PROS / It has the best hand crank and radio reception.
CONS / It lacks a compass.
VERDICT / In addition to being water-resistant and durable, the Eton FRX5 is the best crank radio because it has the best hand crank, the best reception and the loudest speaker.
The Eton FRX series of crank radios is endorsed by the American Red Cross, which means it's loaded with features to help you in an emergency. In addition to the dynamo hand crank, you can power it with an AC adapter, USB port, batteries or the sun. It also comes with seven NOAA weather stations and SAME alerts, which provide specific alerts to your county. It has the loudest speaker and the best reception available. Whether you're camping high in the Rocky Mountains or you live in Tornado Alley, it's an invaluable tool for emergency scenarios. For these reasons, the Eton FRX5 earned the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for best crank radio.
The Eton FRX5 produced an average of 13 minutes of battery life with just two minutes of cranking the generator. We tested the battery life with the volume turned all the way up, so it's possible to produce a much longer battery life if you use it with the volume on low. This proved to be the best crank in our tests by four minutes. It was almost 10 minutes over the average.
The overall battery life was also exceptional. While it took 5.5 hours to fully charge when plugged into a wall, which is average, it played continuously for 15.5 hours at full volume. This was the second-longest battery life in our test. When you consider that the FRX5 also has the loudest speaker by a significant margin, the longevity of the battery is impressive.
In addition to the dynamo hand crank, you can power the FRX5 in five other ways. The large solar panel on the back is an excellent option when you're outside and have direct sunlight. It's efficient enough to keep the radio charged while you're out on a hike or lounging by the pool. You can also charge it using a USB connection with your computer, a wall plug or a car charger. In addition, you can use AAA batteries if all the charging options fail to work – a critical failsafe in an emergency scenario. A USB and micro-USB port allow you to connect to your computer and mobile devices, which is an excellent option for charging your phone during a power outage so that you have access to help.
The Eton FRX5 received the highest grade in the AM and FM reception quality tests with an A, and it received an A-minus in the backcountry tests. This means you’ll get clearer reception on this radio than any other radio we tested. In addition to the full spectrum of AM and FM frequencies, you'll receive alerts for severe weather with access to all seven NOAA weather stations. This is essential for anyone living in an area where severe weather like tornados, hurricanes and flash floods is common. You can also receive alerts from the Environment Canada weather radio broadcast.
This emergency radio comes with ports that provide both entertainment and practical value. An auxiliary input allows you to connect an MP3 player so that you can listen to your music instead of the radio. This input also allows you to connect a microphone and use the speaker to amplify your voice, which is an excellent way to attract attention if you need help, provided you have a microphone in an emergency scenario.
The FRX5 has a durable, hard plastic case that’s capable of handling the bumps and drops of a campout or backcountry hiking. You can take it out hiking and strap it to your backpack without fear that the jostling will damage it. It's also one of the few weather radios with an IPX4 water resistance rating, which means it can handle splashes of water from any direction. You can take it out in a downpour or even whitewater rafting, which is something you can't do with most crank radios.
The maximum volume, measured at 1 meter from the speaker, was 90.3 dB. This was 3 dB louder than the second-loudest crank radio and almost 10 dB louder than the average. For comparison, 90 dB is about as loud as a motorcycle, while 80 dB is about as loud as a vacuum. A loud speaker can be a valuable survival tool, because it's more likely to attract people if you need help. The higher maximum volume also means that you're more likely to notice an important weather alert when the siren activates.
One of this weather alert radio’s best features is its SAME alert technology. This is similar to the NOAA weather alerts except that the alerts are specific to your county. For example, instead of receiving weather information for the entire West Coast, you can receive alerts for your area only. This helps you better determine your course of action if the weather is severe.
As you would expect from an emergency radio sponsored by the American Red Cross, the FRX5 is loaded with survival features. It has a siren and a red flashing beacon to attract help. It has glow-in-the-dark rims around the solar panel so it's easy to find in the dark. It also has an LED flashlight so that you can move around in a power outage. However, it lacks a compass, which is one of the most valuable survival tools if you get lost while backpacking in the backcountry, and a thermometer.
Help & Support
Since Eton is a leading manufacturer of emergency preparedness electronics like solar radios, the support team is exceptionally knowledgeable. The FRX5 has a one-year warranty, which is the industry standard. If you need help, you can contact support through phone, email and social networks. The website is also a great resource, with a FAQs page for each product, manuals, and a user forum for likeminded users to share ideas and concerns.
The Eton FRX5 is the best crank radio because it has the best hand crank, the best reception and exceptionally long battery life. With its SAME alerts, you receive severe weather alerts specific to your county. In case you find yourself caught in a severe storm, it has a flashing beacon, a flashlight, a siren and water-resistant casing, making it an excellent addition to your emergency preparedness kit and camping gear.