Test two: Features
Not all alarm clocks are equal, and we've got a really mixed bag here as far as special features go.
First and foremost, the wake-up function: how many alarms can you set and how does the dock raise you from your slumber?
Well, all but the Logitech can do so using the songs on your iPod or iPhone or their built-in radio (the Sony even has a DAB one). The Sony and XtremeMac docks have two alarms, while the iHome lets you set three. This is useful if you and your partner/sibling/whoever else you share a room with have to get up at different times, but remember you can still set more alarms on your iPhone.
Another neat feature of the iHome and Sony is that you can set your alarm to be for all days, weekdays or weekends, so you'll never again be woken up at 7am on Saturday because you forgot to turn the alarm off when you stumbled into bed the night before.
All bar the Memorex have mini remote controls, and while this is novel, you're never really going to be so far away from a bedside dock that you can't reach it easily.
One thing that drew our eye to the iHome was its twin docking ports, so that you can charge two iOS devices at the same time and be woken by the tunes from either.
Also of note here is the XtremeMac's left speaker, which can detach from the unit and be placed elsewhere in your room (perhaps on the other side of the bed). Again, a nice idea, although it does mean the snooze button may no longer be within your reach. You have been warned.
As we mentioned previously, all of the clocks here will take backup batteries so you needn't worry about power cuts. The Logitech will even run off its batteries, though you do need six of them.
iHome iP88 - 4/5
Logitech Pure-Fi Express Plus - 2/5
Memorex Mini Alarm Clock Radio - 3/5
Sony XDR-DS12iP - 4/5
XtremeMac Luna SST - 3/5
Test three: Audio quality
Getting amazing sound isn't the most important consideration when it comes to a bedside speaker dock, but equally you don't want your tunes to sound awful. And they needn't, because there's good stuff here.
Strike off the iHome iP88, which sounds flat and a bit tinny - not for the audio aficionados. We weren't expecting much from the Memorex given its small size, but were pleasantly surprised by the detail in the sound. Its sideways-facing speakers also give good stereo separation.
It's the same for the XtremeMac, although its sound wasn't the best we've ever heard. The Sony and Logitech are a cut above, the latter being our favourite. The sound is full-bodied and the bass deep and well-defined - we'd listen to it all day.
iHome iP88 - 2/5
Logitech Pure-Fi Express Plus - 5/5
Memorex Mini Alarm Clock Radio - 4/5
Sony XDR-DS12iP - 4/5
XtremeMac Luna SST - 3/5
And the best iPhone alarm clock dock is...
Memorex Mini Alarm Clock Radio £45
This cute and unassuming little unit does the job near enough perfectly
Had this been about sound alone, the Logitech would have won, with the Sony not far behind. But these docks aren't meant to rock your party or be the soundtrack to your cooking - they're to wake you up with a smile every morning.
Not that we ignored sound quality altogether, but we focused on usability. That's why we discounted the Sony - great and feature-packed though it is - as being too complex for a bedside dock.
The Logitech hit the other extreme of not quite packing in enough features, especially the lack of iPod controls or using your music as the alarm.
We liked the iHome because of the twin docks and triple alarms, but it wasn't as easy to use as the Memorex, the sound quality was inferior and the whole thing just felt a bit cheap despite its relatively high price.
The XtremeMac Luna SST is well-made and as far as features go, it's pretty good; the only thing that really lets it down is audio quality.
The Memorex does pump out much better sound than the XtremeMac, but there are other reasons we love it, too. Its controls strike the perfect balance between too little and too much, and the volume dial is excellent. If only the rear-mounted dimmer switch was slightly more accessible and the music controls had raised dots on them, this would be inching towards a five-star rating.
A second alarm would be nice too, but as we said, it's not a deal-breaker since you can set more on your iOS device. We also love the Memorex's diminutive footprint. Bedside tables are often pretty small, and this is by far the least space-hungry of the five (although if you detach the XtremeMac's second speaker, the remaining unit is only marginally bigger).
And just in case you hadn't noticed, it's also the cheapest by a long way.
First published in Tap! Issue 302
Liked this? Then check out Tap! magazine for more apps, games and kit reviews for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
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