Pros: Sound Quality, Numerous Uses, Environmentally Friendly, Ease of Use, Small
Cons: Crank Materials are a bit shoddy
Living outside the DC area, I am greatly comforted in knowing that if there's ever a nuclear war, I'll never know about it. Some may consider that to be a bit negative, but for some reason I find it a slightly amusing if not morbid approach to living near the nation's capital. While generally the weather conditions are favorable compared to the nutjobs that live in the snow belt, we do get a fair amount of power outages due to our strong summer thunderstorms, and also because Dominion Virginia Power just point blank sucks. Therefore, in case of these power outages, or in case of emergency, I have a mini-Grundig 3000 that's powered by a couple of batteries.
Recently, my wife purchased the Eton FR 160, and at first I was a bit reluctant to admit that it was a great idea. However, this radio is a fantastic value at $29, because it is capable of so much.
Do you know how some of those crank radios can be a real pain? A lot of older/solar based crank radios took a lot of effort, but getting this one fired up without the help from Mr. Sun is easier than I've seen with any other product. All you have to do, is pull the cranking device out of its neatly stored area on the right side, and with just a slight motion turn it in circles for a few minutes. A couple of minutes gives you about thirty minutes of use, so its an effective cranky radio. The only issue of concern with the crank, is that it does seem to be made of materials that aren't as solid as a metallic one would be. The crank is made of a plastic composite, that hasn't had any issues with a lot of use, but eventually it is going to give out.
Thankfully, if you are outdoors, this is solar powered. The NIMH rechargeable batteries are primed by the cranking, or from the fiery inferno that's in the sky. I've used it all day while working outdoors, and am impressed that this unit is much more environmentally friendly because of this capability. If there's cloud cover or night, just use the crank, and this would be a fine radio to take fishing due to its size. The radio itself can easily fit into a small bag, and if you want an extra bulge in your pants, you can slide it into jeans pockets. While this shouldn't be considered a survival radio for those who are climbing Mt. Everest, its durable enough for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.
Do you have problems with weatherband radios? All of my radio's that are supposedly equipped to pick up the National Weather Service, make whoever's broadcasting reports sound as if they are encased in a tin can. This has seven different bands to choose from, and I was amazed to finally hear the NWS sound crystal clear. Its so helpful to be able to understand what weather conditions are, instead of listening to static or that tin type of sound that I'm accustomed to.
As for the AM/FM operation, I was totally shocked. This radio is tiny, and for its price, I was expecting to listen to my classic rock station with sound that wouldn't be impressive. For its price and portability, this is an excellent radio. I'm taking this camping during the spring, because I love how loud it is, and how great the reception is for picking up radio stations that aren't in the immediate D.C. area.
The antenna is right on top, and folds down for portability. You don't generally have to extend it that much to pick up local stations, and the knob controls are excellent. They have ridges on the volume and tuning controls, so you can actually get a decent grip. The dial is nothing fancy, as its not one of those digital screens, but you can clearly see what frequency you are trying to find. There's a phone hookup for charging on this unit, and I love the little flashlight. It's not strong enough for a hike in the woods, but for a power outage, or just to find something nearby its great. All you have to do is push the button on the top of the radio to turn it on and off, and the 3 LED lamps fire up right away.
A lot of my wife's purchases lead me to shake my head in bewilderment, but I love this radio. The quality is excellent, and due to its numerous capabilities, I think everyone should consider owning one. If you want to carry it on a jacket, you can use the strap that's attached to it, which adds even more functionality to its portable uses. There are a lot of retailers that sell this radio, and I fully recommend it, other than having concerns about the cranks material build quality. This would make a great Christmas or Birthday gift to someone who like electronic toys, and those who are fascinated by developing weather patterns.