What really makes a “smart” alarm clock? Is it being able to have it wake you up in a personalized way? Is it playing the kind of music you want when you want it? Is it not requiring a smartphone to be on top of it every second? If it’s the Vobot Smart Alarm Clock, then it’s that and a lot more.
Vobot is small and kind of a throwback to 8-bit video games, if only in the cool LED dot-matrix display that can show off audio frequencys with the same verve as the date and time. It knows to give you a “wink” too. That’s all neat to the eye, but keep in mind the design makes it able to fit just about anywhere — aided by a tapered shape that sits where you put it and a rechargeable battery that enables it to be placed just about anywhere (although an optional wall power supply is possible). The battery powers all the electronics as well as the display and of course the pretty loud 5 watt mono speaker inside the top.
Now when it comes to how the Vobot does what it does, the first thing is to forget about is using an app — except for the initial setup when a web browser or Vobot’s app is used, all the functionality comes from interacting with the clock itself. For example, to set an alarm you just tap and talk. Stopping an alarm goes another route; just grab hold of the screen to bring on the silence. But if you must take a few more Zzzzzs, flipping it over will accomplish that (and is a lot better than tossing it across the room at the nearest wall). The tech inside includes Bluetooth (for streaming from a phone/tablet), but more importantly there’s a WiFi connection to your home network — allowing direct access to Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and other services. And speedy access at that since it’s 802.11n. Actual controls on Vobot allow for doing stuff like controlling volume, plus there’s an AUX output for plugging in headphones/earbuds should you decide to go “silent.”
So the question then becomes who is helping Vobot out in the “cloud.” Turns out to be Amazon’s Alexa, although accessing it doesn’t have you calling out but instead pressing a tab, so no, Vobot isn’t always listening in. So you can ask for traffic reports and other stuff like making sure it’s not going to rain on you when you leave. But unlike other “smart” clocks that are actually pretty stupid, the Vobot uses A.I. routines to more accurately and sensibly follow your commands. Plus it has the know-how for going the route of controlling other “smart” houseful devices, providing they’re compatible of course.
Vobot also includes the specialized functionalities of Proactive reminders, a Daily Routine program as well as that of a Sleep Coach — utilizing a variety of music and natural sounds to help you relax and nod off (white noise is always good, as are waves crashing on the shore). If you try it and find it to work — well you’ll know it the next day because you fell asleep.
The final thing that shows just how “smart” Vobot is comes from its creators who allow for firmware updates to shove in new features. As this review was being finished, an update showed up to add more preferences for the brightness control, a better Wi-Fi setup sequence and the ability to turn off the alarm by giving the little guy a hard shake.
The Vobot Smart Alarm Clock retails for $59.00, making it hard to avoid smartening up your night table. Or pretty much anywhere you might want it to be.