Pros: Inexpensive, it does its job with no real problems.
Cons: A couple design changes would make it even easier to use.
Such a simple device, but so practical!
I'm talking about the Brinks Timer, Model 42-1010.
This is a simple mechanical timer that plugs into any standard household outlet, and takes a single standard plug as its input. In other words, it goes between the wall and your appliance acting as a "gate keeper". Depending on the time, the device either allows the electricity to flow to the appliance, or it doesn't.
I use mine with a lamp that I want turned on for a few hours each night. Located near the house's front windows, it's particularly convenient when I'm on vacation. I like knowing that my house looks "lived in", at least insofar as someone walking by would notice a light on, in the evening. But this device can be used with any appliance. If you have a coffee maker that doesn't have its own timer, or a tv that doesn't have a sleep timer, this device could be used for that purpose, too.
It's pretty easy to use, although a couple design changes would make it even easier. Plug the timer into the wall, and plug the appliance into the timer. Turn the appliance's switch to "on". Rotate the timer's dial until the current time is positioned at the top - where there's an easy-to-read "time" marker.
The dial spins easily, but only in one direction (clockwise). It would be better if it could spin in either direction. It does make satisfying "click" noises as it turns, and the hours and half-hours are clearly marked. But there are no settings more specific than half-hours, although you could estimate between the markings. You could, for instance, set the time to approximately the halfway point between 5 and 5:30 and know that you're "somewhere around 5:15". But if you need precise timing, then this device is not for you. Half the dial is marked with an arrow labeled "AM" and the other half with an arrow marked "PM". This is your only indication to separate AM and PM. I've seen other timers marked much more clearly, where half the dial is grey (indicating PM) and half white (indicating AM).
Once the current time is set, it's a simple matter to slide the green "on" marker to the desired "on" time. And there's a red marker for "off". Here, this timer is fairly clever. I like that the markers are green and red. It's intuitive that green means "go" (or "on") and red means "stop" (or "off"). That's much better than other timers I've seen where the markers are the same color but are marked with an "on" and "off" label, that could be difficult to see.
Also clever is the fact that these markers are permanently attached to the timer. No chance of losing them! They are attached to the outside of the dial and simply spin around so you can set them to the times you need. Other timers have markers that come out and could be dropped.
That's it! Assuming your lamp is turned to the "on" position, it will light as soon as the current time matches the time indicated by the green marker. And it will turn off as soon as the red marker is matched.
But what if you want to override the settings? No problem! This timer comes with a very simple override system. There's a small dial near the top that alternates the words "on" and "off". If the current time is within the green and red markers (meaning the lamp would normally be on), turning the override button to "off" will turn it off. Similarly, if you're outside the time when the lamp should be on, just turn the override dial to "on" if you want the lamp on. This is a temporary override, only. As soon as the next "on" or "off" event is scheduled, the timer will act as programmed. If you decide you want your lamp to be permanently off, then turn the lamp's switch to "off". If you want it permanently on, then you'd have to disconnect the timer. I find this to be inconvenient. I would prefer it if there were a "long term override" feature - something that said "ignore the programmed times, just be an on/off switch until I tell you otherwise".
This is an inexpensive device (around $4) that provides a convenient service. But it doesn't have a lot of features that a more expensive - or digital - timer would have. For instance, this timer allows only one "on" and "off" event per day. You can't have something be on in the morning for an hour, then again in the evening. And, there's no battery backup. If your power goes out, your timer will have to be re-set to the current time.
Still, for the price, it meets my needs.
If you need a far more robust timer with tons of features, check out
Intermatic Outdoor Digital Timer - HB800RCL
Or, here are two other cheap timers:
GE Big Button 15076