Freeplay Ranger Review

I have a tendency to listen to the radio in the mornings while getting ready and I used to use an attachment for my iPod, the problem was it got in the way, it's not always convenient to have headphones in. So I decided to buy a portable radio, but that meant batteries, so I decided on a wind-up radio. This seemed to fit with my eco-tendencies and gave me something I could wander around with.

There are a lot of models on sale, ranging in price from inexpensive, to extortionate. I didn't want anything too fancy or pricey so, after some research, I settled on a Freeplay Ranger (I got mine from the Ethical Superstore, but they don't seem to be available any more). I chose Freeplay because they were a brand I recognised in the wind-up market, they may a range of products and have been at it for some time, they also have a reputation for quality products. It offered three ways to charge it: from the mains, a small solar panel on the top and winding. Height and width are about the same as a paperback book, and it's about twice as thick.

I've been using mine since May and have been very pleased with it. Initially I had to give it a 24-hour charge (to condition the battery) so I didn't need to charge it for a long time. I tend to use it for about an hour and a half in the morning and I've found the solar panel isn't enough to charge it if I leave it on the window sill all day, maybe it would be better in direct sunlight, maybe I use it for too long. I tend to wind it each morning now and I've found that about 30 seconds of winding gives me about 30 minutes of playback and so on up the scale (so a minute gives me an hour, etc). A minute of winding doesn't sound like much, but is can be fairly laborious after a while.

The only real criticism is that lack of a carrying strap/handle, which would be useful when you're juggling multiple things, it's small enough, but when you want to grip it to wind a handle would definitely help (I find putting it on the kitchen side, hold it down and then winding works best). Otherwise it's been very good.

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