Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Ambient Weather WR-111-B-AC Emergency Solar Hand Crank Weather Alert Radio, Flashlight, Smart Phone Charger with AC Adaptor
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on April 26, 2012
Overall this is a good product. The radio itself seems sturdy. I'm a bit hard of hearing and the radio is loud enough for me. The radio stations and weather station both came in very clearly. The cell phone charger worked, as well. But the feature I was most excited about was the "weather alert" mode, and that is where a bit of disappointment settled in.

When I first opened the box I removed the tab from the battery compartment and fully charged the radio with the USB adapter per the manual recommendations. I listened to the radio for 30 minutes and then set it on "weather alert" mode. I placed the radio in a sunny window so it would continue to charge through the solar panel. The next morning when I woke up I noticed the radio was no longer in weather alert mode and only the time was displayed on the radio. I turned the radio on and got about 3 mins of play before it shut off and flashed a battery warning.

I was confused as to why the radio only gave me 30 minutes of play before quitting on me after a full charge. I suspected either I had a faulty product or the "weather alert" mode was a power drain to the product.

I e-mailed Ambient Weather and got a very quick response from Ed, who confirmed my suspicion that the "weather alert" mode drains the battery. He recommended that I purchase a USB to AC adapter for when the radio is in "weather alert" mode. He also said that the solar charge feature wasn't enough to keep up with the "weather alert" mode. He did say that they needed to include that information in the manual in the future.

I am disappointed in the fact that I couldn't just set the radio in the window and kind of forget about it until I received a "weather alert." Other than that, I'm happy with the purchase.
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on February 6, 2012
I LOVE THIS RADIO!!! This is my review of the Ambient Weather ADVENTURER emergency radio. I left out in the video that the battery is removable and replaceable. If you live in an area that has earthquakes, tornadoes, floods or hurricanes you need this radio. In an emergency you should have 1) food 2) water 3) THIS RADIO!!!

BE PREPARED!!
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on February 5, 2012
Firstly, let me say that this is a well designed weather radio - the digital tuner works well in AM, FM, & Weather modes, & sounds clear. I also like the dual charging modes - the solar panel works well even indoors (near a window), and the hand crank gives a lot of charge in a short amount of cranking. The crank handle seems quite sturdy (unlike some other hand-crank devices I've owned in the past). And the whole case is surrounded with a rubbery jacket that looks like it would survive the accidental drops that always seem to happen.

But here's where the fun surprises start:
- the unit includes cables & adapters for most any cell phone, enabling you to add a boost charge to your cell phone. Also, you can use the speaker in the Radio with your iPod / iPhone music player - it's no Bose system, but the speaker is better than the ones in your phone. And, with the solar charger, you can do this all day without killing your phone battery!
- the LED flashlight is a nice feature - it's plenty bright, and works for a long time when you charge the battery with the hand-crank.
- the Radio's re-chargeable battery can be easily replaced when it wears out - this is a refreshing surprise compared to so many other devices that have to be thrown away when the re-chargeable battery wears out (are you listening, Philips Sonicare?)
- there's yet another cable that enables you to charge up via a USB port. Not really sure when this would be handy, but they've sure covered all the bases with this one!

A couple minor complaints:
- it would be convenient if there was a compartment for the little adapter cables. The case seems large enough for this...
- the battery-low indicator is activated (according to the manual) when the voltage drops below 3V. When the low-battery condition is activated, the radio stops working. It would be nice if there were a level of charge indication, so you could know to start cranking in more charge before the radio quit.

I initially thought I'd use the Radio in emergencies only, but now I can see me using it anytime I happen to be away from 120V power!
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on October 30, 2012
10/30/2012: I liked this radio when it arrived a month ago (just in time for a Tornado Watch in my area). I charged it in the window with the solar cell and it sounded great. It fit my bug-out bag, seemed sturdy. It's functions, especially as a charger for cells, etc. were attractive.

Yesterday during the worst of Hurricane Sandy we were without power. We plugged our cell phone into the charger and started hand cranking. We're handy people and we take care of our equipment, so we were careful. First there was a creaking noise, some resistance and a burned smell. Then the crank jammed and broke off. So we were without cell and without radio in the emergency situation for which we bought it!

I can't thank the manufacturers enough! Here I was, thinking I was well-prepared. Good riddance to that assumption!

