If you're in the market for an alarm clock that works with your iPod, there's no shortage of contenders. The bad news is that most of what passes for iPod alarm clocks are usually just iPod speakers systems with a clock shoved in. Our first impression of the i.Sound Time Travel alarm clock ($59.99) was it actually looked like a functional alarm clock, complete with a real snooze button.
The designer of the i.Sound Time Travel iPod alarm clock obviously understands Apple's obsession with the rounded rectangle shape that dominates all of its products. It measures around 4 inches wide and 2.75 inches tall, making it small enough to travel with (hence the name). Our favorite design element on the Time Travel clock is its luxuriously large Snooze button. But the Snooze button alone is not enough to make us forgive this clock's poorly designed LCD display. We found the numbers on the clock display mysteriously disappear when the clock is turned at certain angles. There are enough obstacles involved in getting out of bed without having to crane your neck to see the time.
The i.Sound Time Travel system was designed first and foremost as an alarm clock. We've seen a slew of iPod speaker systems come though our doors that claim to be alarm clocks simply because they support the iPod's very limited built-in alarm clock feature. While the Time Travel may not produce the sound quality of an Altec Lansing inMotion system, its alarm clock didn't let us down. We were happy to find that even without an iPod connected, the Time Travel reverted to a simple beeping alarm by default--a key feature missing in many wannabe iPod alarm clocks. The Time Travel can run off of four AA batteries, or it can be powered from a wall outlet, which also gives you the ability to charge your iPod while it's docked.
Sadly, the i.Sound Time Travel alarm clock is missing a built-in radio. It's hard to imagine that adding an AM/FM tuner would have been that hard or expensive, especially considering that clock radios can be purchased for less than $10 at most local drugstores. Granted, you could plug in your own radio through the auxiliary input on the back of the Time Travel, but that seems like a lot of trouble for a feature that should have come included.
The i.Sound Time Travel alarm clock does what it claims. Just set your iPod to the song list you want to wake up to, and the Time Travel will turn on your iPod in the morning and play the music though its loud but lackluster speakers. To completely deactivate the alarm in the morning, you must press and hold the track reverse button found on the bottom right of the clock face. Aside from reading the manual, there's no way any user would intuitively know that holding the clock's track skip buttons will activate and deactivate the alarm, and unintuitive controls are especially frustrating first thing in the morning. A simple on/off alarm activation switch would have made much more sense. The volume control dial on the back of the clock is a perfect example of the kind of dead-easy controls people need at the start of the day.
The i.Sound Time Travel alarm clock is a good-looking device, but it's crippled by a clock that's sometimes invisible and no built-in radio. Ultimately, the Time Travel is a better idea than it is a product. For around the same price, the Timex TI700S offers many of the same functions as the Time Travel along with a remote, two programmable alarms, and an AM/FM radio.