The Eton Microlink FR160 is a crank-powered emergency radio that can be a lifesaver when the power is out and batteries are running low. The FR160 can also be used to charge up a cellphone for brief calls, and it incorporates a flashlight. The radio covers the AM/FM bands as well as all seven National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather channels.
Solid for emergency and outdoor use. The Eton Microlink FR160 draws kudos for its performance during emergencies -- and in happier times as a camping radio. One drawback is that it can only be powered by the built-in crank generator or the solar cells. Fortunately, reports say that not a ton of cranking is needed to produce a decent amount of run time. Sound quality gets mixed reports: Some say it's not too great overall, while others are pleasantly surprised.
A few handy extras. The Eton Microlink FR160 has a few features that can come in handy when camping or riding out a storm or other emergency. One is a cellphone charger that can put enough juice in your phone for a quick call or two. There's also a built-in flashlight; it's not blindingly bright, but it can still be a help when other lights are nowhere to be found. The radio receives all seven NOAA weather/emergency channels as well as the standard AM and FM broadcast bands. However it lacks Specific Alert Message Encoding (SAME) compatibility, which means you can't filter out alerts that don't pertain to your specific area.
Cranked to the max. Solar charging is a useful option for powering the Eton Microlink FR160, though you get more immediate results by using the hand crank to charge the battery. About 90 seconds of cranking generates close to an hour of radio play, depending on the volume. The radio's manual indicates that 10 to 15 minutes of cranking are needed to generate about 1 minute of cell time, which seems excessive. User reviews indicate that much less cranking time is actually needed to put a small charge on a cellphone -- though you should probably still expect a good workout. However, we also spotted several user reviews that indicated the FR160 doesn't play well with the Apple iPhone.
A lifesaver. Low price and good performance in its primary role as an emergency radio make the Eton Microlink FR160 a good value -- and a priceless lifeline if disaster strikes and power is out. Its small size and light weight also make it a good choice for more enjoyable occasions like camping or hiking. However, the limited charging options and lackluster audio quality mean that you won't want to use it as your everyday radio.
About 790 Amazon.com posters give the Eton FR160 in its various color offerings an overall rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars. Owners appreciate its excellent value and features as well as its durability and utility. A few complain about difficulty in tuning certain stations in certain locations and the fact that you must supply your own charging cable if you want to use the FR160 to charge your cellphone.
Review: Eton NFR160WXR Microlink Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with Flashlight, Solar Power and Cell Phone Charger, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of April 2014
2. Camp Primitive Blog
Written by a geologist from New Jersey, this blog review runs down the FR160's key features and how they're useful in real-world camping situations. The writer mentions testing some of the features while camping and praises the radio's rugged construction, rechargeable batteries and long battery life.
Review: Eton Microlink FR160 Radio -- Review, "xenlnex", Dec. 16, 2012
This user review focuses on the value of the Eton FR160, as well as its performance as a piece of survival gear. The author says the radio is a good value but a bit delicate for outdoor use. Most functions perform as advertised; battery life is good and reception is said to be excellent.
Review: Review: Eton Microlink FR160, "AKpredator", Dec. 30, 2009
This short review focuses on the FR160's main features and doesn't explain what, if any, testing criteria was used for the basis of the editors' evaluation. That said, actual testing is referenced in the write-up, and the review provides some helpful information about the unit's features and strengths.
Review: Eton Microlink FR160, Editors of TopTenReviews.com, Not dated