Freeplay Devo review: Freeplay Devo

The Good Sturdy wind-up handle; reliable performance; good sound; sense of honour in using it.

The Bad DAB play time from manual wind is very short.

The Bottom Line There may be prettier radios, and there may be better-sounding ones, but the warm feeling you get from winding up the Devo can't be beaten. While the power-guzzling DAB components reduce the practicality of the winding process, for FM listening it's a revelation

7.5 Overall

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Wind-up radios may conjure images of caftan-wrapped figures in the Afghan desert, straining to hear a broadcast against the onslaught of a sand storm, but these radios have universal appeal. Far from the deserts of the Middle East or the Bedouin enclaves of Mozambique, wind-up radios find their home on the windowsills of Wiltshire farmers and the patios of hedge-fund managers in Chelsea. The wind-up has transcended its humanitarian roots and emerged as an energy-saving device we can all benefit from.

What surprised us most about this ingenious little gadget is that 60 seconds of winding the radio gives a full hour of FM listening. It's the kind of return on investment only a fool could ignore: rotate this handle for a minute and in exchange you might hear the world news, a play or music. It's everything that snake in the Garden of Eden promised and more.

The Devo is utilitarian in looks, its one attempt at beauty being a faux-carbon-fibre fascia that adorns the front of the unit. This is slapped on the otherwise silver chassis like Chanel No5 on a drag queen -- it might hint at a classy exterior, but there's no getting away from the military-industrial feel to this radio. The chassis feels rugged, though it's not got anything on the PURE Oasis we recently reviewed. Where the Oasis was reinforced with aluminium, the Devo relies on a thick plastic case.

The FM and DAB tuning controls take the form of two concentric rotary controls. The outer part of the control dial changes FM frequency, while the inner control switches between DAB presets. This is particularly useful for those who flick between FM and DAB broadcasts, because there's no need to keep retuning the radio when changing between technologies. The radio will remember its DAB and FM tuning positions as long as you don't jog the dial you're not currently using.

FM frequency is illustrated by a conventional tuning needle and printed scale. This goes some way to explaining why the FM radio will reward 60 seconds of winding with an hour of radio, while the DAB tuner, with its power-guzzling LCD and digital-analogue conversion circuitry, will only give a paltry 3-5 minutes of play for the same wind.

Around the DAB and FM tuning dial, there are five preset buttons in orbit, as well as Menu and Scan buttons. As for the speaker on the Devo, it's a 100mm driver protected by a reasonably thick metal gauze that seems to defend well against moderate impact, but could be dented by severe abuse. A standard headphone socket in the side lets you listen to broadcasts without annoying neighbours.

The rear of the radio is blank apart from left and right phono connectors and the massive wind-up handle. This is an extremely solid fold-out handle that rotates in either direction to supply power to the internal dynamo. The grip on this has a rubberised plastic coating that makes it fairly comfortable to hold when winding the radio. Charging for extended DAB radio use is an experience we wouldn't wish on anyone, but for FM radio, the handle is perfectly adequate and won't strain your hand.

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