Most helpful critical review
65 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Almost user-friendly... there are better choices
on June 7, 2011
Living in tornado country, you learn to pay attention to the weather.
Too many weather radios have tried to do too much, resulting in a product that's well-intended but baffling to operate. Or worse, one that underperforms in a critical area - reception! It's no good if you can't pick up a NOAA station, and having to hold the radio this way, that way, higher or lower, is unacceptable. In an emergency, your attention needs to be focused, not distracted.
So the idea of a small radio that just handles "picking up weather without any work" sounds great on paper, but it fails in execution. This radio never gets past just plain 'good'.
In short, here's how I would review the unit I received, from best to worst, and why:
* very simple operation (on/off/alert, 5 out of 5)
* good reception (sometimes requires "playing antenna," 4 out of 5)
* fair audio (from an average speaker, 3 out of 5)
* does not lock onto strongest signal (instead, locks onto first one it finds, 3 out of 5)
* no feedback while scanning (no sound at all, no indication that it's working, 2 out of 5)
* no indication of power status (unless you look at the switch position, 1 out of 5)
* no indication of battery power left (0 out of 5)
The operation is simple. The reception and audio quality are average, which I found disappointing but not a showstopper. The lack of feedback during scanning is more irksome. The lack of feedback (knowing power is on or off, or low) is a product killer. If I can't tell that I left it on, or that my batteries are low, how can I be sure this will have power to work when I need it? This unit needs to be able to beep, or blink an LED, when power is low. Better would be a power plug so I can run it off an adapter, and a switch to choose my power source (batteries or AC). But all this adds to the cost. And, for not much more, there's a better option I'll point out below.
The scan does not seem to lock onto the strongest signal but the first one it deems receivable. In my area, I have a weaker broadcast on one NOAA channel, and a stronger local broadcast on another. The radio locks onto the weaker one first. If you are aware that these stations are in different areas, this can matter a LOT when an alert is sounded. The one you listen to will have different information.
Finally, you get ALL alerts or NONE. At first I was not bothered by this, but then I realized that it means I'm going to hear all kinds of alerts that will not pertain to me. I'm in Kansas... am I really going to be awakened to a tsunami warning? I have a more costly office weather radio by Reecom (I like a LOT, it's the best I've owned yet, but I still have not found "the best") that allows me to study lengthy charts and set up both the kinds of alerts I want to know about, and the counties where these alerts happen. I understand Midland wanted to keep it simple. But this isn't it.
I bought the Midland and an Eton FR160 at the same time, for different purposes. I have a relative who is challenged by multi-button, multi-function interfaces, so the simpler Midland sounded like a great solution. However, for only $12 more, the Eton FR160 outclasses and outperforms this one. And guess what? It's pretty simple to use, too! I will be buying a few more of the Eton's for their: better reception (no "playing antenna), rechargeable battery (via a dynamo winder, or solar panel), AM/FM, and built-in LED light. The Eton has a few additional features, but for my uses they are less useful.
So, is the Midland a good or bad radio? Depends on your needs, and how you intend to use it. If I were a hiker, where every ounce counts, I might use the Midland for weekend hikes or camping. There may be other times it fits other specific activities, too. But for me, I prefer the Eton. It's not much heavier, and it is somewhat bulkier, but it offers much more that I "DO" want, and less of what I "DON'T" want, an a weather radio.
Let me put it this way: worst case, I forget to turn off both units and the power drains to zero (neither one has a low battery warning, after all). But when an emergency comes, which one can I still use? The Eton. I can turn the crank and get light, radio, and weather. With the Midland, I'm still in the dark, looking for 3 more AAA batteries.
I rest my case.