Oregon Scientific BAR338P Cable Thermometer, Projection Clock Watch

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Great little clock with a built in "local weatherman"

Feb 22, 2008
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Projector great for low-light conditions if you normally wear glasses

Cons:Weather information can be a bit inaccurate

The Bottom Line: This is a solid clock with a lot of features. It doesn't do them all well, and more recent clocks have more features though.


We received this alarm clock for Christmas several years ago and have found it a great addition to our home. It has a few quirks, but nothing that I would consider a dealbreaker. Of course, I didn't have to actually pay for it, so it may be that the cost of the clock doesn't equate with it's usefulness. Since it is a couple of years old though, I would assume it could be found online for a reasonable price. I'll break this review down by features; clock and alarm, projector, and thermostat.


Clock and alarm-

The clock is nice in that you don't have to set it. It is one of those clocks that gets updated automatically and is set to the "atomic clock" (although I think that is now just a statement meaning that it is tuned to a radio channel that gets it's time from someplace that is set to the atomic clock). At any rate, since it does receive a constant signal keeping the time straight, you never have to worry about setting the time yourself (although you DO need to make sure you have the clock set to the right time zone). I find this amazingly useful when the power has gone out and I have to st all the clocks in the house. I wait for this one to set itself, then I go and set the others. The numbers on the face of the clock are a good size (around 1.5 inches high and an inch or so across), although the display is a little busy (temperatures, weather icon, alarm setting, time zone icon, and then the time in the middle of all of that).

The alarm is your standard alarm. It's loud enough to wake me up, and gets progressively louder if you don't turn it off or hit the snooze button. There is only one alarm available (so no his and hers or dual alarms). The snooze period is 8 minutes, which seems a little odd to me; I'm used to the 5 and 10 minute snoozes or the snoozes that get shorter and shorter as you keep hitting the snooze button. What is useful (especially if you live in an apartment or have a roommate) is that the alarm will eventually shut itself off if you don't turn it off. That means if you go on vacation and leave your alarm on, you don't have to worry about your neighbor kicking the door down to turn your alarm clock off because it has been blaring for hours on end.

One thing I did want to mention is that the snooze button is also the button that turns on the backlight. That means that hitting snooze will turn on a 5 second (roughly) backlight, and the backlight is a little brighter than you may expect. It's a plus because you can see exactly what time it is when you hit snooze, but it does drain your batteries a little (I''ll discuss this more a little later).

Final verdict- The display is a little busy, and the alarm doesn't have as many options as I would like, but otherwise it does the job fine. Grade: B


Projector-

The projector actually makes up for the display being so crowded to some degree. The projector only displays the time and temperature (I think only the outside temperature, but you may be able to change it to the inside temperature; I've always had it set to outside and have never had a reason to change it), so not as much information. Also, since you can display the information wherever you want, you can adjust the height so that everything is easy to read. You can flip the image along its horizontal axis and rotate the image about 180 degrees so that you can read it easily no matter where the display surface is in relation to the clock.

The projector displays the numbers in red (imagine an amped-up laser pointer), which stands out in dark rooms well. When the room is better lit (in the morning for example), it does become harder to see. If you were hoping to use the projector function with the lights on or during the day, you would really want to re-think that possibility. This is not a projector that makes up for daytime vision problems. Now if you wear glasses and take them off at night, you may get some benefit out of using this type of clock at night.

The projector portion of the clock swivels up and down to help you place the display where you want it (so in total the whole assembly moves up and down, a button flips it horizontally, a knob turns it up to 180 degrees, and a knob adjusts the focus). That swiveling portion moves very easily and smoothly, so you don't have to apply a lot of effort to get it where you wanted. The downside of that is that it is easy to accidentally move the display out of position (like if you do the classic "alarm goes off and you grab the clock" move). At least with so many ways to adjust the display, you can find a new setup that works without much effort.

Although the main clock runs off of four AA batteries, the projector runs off of an A/C adapter that you have to plug in. As the batteries run low though, it does affect the projector brightness (it's almost like it draws from both sources). We use rechargeable batteries with the clock and have to replace them about every 2-3 months or so.

Final verdict- The projector is a nice feature, it's just a shame that it is only useful in low light conditions. Grade- C


Thermostat-

This clock is kind of a mini-weatherstation. It will tell you the indoor and outdoor temperature and indicate what the current/ near-future weather will be.

The outdoor temperature is picked up using a wireless thermometer that you have to place outside. We've had times where the thermometer was out of range (it is supposed to have a range of 100 feet, but that is with no obstacles; walls will cut your distance down noticeably), and if the thermometer ends up in direct sunlight, it can give hugely inaccurate temperature readings. I've seen it report 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit on sunny January days when I knew the temperature was well below freezing. So you do want to take the temperature reading with a grain of salt and try to place the thermometer in a place where it will not receive direct sunlight (our whole street lacks shade so there is really no good place for us to put the thermometer). The thermometer itself is pretty large (about half the size of the clock), so it will probably stand out wherever you put it.

The clock can tell you whether you should expect rain, snow, clouds, sun, or combinations of both (like a rain/snow mix). I'm not sure where it gets that information from (whether it reads barometric pressure and temperature to give a reading or if it picks that information up on the same frequency as the time), but it is about as accurate as your local weatherman. Sometimes I get up and it says "it is raining", and sure enough it is raining outside (which I could have figured out myself). Other times it says "it is raining" and it is just overcast and ends up not raining at all. My favorite is when it says that the sky is clear as if I can't tell that the sun is out:-) So just like with the temperature, you want to take that weather report with a grain of salt.

Final verdict- having a little morning "heads up" on the weather is nice, it just isn't as reliable as going online and getting the weather. Grade- C


Let me take these last few moments to discuss the construction aspects of the clock. It is almost completely made of plastic, but has been relatively durable so far. It is square and bulky-looking, but I think a good drop would cause some damage. The batteries gives it a good weight, so you don't feel like this is a cheap clock when you look at it and pick it up. The buttons are well placed along the front, but some of the other buttons are in odd places. For example, the button to change the time zone is underneath the battery compartment cover with the reset button. You need that button whenever the clock runs out of juice, so you have to press it probably a couple of times per year. Putting it in the battery compartment then seems odd when it could have just been placed on the back of the clock towards the bottom (assuming you are worried about consumers accidentally hitting it). There are also a couple of buttons on the top of the clock, the large snooze button and a couple of smaller buttons. The thing with those smaller buttons though is that on one side those are real buttons and on the other they are just raised portions of the top of the clock. So sometimes you think you are looking at a button but it really isn't a button. That can get a little confusing with the lights off.


Overall verdict-

We received this clock before the radio-setting and projector clocks were really popular. Now you can find clocks like that at drugstores for $20 or less. You can even find clock radios with similar features as this clock for under $40. I would definitely keep that in mind while searching for an item like this. What I will say though is that it feels like it is a higher quality product than some of the cheaper versions I have seen, and it has definitely lasted longer than some of our other cheap alarm clocks. If the weatherstation features were a little more accurate I would say that it is an excellent clock. Because of the odd weather information and occasional mishaps with the projector, I have to downgrade the clock slightly. Final grade: B


Recommend this product? Yes


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