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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.
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