Despite the advancements in technology and the incredible tasks smartphone can complete, the humble radio still remains popular. The best portable radio will be able to pick up those radio signals and deliver your favorite radio shows and music from great distances.

In order to find the best pocket radio, there is a checklist to complete in order to make sure it suits all your needs. Good sound quality is a given but you also want it to be easy to carry, easy to power and have all the modes and features that you want.

Here we will go through that checklist to make sure you are getting the perfect radio for you. We have also looked at the portable radio reviews to show you the best devices available. Once you’ve finished reading this, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for.

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How To Choose An AM FM Portable Radio – Buying Guide

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Size

If you are looking into portable radios, then size is going to be very important as you will want to take your radio with you wherever you go. How small you need your radio to be depends on a few factors but mainly the use that you are going to have for it.

If you are camping, for example, then you probably wouldn’t be bothered about it not being able to fit in your pocket and would probably want it to be a little bigger in order to produce a good level of sound. In this situation when you would probably be looking for a light device that has a carry handle.

If you are going to be hiking then you would most likely need a radio which is going to be smaller and able to either fit into your clothes pocket or easily fit into the pocket of your backpack. Size is very much an individual need but there are other aspects to consider around this.

One of the obvious ones is the battery power that they will need and what that means for how you will have to be prepared for that. The smaller models will usually just take two AA batteries while the ones that are a bit larger generally take around four. Other batteries are possible but the general gist is, the bigger the radio, the more you have to worry about powering it.

The larger models also generally have more features on there and that is going to be preferable to a lot of people. Bigger models are also going to be able to produce more sound, therefore if you wanted to play the radio to the whole camp, for example, then you would ideally want to have a larger model.

In choosing the size you need to simply assess the reason you are going to be buying your radio for. If you are going to be somewhere more static like a camp then you would want something bigger but if you are on the move then you would most likely prefer something smaller.

Power Source

With portable radios, one of the biggest things that you need to consider is how it is going to be powered. All these radios that we have featured are able to be powered by batteries but some require more power than others.

The smallest radios can generally be powered by a couple of batteries and will be able to last for a long time. This is ideal if you are doing an activity such as backpacking, as you would be able to carry along some extras to ensure that you don’t run out.

A lot of these models can also be powered via a power cord. This is ideal if you are going to be close to a power source as you wouldn’t have to be so reliant on a battery. Some of them rely on the power cord more than others and if you are going to be away from power for a long time, you need to bear this in mind.

There is also the option of having an internal rechargeable battery. This has negatives and positives with the positive being that you wouldn’t have to constantly spend money on batteries. The negative is that you won’t be able to carry extra batteries as a back-up and if you weren’t near a power source, you’d simply be without a radio.

With these radios though, it’s not only just about their energy consumption but also the battery type that you are using. The more expensive batteries tend to last a lot longer and are not only going to give you value for money but also mean that you don’t have to keep changing your portable batteries.

Again, consideration has to be given to the situation that you are going to be in. If you are going to stay close to a power source then this won’t be an issue but if you are going to be away from power for a while then you would ideally want a radio with a low energy consumption with long-lasting batteries.

Extra Features

When buying any product it’s always nice to get some extra features that are going to help you enjoy your product even more. A lot of these radios are very simple and don’t have many features whereas others are a bit more complex in terms of how they operate.

One useful feature to have are the preset functions which are going to be able to help you set your favorite stations so that you are able to listen to them instantly. Most people will be aware of how to use these as they have been a common feature of car radios for many years.

One of the reasons that you might get a portable radio is so that you don’t have to use the battery on your phone. There are times though that you might want to use your phone and being able to connect it to your radio via an auxiliary cable or by Bluetooth is going to be a very useful feature for many people.

If you are going to be leaving the radio out in the open in a situation such as a campsite, then the radio having a good level of water resistance is going to be important. Only a few products will be able to have this feature and it’s something that you specifically need to look out for if you’ll often be outside.

There are other small features that can be useful too such as a carry strap or indicators that will let you know when your radio is low on battery. These main features will often not be the main for buying a present but they can be very useful extras.

