Eton FR300 Emergency Crank Radio (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Power When You Need It
At the heart of all of Etón's emergency radios, including the FR300, is an internal generator that recharges the internal Ni-MH battery pack and powers the radio, siren, and light. Also, by plugging your cell phone into the jack on the back of the radio, you can use the crank to power your phone. In our test, after draining our cell phone of power, we recharged it using the FR300 enough to make a few calls. The rate of cell phone recharging will vary greatly depending on the cell phone and the state of its battery, but the FR300 can provide your compatible p! hone with power in a pinch.
Important Note: Until this year, Etón provided a package of several different cell phone adapter tips with every radio. In 2007, Etón began instead including a coupon for a free adapter for whatever phone you have. So, the first thing you want to do when you get the radio is fill out the card with your cell phone's make and model and send it in to make sure you have your adapter.
According to the product manual, to achieve 40 to 60 minutes of uninterrupted power to the radio, you must turn the crank at a rate of two revolutions per second for 90 seconds. In our test, after our initial 90 seconds of rigorous cranking, the FR300 powered right up and was still going strong with radio reception after an hour. At the hour mark, we briefly turned the flashlight on, and that too was at full force, with no perceivable drain on radio reception. In fact, the FR300 was still going strong over 75 minutes after we recharged t! he battery pack. The FR300 can also be powered via an AC adapt! er which , to our dismay, is not included, or from three AA batteries, also not included. The dynamo crank tucks itself nicely into the side of the radio and offers little resistance as you turn the handle. (Don't let the cranking requirements frighten you! While it's true that a full 90 seconds of turning the crank can be tiring and may not be for everyone, we were able to recharge the radio with less than a minute of cranking and achieved over 40 minutes of continuous power.)
Design and Controls
At slightly more than a pound in weight, and with dimensions of 6.5 x 6.00 x 2.5 inches (WxHxD), the FR300 is made to be tucked neatly into its handy nylon carrying case, and stored in an emergency box, or packed neatly for a camping trip. A white LED light is set on the front of the radio, just to the side of the analog tuner. The light is designed to help you down an unlit stairwell or enclosed hallway in a pinch, but it is not directed or strong enough to help you much in a pitch-black forest or other open area. The FR300 also includes a red flash! ing LED light that can be used as a distress signal. The radio and light can be operated simultaneously, though of course at the expense of power.
The large tuning knob and other controls make the FR300 a breeze to use. View larger.
The hand crank generator tucks neatly into the rear panel. View larger.
An emergency light is located next to the tuning dial. View larger.
The FR300 includes a handy strap on the top of the radio for easy carrying, and the tuning and volume knobs are set to the side. The mechanical controls are extremely visible and easy to use. The volume control is a bit difficult to finesse, while the tuning knob, which features a smaller concentric fine-tuning control knob, is much easier. An earphone jack is set into the back, and the telescoping antenna tucks neatly behind the handle strap. The radio's 2.5-inch speaker is set directly in front and offers reasonable audio quality and surprising power for the radio's purpose. The tuner itself is self-illuminated, though in a darkened environment it is still difficult to pick out the bands.
Tuning and Bands
The FR300 offers AM/FM reception as well as 7 NOAA weather channels and a weather alert, and TV-VHF audio reception for channels 2 - 13. As was the case with all of the Etón emergency radios we tested, our AM reception was outstanding; we were quickly able to tune into every station we searched for. Reception for FM was also very good, though there was some extra fine-tuning on some of the stations. Because weather broadcasts are based on VHF, line-of-sight channels, and because we are slightly out of range of the nearest weather transmitter in our region, we were not able to test the weat! her reception of the FR300. Television reception, happily, was quite another story. Though some channels took some finessing of the tuner before we were able to hone in on a strong signal, most of the reception was loud and clear. In fact, we listened to the first half of the Academy Awards while preparing dinner, so we didn't miss a single presentation.
It became clear during our testing that the FR300 is an emergency radio with several outstanding and potentially life-saving features, including its emergency siren and lighting, and particularly its self-charging functionality. So if you're in the market for an economical emergency radio, the Etón FR300 more than fits the bill.
The images shown here display the "Metallic Red" version of the FR300, but you have a wide array of colors to choose from.
- Compact and lightweight; ideal for emergencies or travel
- Clearly laid out functions and controls
- Excellent internal power generator; handy cell-phone charger
- Tuning dial could be better illuminated for darkened environments
- Should include an AC adapter
What's in the Box
FR300 radio, mail-in coupon for cell phone charging adapters, nylon carrying case, and owner's manual