Customer Reviews: Sony Dream Machine Clock Radio Model No. ICF-C218
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on August 11, 2007
Not the niftiest, nor the most elegant clock radio available but the price and features make it about as good a buy as you'll find.
All the important features - battery backup, automatic time synch, intuitive alarm setting, good (but gentle on the eyes) time visibility.
There's a dual alarm version available for a few bucks more too.

We liked this one enough to buy another for our guest bedroom - guests won't be befuddled by this model...

BTW, radio isn't high fidelity but its not bad, a good Sony quality product.

UPDATE 10/28/09: Two years down the road and the two of these radios we bought are still going strong. One of the things I failed to mention in the original review was that this unit does NOT, repeat, does NOT have a power brick - just a nice old fashioned wall plug on a wire - sweet. I take note of the comment by others about the intensity (or lack thereof) of the clock LED. Myself, and upon further inquiry, my wife find the intensity to be 'just right'. Perhaps there is some variation in the units or maybe its just a matter of your sleeping environment. We're former Sierra Nevada 'country' folks who now live on the edge of a small Ohio town. Between the street light, the neighbor's lights, the wifi router and a couple of those green 'limelite' nightlights we DO have sufficient ambient light at night to move around without stubbing the old toes. BTW, I've dropped both of our units more than once, and accidentally kicked one across our guest suite - no discernable damage. Oh yes, the wife says that they'd show the dust less if they were white.
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The Sony ICF-C218 FM/AM Clock Radio is a capable and inexpensive clock radio that gets the job done quite nicely. It lacks some functionality such as a dimmable display but its ease of operation, decent sounding radio and overall ease of operation make up for any shortcomings.

It has a battery backup provided by a CR2032 battery and the clock is preset with the correct EST time. Just plug it in and you're good to go. If you live in another time zone, it's a simple matter to adjust the time zone to your zone by using the time zone button on the top of the unit.

I like that the FM antenna is within the power cord. There is no extra wire hanging out of the back of the unit like so many other clock radios seem to have.

Sound quality is quite decent given the small size of the radio. I also felt that the non-digital tuning was good and did not have any problems finding and locking in stations to listen to.

The alarm is nice in that it has a gradual ramping up of urgency. I find alarms quite obnoxious and an alarm that starts off slowly is preferred. That's what this alarm does and as more time elapses, it speeds up the frequency of beeps giving you plenty of time to turn it off before it reaches "full speed."

It's a great value and I like it. The only thing I would wish for is a display that has a setting to adjust the brightness.

By the way, I found this at WalMart for just slightly under $10.
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on July 30, 2007
I've had this for 3 days now, and i'm very happy with it...and i put alot of research in everything i buy. The Radio works perfectly, picks up all the stations clearly, the alarms sound starts out soft and gets progressively you will get up. The Built in battery is also a plus, that way i'll never lose track of time.

for this price this is a great product..and oh yes huge green lights for the display and many more features...wake up to the radio or the buzzer...

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on February 18, 2013
First the good: Nice design; small size fits anywhere but isn't too small to compromise usability. Easy to use, great control layout.

The bad: Poor sound quality, but the worst offense is that this clock radio emits a clearly audible hum that comes through the speaker as long as the unit is plugged in. This hum can be heard from 2 - 3 feet away. Thinking my first unit was defective, I exchanged it and found the next one was identical. I am sure this isn't a defect but rather very cheap components and poor component layout on the circuit board. It sounds like the speaker is resonating to the 60Hz hum of this clock radio's transformer, which is inside the unit. The noise is a deal breaker for this Sony and renders it unusable.
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on January 25, 2008
Unfortunately, I am not able to rate the Sony ICF-C218 as highly as my colleagues. Not that this clock radio doesn't have numerous good features. The radio got good reception and the sound was of better than average quality. The controls, as others have pointed out, are intuitive and easy to use even without ever resorting to the instructions. The alarm, as is common, can wake you up either with the radio or with a buzzer. The only missing feature that would have been nice would be a dual alarm, though for the price this lack cannot be complained of.

The problem with the unit, and it is a serious one, is the brightness of the display. Of the other two reviewers who've rated the ICF-C218 at three stars, curiously one complains that the display is too dim and the other that it is too bright. My experience agrees with the later. I didn't notice until I tried sleeping beside this unit, but once your eyes are accustomed to the darkness the nicely-sized display is simply far too bright. It casts shadows on my ceiling and was a distraction when trying to fall asleep; I was forced to angle it away from myself or face the opposite direction. This is simply inexcusably poor design in an alarm clock and is a deal breaker for me; I'm going to be returning my unit.

