The RCA RP5435 AM/FM Clock Radio: A Timeless Tale

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RCA clock radio

I purchased the RCA RP5435 AM/FM Clock Radio with an extra-large 1.4-inch display yesterday. And yes, I did it because (without my glasses on) I am virtually blind, at least when it comes to objects at a distance. I did not buy this clock radio for the various sexy selling points described on the box, such as the automatic time-set (which just means it’s preset at the factory, by the way), or the audio input for an mp3 player (I like waking up to the news headlines; I guess getting angry and disgusted helps me get out of bed), or the “programmable snooze & sleep” (I can’t imagine a single circumstance where I’d want to use that). I bought it because I wanted a clock radio with big numbers that I could easily see when I wake up in the middle of the night.

The thing is, if you wake up in the middle of the night and have to really strain your eyes or move some distance to read the clock (let alone put your glasses on), then it’s that much less likely you’re going to get back to sleep with any ease. Yet, the one thing I most want to know when I stir at night is: “What time is it? How many more hours do I have left to sleep?” I’m certain that I am far from alone in this. It’s such a heavenly pleasure to discover that you still have most of the night ahead, especially if you feel that you’ve already been sleeping a long time. It is of-course highly demoralizing to discover that only about an hour remains, especially if you feel totally wrecked. But these things must be faced, and the desire to face them is evidence of the deep and unalterable human yearning for truth.

I also bought it because it was relatively cheap at $19.99. There were cheaper clock radios available, but not with such nice big numbers.

I was under the impression that the basic technology of a clock radio was pretty much sewn up a long time ago. I’ve known clock radios that were thirty years-old (and looked it) and still functioned without a hitch. I bet we can say we’ve all known such clock radios: stalwart servants, homely yet reliable, sitting on bedside tables in the homes of elderly relatives, with the dust of decades resting in their speaker-grilles. Yet, if you’re staying overnight, and so long as you can figure out how to set the damn alarm (never a given, certainly), the one thing you can count on is that you will hear that clock radio’s faithful blare in the morning, and it will prompt your desperate flailing lunge to shut it off before it wakes up the whole household. Mission accomplished: you are up.

So it was with a high degree of confidence that I bought and brought home this RCA clock radio with the 1.4 inch display. What could go wrong?

Batteries were already installed, preserving (according to the instructions) the accurate factory-preset time. All I needed to do was press a button on the back to adjust the timezone setting to match my own timezone. So, I took it out of the box, looking forward to many decades ahead filled with nights in which I could easily glance at the glowing numbers and fall right back to sleep. I plugged it in.

RCA clock radioOddly, the big blue numbers that came on read: 0:08. What kind of timezone is that, I wondered? The instructions said nothing about the use of the 24-hour clock style, and in any case, wouldn’t that be 00:08 (meaning eight minutes after midnight)? Well, no matter. I pressed the button to switch the timezone. No change. It read: 0:08. A dark and dismal disappointment was now beginning to settle over me. I consulted the instructions as to how to manually set the clock. I followed the instructions. I endeavored to move the time forward. It read: 0:08. I tried to move the time backwards. It read: 0:08.

I am obliged to confess that I have not checked the other features of this RCA clock radio, like the mp3 audio input or the “programmable snooze & sleep.” I am in many ways a simple man, and it is difficult for me to put aside the fact that this clock will not display any time other than 0:08. No doubt if I could put this fact aside I could enjoy many fine moments with this, well, differently-abled clock radio.

As it is though, I feel I have no choice but to return the RCA RP5435 AM/FM Clock Radio as defective. I will not exchange it for another RCA clock radio, but will instead continue and expand my search for one which has big numbers and which employs those numbers (all four of them, I hope) to declare the actual time.

My experience with this RCA model may well be anomalous. I can’t say. But on the good old “fool me once” principle, I will be looking to a different manufacturer to satisfy my clock radio needs.

