Freeplay is a pioneer of the crank radio industry, and their newest product, the Freeplay Companion, has earned our TopTenREVIEWS Silver Award. This emergency radio is equally suited for the hard-core outdoorsman and the avid sports fan who is locked away in his in-laws bathroom trying to hear the outcome of the game. It's small and the extensive amount of time you can get off one charge is what really sets this radio apart from its competition. With some added ports for a USB cable and earphones, this radio has you set for anything that comes your way, including natural disasters, camping trips or bad dinner parties.
What we love most about this crank radio is the charge it holds and how little time it takes. Cranking the clock for 60 seconds will give you 20 minutes of listening time at normal volume. One hour of solar exposure gives the emergency radio a one-hour charge. This solar panel is a lot more powerful than other crank radios we reviewed, allowing you to enjoy the features of this device during hikes, camping trips or times of emergency. And when the battery is fully charged, you will get 12 hours of radio time at normal volume. There is even an LED charge-level indicator that tells you the best speed at which to turn the crank.
The flashlight that comes with this is an LED light, and Freeplay claims that you will never have to replace their lights. It is a bold claim to make, and while we cannot predict what the future brings, they have been a leader in the industry for almost 20 years and their solid reputation speaks to the value of their product.
This device may be small but it comes with the standard features we love to see with crank radios. There is a USB port that you can use to charge any of your mobile devices, and it can be used to charge the radio as well. Should you find yourself wanting to listen to anything in private, such as the final game of the tournament or the weather report at 3 a.m., you can plug your headphones into the device.
We would love to see a thermometer and compass on this crank radio, as almost any emergency situation would call for these two features, but having access to several different NOAA weather stations is a useful addition. And since Freeplay is a global company, they offer MSC stations – Canadian channels that are similar to NOAA weather stations. This is something few radios offer.
The Companion goes past convenient features and takes it a step up with design. It is small, which is another reason why we like it. The device is made to hold in your hand without worrying about pinching your fingers as you charge it. This is one of the few crank radios that can crank both ways, making it convenient for right- or left-handed people. This radio is not waterproof, but it is splash proof. So while it can handle some splashing from rivers, the kitchen sink or a light rain, you should not take this white water rafting or deep-sea fishing.
Like a handful of other crank radios, the Companion gives you the option to charge it using the crank handle or via the solar panel. Having a solar panel is a great convenience with these devices, as it allows you to keep it charged as long as the device is in the sunlight. If you have an emergency radio that has a full charge, just set it by the window to keep the device going. There is also a DC jack for quicker charging at home, but the adapter is not included with the device. You can also charge the radio by using the USB port.
Freeplay offers standard service with its equipment, but its two-year warranty on parts and labor surpasses others. The website doesn't have a blog but they include a tab that is dedicated to news on the company and press releases Freeplay puts out to the public. The company is based in the U.K., and in the upper right-hand corner of the website, you can change the site to reflect your region. If you are in the U.S., you can email or phone the office. Anywhere else, your only options are to send an email. Freeplay also has an extensive FAQs section for every product they offer.
The Freeplay Companion is a beneficial tool for any emergency preparedness kit, plus it fits right into the lifestyle of an avid camper. You'll even find it to be useful around the house or yard. With its long play time and the ability to charge it quickly, you won't have to worry about staying connected with the outside world. The companion is a rugged and durable device that will cover all your basic radio needs.
The solar panel charges this crank radio much more efficiently than other radios we reviewed.
A DC power adapter is not included with this device
The Companion's small design coupled with its quick charge time make this hand crank radio a contender for our top spot.