What the best table radio has

  • Compact size. Modern table radios can be surprisingly large, so much so that they crowd out everything else on a typical nightstand or take up too much space on a busy kitchen countertop. Keep the amount of available space in mind and consider the size of a radio's footprint.
  • A dimmable LCD screen. The LCD on some clock radios can get very bright and may be distracting in a bedroom. Most, but not all, table radios have displays that can be made dimmer or brighter as needed.
  • Consistent AM/FM reception. Most table radios will pull in strong AM and FM stations with no problem, though it's still a good idea to pay attention to expert and user opinions on how well a model performs on both AM and FM reception. If you live in an area where radio reception isn't always solid or you want to listen to a station that's distant and weak, look for a radio that has an above-average tuner.
  • Ease of use. Even the most robust table radios should be simple to use. Ease of use is particularly important for table radios with clocks; some models suffer from convoluted alarm controls.

Know before you go

Check for compatibility. The docks in some table radios won't accept every iPod model. The latest Apple products are a particular worry as the company has significantly changed its docking port, meaning that an adapter that might or might not fit the radio could be required. Some table radios are shielded to allow docking of an iPhone without getting interference from the phone signal. Reviewers say that some models without shielding can still be used with the iPhone as long as the phone is set to airplane mode.

Digital or analog? Digital tuners let you scroll through stations with the click of a button, rather than having to precisely turn a knob until you pinpoint a specific frequency. You can also store favorite channels in presets that can be instantly recalled, but make sure your radio has enough presets to hold all your AM and FM favorites. Analog tuners do have some advantages, however. One is that tuning is more flexible, allowing you to dial in a hard-to-capture station that might elude a digital tuner.

Check the warranty policy before buying from an unauthorized dealer. Some table radio makers have restrictive policies regarding who can or can't sell their products. For example, if you purchase a Bose radio from an unauthorized dealer either online or in a store, the company says you won't be covered by the manufacturer's warranty.

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