Stability And Sturdiness

One aspect of portable radios is that they will receive a lot more punishment than a regular radio. The reason for that is due to the fact they are taken on the go and are much more likely to encounter bumps, drops and water contact.

Due to that they need to be well-built in order to cope with anything which could potentially break them. Having protection added to a product would usually increase its weight and therefore you are unlikely to see a huge amount of durability from these radios.

There are some devices here though that are built for more resistance and have built-in shock proofing and water resistance. They aren’t going to give you much space if you place them in a backpack but are ideal for more rugged use such as at the home or construction sites.

One way to ensure that you are getting a quality product is to make sure that you are getting one from a reputable company. Companies like Sony are not only known for their sound quality but also for their build quality too.

Not only is the build quality important but it is also a good idea to check the user ratings from those who have been using the product for a long time. This will give you a great idea whether or not the product is built to last or one that is going to break more quickly than others.

If you’re going to be in difficult circumstances then you need to make sure that you are going to be getting a product that is going to be able to cope with that. If you are on a trip and your radio fails then it could be highly frustrating.

Control

When buying a radio, it is always ideal to get one that is going to be very easy to use. This depends on the set-up and the controls on the radio but it also depends on the features, as if you want more features, it is going to be a little more complicated.

The most simple of radios have very few controls and will simply have a power button, a tuning scroll and a volume control. This means that you can’t go wrong in how to use the product and also it will take very minimal battery life away from it which will help to prolong its life.

LCD screens can be a very useful addition where you can easily see the information that you need but will take up more power from the batteries. If you want an LCD display then you need to ensure that you are going to have enough power to be able to keep it going.

With the AM FM radios you also want to be able to easily switch through the modes depending on what radio type you want. If you are willing to learn how to use a more complicated radio then having one with extra functions is going to be a good choice.

Using presets involve learning how to program your radio which may be too difficult for some who will prefer to tune the radio themselves, or only ever listen to one station. To others though, this can be an extremely useful feature.

All these radios are fairly simple to use and it’s worth to check where the controls are and how easy they are to use before buying it. Aspects like an LCD screen, presets and alarms are nice features but not absolutely essential to your radio use.

Carrying Handle

With these being portable radios, how portable they are is naturally going to be a key issue. The importance of a carrying handle will often depend on just how small your radio is and also how much it is going to weigh.

If you have a pocket radio, for example, then it is not going to come with a carrying handles as it would be more of a hindrance more than anything. It would often get in the way and become a barrier to you being able to place it in a pocket.

There are a few things that a small pocket radio can have for convenience though and one of them is a carrying strap if you didn’t want to place it in your pocket. Another is having the radio being able to be clipped to a belt, as this would mean you could use it on the go whilst not having to carry it or place it in a pocket.

For the larger models though, you may see them having a carrying handle. The Panasonic RF-2400D model is a good example of one of these radios having a good handle which will make it very easy to take from one place to another.

Other radios such as the Sangean PR-D7 are too big for a pocket but decide to go without a handle. This is up to you and whether you want one or not. The Sangean mentioned there has a slender design and only weighs just over a pound and therefore would be very easy to carry.

It’s it worth noting what you are going to be doing with your hands. If you are gardening, cooking or on a building site then your hands might be dirty and therefore having a carrying handle would be a good way of moving the radio without having to get the main part of it dirty.

Speakers And Sound Quality

There is no use having a portable radio with other great features if the sound coming out of it isn’t great. This depends on three main factors to consider and they are the quality of the speaker, the size of the speaker and also how good the radio is at picking up a signal.

In terms of picking up AM FM signals, this is where these radios are much better than any smartphone as the telescopic antenna that most feature is going to be able to pick up great signals from many miles away. This will help to ensure that you have a good level of sound quality.

The size of the speaker is going to be important to how you are going to use it. The obvious statement to make is that the potential volume of the radio is hugely affected by the size of it and this is going to be a key point in your buying decision.

Trying to play music to a whole camp with a pocket radio, for example, is going to be very difficult and therefore a larger radio would be needed. If you were planning on listening to your radio through headphones then this isn’t going to be an issue.

