Back in 2010, we bought three copies of the tabletop AcuRite Atomic Alarm Clock 13131. Most impressive about this time piece is that it receives radio signals from the master atomic clocks in Colorado, and syncs itself most every night to those signals.
AcuRite Atomic Alarm Clock 13131 Introduction
So the time it displays is accurate to within one second of the official world time. Yet this seemingly complex alarm clock cost less than $18. But just several years earlier, we paid over $50 for a similar device. That was not however, an AcuRite® clock though. This is a great buy for all that you get in an atomic alarm clock. This clock remains about as modern an atomic clock as you can get, even though it was introduced a while back.
Features, Pros, Advantages, and Benefits of the AcuRite Atomic Alarm Clock 13131
Modern, Stylish Look
The thick plastic case shows a dark gray finished metallic contemporary look; pretty neutral in most any home or office décor.
Great for Shelf or Desk
The display is big enough to qualify it as a wall style atomic table clock. Yet this decently large model is designed to set on a shelf, desk, bedside nightstand, or any flat surface.
Features Digital Operation
So no moving parts to wear out. Quite cool, because even after several years, this all-electronic model performs just as well as the day we bought it.
The AcuRite Atomic Alarm Clock 13131 Keeps Very Accurate Time
Of course, like all atomic clocks, the AcuRite atomic alarm clock 13131 keeps highly accurate time. It does so as long as not too many days pass by without receiving the WWVB time sync signals via the built-in radio.
Current Date Also Set Automatically as Well as the Current Time
Also, the 13131 sets its date from the WWVB atomic master clock radio transmissions, wirelessly. You need no subscription to use this clock’s accurate time keeping features.
Long Battery Life from Standard Batteries
Since the AcuRite atomic alarm clock 13131 model is battery-powered by two AA batteries. So it keeps ticking during power outages. Typical battery life exceeds a year when using fresh name brand batteries. A fresh set of alkaline cells can last more than two years normally. Surprising, given the extra large size of its display screen. Plus the fact that the radio draws more power each night when receiving the WWVB signals.
Radio Controlled for Time Accuracy
Receives the WWVB radio control signals from the atomic master clocks near Boulder, Colorado at just about any location throughout the US. So live in a big city. Or live off of a single-lane dusty drive in the country. No matter where you are in the US, this atomic clock will usually work well for you.
The AcuRite Atomic Alarm Clock 13131 Features a Signal Strength Bar Graph Readout
The radio signal strength meter helps in positioning the clock for best WWVB signal.
The AcuRite 13131 also displays…
- The date.
- Day of the week.
- Alarm status.
- PM indicator.
- Current time zone.
All this extra stuff shows up alongside and underneath the large time digits. These are easy for low vision users to read from a few feet away.
Reads Indoor Temperature
We especially like the deep blue yet bright LED back light provided and the indoor temperature readout too. These lamps fully light up the LCD display in a uniform fashion. That is, no one part of the LCD display is brighter than any other – not much anyhow.
Large, High-Contrast LCD Display
The 3-inch by 5-inch LCD display is pretty easy to read overall. True, so long as the ambient light in the room is adequate. Otherwise, you must use the back light to see it.
Loud Alarm but Not Obtrusive
The alarm is loud enough to firmly arouse but not so high in volume. It does not startle most people awake. Rather, gently nudges them.
Efficient LED Back Light on the AcuRite 13131 Atomic Alarm Clock
Plus, the LED back Light, when turned on by pressing the snooze / light button on top of this digital clock, remains lighted for five seconds. It then shuts off again, saving the batteries.
Further, since this back light is LED, its battery drain is indeed modest. So press that button a lot without fear about draining the batteries.
Features Quick and Simple Setup
Setting the AcuRite atomic alarm clock 13131 model is a snap.
- Simply find the SELECT button at the top of the clock on the right side panel.
- Press and hold this button until the time zone element (the map of the US) begins flashing.
- Then, press this button repeatedly until the element you want to set flashes. Settable elements include time zone, daylight saving time operation, the time, and date.
