My Review of the Oregon Scientific RM318PA Atomic Projection Clock

Here is the complete text of a review I submitted to of the Oregon Scientific RM318PA atomic clock.  I received this item as a Christmas gift.

Not a Bad Clock If You Give It a Chance

[Please note: This review is somewhat long and detailed, so feel free to skip it now if you’re not interested.  It was originally going to be an in-depth YouTube video review, but I decided I was no longer in the mood to do it that way.]

Well, like anything else, the reviews here are fairly mixed, with some people loving this clock and other people hating it.  This was a Christmas gift to me.  I would like to put my two cents in, and hopefully set the record straight.

I’m actually going to cut to the chase here: Now that I understand how the clock works and have used it for a few weeks, I think I can honestly say that it actually is a good clock.  Now, is it perfect, without any flaws whatsoever?  Well, probably not.  But I’m actually happy with it, and I’m going to discuss each of the pros and cons as we go along here.

For starters, I will admit that at first, I was having trouble getting it to work.  For a power source, the clock uses two things, both of which are provided: An A/C adapter, and two AA batteries.  The A/C adapter is strictly for powering the ceiling and/or wall projection, and the batteries actually run the clock itself.  This was the first thing that struck me as rather strange.  To me it would make more sense to run the entire clock on the A/C adapter, because I just don’t know how long the batteries are going to last until they run out.  But that’s the way it works, so maybe the engineers who designed this thing know something I don’t, and it’s actually an advantage.  As a matter of fact, a coworker of mine said that he hasn’t had to replace the batteries in his atomic clock for three years now.  So, I’ve come to accept this, but I do have to complain about one thing, and that’s the fact that the two AA batteries that were supplied with the clock didn’t even work at all – I had to use my own.

Okay, so once I went through all of that, I put the batteries in, and plugged the clock into the wall.  Next came the big moment: Waiting to see if it would find the radio signal that transmits the time so that it would set itself.  But unfortunately, it didn’t do that right away.  There is an icon in the upper corner of the display that tells you if the signal is strong or weak.  And for the first several hours that I had the clock turned on, I wasn’t getting any signal whatsoever.  The good news is, when I finally got a little fed up, I took the batteries out, and when I put them back in and the clock turned back on again, it immediately detected the radio signal.  And not only that, the clock configured itself to the correct time within only a couple of minutes.  I have to say, I was pretty relieved and actually impressed, and ever since then, it has never lost the connection to the radio signal.  As a matter of fact, the manual does say that you might have to be patient, and I guess it’s a good thing that I was.

So this is how it basically works: First put the batteries in, and then choose your time zone.  Then later on, when it receives the date and time over the radio signal – which, bear in mind, could take a few minutes or, in a worst-case scenario, several hours – it will set itself to the correct date and time automatically.  And according to the manual, it will do this several times a day, so it will always be accurate.  Isn’t that great?  You don’t have to worry about daylight savings time or anything!

The clock has a rather unusual and modern look to it, but I like it.  If you’re wondering how well it’s put together, I guess that would depend on what your definition of “flimsy” is, and we do have to keep in mind that this is one of the cheaper clocks in their product line.  Nevertheless, I think the construction is acceptable.  I mean, sure, if you throw it against the wall, I have the feeling it won’t withstand much of the impact.  But if you don’t abuse this thing and just leave it alone, it doesn’t feel like it to me that it’s just going to fall apart.  The other major feature besides the fact that it sets itself automatically is the fact that it can project the time on a surface such as a wall or a ceiling.  You can rotate the projection arm to point in the direction that you want, and there is also a dial on it that lets you adjust the focus.  Now, there is a lot of debate over the brightness of the projection, but here’s what it amounts to: The projection is meant mainly for night-time viewing, not when there is a lot of light in the room.  You won’t see it during the day, but if it’s dark in your room and you project the time on your ceiling, it is bright enough to be seen.  Now, is it the brightest thing you’ve ever seen in your life?  Definitely not – after all, I think if it was too bright, it would just be a distraction.  But I’ve been projecting it on my ceiling every night, and I’ve gotten it to work pretty well.  The numbers are red, fairly large, and are easy to read.  I don’t stare at it the whole time that I’m trying to fall asleep, but I do glance at it once in a while.  And get this – I’m nearsighted, and usually have trouble reading things that are far away.  There is also a switch in the back that lets you turn the projection off.

The display on the front show several different kinds of information, including the time (including seconds), the date, an icon representing the strength of the radio signal, an icon for the alarm, a low battery indicator, and a little map of the U.S. showing what time zone you’re in.  Unfortunately, if you’re looking for big, bright, colorful numbers, you’re not going to find them here.  This display uses black numbers and graphics on a somewhat gray, off-white background.  I mean, it does the job, but it’s nothing too special, and again I have the feeling that the objective here is for it to be easy on the eyes and not very distracting.  Personally I think it’s okay, but again, when it’s dark in the room, the only way you’ll be able to see anything on the display is by pressing the snooze bar, which will cause the clock to temporarily display a backlight for a few seconds so you can read the time.  And the backlight is just bright enough to allow you to do that.  In addition, the color of the backlight is sort of a pale, off-yellow.  There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, but the problem is, in some of the pictures that you see online of this clock, they actually show a blue background.  Take it from me, it is definitely not blue, although I kind of wish it was.

The rest of the clock consists of the buttons on the front that let you perform the basic functions and operations, such as setting the time zone and the alarm.  It’s pretty straightforward – I mean, I won’t say that the manual will win any awards for being well-written, but once you figure out how to set the alarm, it’s not really that difficult or tricky.  As far as the alarm goes, I think it’s a pretty nice-sounding alarm.  It’s basically a “chirping” sound that repeats itself at a moderate volume, so it’s not too loud, and it’s not too soft.  You can press the snooze bar, of course, if you want to catch a few more winks of sleep, and then the alarm will go off again like eight minutes later or something like that.  A couple more things I’d like to mention: You can set the time manually if you want, and as far as I can tell, I don’t see any ON/OFF switch on this clock – when the batteries are in, the clock automatically turns on and stays that way, and the only way to “turn it off” is to remove the batteries.

I think that pretty much sums up all the major features of this clock.  Like I said, this isn’t a perfect product I guess, but I do like it now that I’ve gotten it to work, and I don’t think it’s such a bad clock after all, especially for the price.  Hopefully you can decide for yourself.  If you understand what you’re buying and can get used to this thing, then maybe this clock can suit your needs.  Thanks for reading my review.

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