• Mon, Dec 12 2005

Freeplay Summit Radio – Review Update

Freeplay Summit Wind-up RadioI ran a little experiment with my new Freeplay Summit Wind-up radio today that I thought I’d share. I was listening to some shortwave last evening when the battery ran low. I knew we were expecting a sunny day here in my neck of the woods, so I decided to forego hand-cranking the charge back up and test out how the solar charging works.

Before I get too far into this, I want to tell you about this one neat feature with the Summit. When the radio detects that the battery has run to a low enough level, it automatically switches off the radio, but leaves enough juice in the battery to maintain the clock and memory settings. With this low voltage cut-off, you don’t have to worry about resetting your clock and etc every time the battery runs out.

Now, we had a glorious sunny winter day here in central Ontario. The kind where the sky is an awesome shade of blue. Lots of sunny goodness to be had. I’ve got a bay window right beside me in my home office here that faces in a south/southeast direction.

The Summit went onto the window ledge at about 10 o’clock this morning, in full sunlight, and stayed there until a little after 2pm when the trees in my front yard start to cast shadows. So we should have received a good 5 hours of charge time.

There’s a Toronto Maple Leafs game on tonight, so I switched on the radio a little while ago to catch it and see how long it would run from the 5 hours of sun time. Are you ready for this? 15 minutes. 15 stinking minutes!

Needless to say, I’m not impressed. The solar charger was one of the primary reasons I bought this radio.

The batteries in the unit are Ni-MH and rated at 1300 mAh and 3.6 V. The included AC/DC adaptor is 6V and 100mA and will fully charge in 24 hours according to the manual, which will then provide a runtime of about 20 hours. With the hand-crank, 30 seconds of winding provides 30 minutes of operation. These figures have all proven to be true thus far.

According to the manual, the solar panel has a rated output of 4.2 V and 34 mA. Unfortunately, I get confused with the whole mA and V thing, so I have no idea how that would relate to my experience today of 5 hours of charge for 15 minutes of runtime.

Can anybody help me here with whether this is jiving or is something wrong? Thanks.

Here’s my previous Freeplay Summit review is here.

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  • greg

    Solar panel is said to take 40 hours for full charge, AC/DC adaptor takes 24 hours to full charge, and I’m guessing the windup/dynamo takes 35 minutes or so…. that 35 minutes is from their Freeplay Freecharge… is maybe the Summit is an hour?

  • Mike

    First off, don’t worry about the voltage difference. Think of the 4.2 volts needing to be a little higher than the fully charged batteries’ voltage of 3.6, to be able to “push” the current in. Since you mentioned the radio turns off before the batteries are completely discharged (and you’ll never get 1300 mAh out of the battery anyway without just about killing it for good), let’s assume it still has a partial charge.

    Since we don’t really know what it is, let’s just say there’s 1/3 of the capacity left, or about 435 mAh. That means we need to replace 2/3 of the capacity, or 1300-435=865 mAh, plus a little more due to the inefficiencies of batteries & chargers. Add 10% or so, and we need to pump 950 mAh into the batteries.

    34 mA from the panel *under perfect outdoor sun (meaning your window blocks some energy), and at the perfect angle all day (meaning the radio must be moved periodically)* isn’t much. 950 milliAmp-hours divided by 34 milliAmps equals about 28 hours, or about 5.5 times as much time as you gave it.

    On this radio at least, the solar module is neat but pretty underpowered. The thin, amorphous type cells they use are inexpensive, moderately rugged, and can be easily built into products, but inefficient. I would think if you let the radio stay in the window for several days at a time between uses, the solar-powered aspect would work fine. But then, not using it, isn’t why you bought it.

  • Mercedes

    Well I guess I have to research other wind-up radios.
    Any other suggestions?
    I read about two other types of radio: Freeplay F360 and Baygen Ranger G. Anyone fimiliar with these?
    I live in British Columbia and hope to use the radio during hiking/camping trips.


  • http://www.paisleypeking.co.uk Alex

    I’ve got one if these too and I know what you mean about the solar panel, it’s not the best in the world. Think of it as a way to avoid a little bit of hand cranking. I have noticed that if I’m using the radio in the garden on a sunny day the battery does seem to last a little bit longer, than it would inside. It’s nowhere near as good as my now 20 year old Sony Solar walkman which will happily run on solar alone outside, but it’s an extra. After all you can always wind the thing up. If you’re the type who only listens to the radio with breakfast and then goes out for the day, sitting it on the windowsill seems to give you enough charge for the folliwing day.

  • C J Young

    OK, I just bought one, and I love it. But can someone please tell me how to access the battery when I eventually do have to replace it? I can’t find anything in the manual or here on-line to show me where the battery is! Thanks

  • Jeff

    I got a Freeplay Summit as well. It seems like a pretty sweet radio. I have a few other freeplay products (Sherpa X-ray, Indigo and Freecharge) and I also own an Eton FR150.
    As for the Summit, I purchased it online and it seems to have been a display unit or returned item. It has a bunch of scratches. Also it did not come with the extra plugs or the carry bag. Anyhow, it has not worked after about 30 hours of plugged into AC adapter. The website states to vigorously wind it for 30-60 seconds a few times to “recondition” the battery. I tried twice and so far i got nothing. I opened the unit, fairly easy to do with a small flathead jewelers screwdriver. The battery was staring right at me. It is late now and i will not be able to do the vigorous charging but will try in the morning to see if it works. If not i guess there is something defective or i will need a new battery pack, which i have no idea where to buy. Maybe best buy or circuit city??

  • http://unpluggedliving.com noel


    It might have been a display unit. But 30 hours of charging? That might have killed the battery if the electronics behind the charging circuit does not have an auto cutoff feature once it is fully charged.

    But in any case, the solution I think would be just to replace the battery.

    The manuals might have the specs of the battery like how many volts it has and how much milli amp-hours (or mAH) it has.

  • Jeff

    Yeah, well, I had taken it off after 24 hrs of charging to try and get it to work but it did not so I tried the crank charging and then tried the wall charge again. I’m going to try and take it into a battery store so they can find or build a custom battery for me. You know any place that has those 3 cell 3.6v 1300mah triangular design, they seem hard to find in trianglular design but easy to find in block design.

  • allen

    hello guys, i really wanna to buy this radio for my father. can anyone tell me about the feature of its shortwave? because my father likes to listen to some shortwaves like VOA. is it clear? is this radio good enough to receive shortwave broadcast?
    thank you

  • Bob roberts

    I’m afraid you got your math wrong. You recharged in the sunlight 4 hours not 5.

  • Bob Roberts

    No one should buy the Freeplay Summit radio if they expect Freeplay to supply them with rechargeable batteries at a reasonable price when they need replacing. I’ve had this radio for about 5 years, and I like it. However, now that the batteries need to be replaced Freeplay wants to charge me $75US to send them to me here in the US. No way will I ever patronize this company again.