Tech News on G4

Etón Red Cross Emergency Radio

Aug 3, 2011

By Greg Gazin - Apple Gazin’ - G4 Canada

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Eton Red Cross Emergency RadioEveryday you hear about new all-in-one devices that will slice and dice and even promise to do your laundry for you. Now the Eton Canadian Red Cross Emergency Radio will not do any of those things for you, but it is a multifunction device that is practical, affordable and something you wish you had long ago in case of an emergency.

It's also known as the Etón Microlink FR160, a portable radio that offers not only AM/FM but also WB, the NOAA 7-band weather channels. It also functions as an LED flashlight as well as a cell phone charger which are great things to have, since you never know when you might yourself in a difficult situation.

Solar & Handcrank Charging

What's truly unique about this unit is the way its built-in NiMH battery can be recharged. It has a standard USB charging port, so you can charge it with any USB wall charger or by attaching it to your computer with a USB cable (not included). Ok, nothing novel about that. But what's exciting is there are 2 more ways you can charge it. The unit has a built-in handcrank that you can use to charge it as well as a built-in solar adapter.

So how well does it perform? The radio worked quite well. It's analog, but I was able to accurately tune in to my favourite radio stations on both the AM and FM dials. I was also able to clearly pick up channels on the weather band. Now it's not CD quality, but keep in mind this is an emergency device, but the sound was quite respectable and played fairly loud through its small speaker.

As a bonus, it also has a telescopic antenna that you can extend as well as a standard headphone jack. The LED flashlight shines bright and is actually useful.

As for recharging, with the battery drained, I managed to get about 15-20 minutes of radio play after cranking for a couple of minutes. The unit specs out at about 30 min of low volume play for 90 seconds of cranking.  The manufacturer also claims 3-5 hours of play after leaving the unit charging in the sun for 8-10 hours. I did manage to get a few hours use after leaving the unit out for a good part of the afternoon.

As for charging a cell phone, you're expected to get 1 minute of talk time for 10-15 minutes of cranking. To be honest, I found it a little tiresome to crank for that long, I guess it would be different if this were an emergency situation. Nevertheless, I did manage to get a recently discharged clamshell phone to come back to life after a few minutes of cranking. I was also able to juice up my iPod, a bit. This should also work with most devices like mp3 players that also use 5V USB. Actual results will depend on the device's amperage requirements.

Overall, it's most impressive for a gadget that only costs $35.00

The Microlink FR 160 is nice and compact and fits in the palm of your hand. My only thought is that it might have been nice if they included a weatherproof bag or pouch to go along with it.

Also, the reason the name is so long and its red colour is that Eton has partnered with The Canadian Red Cross and a small portion of the proceeds of the sale of this device will go to this charitable organization, so you're supporting a good cause.

Eton Red Cross Emergency Radio FREE BONUS – Blackout Buddy

If you are interested in this device, for the price of the radio alone ($35.00), Walmart sells the Eton Canadian Red Cross Emergency Radio as part of a bundle called Etón Power Pack , which includes the radio as well as a free bonus item, valued at $15, called the Blackout Buddy,  a, flashlight & nightlight  and three LED bright emergency light that stays constantly charged and lights up in the case of a power failure.

Just look at the weather we've been having. When you never know if things are going to happen, it's a good idea to have gadgets like these handy to keep around at home and on the road.

(note: The link to Walmart, shows only the BlackOut Buddy photo, but if you look at the description, it includes the radio. Also the main link seems to force the US page, but if you visit, select Canada and look for Canadian Red Cross them Microlink 160, you will see the item.)

Greg Gazin can be reached at  gadgetguy "at" telus "dot" net , , or on Twitter @GadgetGreg

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