Rating: Zero out of ten lead pipes.
0 Out Of 10 Lead Pipes

8 Replies to “The RCA RP5435 AM/FM Clock Radio: A Timeless Tale”

  1. I found some manuals for you.

    It seems that the RP435 is a transitional model between the 430 and the 440. The 440 has a projector and can project the numbers on the wall.

    The instructions for setting the time are the same for 430 and 440, as follows:

    Setting Clock
    1. Slide the switch {graphic of a key?} /WAKE1/WAKE2/
    on the top of the unit to clock {graphic of a clock saying 10:10}

    2. Press REV or FWD {graphics for rewind and forward, like on a recording machine} to set the clock
    time. The time decrements or increments
    will follow by a faster rate when you press
    and hold the buttons. The “:” between
    hour and minute time flashes when you
    are setting the time. AM or PM icon will
    also beside the time.
    3. Slide the switch {graphic of a key}/WAKE1/WAKE2/{graphic of a clock saying 10:10}
    on the top of the unit to {graphic of a key} position
    when finished.

  2. Thanks! But that matches the instructions that came with the clock, which I did read. But all such steps were ineffective. The display was just dysfunctional.

  3. OK. I once dealt with a dying calculator. Some times all the digit would turn to eight, which is the mother of all digital display numbers. Or if one light failed it could change an eight into a five, or a six, or a nine. And so on. Need I say, it was April, and the taxman was not amused.

  4. The problem is that the batteries are dead. We have the same alarm clock and it is the worst piece of junk ever. It needs fresh batteries and to be plugged in, otherwise it doesn't work. Ours just ran out of batteries and it is reading backwards 3's and L's. Cheap alarm clock, but I have spent about $50 on batteries. Stay away from this alarm clock at all costs.

  5. Mine caught on fire — the factory (China) batteries started smoking after about an hour and could have burned the house down if I was not home — talk about a piece of junk! No more RCA for me.

  6. Yes, as all electronics do, they get wonky when they start to lose power. All you had to do was replace the batteries, and you would have had a clock you probably would have liked. But the comment "It needs fresh batteries and to be plugged in, otherwise it doesn't work" is incorrect. It runs fine without the batteries. You'll have have to reset the time after a power failure. If you have weak batteries, AND and you have a power failure, then it could have a wonky display when the power comes back on. That the clock's way of telling you that it's time to replace the back-up batteries. The clock will have ZERO drain on the batteries as long as it's plugged in, so the best back-up batteries to buy are Lithium batteries. They have a 10 years shelf life. Unless you especailly prone to power outages, you probably won't have to replace them for many, many years.

    I bought this as a living room clock, next to the TV, since my DVR doesn't display the time when it's recording or playing back. This clock is perfect for my purpose, because it has a light sensor that adjusts the LED brightness based on the amount of light in the room. So in the middle of the day, when sun is streaming through the windows, or a night, when I have the lights low to watch a movie in theater-like dimness, the clock is always visible, but never distracting.

    As for alarms, aux. input, etc., couldn't care a bit. For what I wanted it for, it's perfect.

  7. I bought one a a Goodwill for $5 and it also has display problems. When I first plugged it in, nothing in the display came on, but the radio did work. The next morning I tried it again and everything worked. After ten minutes or so, the display went out again. I took the back off and didn’t see anything visually wrong, but couldn’t get the main board out from behind the display without damage. If you plug it in now, the display comes partially up and goes out in seconds. It also gets warm around the transformer. Sadly, the radio has a good sound and gets good reception. just hard to operate five seconds after you plug it in.

  8. I’ve had this particular model for a few years now, and just bought one for my mother since (as you said) she’s practically blind without glasses. We haven’t had problems with it, so it’s fairly easy to use without instructions — *but* I can report two major flaws that you wouldn’t have had the chance to encounter:
    1) It lacks an antenna in any form, so radio reception can be a major problem.
    2) The “mp3” ability is nothing more than a headphone line-in jack (cable not included); another device has to be either left on at all times, or also have an alarm set. The only benefit I can see of using the clock under those circumstances is that it has a snooze function and is easier to shut up.

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