PS (10/31/2012). Someone from Ambient almost immediately contacted me and said they are shipping me a new radio under the one-year warranty. If it turns out to have been a problem with just this one item, I am happy to try another one since, as I wrote, I like the functions. Let's see what happens. I will use it a couple of times soon (in a non-emergency situation!) and will change the rating according to the success/failure of the hand crank!
One thing I can say: they have great customer service!
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on March 13, 2012
First let me say that before purchasing this radio I had been planning on getting the Etón American Red Cross Weather Radio with Flashlight This unit is similar in size and function but adds some important extras. The Ambient Weather radio uses a common camera battery easy to find and inexpensive. I will bullet point the other features.

1) Customer Service - more on this later
2) No knobs to break off
3) Back-lit Digital Display
4) Protective Rubber Housing
5) Charging cable & Adapters

the radio is easy to use. I owned a previous generation of this radio. During my first use of the radio I put it in my pack and notice a faint glow coming through the pack. The radio's flashlight had been activated perhaps by gear that had settled and pushed the top button. If I had not noticed I would have had a dead battery and had to crank it back up. I contacted the company to let them know about the problem. The company contacted me and stated they would fix the problem with a better switch. The item went off of the marketplace for about three weeks only resurface with a new switch. I am stunned how any company would care that much about a customers feedback they would institute a change to their product. It is a great radio and beats others at the same or lower price-point.
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on February 21, 2012
Just received this yesterday, so I can't say much about longevity but this seems to be a well made radio.

Pros:
Digital- Seems to lock into my local stations perfectly. I was worried about not being able to manually tune in for best reception. Has not been a problem. Also, I never listen to AM radio, mainly because I could never get decent reception in the car or my home stereo. This thing picks up AM stations perfectly and I feel like I am discovering a whole new world. Even if it is just boring political talk :) Also, the NOAA stuff comes in perfectly as well. Too boring to listen to for very long but I'm glad it will be there if I ever need it.

Solar- So far decent lighting has kept my radio playing. As long as its in light it keeps trucking along.

Hand Crank - Previous radios were cheaply made in this department. I dont feel like I'm going to break it when I use it.

Flashlight - A nice suprise! With the light on the side and the thin radio this unit can be held and used like an actual flashlight. The 3 LED's are very bright as well.

Design- This thing is smaller than expected but, thinking about carrying this in my bug out bag makes that a good thing. Also for you tool guys and gals, this thing looks like it should say "Snap On" on it. Very attractive piece.

Battery - This is the number one reason I bought this radio. It is easy to change the battery when it go's bad. I dont know how easy its going to be to find the 3volt battery locally but I plan to keep a backup on me as well.

Cons:

I'm not going to lie, I think the 39.99 price tag is high but, even at that price I would buy it again.

The tab on the side shows a pair of headphones on it. You cannot use that port for headphones, its audio in only. So unfortunately no personal listening. You cant listen to the radio when everybody else wants to sleep. Also other models say the battery will last longer when using the headphones. We will never know.

It doesnt include a carabiner clip as advertised. Not a problem for me as I dont see how that would have been useful anyway. The lanyard was a much better choice.

Speaker: Quite small. A little tinny but that is to be expected with any little radio. Not a problem for me and I have already gotten used to it. In fact I have heard plenty off worse radios and I cant really think of one that was better. Not really a con but still not a pro.

Carrier - Missing. I would have really loved to have gotten a carry case to protect my investent. Also it would be nice if this imaginary carry case had a side pocket to carry all of the accessories that came with the radio.

My biggest gripe:
I was hoping to be able to use this radio as a "normal" radio and plug it in to the wall via the USB and wall converter. However as the manual says, the FM reception is horrible. This will hinder me from being able to plug it into the camper and listen without cranking at night. If I can get a decent amount of listening time off the battery, this wont matter. We shall see.

Overall as emergency radios go, this seems to be a good one that I hope will last me years. Like you (I'm sure), I have read many negative reviews on the Kaitos and Etons during my research here on Amazon. They frightened me and kept me from knowing what to buy. The positive reviews on this unit made me chance $40 (I'm not a gambling person and I consider $40 a substantial amount to wager on a radio that doesnt say Sony). I think I made a good choice and now I have a little more piece of mind for future disasters. lol, I sound like I am a salesman for Ambient Weather :) I never heard of the company before and I am not affiliated with them. I'm just a regular person in earthquake country!
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on August 26, 2012
(First Review) This thing works great! It's small and compact and I like that. I'm really glad I purchased it. I do wish it came with the AC adapter and longer cord as I plan to keep it plugged into the outlet 24/7 for weather warnings. I also wish it had a small compartment for all the wires and adapters. They seem like they will be easy to lose. Overall I'm very happy with this purchase though.

(Update Review 6 weeks after purchase) The weather radio worked great until a few days ago. It died. I removed the battery and re-installed it and it worked again for about a day. I keep having to re-install the battery or it dies. I'm guessing something is wrong with the battery. It was an expensive product to only get 6 weeks out of it!

