on 8 March 2012
This item provides three functions (torch, radio, recharger) in one compact unit with three charging options - solar, USB and the windup mechanism. The solar panel is too small to be useful, not even being able to match the power used by the radio (on a winter's day), leaving USB and the windup as the best ways to charge.
The windup mechanism feels quite solid and is easy to use - according to the manual, it would take 15 minutes to fully charge the internal battery (at 2-3 turns per second) but only a couple of minutes winding is needed to get good use of it (half-an-hour of torchlight or 10-15 minutes of radio). Indeed, aside from the tuning/volume dials (these wobble alarmingly), the whole thing seems quite solidly built.
The best part of this is the torch - the main torch uses two bright white LEDs while the nightlight uses a single red one. Unfortunately, the same push-button is used for both - pushing the button once switches the main torch on, pushing it a second time switches it for the nightlight and you have to press a third time to switch off fully. Until you get used to this, it is all too easy to leave the nightlight on by mistake, draining the battery.
The AM/FM radio on the other hand is a disappointment. The display looks attractive, illuminated with a blue LED, but the tuning dial covers the whole spectrum in a single half-turn making it all but impossible to fine-tune on weaker stations. Volume is obviously limited by the small speaker but there seems little difference between minimum and maximum settings. Reception is poor and for weaker stations, requires you to either hold the unit or leave it touching another object to boost its reception. There is no provision for an external aerial.
The recharger, as supplied, is of limited use as it only includes one (single pin) adapter. Ventus do provide a more extensive range without charge (stamped addressed envelope required) including several mobile phone and mini-/micro-USB adaptors but more should have been included with the unit (at least the 2 USBs). It only charges when the winder is used and rather than providing a steady current (which most batteries need) it provides a pulsing charge, depending on how fast you wind. This is unlikely to be good for the batteries of the charged device, so this feature is best left for emergencies.
As a torch this performs well, casting a good, bright light. The radio is one you'll only want to use if you have nothing better. However these are useful tools to have in the event of a power cut or other electrical failure so this earns it a cautious recommendation.
on 5 October 2012
The first one got sent straight back, as the radio tuner was broken: tuning upwards it gave 88-94FM twice and nothing above 104FM. The second has lasted 9 months before the radio failed again - this time giving 20mins of use before emitting a continuous buzz. The radio sits on a sunny windowsill all day, so if it's a power issue then the solar panel isn't fit for purpose (however, as winding for a few mins only gives 20sec additional use, it looks like something else is deficient). Real shame as, apart from the poorly designed and weak dials, it's a nice looking, compact unit.