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Eton Grundig G2 Reporter review: Eton Grundig G2 Reporter

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With many people turning to their smartphones, streaming players, and computers for radio broadcasts (including myself), the Eton Grundig G2 Reporter is a bit of an oddball product to have in for testing. The portable AM/FM/shortwave radio received chuckles and the occasional "What's that? A radio?" whenever someone saw me using it.

Eton Grundig G2 Reporter
7.4

Eton Grundig G2 Reporter

The Good

The <b>Eton Grundig G2 Reporter</b> is a small, slim, and lightweight AM/FM/SW radio with 4GB of internal storage and a microSD slot for recording as well as playback of MP3/WMA files and a line-in jack for connecting an external source. FM reception is very good.

The Bad

The G2 Reporter runs on a rechargeable battery that charges by USB only (wall adapter not included); its e-book function is a joke; it has a flimsy stand; and operating it can be confusing.

The Bottom Line

The Eton Grundig G2 Reporter is more than just a little portable radio, but it has some drawbacks to consider before you buy.

For a lot of people radios are just something you listen to in emergencies or when it's the only option. Shortwave listeners -- in the U.S. at least -- are even rarer, so it's really a good thing that the G2 Reporter is more than just a radio.

Grundig squeezed quite a bit of functionality into its ultracompact body, letting you do things like record radio and play MP3s.

However, if you're most interested in its shortwave radio, you'll probably want to invest in one of Grundig's larger models simply because using the G2 can be frustrating.

Features
Though the G2 Reporter is primarily billed as a digital AM/FM/SW radio, with its 4GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot, and a couple of important inputs, that's certainly not all it does. It has a built-in mic and a mic input on the left side, so it can be used as a voice recorder or a loudspeaker.

A line-in jack on the right side lets you connect an external source such as a smartphone or tablet. You can also use this to record from another source; just plug in, press record, and start playing whatever you want to record.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The internal storage is used for voice recordings as well as recording radio. Radio can be recorded in either 129Kbps WAV format or 40Kbps MP3 format, though the latter sounds truly terrible. The card slot can be used with microSDHC cards up to 16GB for playback of MP3 or WMA files.

For MP3 and WMA files there are eight equalizer presets and you can set it to shuffle your tracks, repeat a track, or repeat all. The tempo can be adjusted, too, and if you have lyrics in LRC format with your music files, it can display those.

The G2 can also display text documents on its tiny screen, a feature Grundig calls an "e-book function." While it would be possible to read an entire book four lines at a time, it's probably nothing you'd want to do. But, if you need it to display a few lines of information, it can do that.

As for the radio features, for FM tuning you can choose from Normal (87-108MHz), Japan (76-90MHz), or School (64-108MHz) bands. There is support for RDS (radio data system) information, but you have to turn it on every time you switch to FM (the same goes for changing from mono to stereo). Tuning for AM goes from 520-1,710KHz with either 9KHz or 10KHz spacing. Frequencies for SW go from 2.3-23MHz with 5KHz tuning steps. You can select specific bands by repeatedly pressing the SW button; 60m, 49m, 41m, 31m, 25m, 22m, 19m, 16m, and 13m bands are available.

Lastly, there are alarm and sleep timer functions built in, which adds to the G2's appeal as a travel radio. However, setting up the alarm seems to require much more effort than it probably should.

Design and use
Aside from its feature set, the big reason to consider the G2 is its size and weight. The matte-black plastic body weighs 9.6 ounces and measures 7.5 inches wide by 3.5 inches tall by 0.8 inch deep. It's small enough to toss in a bag or even slip in a large coat pocket without adding much weight or bulk.

Sarah Tew/CNET

However, part of the reason it is so thin is that it uses a rechargeable lithium ion battery pack. There is no secondary battery option -- you can't just pop in some AAs -- and since its battery pack is not something you can pick up anywhere, you're stuck if you're out and the battery dies. It charges via an included Mini-USB cable when plugged into a computer, too. No wall adapter is included, which is irritating considering the radio's price. If you don't already have one from a smartphone or other USB device, I strongly suggest picking one up; they're usually less than $5.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The battery is located under a thin plastic panel on back behind a hinged stand, which is equally as flimsy as the battery cover. The stand also doesn't lock in place, so anytime you tilt the radio the slightest bit forward, the stand starts to close. Add in its light body and the weight from its 3-foot antenna when fully extended and it can be unwieldy to use on a tabletop.

Using the basic radio features is fairly straightforward: turn it on, select your audio source, and start listening. Starting a recording is as easy as pressing the record button. Another button lets you quickly switch from radio to MP3 playback, while an Esc button accesses the radio's other functions. All of the buttons, by the way, give nice clicky feedback, so you definitely know you've pressed them.

In radio mode, you can tune in directly to a station by entering it on the keypad or manually tuning with the knob on the right side of the body. From there, operation gets a little less clear.

For example, the radio has two ways to get to the same settings for some modes, but not others, so you end up jumping around a lot. Recordings made in MP3 format can be played back in Music mode, but WAV files are only available in Voice mode. The manual isn't great at explaining everything, either, so you may have to do a lot of trial-and-error work to get the G2 to do what you want. None of these things are necessarily deal breakers since you probably won't be doing a lot of settings changes once you've got it set up, but the radio can be frustrating to figure out initially.

Performance
If you're most concerned with pulling in FM stations, you'll be happy with the G2 Reporter. Even some stations that I've found difficult to tune with other portables came in strong. Tuning of AM and SW was good, too, but less reliable than FM.

Recordings made in WAV format sounded good, but, again, I would not recommend recording in MP3. MP3 files from other sources played fine, though, and the row of controls along the bottom of the keypad make navigation easy. (Note: I read a few user reviews that said recordings made with the G2 were prone to dropouts or skips on playback. Though this wasn't something I experienced with my tests of WAV and MP3 recordings and tests of MP3 files from other sources, it is certainly something to consider. If you buy the G2 Reporter, you may want to make sure the retailer will allow you to easily return it and test this feature first.)

Sarah Tew/CNET

Considering the G2 has two small speakers inside a thin chassis, I wasn't expecting great sound from it and, well, it met my expectations. Music and talk both sound thin and lack any significant bass. It does get pretty loud without distortion, however, so you'll have no trouble hearing it. There is a headphone jack for private listening or for connecting to a set of external speakers (though that defeats its easy portability).

Conclusion
Overall, the Eton Grundig G2 Reporter is a nice little portable radio and MP3 player. If you're just thinking of it as a radio, its price is probably too high. But if you like the idea of easily recording radio programming, playing back your own MP3s, and having portable stereo speakers for a smartphone or other mobile device, its price isn't bad at all.

Eton Grundig G2 Reporter
7.4

Eton Grundig G2 Reporter

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7