Radios such as the Panasonic have a large speaker that is going to be able to project over a good sized space. A lot of the Sangean models that we have featured here don’t quite have the same speaker size but are still going to be loud with a good level of quality.

All the radios that we have featured here have quality speakers. A brand like Sony are able to deliver a very strong signal and transit that with great sound quality through their speakers, regardless of their size. Getting radios from a reputable brand will help to ensure that the sound quality is going to be good.

Headphones vs Speakers

You may be looking into these radios and already know whether or not you are going to be using them with speakers or headphones. All the products that we have featured here are able to be used with headphones, therefore you’ll always have the choice.

This, again, will often come down to the size of the radio and your intended purpose. If you have a pocket radio then there is a good chance that most of the time you are going to be listening to that through headphones but it might not always be the case.

If you are outside with these types of radios, then it’s always worth considering the type of weather conditions that you are going to be in. The reason for that is wind can heavily affect the sound waves that are trying to travel through the air.

For that reason, trying to listen to a pocket radio without headphones on a windy day is going to be very difficult. For an outdoor scenario such as this, getting a portable radio with a large speaker is probably going to be your best bet.

As we mentioned before, for their size these speakers of the products we have looked at here are great but there is only so much volume and depth a speaker can give when it is a certain size. The environment you are going to be in plays a large part in this.

If you’re planning on using your headphones, then it doesn’t matter too much what type of radio you buy but if you’re going to be more reliant on the speaker, then you would either want a quieter place if you had a pocket radio or get a larger portable radio if there is going to be background noise or wind.

Available Presets

The presets are a feature that we only see on a few of these radios. Most smaller pocket radios are designed to be very simple and therefore won’t have this as an option. Other radios will have many different preset options which can be very useful.

For those that don’t know, presets are where you are able to set your radio in order to simply press a button that will automatically take you to your station of choice without having to manually tune it in. The number of times you can do this depends on the radio.

This can be very useful to some as it means that you don’t have to worry about trying to find your favorite radio station and will be able to find it instantly. This can certainly add to the ease of use but some radios try and make it trickier than it could be which can put people off.

A lot of radios have more presets than they have buttons. This means that you have to press a button a number of different times or select a different mode before going to your presets. For most people, they are not going to have 20+ different stations that they listen too.

If you like the idea of presets but don’t want it to be too complicated, then looking for a radio with a low number of possible presets is going to be a good idea. Having a one-button press you’re your station can be a lot easier than it is with other methods.

On the other hand, if you are more technically savvy or have the patience, then you would be able to choose a radio that has a very large number of presets so that you would always be able to find a radio that is in tune.

It’s worth noting, however, that if you want to use your radio for an activity such as hiking, then you might always be using it in different locations each time. This could mean that those presets are useless as you will be different distances away from the radio signal and they may no longer be strong enough to reach you. In this instance, having a simpler radio would make your life easier.

Purpose

As we have already seen, purpose plays a big role in what type of radio you are going to want. The nature of these radios is that they can be taken anywhere but some situations suit certain types while others may suit a different environment.

If you were hiking then it’s likely that you would prefer a pocket radio that you would be able to carry around your shoulder, slip into your clothes pocket or place it into your backpack. This would be able to give you a highly convenient radio wherever you are.

If you are backpacking then the same applies, and you would be able to set your radio down at night when it comes to camp. Having a radio that was too big would be a hindrance as it would take up too much space in your bag.

Being in a more permanent spot such as at a beach or at a fixed camp would allow you to take a bigger portable radio and allow the music to be played through the speakers. Having to carry it in a backpack wouldn’t be an issue and these are the types that would be perfect for a carry handle.

There are other types of activities that would also affect your buying decision such as if you were at a construction site, gardening or any other activity where you would be outside and possibly getting dirty. Here you would want a more durable radio that is going to be able to cope with tougher conditions.

Whatever type of activity you plan on doing with your radio, it’s important to match it up with the design aspects of the radio. That way you’ll be able to get a product that suits your needs and one that is going to last you for a long time.

