Weather Radio Reviews

Editor's Note:
While Eton emergency radios have been our top choice in the past, a new, compact model from Midland now rules the roost. Good performance and some potentially life-saving features are why. If you want to stay one step ahead of the weather, a Sangean radio is your best bet.
 
Sangean CL-100 Review
Specs that Matter
SAME support -- YesPublic alert certified -- YesPower sources -- AC adapter, AA batteries
Best Reviewed

Best weather radio

Sangean CL-100

The Sangean CL-100 is packed with useful features, such as SAME technology, selectable alerts and auto-shutoff when a message ends -- all designed to keep the Sangean from annoying you with unnecessary or repeated warnings. When it's not reporting on weather and other emergency alerts, users say it makes a great clock radio, with good FM reception and sound quality. Build quality is superb, and most find it very easy to use.

Midland WR-120 Review
Specs that Matter
SAME support -- YesPublic alert certified -- YesPower sources -- AC adapter, AA batteries
Best Reviewed

Cheap weather radio

Midland WR-120

For those who don't need advanced features, reviewers recommend the Midland WR-120. It's Public Alert-certified and SAME-enabled, and most owners find it very reliable. It lacks selectable alerts, so you won't be able to skip alerts in your area that don't interest you (such as thunderstorm warnings in the middle of the night). Still, at about half the price of other top-rated weather radios, owners consider it an excellent value.

Midland ER310 Review
Specs that Matter
SAME support -- NoPublic alert certified -- NoPower sources -- Solar, hand crank, rechargeable Li-ion battery, AA batteries
Best Reviewed

Best emergency radio

Midland ER310

The Midland ER310 is an outstanding emergency radio that's loaded with useful features. It has multiple emergency power sources (including a hand crank, AA batteries and a solar panel) plus a super-long-life rechargeable battery, and it moonlights as an AM/FM radio, alarm clock, flashlight, cellphone charger and more. Users say it's reliable and easy to use, with great reception and good sound quality. The flashlight is super bright, too.

What's a weather radio, and why do you need one?

The term "weather radio" actually has two different meanings. First, weather radio is a service provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that puts out a constant stream of updates about upcoming weather events and other emergencies. In addition to weather, NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) issues alerts about natural disasters such as earthquakes and avalanches, environmental events such as oil spills, and public safety emergencies, including 911 service outages and Amber Alerts about abducted children. These messages go out on seven VHF frequencies specifically reserved for them, so you can't pick them up on a standard AM/FM radio. That leads to the second meaning of the term: A device capable of receiving these NWR broadcasts. When a natural disaster is on the way, a weather radio can make the difference between being trapped and making it to safety.

Types of Weather Radios
Desktop Weather Radios

A desktop weather radio costs between $25 and $60. It can be plugged into an outlet most of the time and supplemented with backup batteries if the power goes out during an emergency. In addition to their NWR function, some weather radios can double as AM/FM radios; if you're listening to music when an NWR alert comes in, the radio will automatically interrupt the broadcast to give you the news. To keep your listening from being interrupted with alerts that don't affect you, the best weather radios include a feature called Specific Alert Message Encoding (SAME). With SAME, you can elect to only hear the alerts that apply to your specific location. Some weather radios also let you filter out alerts that are of no interest -- such as a frost warning for someone who lives in the city. Cutting down on irrelevant alerts helps make sure that you pay attention to the ones that could directly affect you.

Emergency Radios

One specialized type of weather radio is an emergency radio. While a standard weather radio informs you about emergencies as they develop, an emergency radio helps you keep abreast of the situation while it's in progress. Most of these radios can run off battery power, but also include crank-driven generators (and sometimes solar panels) that can keep them running during a prolonged power outage when no batteries can be found. Most crank radios cover standard AM and FM bands, as well as the weather bands, and some include extra features such as a flashlight and a cellphone charger. These radios can be lifesavers during emergencies, but they're also useful for more pleasant occasions, such as camping or hiking trips. However, most crank radios do not include features like SAME or selectable alerts. Emergency radios cost about the same as desktop weather radios -- between $25 and $60, depending on features.

