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Wound Up Over Blackouts

Dec 20, 2012 09:12AM ● By Scott Blackwell

Doomsday preppers aren’t the only ones able to appreciate an emergency light or radio when the electricity’s gone out and the battery bunny has finally quit going and going.

 Etón Corp. offers several combinations of “self-powered” devices. We tried the FRX3 ($60) and the smaller FRX2 ($40). Each is powered by a hand crank and/or solar panel. Both models also feature USB ports to charge mobile phones; AM/FM and NOAA weather radio and LED flashlight. The larger FRX3 adds a clock as well as a function that automatically broadcasts area weather alerts.

 Both models worked as billed. The hand cranks are easy enough for children or the elderly to turn. And the internal batteries seemed to hold a charge weeks after they were cranked; or they may have charged through the solar panels using nothing but ambient light. Either possibility is a pleasant surprise. A 1-minute crank generally yielded about 15 minutes of radio or light. But more cranking doesn’t bring that ratio up exponentially. Still, the devices are dependable and worthwhile insurance when the comforts of home or the car are no longer working.

 Available at Best Buy stores and online at