Thunderous Clash of the Weather Radios

Weather radios are an interesting genre of radio. Some of them are specifically designed as emergency radios and some are general coverage radios with a weather feature added. I seem to have accumulated 8 weather radios. Here’s the photo array:

Top row: HanRongDa HRD-701, Mesqool CR1009 Pro, LiJiANi Rd239
Second row: iRonsnow IR-688, XDATA D-109WB
Third row: XHDATA D-608WB, Mesqool CR1015, Raddy RF75A

Disclosure: XHDATA provided me with a pre-sales version of D-608WB in exchange for my input on their product manual. The radio tested here may not be the final version. I am under no obligation to review the radio publicly or to say nice things about it.

I used to own a Kaito weather radio, but it got wet and died. The radios tested here are on the low end of the emergency radio market.

Review of the contestants

Naturally this calls for a big table of comparable features:

FeatureCR1009 ProD-109
WB
Rd239D-608 WBRF75ACR1015HRD-701IR-688
LWY
MWYYYYYYYY
SW MHz2.3 – 2217.11 – 29.9993.2 – 29.99917.11 – 29.9994.75 – 21.8502.3 – 234.5 – 21.8503.2 – 22
FMYYYYYYYY
AIRYY
VHFYY
AlertYYYYYYYY
FlashlightYYYYY
Reading
Light
YYY
SOSYYYYY
Battery Type21700 and 3 AAA18650BL-5C or 3 AA18650Internal3 AAABL-5CInternal
3 AAA
Battery Capacity (mAh)5000 200020003000100010000
Solar panelYYY
Hand crankYYY
Charge phone?YYY
PowerUSB MicroUSB-CUSB-C
ATSYYYYY
ColorYellowBlackBlackYellowGrayGreenYellow
AlarmClock onlyYYYYY
Weather proof rating
BluetoothYYYY
MP3YYYY
RecordsYY
Price
3/13/2024
$35.00$46.50$55.90$40.50$46.74
coupon
$20.00$38.77$34.99
coupon
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HanRongDa HRD-701

HanRongDa HRD-701 AM/FM/Shortwave/Weather radio with MP3 player

I don’t really think much about the HRD-701 being a weather radio, but it is and it is yellow. Weather alerts worked and it gets the weather station well. This tiny radio does quite a lot of things, but it is not an outstanding performer.

iRonsnow IR-688

I picked this one up on sale in hopes that it would become my actual weather alert radio, to sit on the window sill and warn me of emergencies. I introduced it in, Before the battle: iRonsnow IR-688. It’s your basic moderately high-capacity battery weather radio adding shortwave and stereo speakers (very small stereo speakers). It’s not a great performer the broadcast bands, but it picked up the local NOAA weather station with ease. For shortwave, a clip-on antenna will be mandatory. I’ll have to wait a week to test the weather alert function.

LiJiANi Rd239

The Rd239 has its own article: LiJiANi Rd239: A different radio. It’s an interesting receiver, notable for user-installable firmware updates and wide frequency coverage (MW/SW/FM/VHF/AIR/WB). It’s also Bluetooth, MP3 and has a flashlight and reading light. It can also record from the radio. It’s fairly sensitive. It’s no slouch on weather band and the hazardous weather alert works.

Mesqool CR1009 Pro

This is one of my older weather radios, but it’s still for sale. When I received the first one, I noticed that when I tuned up it would skip MW stations that it found when tuning down. I figured that it was defective and sent it back for a replacement. The replacement had the same problem PLUS another problem where the weather broadcast volume would suddenly drop for a few seconds and come back. Needless to say, this is not one of my favorite radios. Also, the only tuning method is with a pair of buttons and tuning around shortwave simply takes forever. There is no station memory. It’s redeeming feature is a 5000 mAh 21700 battery and a solar panel.

Mesqool CR1015

Mesqool CR1015 weather radio

This radio was almost a giveaway. Amazon bundled it withe CR1009 Pro for something well under $10, so I bit. It’s not a bad radio for what it is. It shares the tuning problem with the CR1009 Pro, taking a very long time to get anywhere on shortwave. But weather alerts work. Its manual says there is a clock, but there isn’t.

The radio was discontinued shortly after mine came out, and a new version appeared on the Amazon product page. It has a rechargeable battery in it, supposedly a clock, and some station memories for under $20. It doesn’t perform well on MW and FM.

Raddy RF75A

Raddy RF75A radio / Music player

This one is tiny, very much a shirt pocket radio. It has wide coverage with MW / SW / FM / AIR / VHF and Weather. Weather alerts work. It also has a flashlight. It’s claim to fame is an accompanying mobile phone app that can control it, including setting the frequency and initiating off the air recording. It’s better than one might expect on MW and FM is in the middle. It too can play MP3 and has Bluetooth.