Finding The Best Weather Radios
Our Sources1. TheSweethome.com
The Best Emergency Preparedness Supplies2. eHam.net
Receivers: Weather Alert3. Herculodge
What You Should Know About Configuring Your Sangean CL-100 Clock RadioSee All

Expert reviews of weather radios are hard to come by, but we did see some helpful feedback at TheSweethome.com and elsewhere. Instead, most of the recommendations in this report are based on feedback from retail sites such as Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, user forums such as eHam.net and WXForum.net, and enthusiast blogs.

Desktop weather alert radios that keep you in the know

Among desktop weather radios, no model gets more consistently positive reviews than the Sangean CL-100 (Est. $55). It includes nearly every feature you could ask for in a weather radio: Public Alert certification (see the Buying Guide for more information), SAME technology, selectable alerts and a memory function that stores the last 20 alert messages. Users especially appreciate the fact that the CL-100 automatically shuts down at the end of a broadcast alert, rather than waiting for you to get up and turn it off.

Moreover, reviewers say that the Sangean CL-100 is not just a great weather radio; it's a great radio, period. Users at Amazon.com say it has good FM reception, and its sound quality is far better than you'd expect from a weather radio. Radio enthusiast Jeff McMahon even uses the CL-100 as his bedside clock radio: AM reception in particular is "amazing for a radio this small," he writes on his blog, Herculodge.

The Sangean CL-100 also includes RBDS (Radio Broadcast Data System) compatibility, which provides additional information in text form about radio broadcasts, and functions as an alarm clock (in either music or buzzer mode). Owners are impressed with the CL-100's build quality, and most of them describe it as very easy to set up and use. However, the few owners who ran into problems say that Sangean's technical support is disappointing.

The Midland WR-300 (Est. $40) receives far more feedback from reviewers than the Sangean CL-100, but that feedback is more mixed. Like the CL-100, this weather radio is Public Alert-certified and SAME-equipped, with selectable alerts. However, unlike the Sangean, it doesn't shut off automatically at the end of an alert message, a feature many users say can be really annoying in the middle of the night. Also, while the Midland can double as an AM/FM clock radio, most users say these additional features don't work nearly as well as its weather alerts. But the main weakness of the Midland radio is reliability. Some users say the device stopped receiving alerts after a period of several months, while others say it never worked properly.

The Reecom R-1630 (Est. $55) doesn't have nearly as much feedback as either the Midland or the Sangean from experts or users at retail sites such as Amazon.com. However, it's the most recommended weather radio at sites for radio buffs, such as eHam.net and WXForum.net. Users there praise its sensitivity, easy setup, reliable performance, and wealth of features. While it has lots of key features, such as the end-of-message (EOM) response that the Midland so annoyingly lacks, other useful features, such as the ability to receive standard AM/FM broadcasts, are missing. Reliability appears high based on the feedback that's available at Amazon.com and elsewhere, but with a caveat -- the few users who had problems say that Reecom's representatives are rude and unresponsive, and it's all but impossible to get them to honor their one-year warranty.

If you just need a cheap, reliable weather radio, the Midland WR-120 (Est. $25) is your best bet. This stripped-down version of the WR-300 actually gets better overall reviews from owners than its pricier sibling; there are still a few complaints about malfunctions, but most owners describe it as very accurate and reliable. Their biggest complaint is that unlike the WR-300, the WR-120 doesn't let you block unwanted alerts—a frustrating feature for owners who don't want to be awakened in the middle of the night for a non-life-threatening weather event. It also lacks AM/FM/clock radio functionality, but given how poorly those features are regarded on the WR-300, that might not be all that much of a loss. Users generally have less trouble programming the WR-120 than they do with the WR-300, but a few owners still find it difficult.

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Sangean CL-100 S.A.M.E. Table-Top Weather Hazard Alert with AM / FM-RBDS Alarm Clock Radio
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $52.19 $51.15   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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MIDLAND WR300 Weather Radio
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $49.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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