(Update 4 weeks after last update) Well They did replace the unit. It was a hassle free replacement. Kudos to Ambient Weather for their customer service!

(Update 2 weeks after last update) The 2nd unit has failed and is doing the same thing as the first unit. It died so I hit the reset button but it keeps dying. I love this radio but it just keeps dying. It has been a complete waste of money and a big waste of time.

(Last update) The 2nd unit was replaced by AW. The AW customer service is great I must say! This 3rd unit has worked great now for ~3 weeks. Like the other units I keep this one plugged into an AC outlet so it's always fully charged when needed. This will be the last one I try. If this one fails I will just toss it and forget about the money wasted. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this one will hold up! If not I'll post another update.
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on October 6, 2012
I usually trust Amazon reviews, and I've never been disappointed when purchasing a product that averages more than 4 stars. But this device was a major disappointment! This is cheap junk. The first time I tried to use it to charge my phone, the crank handle popped off with little force after just a few seconds. I popped it back on. Soon after the rotation jammed, and the handle popped off again, this time breaking off one of the pins that held it in place. I suspect the pin fell inside the crank shaft causing it to jam.

PROS: The radio and flashlight seem to work well enough. Not terribly loud or bright but adequate.

CONS: It appears sturdy but this is deceptive. Poor construction and made from cheap plastics. Lousy packaging too.

UPDATE: [10/12/2012] The vendor for this product promptly contacted me and offered me a replacement which I received last week. They claim the problem was due to a defective unit that did not allow the crank from turning freely thus causing the handle to break off. The replacement works well and I've had no problems so far. I've increased my rating from 1-star to 3-stars thanks to their prompt response and desire to remediate the problem.
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on September 7, 2012
Even before I moved to the hurricane-prone Gulf Coast, I've been an advocate of having hand-crank-powered radios and flashlights. I've owned at least two dozen of these over the years, of which about half offer/offered a radio (the rest were only flashlights). Based on the reviews and the #1 Amazon ranking of the Adventurer, I bought the device.

This is a very sturdy, compact, well-made device. It's obvious that a lot of thought went into the design. Here is my take on the Adventurer:

PLASTIC TAB: The fact that the company understands that putting a plastic tab in to prevent the battery from making a connection while in transit is a good idea is a good sign. Don't forget to take the tab out before trying to use the Adventurer. You should save the tab (I wrapped mine around the middle of the battery). If you plan on storing the device for more than a month, put the tab back into place covering the button (positive) end of the battery so there won't be a connection.
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APPEARANCE: The device looks very rugged. The LCD display uses very little power. Digital tuning means there are fewer things (i.e. a slider and/or knob) to wear out, and the buttons are easy to press and appear to be very sturdy.
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BATTERY: The battery is a CR123A rechargeable Lithium-Ion. If you plan on using the device for emergencies, you may want to buy a spare battery. Be sure to get a Lithium-Ion which is rechargeable, and (this is important) NOT a regular Lithium battery, which isn't rechargeable and which will probably damage the device if you try to recharge it.
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POWER SOURCES: The Adventurer can be operated by any of these:

AC: you'll need an AC-to-USB adapter. You can also use any cellphone/Bluetooth charger with a mini USB plug, if you have one laying around (many older phones used one). This is the fastest way to charge the device.

UPDATE March 15, 2014: Ambient now sells this with an optional AC Adapter for an extra $5. I recommend that you spend the extra $5 and get the adapter.

USB: You can plug the other end into a computer USB port. Note that it takes a long time to fully charge the Adventurer this way.

SOLAR: I tested it, and it works, but it's also a slow way to charge the device, although full sunlight will run the radio. It's nice to see the solar panel on top of the unit, where it can get the most sunlight, rather than on the side as the Kaito KA009 does.

Hand Crank: When nothing else is available (i.e. during a power outage at night), the hand crank will power the device. It seems very sturdy, and it has enough resistance to give the Adventurer a good charge without having so much resistance that you get tired from cranking it. The crank tucks in nicely to take up as little space as possible.

My one gripe is that a mini-USB input is used. If a micro-USB were used, owners of most newer smartphones would have a charger that would work on the Adventurer, eliminating the need to buy an adapter. Perhaps AmbientWeather will change to a micro input in the future.
UPDATE: Ambient now offers an optional adapter with the radio for an additional $5.

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AM/FM RADIO: The radio has an excellent receiver and can zero in on stations. The auto-scan function is a bit sensitive (especially the AM) and will stop at weak stations, but that's a minor inconvenience. The speaker is strong and produces good quality mono audio. The telescoping antenna folds up snugly when not in use to conserve space and protect it.

