Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Eton/Grundig Microlink FR150 Emergency Radio

The best stocking stuffer I got this year was an Eton FR150 Radio from L.L. Bean. It’s a self powered emergency flashlight/radio/cell phone charger all in one neat little package. With all the extended power outages we've had in the Northeast lately, this little baby may come in handy.

This ultra compact emergency radio is made by Grundig and distributed by Eton through L.L. Bean. It’s an AM/FM Weather Band radio, with surprisingly good reception and sound quality for a radio this small.

The unit is covered in shatterproof polycarbonate, with rubberized buttons and port flap to protect it from the elements. It also doubles as a very bright 3 LED flashlight. The best part though, is that the unit can be recharged 3 different ways. Via USB cable, hand crank or solar power. Even better, you can plug your cell phone into the cell charger port and crank some life into it!

I love the set of 3 lights on the tuner window. There's one for tuning, it lights steadily when the radio is receiving maximum signal from a station. There’s also a light to indicate that the batteries are charging, and it goes on the minute you get the radio near sunlight or start spinning the crank. The third one indicates that you’re in the Weather Band mode. Small things, I know, but they indicate that a lot of attention to detail went into this little guy. Grundig really knows how to make a radio!

Two small caveats with this product. It doesn’t come with a USB cable, you have to supply your own, and it needs to be USB to mini USB. This isn’t too big a deal, as most people with a digital camera already have one. Also, the instructions seem to indicate that there’s a charger available, there isn’t. Doing some research on Eton’s FAQ page, I found a section where they clarify this by explaining that you plug the USB cable into your computer to recharge the radio, just like you would with your iPod.

The other confusing thing is that the instructions tell you to connect the tip that matches your cell phone to the included cell phone charging cable. I found the cell phone charging cable, no problem, but I couldn’t find any interchangeable tips. This time I found the answer in a user review. There’s a card folded up with the warranty info that you fill out with your cell phone type and return address. Mail it in, and Eton will send you the correct tip, and register your product for warranty purposes. It’s a pretty good way to get people to return their warranty paperwork, but the instruction booklet should be clearer.

So, the radio strikes out in the instruction department, but hits a home run as an emergency device. It comes in a variety of colors from L.L. Bean for $29.95.

You can also order a Red Cross version of this same product through the Eton site, or on

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