Eton or American Red Cross FRX2 Hand Turbine Weather Radio
Let’s get one thing clear right from the beginning. The American Red Cross FRX2 Hand Turbine Weather Radio is identical to the Eton FRX2 Hand Turbine AM/FM Weather Radio in all respects except the brand name (and the optional black case with the Eton model).
If you check them out at, say, Amazon, you’ll usually find they are identical in price too, coming in at about the middle of the price range for weather radios of this type.
The FRX2 is an emergency radio for use when the power fails, or when you may have to leave your home because of an emergency. It is battery powered, but has three ways by which you can charge the battery – by AC power through a USB connection when you have access to mains power, through a small built in solar panel, and by using a hand crank or turbine.
The FRX2 will also let you charge your cell phone, but will only give you enough charge to make short emergency calls.
It also has a 3 LED flashlight.
So if things go badly wrong, the FRX2 Emergency Weather Radio will let you keep up with news about the weather or any other emergency situation which is affecting you, it will let you charge your cell phone enough to let you make emergency calls, and you will also have a small flashlight to find your way around when the lights are out.
Before looking at this radio in more detail, I think it’s fair to say that most emergency radios of this type seem to be reasonably reliable and of good quality. If you check out buyer reviews at Amazon and other retailers, you will find that the top 6 or so best selling radios are rated around the 4 out of 5 star level.
I think that this tells you that there is little difference in reliability and suitability between them, so it comes down to minor differences in appearance, accessories and in efficiency of charging cell phones for emergency use.
Why only four stars? Usually it relates to a few bad reviews where delivery or quality control was less than perfect, or buyers didn’t find the level of performance they were expecting, (which means they probably should have chosen a more sophisticated (and usually more expensive) model).
The other thing to keep in mind is that at this price level, you shouldn’t expect a weather alert type radio, which will alert you if the weather in your area is threatening.
So, overall the American Red Cross and Eton FRX2 Emergency Radios are well designed radios for emergency situations and will keep you well informed when the power is off or when you are forced to leave home.
Let’s go into more detail
The radio is compact but not tiny – its dimensions are 2.5×2.5×5.4″ with the crank and antenna in their storage position and weighs 9oz ( about 250gm)
The FRX2 receives AM and FM radio, together with the seven NOAA Weather Frequencies. AM and FM are selected through a button, with a rotating dial providing tuning. Each of the Weather Radio Frequencies is accessed by a pre-programmed button.
With the antenna in use, most people have found reception is good and sound quality is better than expected for radios of this type. But there will still be areas where signal strength is poor, so don’t expect universal coverage.
The radio is powered by a small rechargeable NiCd battery. When fully charged you can expect about 3 hours of radio at medium volume.
Charging is by…
AC power through a cable from any USB connection such as a laptop or phone charger. The supplied cable links to a mini USB jack in the radio, protected by a rubber cover and located at the opposite end to the flashlight.
Solar panel. The panel is small, but 10 hours of sunlight will fully charge the battery. It is slow, but leaving the radio in the sun when not in use will maintain a good charge level.
Hand Crank or Turbine. The turbine is reasonably efficient and is fine for short term or emergency use. The manufacturer recommends turning it at 2 revolutions/sec, which is good for direct charging of cell phones, and is not too much of an effort, but you can charge the battery enough to power the radio or flashlight.
The green charging light will shine when charging is in progress.
As a rough guide, five minutes of slow cranking – 1 rev/minute – should give you about 15 minutes of radio at low volume, or almost 2 hours of flashlight.
The 3 LED flashlight is good enough to find your way around, but like the radio, is designed so you will get by in an emergency. Pack a larger flashlight in your emergency kit.
It draws very little power, will give you moderate light for long periods, and is very responsive to the hand turbine.
A rim around the light will glow in the dark, so you should have no trouble finding your radio when you need it.
Cell Phone Charging.
The Eton/Red Cross FRX2 Emergency Radio can provide a small charge to your cell phone, enough to make a short emergency call or send of a few texts.
The critical step here is to press the cell button at the end of the radio frequency options near the tuning dial. This must be in operation for the phone to charge. I suspect that negative comments about charging in buyer reviews probably mean that the reviewer has missed this crucial step.
It works by dumping charge from the radio battery to the battery on your cell, and will provide charge until the two batteries have equalized. It is possible to provide more charge by cranking, but this may damage your phone. It would be better to use the crank to recharge the radio battery and then dump to the phone again.
Charge is delivered from the radio via a standard USB jack. No cables are supplied, apart from the USB to mini USB cable used for charging the radio battery, so you may need to buy a connector to get charge to your phone – check before the emergency arrives. When charging is in progress, your phone should show you that it is receiving charge.
Really only the charging cable and a lanyard which, when installed, will go around your wrist to prevent losing or dropping the radio. A small manual and a warranty card are also included.
A one year limited warranty will cover parts and labor in fixing any defects in manufacturing and workmanship, but not much else. You should register your product when it arrives to activate the warranty. Eton also seems to have an active and accessible help desk.
Overall this small emergency radio has a good reputation, and should be a great help in an emergency.
This radio sells well in both its brands and the price seems fairly stable. It’s not the cheapest, but you should be able to get some change from $40.00. Click here to see what’s available right now.
There is no indication of the charge level in the battery – basically the radio will stop working, but it doesn’t take too many turns of the crank to get it going again. But a charge indicator would be a nice addition.
The tuning dial on the radio is very sensitive – very small adjustments are necessary to set the frequency on AM and FM to get good reception. This is to be expected on such a compact radio, but digital tuning would be an improvement.
The crank and the antenna look strong enough for normal use, but would not survive excessive force. Again there have to be compromises with such a compact unit.
And the most important thing to remember if you need to charge your cell phone is to press the “Cell” button near the tuner.
This is an ideal emergency radio for your emergency pack, bug out bag, car or anywhere where you may be without power and normal communications. The efficient hand crank or turbine will let you keep it charged enough to keep up with the news, and if reasonably charged, will let you charge up your cell phone enough to make an emergency call. The flashlight is a valuable component, as is the glow in the dark ring around the light.
It won’t give you weather warnings, but Eton and the American Red Cross do have more expensive models which will, as well as having other options which would suit a weather alert radio in a home or office setting.
The price seems reasonable, and you can find out more about this and similar radios here.
A similar weather radio which does have a Weather Alert function, but also costs more is the Ambient WR-335, reviewed in another post