By December 6, 2006

RadioShack Emergency Radio

I have been investigating emergency radios ever since I heard about them from my pal Configuratrix. I listen to Internet radio for “fun,” but having a terrestrial squawkbox for emergencies seems like a good idea. Plus it gives me something else to write about for you.

The most important feature I wanted was a hand-crank dynamo. Sure, there are plenty of batteries in the house to power a radio in the case of a disaster, but how fucking cool is a hand-crank? I also wanted the ability to charge cell phones from the radio. Configuratrix’s radio does this, and while the wireless communication network might be hosed during an emergency, it is always nice to have the ability to power a cell phone in case a call or text message can go through.

Based on conversations in meatspace and our GIMPS forum, I started researching radios manufactured by Grundig. NPR sells quite a few Grundig models, but they were more than I wanted to spend. $50 was too high, and … I know this is going to sound vain, but I couldn’t find a Grundig FR300 in safety orange for less than $50 shipped on eBay. An emergency radio was on the back burner until my friend Cuddle suggested this private-label radio from RadioShack. I was lucky to catch the radio on sale for $19.99 with free shipping. $20 plus tax? Hell yeah, sign me up. I ordered one in the ever-sexy black.

The radio arrived pretty quickly, and I was happy with my etailer experience with radioshack.com. I’d buy from them again, but I’m not sure what I would ever purchase from their store beyond this radio.

Anyway, the radio is no-nonsense functional — just what I wanted out of a device I intend to carry into the upcoming zombie apocalypse. It is 6.75″ tall and 5.75″ long. The radio has the basic functionality you’d want out: AM, FM, and two shortwave bands. Shortwave tuning is augmented by the “fine tuning” knob. There is a built-in incandescent flashlight. A selector toggles powering the radio by dynamo or battery/AC. Turning the radio on and off is achieved via a large volume control knob. The hand-crank and AC power plug are located at the opposite end of the volume and gross tuning knob. The AC adapter is not included.

Three AA batteries can power the radio; the batteries are inserted on the back of the unit behind a thick plastic door. The rechargeable battery used during dynamo operation is housed here also. There is a switch on the back for either operating the radio or the device charger. Four common cell charger tips are included (Siemens, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and Nokia). Unfortunately, we are a Motorola house. The good news is that the “business end” of the charger is USB — which not only means that I can power my Motorola from the radio after finding a USB -> Motorola cable, but I can power any device that also has a USB -> device cable, including our beloved Nintendo DS Lites. That’s right, bitches. After the bombs fall, I’ll be playing Elite Beat Agents in the heart of the DrFaulken Empire.

The radio works pretty well. The tuner is sharp and the “new-to-us-but-popular-in-1993” rock station of Richmond comes in loud and clear. The flashlight won’t burn any retinas but is serviceable in a pinch. The hard-crank is easy to turn and makes a whirring noise that is oddly comforting. The radio feels sturdy, but it fell off of my work desk the first day I had it and I bent the cheap thin antenna. I guess that’s something else I could buy from radioshack.com.

The radio’s instructions state that turning the crank for ninety seconds at two cranks a second will give you about forty to sixty minutes of operation. My first charge ran the radio for four hours and twenty six minutes. This caused a bit of a problem because I had all sorts of errands to run and I was waiting for the radio to die. I broke the initial test up into three days before it finally ran out of juice. I heard way too much Nirvana for my own good.

Stilts suggested that perhaps the radio shipped with a full charge, and my dynamo-ing supercharged the battery. I let the radio die completely down and gave the hand-crank another ninety second spin. It played for an hour and thirty six minutes, about a minute of play per second of crank. That’s awesome, and double the amount I expected. I will do more testing on the device-charging capabilities of the radio once I get proper USB -> device cables.

I’m on the Mexican, whoa-oh, radio

  • Bargain compared to the Grundig models offered at NPR.org and other sites (at least, when the unit was on sale).
  • Strong, clear tuner for a cheapie unit.
  • USB-based charging capability could allow you to charge more than just cell phones.
  • Easy to use and efficient hand-crank allows for more operating time than suggested in TFM.

Come in, Major Tom

  • Antenna is very fragile. I would have paid another $5 or so for a rubberized flexible antenna. Come on, we’re talking about the zombie apocalypse here.
  • No Motorola tip. Are you serious?
  • It would have been nice to have a glow in the dark or illuminated tuning display.

I am very pleased with my anonymous RadioShack emergency radio. I think you’d be hard pressed to find such a nice unit for the price I paid for it, maybe even at full price.

Four out of five STFU mugs
full STFU mug full STFU mug full STFU mug full STFU mug empty STFU mug

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1 Comment on "RadioShack Emergency Radio"

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  1. Re not being sure what else you’d buy from RadioShack:

    I noticed Roboreptiles for sale in a brick and mortar Radio Shack for $30 less than I bought mine (at a brick and mortar Best Buy, should have known better. Bester?).

    They also have squid cables and GPS units and a bunch of electronic/computer toys and gear. I don’t know how all their prices stack up, though.

    Did your radio come with a handy guide to shortwave channels? Even if not, sounds like a great deal.