Antenna

The antenna of your radio is going to be a crucial aspect and one that will be a big difference between getting a radio and using your phone. As good as smartphones are these days, they don’t have a purpose built large antennas to pick up a radio signal.

This means that to play radio, your phone either has to connect to the internet or use your headphones as an antenna. A lot of remote places don’t have an internet signal, this takes up your battery power and headphones aren’t a great substitute for a purpose-built antenna.

Having these antennas as telescopic will enable you to get a wide range of radio signals and pick up radio stations clearly in order to play them with good sound quality. A good antenna will help your radio serve its purpose and give you exactly what you want.

A good antenna often doesn’t need a large about of extension in order to pick up good signal though, and the best products will be able to attract a good level of signal as often you don’t want to have to always extend it out to its full way.

Checking the user reviews is a great way of making sure the signal is good as this will show you opinions from users all over the place in many different areas with many different signaling challenges. Having a good and strong antenna is obviously crucially important.

Outputs/Inputs

These radios aren’t going to have the highest level of functionality available as one of their key features is that the batteries inside of them need to last for a very long time. Excessive functions would quickly drain that, leaving you without a radio.

One great feature that many people would enjoy is these radios having a port available for an auxiliary cable. This would provide a very easy connection with your phone to be able to play your favorite music through the radio.

Many might think this would be a useless feature as you could just play it through your phone but this is useful for a few different reasons. The speakers of your radio will be a lot clearer and louder than your phone so you are going to be able to get greater sound quality.

Also the battery on people’s smartphones is going to be a lot more precious than their radio battery too as you wouldn’t want to drain your phone by using the speakers, especially if you are doing an activity such as camping.

One port that your radio should always have it one for your earphones or headphones, this will give you the option of doing either listening method. Even if you don’t plan on using your radio in this way, it’s always a good option to have.

FAQs

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Q: How AM/FM works?

A: In this digital age there is still a place for radio signals. If you are strolling through a city center then listening to the radio through the internet signals on your phone would be perfectly fine and easy to use and listen to through your headphones.

In many other scenarios, listening to your portable radio is going to be the better option. It will be able to pick up those radio signals through the air and sent them down to your speakers. Radio signals are still more widespread than internet signals so you are going to get a lot more coverage.

AM and FM are both sent via electromagnetic waves but the way they are sent are different and therefore different settings are needed from your radio in order to pick them up. AM has poorer sound quality but is cheaper and able to be sent over long distances. That is why information channels are often AM and music channels are usually FM.

Q: Why Do I Need A Radio, Can’t I Just Use My Phone Or Car Radio?

A: Using a manual radio is still a great way of listening to your favorite station or listening out to key information. Radio signals still stretch for much further than phone data signals and therefore if you are in the great outdoors, listening to the radio waves is your only option.

Your phone also won’t have the same volume or quality of speakers as a portable radio and therefore you would get a much better, bigger and deeper sound. Using a portable radio also means that you don’t have to worry about draining your phone or car battery. There are many situations where a portable radio would be the best choice.

Globo Surf Overview

The portable radio still has its place in the world. Many might have feared that it could have died out but until they create a smartphone that is able to pick up radio signals as well, and have speakers that are going to be able to match it, then it will still live strong.

Picking the best one for you depends heavily on the purpose you are going to have for it. You might need a very simple pocket radio or you could well wish for something bigger which is able to have a bit more functionality to it.

There are key considerations such as whether you are going to listen to it through speakers or headphones, how durable you need it to be, whether or not you need a carrying handle and if you would want to be able to have presets.

Once you have been able to figure all of that out then you would be able to decide which type of portable radio is going to be the perfect option for you. Then you would be able to get out there knowing that you’ll always be able to pick up those signals.

More Camping Reviews:

Globo Surf AM FM Portable Radios Reviews

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I was looking for a good radio for such a log time. Me and my husband got the Vondior AM / FM Battery Operated Portable Pocket Radio. The battery lasts forever, it catches our favorite station and we have some good entertainment during our backpacking or camping trips. Our friends were so against it because of modern technology but after proving then that the battery will last forever and they don't have to worry about it they changed their mind. We strongly recommend it.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!