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Oregon Scientific WR 203 Review

Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been discontinued.

Our Verdict

The Oregon Scientific WR203 is one of the few weather radios with area-specific SAME weather alerts, but the reception quality is inconsistent and the hand crank is inefficient.

For

  • It features SAME technology for localized weather alerts.

Against

  • The hand crank only produces 1.5 minutes of battery life after two minutes of cranking.
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Oregon Scientific WR203 image: The digital display has a clock with alarms and alerts.

Oregon Scientific WR203 image: The digital display has a clock with alarms and alerts.
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Oregon Scientific WR203 image: The hand crank folds into a secure cradle so that it's not in the way when you're not using it.

Oregon Scientific WR203 image: The hand crank folds into a secure cradle so that it's not in the way when you're not using it.
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Oregon Scientific WR203 image: The SAME technology allows you to receive weather and civil alerts specific to your county.

Oregon Scientific WR203 image: The SAME technology allows you to receive weather and civil alerts specific to your county.
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Oregon Scientific WR203 image: The siren feature is a great survival tool for attracting help when you need it.

Oregon Scientific WR203 image: The siren feature is a great survival tool for attracting help when you need it.

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 Oregon Scientific WR203 is one of the smallest crank radios available, which makes it extremely portable. It can easily fit into a large coat pocket. It comes with survival features that include a loud siren, a bright flashing beacon and a flashlight. You wouldn't want to go camping or hiking without an emergency radio like this, especially since it's one of the few devices with SAME alerts. However, the hand crank and the reception didn't test well.

The best feature of the WR203 is the SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) technology. Most weather radios feature all seven NOAA weather alert stations. These regional stations broadcast weather forecasts and information concerning a large geographical area. You can only receive one NOAA station at a time, which means you can receive alerts for severe weather that is states away. With the SAME technology, you can receive specific weather and civil emergency warnings that only relate to your county. If you live in Utah County but you're hiking in the Cuyamaca Mountains in San Diego County, you won't receive an alert for an approaching thunderstorm if you haven't programmed San Diego County into it.

In our tests, the hand crank produced an average of only 1.5 minutes of battery life after two minutes of cranking the generator. This was among the worse hand cranks we tested. For comparison, the best crank radio produced an average battery life of over 13 minutes in the same test. You can also charge the battery through a solar panel, though this is even slower at charging the battery. When plugged into a wall, it charged in 7.5 hours, which was longer than most radio batteries took. In addition, the battery life, when we played the radio at full volume, was only 4.5 hours, which is shorter than most.

The reception quality was mostly average in our tests. The AM reception scored an average 85 percent, while the FM reception scored an average 90 percent. The only below-average reception score was the backcountry reception. We drove to a remote area in the mountains and tested all the crank radios on AM, FM and WB channels. While the weather band reception was equally good with every radio, only one other emergency radio scored lower in the backcountry.

The casing is durable enough to handle everyday usage, and the shape makes it easy to slip into a large pocket. However, it's not designed to handle water. You shouldn't even let a bit of light rain near it. The best crank radios are designed to be used out in all kinds of weather, because you never know if a downpour is going to hit while you're hiking.

The Oregon Scientific WR203 is one of the top 10 crank radios because of its portability and localized weather and civil alerts from the SAME feature. It's an excellent solar radio for both an emergency kit and camping kit, but it isn't as versatile as we'd like.