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Roberts solarDAB Radio review



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Roberts solarDAB Radio
  • Roberts solarDAB Radio
  • Roberts solarDAB Radio
  • Roberts solarDAB Radio
  • Roberts solarDAB Radio
  • Roberts solarDAB Radio
  • Roberts solarDAB Radio
  • SolarDAB black solar powered DAB radio


Our Score:


As the recent heat wave will have reminded us all, Britain does actually get some sunshine every once in a while and when it does, the last thing we want to be doing is staying indoors. There again, we wouldn't want to miss out on keeping up with the cricket score in real time while out basking. So what's the solution? Well a portable radio of course.

Now portable radios have been around for donkey's years, as have solar powered ones and DAB ones. However, the first company to combine all three of these elements is Roberts with its solarDAB. Now you should never be without the endlessly entertaining witterings of Jonathan Agnew and the team, no matter how long and far you travel.

As you would expect for a portable solar powered device, the solarDAB is quite a small and light unit, weighing in at 697grams and being about the size of two paper back books (190mm x 77mm x 112mm). It's not the most attractive thing we've ever seen (even ignoring the sticker that our photographer forgot to take off), especially in this bright green livery, but it's at least neat and tidy.

Build quality is also perfectly adequate but nothing special. The body is made from a sturdy plastic that's protected from major bumps and scrapes by two rubberised ends that double as stands. However, the finish of the materials is a bit rough with less than perfectly aligned panels and clearly visible mould seams round the edges. This means that despite its looks, this is not a particularly weather-proof radio.

We're also not sure about the aerial that must be unclipped from a recess in the back and screwed into place each time you want to use it. We appreciate this keeps it well protected when in transit but it is a little inconvenient.

Running the length of the top is the all important solar panel. At peak this can generate enough electricity to both run the radio and charge the inbuilt battery. Charging understandably takes some time but once saturated the battery will provide up to 27 hours of listening without any further sunlight. There's also a mains charger for emergency situations. So unless you're planning to furnish your igloo with one of these through a polar winter, you should be able to get continuous playback wherever you are.

Said inbuilt battery is stored in the bottom of the radio, under a flap secured with two screws. It's easy to get to but uses a custom battery (consisting of three AA sized NiMH cells wrapped in heatshrink plastic) with a two-pin motherboard-fan-header style connector, so replacement (if ever needed) is probably best left to the experts.

There's no line-out socket for piping the DAB signal to a proper Hi-Fi (hardly an essentially, we know, but a common feature on many DAB radios) but there are line-in and headphone sockets round the back.


July 8, 2009, 6:38 am

As a relatively keen fisherman and a diehard cricket fan, this radio intrigues me.

I currently have a windup DAB radio, and this does lead me to be very skeptical about the battery claims on this model. I appreciate the models are completely different, but 1 minute of winding will normally get me 10 minutes of DAB radio, or an hour of FM.

I cannot believe that this radio will both play and also charge at the same time, on the basis of that solar panel. Maybe on the equator, but not during an English summer.

Aside from those concerns it is interesting. However the cricket references surface once again - DAB only? Come on! FM and MW/LW should still be in there. Everyone knows that TMS is better on LW than DAB!

Good luck England btw. Hit Ponting and Katich hard early on, and good times will come. Stop Monty appealing every ball and we may even win.


July 8, 2009, 6:55 am

I'm very sceptical too, that solar cell can't supply more than half a watt at 200mAh on full tilt. Still, if it came in black and White and was half the price then I buy a couple. But not at that price with no FM or LW. Gordon Brown might want to consider subsidising DAB radios like this if he gets the chance to follow through on his crazy-stupid plan to switch off analogue radio.


July 8, 2009, 1:16 pm

Something we tend to forget is that there is not a single European platform for DAB. This means that this radio will not work at all outside UK, so forget taking it to sunnier places on holiday. It's a shame DAB has become a dog's breakfast. Imagine if FM reception was country dependent.


July 8, 2009, 1:27 pm

I bought a white one of these from John Lewis for our bathroom (too many blasted pirate radio stations mess up radio 4 in my area)and it's pretty good. The battery lasts ages and every so often I just stick it on the window ledge before going to work and it's recharged by the time I get home (if it's sunny that is) I'm very satisfied with it.


July 8, 2009, 2:50 pm

Had it have had a winder for when there's not much light i'd have been tempted by this.


Charles 2

July 8, 2009, 4:03 pm

I bought a white one a couple of weeks ago and its excellent. It comes in red and black too (look it up on amazon). Its a bathroom radio so is permanently set to Radio 4 and for this it is perfect. I've found the sound to be loud and clear. Personally I think it is very well made, and the aerial is no issue at all. From my experience standard telescopic aerials tend to get bent and broken over time.

The solar recharging only works when the radio is on - when you buy it there is an initial 24 hour charge for the battery and then it should last for about 3 months. The manual notes that the battery only charges under direct sunlight eg in a conservatory.


July 8, 2009, 4:13 pm

@SweetFA: Well that would've massively added to the bulk and weight. In the testing I've done with this, the battery really does last for as long as Roberts says and it'll charge up on a relatively overcast day.

@Lifethroughalens: They're available in all manner of colours including black.


July 8, 2009, 4:52 pm

Ideal for Cricket & Radio 4 wow I 'm still very young at heart LOL


July 9, 2009, 5:35 pm

"ven ignoring the sticker that our photographer forgot to take off)" Your hand model really also need to sort his nails out!


July 10, 2009, 1:09 am

Not entirely sure what you mean. It's just a normal bloke's nail.


July 11, 2009, 5:39 pm

I would love to buy one of these, to the condition it had no DAB, and FM, MW and LW instead!


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