- Then, with the desired element on the display flashing, use the UP and DOWN arrow keys to change the value of that element. Find the arrow keys on the right side of the clock.
Costs less than $20. This atomic clock is cheap enough that one need not even be concerned with how long the warranty is and what exactly it covers. Should the device fail, it’s inexpensive to replace. But for those that care, the AcuRite 13131 comes with a 1-year limited warranty.
Absolutely quiet operation. No ticking. Unlike the analog style clocks that tick as they move a second hand around their faces.
The AcuRite Atomic Alarm Clock 13131 uses no outside power. So this clock can run remotely, off the grid, for years without a battery change.
Disadvantages, Cons, Problems, and Limitations of the AcuRite Atomic Digital LCD Alarm Clock 13131
Indoor Temperature Reading Wrong Sometimes
The indoor temperature readout on the AcuRite® 13131 atomic alarm clock tends to run several degrees higher than many other thermometers we tested. All three of the 13131 clocks we own show this as well. Better calibration of the thermometer inside may be in order.
Correct Positioning Critical to Receive Time Signals
This alarm clock seems sensitive to position. That is, it picks up the atomic signals best when you position it broad-side to Colorado. This means that the signals hit this unit at near right-angles. But if you position it at too great an angle from this, this clock might not always get enough signal to lock to.
Does Not Pick Up Time Signals Every Night
Even if you’ve positioned the 13131 the right way, it does not get the signal every night. Sometimes it can go for days without “hearing” from the master atomic clocks at the National Bureau of Standards and Technology. The signal is very susceptible to noise from electrical storms, power tools, and any device that produces arcing nearby. But the built-in clock keeps pretty accurate time without frequent refreshes from WWVB.
The AcuRite Atomic Alarm Clock 13131 is Not a Projection Clock
This is NOT a projection atomic clock. That is, it does not project the current time and temperature readings on a wall for larger and easier viewing. However, its over sized LCD back lit display more than makes up for this little shortcoming.
No Weather Info
No indications of outside weather conditions are displayed here; just the temperature of the area around this clock. Not intended for outdoor use.
Analog Time Signals are Old Fashioned
Uses rather old-style, analog radio signals for its time source which, as mentioned above, can be unreliable. A handy upgrade would be to add WiFi access to internet time sources.
Designed for US Time Signals
This model works with the National Bureau of Standards atomic time signals. So, it likely will only work well in places inside or within a thousand or two miles of the US. The further away you get, the less reliably these signals will be received.
The AcuRite Atomic Alarm Clock 13131 Cannot Schedule Sync Time
The clock listens for the time signals only once per day, and at a preset time. But the best time each night to pick up the WWVB broadcasts may not always be at this preset time. Why not? It depends on location of the 13131, time of year, and other factors.
So it would be nice to be able to set this listen time, as well as the number of times each day this atomic clock listens for WWVB.
More for the Tabletop
It’s a little big for a travel clock.
Our Thoughts and Rating on the AcuRite Atomic Digital LCD Alarm Clock 13131
In the main, We’re quite impressed with the amount of and generally good reliability of the technology contained in this affordable AcuRite 13131 atomic alarm clock. But due to the temperature readout problems and the positional sensitivity discussed above, we rate this clock a bit lower than perfect. So we give it a 90 out of 100. Yet given its affordability, we find the 13131 to be among the best atomic clocks we’ve played with.
Where To Buy The AcuRite Atomic Digital LCD Alarm Clock 13131
We found ours at Walmart. But this unit is widely available from online vendors. However, We’ve not seen it in any other brick-and-mortar shops to date.
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References for AcuRite Atomic Alarm Clock 13131 Review
- The AcuRite® Atomic Alarm Clock 13131 Official Web Page
- AcuRite® 13131 Atomic Clock Manual / Operating Instructions
- The AcuRite® Clocks Web Site
- WWVB Radio Web Site
- Where to buy the AcuRite® 13131 Atomic Clock
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- 2012-03-08: Originally published.