Sandman Doppler is a new smart alarm clock with Amazon's Alexa assistant built-in. Along with being a smart alarm clock, the Sandman Doppler is also a USB charging hub capable of powering 6 devices simultaneously.
Originally kicked off about three years ago via Kickstarter, the Sandman Doppler is finally available to customers. The Sandman Doppler is the second alarm clock project from Palo Alto Innovation. The first, the original Sandman clock which offered a built-in USB hub for bedside charging. Now, PAI is back with the Sandman Doppler, which has upped the game with some great features. These include good quality audio speakers with rich bass, Amazon Alexa integration, and 6 USB ports for charging.
Sandman Doppler Hardware Impressions
Build quality of the Sandman Doppler is excellent. The device is well built and there are no obvious creaks, squeaks, or rattles. No sharp edges or uneven surfaces to speak as well. The overall weight distribution is also quite good.
The display is large (1.8 inches) and fairly easy to customize to the color of your choice. Touch surfaces have a liquid silicone texture and all the buttons have good tactile feedback. The included power brick is hefty and rated at 96W presumably to power all the six USB ports at once. My review unit is Black but there are White and Blue color options also available.
Setting Up the Sandman Doppler
First off, there is no manual inside the box for set up. Instructions however are available on the internet and there is a QR code in the box that works just fine. I wasn't bothered by the lack of a manual but it's just something to note.
To get the Sandman Doppler up and running you need to get the Sandman Clocks App from the Google Play Store or the iOS App Store. Next, open the app and create an account. Once you create an account, you need to grant location access and turn on Bluetooth.
In order to connect the Doppler to the app, you will need a six-digit code from the clock 4 large numbers and two small ones in the right-hand corner. Entering the code completes the pairing and prompts you to connect to your home WiFi network.
You can now name your clock if you want and also sign in to Amazon Alexa as well. That's it for the set up which is pretty easy and fast.
Smart Alarm Clock and More
First thing you notice in the Sandman app that currently there is only one feature enabled. That feature is the ability to set the alarm from the Sandman app. Additionally, since there is Alexa integration you can just ask Alexa to set an alarm for you. And if you like to manually set an alarm on the clock I believe the Doppler allows for that as well. So as far as alarm setting goes there are multiple ways you can achieve that with the Sandman Doppler.
Because of Alexa, you get voice controls which you can use to snooze the alarm or to get updates on the weather. You can also check on stock prices, your calendar, or even your commute time. And if you don't need any of these options, just turn it all off via the Mute button and enjoy it as a regular clock.
The Sandman Doppler offers a very simple and easy display for the actual “clock” part. There are multi-color RGB LEDs that allow for color customization. And there's also a built-in light-sensor to auto adjust the brightness depending on the light in the room. It took me about three tries to get it right for my use case scenario but your mileage may vary. Of course, you can completely turn it off if you like sleeping in total darkness.
The Sandman Doppler also features programmable smart buttons that can be set to activate connected devices without voice commands. But at the current time, I wasn't able to test out that functionality. Additionally, the at-a-glance view of traffic, weather, and other items is probably going to come via a software update to the app in the future.
Audio quality is surprisingly quite good
Besides using the Sandman Clocks App or Alexa to set the morning alarm the most useful aspect of the Doppler is to use it to play your favorite tunes. The audio quality from the two stereo speakers is surprisingly quite good with thumping bass. Sandman claims that the speakers are acoustically and digitally tuned. While I am no serious audiophile the music does seem to play with a good amount of clarity.
Oh and since the Sandman Doppler has Bluetooth connectivity so you can directly stream music from your phone if you want to stream your playlist from Spotify or Pandora rather than Amazon Music.
Sandman Doppler as a Charging Hub
The Sandman Doppler has six built-in USB ports for charging. Each port output is 2.1A so charging output is around 10W – not too fast nor too slow. There is a version with 3 regular USB-A ports and 3 USB-C ports. My review unit happens to have six USB-A ports. Palo Alto Innovation offers a DIY retrofit kit to add swap regular USB-A for USB-C ports.
Another aspect of the design is a simple and effective cable management system that allows you to route your cables underneath the Doppler. This helps eliminate the mess of all of these cables and hides the USB ports on the back of the clock. The last thing to note is that the Doppler's internal power supply is dual voltage (110/220) so it will work worldwide.
I like the overall look and design of the Sandman Doppler. It does a decent job as an alarm clock, Alexa smart speaker, and a charging hub with good cable management. To top it off the audio output from the speakers is quite good as well.
My only reservation is that a lot of features aren't yet available and it's a bit pricey. For about half the price you can now get smart display hubs from Amazon and Google with decent audio quality. However, you still need to solve the charging multiple gadget problem with a smart hub with those so there's that.