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Turning the solarDAB on and the first thing that strikes you is how bright and clear the display is. It's only LCD, so suffers in terms of viewing angles, but the backlight is plenty strong enough to cope in strong sunlight. As a power saving measure the backlight also turns off after 10 seconds of non-usage.
As well as being clear the display refreshes quickly so copes well with quick navigation (a classic problem with LCD displays). It also packs in plenty of information including two lines of generic alphanumeric characters for station and DLS information. Above these are icons for displaying signal strength, battery life and sunlight strength, so you should never be caught short by a flat battery you weren't aware of.
Controls are kept to a minimum and are rubberised, adding further to this radio's toy-like feel, but they're sturdy and most importantly are easy to use. There are buttons for on/off, preset, mode, info, and scan and dials for tuning and volume. Ten presets can be stored with the classic hold-down-to-store, tap-to-recall method used for organising them. With no FM to back up the DAB signal, there are just two modes for this radio; line-in and DAB. This is somewhat of a concern as, despite what the DAB group tells us, DAB reception is still somewhat patchy and FM is often better so can be a handy backup. At least this radio also supports L-band DAB, so will work elsewhere in the world.
The info button, meanwhile, changes which bits of the of DLS information, which is transmitted along with the DAB signal, to display. This includes station frequency, song/artist name, bandwidth, time, station name, and ancillary information like news headlines.
Moving onto to some listening tests and it's clear straight away that the solarDAB lacks depth and has quite a weak, bass-starved sound. This means it particularly struggles with any music that you want to hit you with a bit of power (dance, RnB, heavy metal, etc.). However, there's a satisfactory degree of clarity that means you can still happily have a sing along, whatever your genre of choice. Volume is also surprisingly ample with the solarDAB able to fill a large room or keep you within earshot of the cricket score while playing Frisbee around your picnic.
The Roberts solarDAB isn't the most powerful or feature rich DAB radio on the market but its combination of a lightweight yet tough construction, easy to use controls, superb battery life, solar power, and international DAB compatibility means it's one of the best travel radios we've seen.
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