Picture of the Sharper Image Radio Controlled Atomic Clock.

Sharper Image LCD Atomic Alarm Clock Review




We’ve bought five of this Sharper Image atomic clock, to use in our own homes.  They also made classy Christmas gifts for family and friends too.



Radio controlled clocks such as this, get broadcasts from the master atomic clocks near Fort Collins, Colorado. Then, they sync almost every night to those signals. So the time the clock shows is usually right to within a second of official world time.

Not only are these clocks usually right. They have a sleek, atomic age look.  Their silver-gray coloring fits in well with most any room décor.

Picture of the Sharper Image LCD atomic alarm clock, front view.
Sharper Image LCD Atomic Alarm Clock, front view.

We paid roughly $50 for this battery-powered atomic clock. Back then, as the tech was still emerging, this seemed fairly cheap if not a bit expensive. But the price was cheap enough that we gave one as a Christmas gift.  We gave one each to Mom, as well as several sisters. This was a fair buy for all that you get in an atomic alarm clock.  The sisters still enjoy these highly accurate timepieces, even today, a decade hence.

Sharper Image LCD Atomic Alarm Clock: Benefits, Features, Pros, and Advantages

Automatic Time Setting Each Night

This was one of the first atomic clocks for the consumer market.  Thrilling to finally see clocks appearing that you do not have to fiddle around with setting so much. This clock sets itself for the most part.

Radio Controlled Atomic Accuracy

The Sharper Image atomic clock keeps accurate time if it can get the WWVB radio signals every now and then.

Automatic Day and Date Setting

It also sets its date from the WWVB atomic master clock radio signal. Plus, this clock set to account for daylight saving time (DST).



This Sharper Image Atomic Clock has Adjustable Ferrite Antenna 

The clock includes an attached, extendable antenna (shown below).  You can pull this out an inch or two away from the clock body.  They say this gives better WWVB radio control signal (RCC) reception.

Alarm Works when Power Goes Out

Since two AA batteries power this atomic clock, it keeps running during power outages.  Battery life approaches two years when fresh name brand alkaline batteries. As long as your batteries are good, you can always read the time during power failures thus.

Works Anywhere in North America

The clock receives the WWVB radio control signals (RCC) from the atomic master clocks in Colorado. This works at just about any spot in the USA. Now you may live in a big city.  Or, perhaps you dwell in rural America.  In either case, the RCC signal should come in (at least at night anyhow). Thus, this atomic clock will stay accurate for you.

High Contrast Readout

Also shows date, day, alarm time, and AM / PM indicator at left side of the large digits. You can read these from several feet away.

Sharper Image Atomic Clock has Full, Even Backlight Across Entire Screen

The turquoise-blue backlight makes for effortless spotting of the current time and date. This light fully illuminates the LCD display (no one part of the display is brighter than any other).  Then, it stays lit  long enough to fully read before turning off again.



Large LCD Display

The LCD display is easy to read overall so long as the ambient light in the room is sufficient. Otherwise, you must turn on the backlight to see it. You activate the backlight by pressing on the clear plastic panel that covers the LCD elements.

Loud Enough Alarm Sound

This sharper image alarm clock is loud enough to wake up most anyone sleeping nearby, but not obnoxiously so.

Backlight Drains Battery Little

Since this backlight is electroluminescent, its battery drain is quite small. So press that panel a lot without worries about the batteries going dead.

Picture of the Sharper Image Atomic Clock Rear View, showing the settings and adjustments controls.
Sharper Image Atomic Clock Rear View, showing the settings and adjustments controls.



Sharper Image LCD Atomic Alarm Clock: Disadvantages, Concerns, Problems, Limitations, and Cons

No Model Number

We could not locate the model number of this atomic clock anywhere on or within the unit. It may not have one.

No WWVB Signal Strength Meter

This Sharper Image atomic clock does not have a WWVB signal strength meter. So positioning it for best reception can be difficult.  You either get the signal well, or you don’t get it at all.

Put the clock so that its broadside is perpendicular to the west here in north America east of the Rockies.  Face the broad side of the clock east if you are located to the west of the Rocky mountains.  Now depending on your latitude, aim the clock a little south or north, for strongest WWVB signal.

WWVB Signal Reception Easily Blocked

Positioning this radio clock on or near metal surfaces can interfere with WWVB reception.

Sharper Image Atomic Clock Backlight ON Time is Too Short

The electroluminescent backlight remains lighted for only two seconds, and then automatically shuts off again, saving the batteries. But we wish you could set this to stay lit for or ten seconds. After just two seconds, the eyes have only just focused on the display, which then goes dark. So we sometimes must press the light on again to actually read the time. In fact, given the low backlight power, Sharper Image should allow setting a longer backlight time.

Antenna is Too Directional

This atomic alarm clock seems somewhat sensitive to position. That is, it picks up the atomic signals best when you face it broad-side to Colorado.  That way, the signals hit its antenna at near right-angles.

But if you position it at too great an angle from this, this alarm clock might not sync.  That is, it may not pick up the WWVB signal well enough to set to.



Atomic Radio Signal may Not Come In for Weeks

Even if you’ve positioned this atomic clock properly, it does not receive the signal every night. Sometimes it can go for days or weeks even, without “hearing” from the master atomic clocks.

But the built-in clock keeps fairly good time without daily refreshes from WWVB.  Yet too long a stretch without the signal, and the clock does drift away from the right time.

Electrical Interference may Block WWVB Signal

The RCC signal standards put these signals in a very low frequency band (60 KHz).  This means that they easily distort from lightning storms, light dimmers, arcing brush type motors, solar flares, et al.  So, ths displayed time is not always right down to the second.

Clock Does Not Keep Decent Time Without WWVB Signal

Some regions, rarely pick up clear reception of these frequencies; the clock may go for weeks at times, without synchronizing with Colorado.  In the absence of these sync signals, this clock does drift off of the correct time fairly quickly.  Now given the proliferation of the Internet these days, devices like this, have grown  obsolete.  Nowadays, a clock can time sync anytime via an Internet connection.

Non Programmable Daily Time Sync

To extend battery life, this atomic clock only listens for the WWVB signals one time each day. But you cannot change this listen time.  The this radio controlled clock listens for WWVB between midnight and 1:00 AM.

We wish we could set this scheduling, as well as how often the radio inside turns on.  This would account better for radio signal propagation differences among the various regions in North America.  WWVB often does not come in best at the same time each night.

Sharper Image LCD Atomic Alarm Clock: Our Rating

We like the good reliability of the Sharper Image atomic clock. Four of the five clocks bought a decade ago are still working today.  Our sisters still comment nicely about them. We doubt that Sharper Image makes this model anymore.  But nonetheless, it’s an excellent time piece.  So we’d rate this radio controlled clock at 93 out of 100.

Where To Buy The Sharper Image Atomic Alarm Clock

We found ours at Circuit City while they were still in business. But we’ve not seen it anywhere else since. Try eBay though, as these units show up there now and then.

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References

Revision History

  • 2018-04-18: Revised the post content for better keyword targeting.
  • 2017-02-06: Revised tags list.
  • 2016-12-23: Added a featured image as well as some additional content.
  • 2015-11-12: Added appropriate tags.
  • 2014-10-29: Added pictures, revised content, and extended the References section.
  • 2012-08-22: Originally published.