WEATHER: The Adventurer has a weather band as good as any I've owned, including the highly-regarded Midland series. The digital tuning hones in on the exact NOAA weather frequencies (something slider-tuners can't do). I get crystal-clear reception of the local station and also the one located 50 miles away.

The weather alert feature works: The unit received the weekly NOAA/NWS test. Note that if you leave the alert feature always-on, you'll probably want to keep the radio plugged in via AC, as this feature uses a lot of power. I don't personally use the alert, as I have the same thing enabled via the Commercial Mobile Alert System that most newer phones have, but it's good to know that it will work if cell service goes down.
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FLASHLIGHT: The flashlight puts out a strong beam, better than any of the other hand-crank-able devices I have. This is a very nice flashlight.
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INPUT/OUTPUT: The three rear jacks have a protective rubber/vinyl cover to avoid exposing them to elements such as moisture and dust: a nice feature.

The top jack is for input from an MP3/Ipod type device (and not a headphone jack).

The middle jack is for output to charge such as a cell phone, and many adapters are included that cover most models. Be aware that it takes a lot of power (i.e. cranking) to charge a phone for even a few minutes of talk time. If you have a smartphone, you'll do well to turn off Bluetooth, WiFi, and mobile data (or put the phone into airplane mode) and turn off the screen, so that the phone isn't using power while it's receiving it. You probably shouldn't turn the phone off first, as most smartphones use a lot of power when booting up. During a power outage or other emergency, you'd do well to use a simple generic cellphone if that's possible, as those consume far less power.

The bottom jack is for charging the unit from a computer USB port or AC outlet (with adapter).

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TECH SUPPORT: As those who have read other reviews know, "Ed the Weatherman" actively monitors the reviews/comments and answers in a professional manner. He's also available by phone during regular business hours. The manual itself is well-written and easy to understand, and if you lose it, there's an online version available at ambientweather.com.
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RECOMMENDATIONS TO AMBIENTWEATHER:

1) Switch from a mini to a micro USB plug.

2) A jack for ear-buds/headphones would be a nice feature, since this would reduce the amount of power needed, but this is more of a luxury than a necessity.

3) A way to charge the unit via an AC outlet should be included in the package. without the need to buy a separate adapter, even if you have to up the price a couple of dollars.

The way it is now, you're probably missing out on a lot of sales, for example: a) People who don't have a computer (and people buying this as a gift for somebody, perhaps an older relative, who has no computer) and b) People close to purchasing the unit who decide not to because an extra accessory has to be purchased, and/or it isn't easily available.

If you don't want to do this, you might offer the adapter yourself and ask Amazon to include it in a "also purchased with" list, so it's easy to order.

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SUMMARY:

It's good to see a device that's well-designed and is suited for both emergency and everyday use. In my opinion, the Adventurer has earned its #1 Amazon ranking. However, if something breaks, or my opinion of the device changes for any other reason, I'll be back to tell about it.
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on March 20, 2012
Review for WR-111A - the first edition, purchased Feb 4, 2012, without headphone output function:

Approaching 2 full months ownership. Very satisfied with it's performance and money spent. Use it intermittently every week day for right-wing talk radio. The radio has the look/feel/function of a well designed, well made, very compact, unexpectedly heavy product. It has little competition. Here's my experiences with it.

--The Radio. Sound (level of 0--16 continually displayed) is an easy 2 button (up/down) press-n-hold adjustment. I use 8 for a quiet room, 14 for a noisy environment, 16 for outdoors with the wind blowing. Only need setting 1 if you put your ear on it to not disturb others or be heard near a reader/sleeper. There is NO EARPHONE JACK! The jack with the headphone symbol is to connect your (speakerless) audio player to use the radio's speaker. Your (MP3) player volume determines the volume, NOT the radio's volume buttons. Sounds pretty good too, apparently using the radio's electronics to amplify the sound (radio must be on). Just plugging in the cord selects the player mode. Radio's small 3" oval speaker sounds much better on FM than AM or the weather channel. I do not need the FM antenna extended at all from it's "park" position to pull in my favorite FM stations. Adjusting the station across the scale can take 20---45 seconds. Each quick press will jog the frequency small increments or hold (up or down) button to enter the (bi-directional) scan mode. It will increment until a station is found, then stop and stay on that station, even if you continue holding the button. Rescanning requires a let-go and 1 second re-press to start the scan. THAT is why it can take so long to change the station, especially if there are many in your area. Definitely not suited for someone that is constantly changing the station from, say, 92.5 to 104.3 FM. Digital tuning does lock in for perfect reception and it's the reason I bought this radio. Unfortunately, there are NO programmable station presets or a settable radio turn on time, which I feel should have been designed and/or programmed in. The $50 Eaton digital FR-360 I lost while driving (don't ask) at least turned itself on like a clock radio and the station could be changed rapidly by spinning the tuning knob. The WR-111 has a better/replaceable rechargeable battery, better sound and a more powerful solar cell. Did not use the cellphone charger function. Day one initial charge from my computer's USB port was the only cable hook-up charge it has had so far because ordinary room illumination and indirect sunlight charges it, as indicated by the green LED charge indicator that is seemingly on all day long with varying brightness. When the hurricanes swept thru our area last month I used the weather radio's "weather Alert" function. It beeped a long tone then turned itself on for the high winds warning . . . several times that night. A potential lifesaver.

