WIRED: You've got to hand it to Casper for intuitive design. To start the sunset program before bed, just flip the alarm over. There's a button on top to pause and unpause it, and when it's sitting on the charging pad, just turn it to adjust the brightness. Everything else, like setting wake-up schedules and adjusting the length of the sunsets and sunrises in 15-minute increments (up to 90 minutes), is controlled through the app.
Of all the sunrise alarms I tested, this was the best at evenly lighting up a dark room. It's also the only wireless model I tested, so I could start a sunset in the living room and bring it with me into the bedroom later. You can pair several Glow Lights together, and they'll sync so you can have one in the living room and another in the bedroom, which will ease your whole apartment into a sunset as you near bedtime. Or just have two on both nightstands. They recharge on a pad the size of a coaster.
TIRED: It has only one shade of light, and while you can adjust the brightness, you can't make it warmer (yellower) or cooler (bluer). But it's a gorgeously warm yellow light. It's $130 yet doesn't have a clock, a radio, or an audible wake-up buzzer. If you ban your phone from your nightstand every night and need an alarm that can be programmed to scream at you precisely at 6:30 am, you'll need a different sunrise alarm.
WIRED: After testing some of the more affordable options on this list, I was ready to say I couldn't recommend a $220 alarm clock. But the SmartSleep, formerly known as the Somneo, nailed the basics of what a sunrise alarm should be, and then piled on a bunch of customizable features you won't find on other devices. First off, the light spreads over the walls like warm butter. It's somewhat directional, but the hole in the middle and convex shape casts light at wider angles than other directional alarms. The light quality is slightly ahead of the other premium alarms in this list, and you can select from four light profiles.
Setting it up was simple. As soon as I plugged it in, the alarm lit up with directions to download the Philips app on my phone. You can control it through the touch-sensitive controls on the alarm's face, but the best way to operate all its features is through the app (don't bother with the non-Wi-Fi model). You can even follow a guided breathing exercise through the light to relax before bed, and the wake-up sounds aren't gimmicky—I loved waking up to the gentle chirping of birds.
TIRED: It's $220. That's a lot for an alarm.
WIRED: With a bulb mounted high inside a three-sided lens, the Lumie pitches a lot of light in all directions. It fills up a dark room better than the more directional lamps, though the large vents on the back of the lens cast a peacock-pattern of light on the walls. It does a good job of diffusing the light, which is what you want when you don't want to be blinded. It has the usual list of features—a loud alarm, a dimmable clock, a snooze button, and buttons to adjust brightness and the duration of sunsets and sunrises.
TIRED: It looks and feels like something designed in the 2000s because it was designed in the 2000s. Operating it is a pain. Even with the manual in front of me, working the various controls was a headache. It's not bad, just expensive for what you get in an increasingly crowded market full of newer designs. I wouldn't pay more than $100 for it, so only buy it when there's a sale.
The Totobay Wake-Up Light ($29) is $9 more than the Homelabs, but it wasn't as good. It's the only sunrise alarm whose light made me angry. It's too white-hot blue to be relaxing, and rather than filling a room, the Totobay's design is narrowly focused like somebody holding a flashlight at your face. It reminded me less of a sunset and more of passing through a DUI checkpoint. The construction is so flimsy and the case flexed so much, I thought the touch-sensitive controls were buttons for the first 10 minutes.