A more minor complaint would be the AM/PM indicator. Most clocks have a single light that is lit when it is post meridiem (or ante meridiem, depending on the model), but this one has two lights, one about 7 mm above the other, which indicate morning or afternoon. That's fine when the room is light and you can read the AM or PM text next to the two lights, but at night you'll simply have to remember which light is above the other one and how far each is from the top of the display. Not a big deal for most, but another small design flaw.

This isn't a bad clock for the price (Wal-Mart carries it for even less, $9.96) but the brightness issue makes it unusable for me. The addition of a dimmer switch, fixing the AM/PM indicator, and adding a second alarm setting would make this clock easily a five star item, even at a slightly higher price.
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on April 19, 2012
This is a great little bedside alarm radio. Reception is excellent for pulling stations and the sound quality is what one might expect from a small, inexpensive clock radio, i.e., the sound is adequate for waking one from a sound sleep. For what it has been designed to do, it is a five-star product. If you want high-quality audio, look into Logitech's Squeezebox Logitech Squeezebox Radio Music Player with Color Screen (Black); but if you're looking for a straight alarm-clock radio, this is worth $20.
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on January 6, 2012
I gave this product 2 stars because it sets the time automatically, except it's fast. I have had it for a year and it was only a couple of minutes fast to start but now it's 20 minutes fast and I cant' change it since the time is "automatically" set. I have 2 of these in my son's rooms and I have the same problem with both.
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on March 7, 2008
I looked at the Sony ICF-C218 clock radio primarily as an alarm clock. In that function it succeeds quite well, except for one deal-breaking limitation that caused me to switch over to its updated sibling the ICF-C318. The limitation is the following: when the AC power is off, the alarm does not ring, even though it has battery backup that preserves the correct time for when the power comes back on. In an alarm clock, this limitation is a serious flaw for a simple device that should work at a high rate of reliability. If the power does come back on after the time the alarm should have rung, it rings immediately. Maybe the power will come back on in time for the alarm to wake you before your boss calls to ask why you haven't come in to work! Nonetheless, this radio has many other good features to recommend it.

The buttons to operate the clock, radio, and alarm are (with one minor exception) intuitive to use and of convenient size. Most people could figure out how to set, arm and disarm the alarm without needing to consult a user manual; the same cannot be said for many other electronic alarm clocks that are available. The unit looks pretty snappy. The 'buzzer' is really a 'peeper' and instead of getting louder when it is ignored (as some have indicated), it peeps more frequently. The peeping isn't as loud as a tree full of blackbirds. If you need a really loud alarm then you should use the radio alarm rather than the buzzer alarm. The radio has adequate lo-fi sound; it reminds me of the transistor radios of my youth. The battery backup uses a CR-2032 Li wafer battery, supposedly good for about 250 days of clock backup use. I don't know why they didn't use a more common and cheaper battery with longer lifetime like an AA. The alarm is turned on to radio or buzzer mode with a recessed knob. The alarm mode (off, buzzer, radio) is indicated via a tiny hard to see pit on the knob. You would think Sony could spare a tiny blob of white paint to make the mode setting more apparent, but I guess you could always paint one on yourself. In any case, there is confirmation that the alarm is on when an indicator LED is illuminated on the front panel of the radio. The non-intuitive button is the Time Zone one. It isn't the button function that is non-intuitive, it is that the zone numbers it displays have no inherent meaning without the user manual. The radio will advance or retard the clock time for DST unless DST is deactivated with the DST button. In places like Arizona where DST is not observed, the ability to deactivate DST is helpful (Emerson clock radios with SmartSet do not have this capability). Because the unit is AC powered, it means the display can be illuminated all the time. In a darkened room the display is easy to read, but in an illuminated room it can be nearly impossible to read at distance.

Overall, this is a well designed clock radio alarm at an attractive price. Its simplicity and intuitive controls make it easy to recommend. The limitation that it won't ring when the power is off is notable but the likelihood of such a failure is small - power failures are infrequent to begin with and power failures coinciding with alarm time would be even less frequent.
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on December 13, 2012
The radio is compact but the display is big and bright. I do wish it had a settling to lower the brightness. The beeping alarm is subtle and slow at first but speeds up to gently awaken you. It is easy to set and I especially like that once you set your time zone, it will correct the time when I set it incorrectly. Cool!
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on August 10, 2007
I hate to set the clocks. We have quite a few power outages and boy am I glad to have found this one. Up and running like a charm and I DO NOT have to re-set.....It's WONDERFUL!
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