PROS / This solar powered radio is very durable and small.
CONS / It lacks some basic features.
VERDICT / The Microlink FR160 will be great for the causal user, but it is not ideal for an emergency kit.
The Microlink FR160 by Eton Corporation may be small with a few drawbacks, but it also has a lot of things going for it. This solar radio can keep you safe during a severe storm or natural disaster, serve up some tunes in the great outdoors or close to home and make sure you're connected to the world via cell phone.
Once the FR160 is powered, you can use its various features. The Microlink FR160 has AM 520-1710 KHz, FM 87-108MHz and seven NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) channels, which is comparable to our top-ranked solar radio, the Scorpion.
This American Red Cross radio is also around the same size as the easily pocketed Scorpion, though the Microlink FR160 doesn't have a handy carabineer for clipping to your rucksack. This could be a problem for those that want to charge the flashlight while hiking.
The flashlight is dimmer that its competitors with three LED lights instead of the usual four. Like the extra LED light, the Microlink FR160 is missing many other features such as a siren, shortwave radio stations, audio line outputs for listening to MP3 players, an emergency light and outlets for powering additional items. This is a very basic solar radio, but that probably won't be an issue if you are just going to use it to listen to music or weather forecasts.
The cell phone charger seems to work great, but there are two major drawbacks. First, you'll have to order a USB charging cable from the company since it doesn't come with one. Second, according to the user's manual, "10 to 15 minutes of cranking may result in one or more minutes of talk-time." That's a lot of cranking for such a small charge. If you were in an emergency situation and desperately needed to use your phone immediately, this product would be next to useless.
For such a small solar radio, it is incredibly sturdy. Many solar radios break down quickly, but this one seems like it will go the distance. The unit is also splash-proof, giving it a bit of extra protection that other solar radios don't have.
Ease of Use
This solar radio is completely self explanatory. There probably won't be any need to read the owner's manual or to call customer service.
Even though this American Red Cross radio comes in blue, green, red and black, it's the ultimate green machine. There are only two ways to charge it, and they are both environmentally friendly. The FR160 can be charged using an easy-to-use dynamo crank that powers an internal Ni-MH battery. The handle is extra long for easy cranking, though it does seem to take more cranks to power the unit than other radios such as the American Red Cross Solarlink FR500. On the other hand, the solar panel charges the solar radio much more quickly than other radios.
Overall, the Microlink FR160 may have some great features and compact size, but it just doesn't measure up to our top picks for solar radios for anything more than casual use.