During times of disaster, you’ll first want to find out what’s happening. And today radio remains the most reliable way to do that when normal services are snuffed out. In our modern gadget-centric world, the Eton FRX3 fills a unique role. It’s a small, multi-use emergency radio ideal as a first line of defense for families.
The FRX3 is small, just 7.875″ high x 7″ wide x 3.5″ deep, but it’s packed with useful features, including a built in solar panel and rechargeable Ni-MH battery (3.6V/600mAh) for extended use when grocery stores aren’t stocking batteries. It also plays on 3 AAA batteries, for times when the sun isn’t out. I tested the solar panel and it took a full day — about 10 hours — to charge the battery. You can keep the radio near an open window, though, and the thing will charge automatically so it’s always ready to use. Another way to charge it is to connect to a laptop computer via the included USB cable.
The batteries can also be recharged with the big hand crank. It took me about two minutes of cranking to bring the charge up to full. The radio features an external, extendable antenna that pulls in broadcast AM and FM stations so you can get emergency messages through the Emergency Broadcast System. One thing to note: The FRX3 does not feature AM shortwave or single side band (SSB) reception.
Full NOAA Weather Radio
However, one of the most useful things about the FRX3 is its robust NOAA Weather Radio. It features pre-programmed frequencies so you can always find one NOAA signal in your area and an ALERT system that springs the radio to life when an emergency alert is issued. I found that the antenna was fine for the AM/FM broadcast station reception but only mediocre in pulling in the NOAA Weather repeaters — which operate in the 162.400- 162.550 MHz range, FM — out in the rural area in which I live. The signal was broken but readable.
If you live closer to a population center you should have no trouble in getting a strong NOAA signal. But just for comparison, I can receive the NOAA signal from a repeater station, which is located about 10 miles away, without any trouble using a small handheld amateur radio transceiver and minimal antenna. So the only improvement to the FRX3 would be to include a separate, internal antenna resonate for 162 MHz — it wouldn’t need to be large or even external, just matched to the right frequencies.
FRX3 Charges Your Cell Phone
The FRX3 has all the usual things we’ve come to take for granted on a modern radio — clock, alarm clock, headphone input and auxiliary MP3 player input to pump in your own music, even a handy flashlight — but most interesting is that you can charge your cell phone with this unit.
Eton calls it a dump charge. It works with phones that use a USB charger, and the radio comes with a cable to connect the radio to the phone. You simply plug the two together and hit the “CELL” button located on the front. This is certainly no trickle charge; I wouldn’t suggest you use it regularly, but in an emergency it does indeed work as a quick-charge. I tested it on my phone’s near-dead battery and, within a few seconds, it was fully charged. That depleted the radio’s battery, so back on the crank I went.
FRX3 Overall Impression
There are better weather radios one can buy, and a multitude of solar panel solutions for charging cell phones, but the Eton FRX3 brings these critical tools together into one small, lightweight and affordable package that will serve the purpose for most families. The American Red Cross endorses this radio and, if the power goes out, it’ll serve you well, too.
• AM, FM, WB digital radio w/display
• Weather alert
• USB smart phone charger (dump charge)
• Solar panel
• Dynamo motor/Hand turbine
• LED flashlight
• Glow in the dark locator
• DC input (mini USB)
• AUX input
• Headphone output
• Internal rechargeable Ni-MH battery
Dimensions: 6.9” x 5.8” x 2.6” (W x H x D) 174 x 147 x 67 mm (W x H x D)* Weight: 1 lb. 5 oz. (603 g)*
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