Power outages aren't fun. You could be sitting on the couch and all of a sudden, the lights go off. Next thing you know, you're cooking beans on a mini gas stove and getting shampoo in your eye because you're showering by candlelight. Even worse, your cell phone battery could run out when you need to make a call to emergency personnel. Or maybe you're just bored out of your mind during this blackout and you really want to play Draw Something.
Fortunately, there are a number of self-powered chargers on the market, and the Slive-88 is one of them. Not only is it a $69.99 splash-proof AM/FM radio with an LED flashlight and an alarm, but it also includes a USB port to charge your phone. That way, if the power is out and it's the zombie apocalypse, at least you can power up your phone long enough to call your mother and tell her that you love her.
Editors' note: After we obtained this production unit, Slive Direct informed us that the Slive-88 will no longer be available in the United States for now because of a manufacturing deal with Toshiba. Slive is considering plans to it sell it here in the near future. So if there's a zombie apocalypse in the U.S. anytime soon, you're out of luck.
The Slive-88 is 5.83 inches long by 3.35 inches tall by 1.57 inches thick. It's also quite light, at about 13.4 ounces. I have particularly small hands, and the device was easy to handle and maneuver. Because of its relatively petite frame, it's easy to toss in a camping backpack and carry around.
On the left side of the radio, there's a toggle switch to turn the alarm siren on and off. Above that is the small LED flashlight.
On the top left is the toggle switch for the flashlight. You can turn it on, off, or switch it to auto. On the right is the AM/FM switch for the radio. Behind these two switches is the antenna, which extends up to a foot and can collapse and lay neatly alongside the top with a small attached clip. Next to the antenna, on the top right of the device, are two small holes that you can loop a small handle through.
To the left of the Slive-88 are two circular dials for radio tuning and volume. Rotating the volume dial all the way down will shut the radio off. To the right of the volume dial is the USB port/cell phone charger. Below that are ports for a 3.5mm headphone and the AC adapter. Both the phone charger outlet and the two other ports are covered by an attached rubber door.
On the front of the device, there is an output speaker for audio. To the right of that is a vertical radio dial, where you can see what station you're tuned in to. Above that are the tuning light and a small battery indicator.
On the back, near the bottom left, is the battery compartment, which holds three AAA batteries. To the right of that, sealed with a small screw, is the rechargeable 1,500mAh 4.8-volt battery. Above these is the manual crank handle that tucks in neatly into the rear of the device. When you pop it out to power its charge, you can see the battery switch. Here is where you can decide to power the device using its internal battery, which can be charged by the AC adapter, or the crank. To do so, toggle the switch to the right under the label "NI-MH battery." If you want to use your AAA batteries, switch the tab to the left, indicated by the "dry battery" label.
The Slive-88 is splash-proof, meaning it can withstand a few droplets of water. It cannot, however, be submerged in water or be exposed to a moist environment (like a bathroom with the shower running) for an extended period of time.
The AM radio operates on a range from 520KHz to 1710KHz; the FM measures 87MHz to 108MHz.
The device is equipped with an 0.5-watt LED flashlight. While I do like its auto option, given how wide the device is and how much light I'd need during a power outage, I think the light should be brighter and larger.
The radio also comes with an emergency siren, which could come in handy should you need to call for help or let people hear your location. It's loud and definitely does the job of getting people's attention (at least in CNET's office, anyway).
The battery life on this device depends on how you plan to charge it. Using AAA batteries, the manufacturer reports that the radio should play for about 22 hours, depending on reception and speaker volume. Also, it can charge a phone on standby for about 15 hours, and if talking on said phone, only about 30 minutes. The LED light can stay on for 45 hours, and the siren can play constantly for 16 hours.
After charging the built-in battery with the AC adapter, the radio should play for about 25 hours. The device should charge a phone for about 150 hours on standby or 5 hours on continuous talk. The LED light will stay lit for 50 hours and the siren will go off for 22 hours.
When cranking the device for a minute at a rate of 150rpm, the radio should play for about 30 minutes. It can charge a standard smartphone for about 40 minutes, if the phone is on standby, and about 2 minutes, if it's on continuous talk. The LED light will stay on for 35 minutes, while the siren will ring for 15 minutes.
The Slive-88 picked up radio signals easily and clearly. Bay Area radio stations were tuned in with ample clarity and audio quality. I could hear news announcements and music well, and the volume level can up quite high. On its maximum setting, the radio was very loud. The LED light for the radio tuning is especially helpful; when the device can pick up a signal well, the light turns green. It shuts off when it only picks up static.
Using the crank is easy, and since the unit is petite, it wasn't difficult maneuvering the handle. The knob at the end of the handle can rotate freely, making it that much easier to crank the radio. There's little resistance when spinning it, so someone like me, who isn't built of muscle, can easily power up a charge. Unfortunately, while you crank it, the device gives off a high-pitched mechanical noise that someone at the office described as "a cockroach screaming." Personally, it didn't bother me, and in times of crisis I especially don't see a reason to be annoyed. However, this is something to consider.
One thing I noticed was that you couldn't charge your phone and listen to the radio at the same time. In an emergency situation, this could be a downside: you can't power up your phone while listening to news alerts simultaneously.
The power source estimations from the manufacturer were pretty accurate to real-life testing. When I cranked the radio for about 5 minutes, I was able to gain about 10 minutes of talk time on my phone. After plugging the Slive-88 into an AC adapter for a full charge, I was able to then charge several other phones that were on standby to their full charge capacity.
With its USB charger port, the Slive-88 knows what people need: their cell phones to be powered up. Sure, this extra charge can spare you a few extra minutes for your phone to update your status, but it can also save your life if you need to contact emergency personnel. Its compact design also makes it great to slip into an emergency kit. And with its built-in flashlight and siren, and if this device makes it stateside, it's definitely something I'd want beside me in a blackout.