Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been discontinued. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
The Ambient Weather WR-099 is a dependable emergency radio you can power five ways. If there's a severe storm in your area and the power goes out, it can be your lifeline to both entertainment and critical information about approaching weather systems. It's a great addition to any emergency preparedness kit or camping gear. However, the reception quality is poor compared to the best crank radios we tested.
You can charge the internal battery five ways: with the hand crank, the solar panel, a USB connection to a computer, an AC wall plug or a car charger. However, it can’t run on disposable batteries. This exclusion is noteworthy because disposable batteries allow you to continue using the radio, even when the rechargeable battery is old enough that it stops holding a charge.
In our hand crank efficiency test, the WR-099 produced an average of four and half minutes of battery life after two minutes of us using the crank, which was average for our test group. For comparison, the best crank radio we tested generated over 13 minutes of power in the same test. This Ambient Weather model has a particularly awkward crank – because the radio is so small and the crank is so big, our reviewers often struggled to keep their grip while they spun it. When plugged into a wall, the battery reached a full charge in four hours and 15 minutes, which was faster than most. In addition, its overall battery life is seven hours, which is average.
The WR-099 doesn’t have very good reception. When we tested its AM reception during the day and at night, it received a B. Its FM and backcountry reception were even worse, and the radio received a B- in these areas when we compared it to our test group. The reception improved dramatically when we held the radio, which was common with the smaller models we tested. But without the use of a human antenna, the reception wasn’t great, though it wasn’t terrible either.
However, the WR-099’s reception in the weather band matched that of the best weather radios we tested, whether we held it or not. This makes it an excellent radio for gathering important information about the weather while you hike, but it's not a great option if you just want to listen to your favorite station play the current hits.
The WR-099 is the smallest and lightest crank radio we reviewed, weighing in at just 7.04 ounces. The outer casing is made of durable rubber and plastic, and it has a carabiner handle, which makes it easy to attach to a backpack while you hike and camp. You can take it in the backcountry without any trouble.
Ambient Weather includes a one-year warranty with this crank radio if you buy it from an authorized retailer. You can contact support staff by phone or email, and the manufacturer’s website has a FAQs page and user forum. The user forum is a good resource that connects you with other owners of Ambient Weather crank radios.