Though it's been around for a while now, the Midland WR-300 (*Est. $50) remains one of the most popular and well-reviewed weather radios among experts and owners. It gets rave reviews from a large swath of users who value its reliability, versatility and performance.
The WR-300 receives solid praise from Graham McClung, editor of enthusiast sites Home-Weather-Stations-Guide.com and WeatherRadioGuide.com, who says it's a strong choice among desktop weather radios. Among its positives are accessory connections that let you link the WR-300 to a public-address system or to auxiliary warning devices such as strobe warning lights and pillow vibrators, making the unit ideal for those who are hearing impaired.
The Midland WR-300 can store up to 23 Specific Area Messaging Encoding (SAME) location codes (often called county codes). Like other weather radios with the technology, the WR-300 requires obtaining the SAME codes on your own -- they're available from the National Weather Service website -- and entering them manually. On the upside, blocking unwanted alerts is easy, says ham-radio enthusiast Richard C. Rhodes, who performs extensive testing of the WR-300 on his website. Rhodes also appreciates how the radio lets users add future alert codes.
While most users speak highly of the WR-300's performance as a weather radio, many add that it does an inferior job when used as an AM/FM clock radio -- a problem that Rhodes says arises "when you make a relatively inexpensive device try to do too many things." Other complaints hinge on the radio's lack of an auto-shutoff following an alert message, since it will either repeat the message for several minutes or require a manual shut-off.
The Sangean CL-100 (*Est. $65) doesn't get nearly as much feedback as the WR-300, but available reviews suggest that it has been very well received. This Public Alert-certified desktop weather radio with SAME costs a little more than the Midland WR-300. Owners do appreciate the CL-100's ability to hold up to 30 county codes and that it will automatically shut down at the end of a broadcast alert; the WR-300 will either repeat the message for several minutes or require a manual shut-off. Graham McClung says the Sangean CL-100 is very easy to program and functions much better as a standard clock radio than the Midland WR-300 does. Users who post reviews at Amazon.com tend to agree. Complaints are few, although a handful of owners mention substandard functionality or poor reception.
The Midland WR-120 (*Est. $35) is another popular Public Alert-certified weather radio with SAME, and reviews call it a good choice for those wanting a reliable but cheap weather radio. It has a built-in time and alarm clock feature and can store 25 county codes.
Expert reviews say the WR-120's value is a big advantage. User feedback at Amazon.com and Walmart.com indicate that most owners are very satisfied with the Midland WR-120, especially in terms of the features they get for the price. Still, the WR-120 does lack a few attributes found in the more expensive WR-300. It can't receive AM/FM radio signals or block unwanted alerts, which could lead to some restless nights for owners.
We also saw complaints that if a weekly National Weather Service test is missed, the WR-120 beeps every 10 minutes until the next scheduled test is received. The fix is easy, however: Reset the radio manually by pulling the plug and removing the battery. This won't affect any stored settings like SAME county codes, but the clock's time will need to be reset.