--The Flashlite. It turns on all TOO easily with the top mounted, soft click, short travel toggle on/off button. (Edit: Got a personal response from Mfgr rep saying switch would be addressed in the future). I measured on the wall 15 feet away a really bright, solid 3 foot diameter light ball with a faint 9 foot diameter narrow outer halo that's just a few inches thick. Perfectly symmetrical light pattern at that distance, really useful and energy efficient. Close-up to a surface 6 inches away it makes an artistic kaleidoscopic pattern. It is very bright for just those 3 LEDs buried deep in the reflector with 3 distinct magnifying lenses built into the outer lens. It's easy to carry with a handhold around the brick shape of the radio body. The lanyard strap is functionally limited to being just a wrist safety strap as it allows the radio to spin around with the light shining on the ground. There's no built-in handle. Just hold the radio "brick" for safe carrying.

--The hand crank generator. Makes quit a loud whirring sound of straight-cut gear teeth meshing. The charge LED changes from green (solar or slow cranking charge) to red (high charge seen only on USB or rapid handcrank charging). On USB computer charging, the LED turns from red to green when the charging cycle is completed in about 5 hours. Cool. The crank handle works easy, with a feel of expensive precision in use or when it is tucked solidly into it's storage position, where it stays, even with rough handling of the radio. Nice. Not like the sloppy, floppy, cheapo mechanisms of the other <$20 solar/crank competition I tried.

--Other observations. The normally replaceable 3.7volt 800 mAh NiMH battery labeled "IRC17370" in my radio is NOT available ANYWHERE on-line. I looked on many sites for over 15 minutes. The Mfgr's on-line manual for the radio mis-states the battery as 3.0v 800mAh model CR123A, Li-Ion. That's .7 volt less and diff type chemo are big mistakes, compared to the 3.7v battery my radio came with. The flush, tight fitting battery door has a very secure, very simple, fingernail-tug-2-open latch that works excellent.
It's nice to know you have a bright, long lasting flashlight with an AM/FM/Weather radio when you need it no matter how isolated from civilization you are. It's small enough to pack away and take along and it will quickly charge your unexpectedly dead cellphone enough to call home or 911 when you absolutely must do so. Clock (radio off) keeps good time and the LCD has a 20 second time-out LED backlite after button presses, only when the radio is on. It comes with 3 cables (2 charging, 1 audio) and several cell phone charging adapters. The only battery in it is the easily removable sub-C cell sized 3.7 Volt 800mAh rechargeable that is impossible to find now. No matter. When I need one years from now they should be available. 1 star deducted for shortcomings noted. In spite of that, when I'm away from home, it goes with me. Money well spent.

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Update May 4, 2013, 15 months later: Review changed to 5 stars for superb Mfgr support and prompt efforts to right any wrongs. Still working like it did when new without any signs of aging. It's built in 3 LED flashlight is one of the brightest ones of the dozen plus LED lights I own and the one I grab when I need a really bright, long lasting light. Only occasionally is the unit in direct OUTdoor sunlight - usually because my Georgia sunshine is too intense in summer and would overheat the radio and unnecessarily age the clear solar cell window, black rubber cushion and red case plastics. Also, the owner's manual advises against doing so. In just over 15 months use it has been fully USB charged 3 times, crank charged for 2 minutes about 10 times just for fun, with the remainder all thru my home's "low E" window glass windowsill or similar nearby kitchen table filtered indirect sun exposure. In that 15 months of intermittent use (5--30 minutes 3+ times/week) I have seen the low battery warning only once. I just read the disappointing Amazon reviews of it's similarly designed/priced competitor made by Lacrosse. It is no competition. I plan to buy the latest WR-111 "B" version and keep my old one as a spare in my truck. Trust me, ANYONE you gift this new radio to (especially a gadget freak) will be forever grateful to you, it's that good!
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