Thursday, August 21, 2008

Comparing new solar radios

I haven't had an emergency yet to use this American Red Cross FR150 Microlink radio in, but everything worked nicely out of the box. My "complaint" is that the tuning wheel for the AM/FM stations makes it hard for me to get a station dialed in exactly. The scale showing the frequency is small and a small twitch of the tuning wheel moves you over quite a bit of frequency ground. So if you're trying to dial a station with a narrow frequency, you may find it hard to get a good lock. The flashlight is rather anemic as are all LED-based flashlights that I've tried so far. Is it better than nothing? Absolutely. Is it perfect? Not a chance.

Our Etón FR500 Solarlink radio arrived non-functioning. The indicator lights turned on, and all features except the radio worked. After about an hour of trying to get it to work, we banged on it and that fixed it. I have no idea how that helped. I find the design of the multifunction knob and the band selecting knob to be quite strange...they are the silver tubes in the cutouts in the picture. Not very intuitive. The solar panel is built into the top of the handle...where you would be holding it if you were carrying it on a walk. That doesn't make much sense to me either because your hand is blocking quite a bit of the panel so the unit won't be receiving much light for charging. I think the smaller unit like the American Red Cross FR150 Microlink by Eton is at least as good as this unit unless you need a feature that this unit has. One such feature is that this radio takes batteries while the other doesn't. I haven't had the need to use this during an actual emergency yet, so I'm not able to report on the features' use for emergencies.

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