Enter the Eton FRX3 Hand Turbine AM/FM/Weather Alert Radio with USB Smartphone Charger. What a mouthful! We'll just call it the FRX3 for short. This all-in-one radio is just what you need in a situation like the one describe above. Information is a lifeline in emergencies, and the easier it is for you to get information, the better off you will be. The FRX3 has an AM/FM radio built in so you will have no problem tuning into your favorite news station to get critical updates. It also has a built in weather radio, with access to seven weatherband channels. You pick the one that works in your area, and it does the rest. The weather radio portion of this radio also includes an alert system. You just set the radio to your weatherband frequency, and tap the alert button. An alert indicator flashes on the energy saving display to let you know the radio is waiting for an emergency weather alert. It stays in a sleep mode until an alert is broadcasted. When an alert is received, the radio comes to life and starts talking to you, letting you know about important weather events in your area. Those of us who have lived in flood plains or earthquake prone areas really appreciate this feature.
Now, to start charging with the crank, or the solar panel for that matter, you need to push the button on the front that has a crank picture on it. This selects the Ni-MH battery pack and will allow you to charge it. If you have pressed the button that has a battery on it, you can crank all you want, but nothing will happen. The same also applies for DC charging from a computer. The opposite is true if you want to use the 3 AAA batteries You would depress the battery icon button to use power from that source. You cannot charge the device when the AAA batteries are selected. This is a safety feature to keep your fingers attached to your hands when handling this radio.
DC charging is accomplished via a mini USB in the radio, connected to your computer. You can expect around 2-hours to fully charge with this method. This is handy because if you are going on a camping trip, you can pre-charge the batteries before you head out and save yourself some time by not cranking the turbine as soon.
Pricing is always subject to change, but I found this radio on Amazon.com for about $65. As far as I can tell, it's worth the price of entry because of all the features it has, and the fact that it actually does charge a smartphone. It's predecessor, as well as other brands, seem to suffer poor reviews because they don't actually work as advertised. But with the Eton FRX3, you have some pretty good technologies built in that make the higher cost worth it. As I like to say, quality hurts you now, crap hurts you always.
Here is my video review, showing you how some of the features of this radio, including the smartphone charger, actually work. Enjoy!