Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Eton Microlink FR160 Solar Weatherband Radio; (Jack of many trades.)

I'm not going to go into extreme detail here. Various incarnations of this radio have been available for years, by Eton and other knockoff companies. I just wanted to touch on the fact that about a month ago I picked one of these gadgets up @ my local REI store. I got it for just under $20.00 USD, though last time I was there just a few days ago, the Microlink FR160 in all colors, was priced @ $30.00 USD even. Either way, $30.00 USD is still a fair price for this device. This is a really fun, and potentially useful emergency tool.

It's a 3 LED flashlight, AM/FM radio, 7 channel weatherband radio, and a cellphone charger that uses a usb to mini B cable. All this is powered by solar energy, or a hand crank dynamo which generates energy more fast & furious than the power of light. A few days after I picked my FR160 up, I brought it, along with a digital drum machine, to a friend's house to make music with some of the guys I used to play punkrock with. We played with synths, digital effects, and a bunch of other eclectic gear and recorded some tracks. I made great use of the little Eton radio, running the robotic weatherband recorded voice through a vocoder and other effects, and using the hand crank mechanism to create chaotic static and noise, as well as partially lighting our workspace for that particular jam session. It was a fun way to use a non-instrument in the creation of music, and the tracks it was used on turned out really funny and cool. What was edited down into our first official "song", was eventually titled "Weatherband", in honor of the bizarre little Eton's contribution to our new sound.

I really like the lime green color, it'll be helpful in locating it at a glance in the tent, or in camp. Eton does a number of Red Cross editions of their radios in red, obviously, and they usually offer some shade of blue or black on many of their products too.

AM (520-1710 KHz) & FM (87-108MHz)
NOAA weatherband – all 7 channels
Built-in 3 white LED light source
Powered by solar or dynamo both of which charge internal Ni-MH battery
USB cell phone charger (USB cable not included)
(The usb out is a standard usb, so to use it to charge your model phone, all you need to do is go buy the right cable, be it usb to mini-b, or what have you. The cable for my phone is the same type that comes with many portable hard drives, so I was all set to go out of the box for phone charging.)

So, all in all, for an inexpensive non-KNIFE purchase, I think the little FR160 was well worth it, and I know I'll get some outdoor use out of it this summer. The LEDs are really pretty bright, and the lack of need for batteries is really neat.
Check out Eton's range of products at


CTone said...

The cell phone charger is a great idea, and IMHO is what really makes it a good piece of gear.

Aaron said...

agreed, a buddy of mine inherited an older model Eton weather radio from his dad, and complains that the build quality sucks and that knobs fall off. My experiences so far are vastly different, it's gotten tossed around in a pack with other gear, and even been left outside in the backyard on a moist night, and it's no worse the wear. And the phone charger works surprisingly well, it just takes persistence with the dynamo crank to give it prolonged juice.