XHDATA D-109WB

The D-109 WB is the weather band version of the XHDATA D-109. It’s the only one in the group with longwave. It supports MP3, and answering your phone. This is one of the better performing radios in the group although it is reported to overload badly in the presence of local broadcast stations (not a problem where I live). It’s also one of the nicest to operate in most respects, although I don’t like the automatic variable speed tuning knob. It failed the weather alert test by frequently giving false alarms.

XHDATA D-608WB

This is the newest kid on the block, for sale only a few days. XHDATA sent me one in exchange for advice on improving their manual. I rewrote it and I hope they will use some of what I sent them. This radio does lots of things right and even though it doesn’t have direct frequency entry, it is able to skip through the shortwave bands, and it has an effective scan feature. Mine is defective causing it to be deaf on FM. It failed the weather alert test by giving false alarms. XHDATA’s excuse was “we can’t test it in China.”

Weather alerts

All of the radios in this review have a weather alert feature: they periodically scan the weather band listening for a tone of 1050 Hz and play an alert siren to alert the user. Today (Wednesday) is the day when the NOAA weather station in my area does its test, so I set up all the radios well in advance of the test to ensure that they all worked — only some worked a little too well: both of the XHDATA entries, D-109WB and D-608WB, gave false alerts.

It turns out that there was a low-volume tone overlaying the weather program that the XHDATA radios picked up on. Check out my article, Thinking About the New XHDATA D-608WB, for details. After working a few days, the D-608WB false alerted again. The alerts are just too loud and a false alert could happen any time of the day or night. For this reason alone, I consider this radio, and the D-109WB unsuitable as a weather alert radio. Keep in mind that my local NOAA weather station is not the best, for example, this is the NOAA status on January 31, 2024, as I write this:

My local station is KZZ28

The station isn’t totally out of service but the buzz is louder than the voice. This is not the first time the station has gone wacky.

The weather alert feature requires the radios to remain on at some level to scan for the alerts, draining the battery in the process. Optimally, a solar-equipped radio placed in a window could gain enough energy to keep it going indefinitely. I haven’t found such a radio. The CR1009 Pro comes close, running some number weeks before running out of charge in the summer time (less than a week in winter). My calculations suggest that the D-608WB will only scan for a little less than 2 days before a recharge is needed. I’m running a test of those two. The other radios in this clash lack solar. Leaving the external charger plugged in all the time is an option, but radio manufacturers generally recommend disconnecting the charger after the battery is full.

That doesn’t prevent the use of an external solar panel, such as is shown below. A solar panel automatically goes off at night. Batteries and solar panels seem to be advertised with exaggerated capacity. The panel in the photo us supposedly 1000 mA at 5V. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that much, but what I got is more than enough to charge most radios.

All of the radios in this article, except the CR1015, have the capability to be charged externally through a USB cable, so the solar panel may be an option. I’ll be testing that ongoing.

I made an attempt to measure the battery drain by the weather alert function:

RadioAlert current drainBattery Capacity
HanRongDa HRD-70150 mA1000 mAh
iRonsnow IR-688n/a10000 mAh
LiJiANi RD23960 – 100 mA2000 mAh
Mesqool CR1009 Pron/a5000 mAh
Mesqool CR1015n/aBattery not supplied
Raddy RF75An/a1000 mAh
XHDATA D-109WB60 mA2000 mAh
XHDATA D-608WB70 mA3000 mAh
Current measure drain in weather alert mode

The radios with no measurement either cannot be powered externally or cannot operate with the battery removed. Battery capacity is reported with the battery shipped with the radio. Higher capacity batteries could be installed in all but the Raddy RF75A and iRonsnow IR-688 that does not have a user replaceable battery.

Performance

Here are the performance numbers for each of the radios using my midday band scan. If you had a weather emergency, you might actually want to listen to local radio.

The Winner?

I’m going to say, very reluctantly, that the winner was the iRonsnow IR-688. I excluded the Mesqool CR1009 Pro because the weather program was garbled and the XHDATA D-608WB because of the false alarms. That left the iRonsnow as the only emergency radio standing. It also has the greatest battery capacity and it is the only one with a weather resistance rating, even if only IPX3.

If it weren’t for the false alerts, I probably would have chosen the XHDATA D-608WB. It’s an attractive and compact package. While FM didn’t work on my review unit, others say it works well, and MW was very good. It’s a decent radio. The inconvenient tuning makes it sub-optimal for shortwave listening.

If I wanted to pick the “best radio that has a weather band,” then probably the XHDATA D-109WB. It’s a good radio, sensitive, and with full HF coverage. It’s also the only one with LW. It has a good memory system and is easy to tune and, has full HF coverage. It has emergency radio features, and uses an 18650 battery.

About Kevin

Just an old guy with opinions that I like to bounce off other people.
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