agree. After 8 hours next to each other, they differed by two degrees. Still – the external sensor should be close enough for my needs.
I was able to synchronize with NIST within a few minutes by click the manual search button on the bottom of the clock. It was about 8:00 p.m. – a bit early for the best radio reception – but it worked within about two minutes showing the correct time and date.
The next test was the ceiling projector. This seemed like a gimmick to me, rather than a useful function. I expected a fuzzy, dark, unusable image – I was wrong. The clock display on the ceiling is sharp (after adjusting the side mounted focus ring), very readable, and even too bright. Our bedroom ceiling is 10 feet high, with a light texture finish. My wife doesn’t like the intense red numbers above the bed, so I’ve switched the clock to only project the time and temperature onto the ceiling if I’ve tapped the snooze button on top of the clock. I prefer the “always on” style, but it needs to be less intense to be satisfactory in a dark bedroom.
Bottom line: I would recommend this clock to other geeks looking for an inexpensive clock for the bedroom or home office.
- Atomic time – very accurate and automatic synchronization
- Projector clarity – time and temperature are clearly visible
- Clear LCD display – large time characters with good off-axis visibility
- AC adapter – saves batteries and allows full-time projector time
- Projector intensity – would be nice to have an extra setting to set the brightness to half of the standard brightness
- Confusing sensor configuration – took me several tries to get the outdoor sensor display (on the clock) to appear correctly