Best Portable Radio to Buy in 2018

Portable radios are a great way to take music and news with you. AM/FM radios continue to be a popular purchase for people, despite the numerous technology options that are available today. Some wireless speakers and mobile devices don’t offer traditional radio channels, so having a portable radio is a great option for staying connected and getting updates when you are on the go when the power is out in your home, or during emergency situations. Portable radios come with a variety of features, not just AM/FM dials, so you have your choice of options. Because portable radios are meant to travel, they usually pretty robust and sturdy. They come in a variety of sizes and styles and are available from a number of popular brand names you would associate with great sounds and quality products. In this review of the best portable radio, we’ll show you what to consider before you buy, and review the best portable radios on the market today.

Best Portable Radio Reviews

Product

Picture

Rating

Prices

Best Portable Radio

Runner-up Portable Radio

Middle-of-the-

Road Portable Radio

Good Portable Radio

Economical Portable Radio

Our top pick for the best portable radio is the Sony ICF38. We love this portable radio because it is a simply designed and compact radio. This radio doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that you might find in other portable radios, but this review is about the best portable radios, not radios that do a million things. Sony delivers on its promise to provide a solid and quality product. This portable radio offers tone control, a large built-in speaker, and an LED lite tuning indicator. This portable radio also offers an earphone jack so you can put this radio in your pocket and listen to the radio on your travels. It is battery powered, and the manufacturer recommends using matching brand batteries, which are not included. It requires 4 - AA batteries. Portable radios are great to have when you are experiencing power outages, or when you are working in the yard. It provides great sound, and the controls are traditional band dials. It is capable of picking up both AM and FM stations. The radio is black in color so it can look great anywhere you want to listen to the radio. It can also be used with AC power, that is not included in the package. It does feature a great 90-day warranty on labor and a 1-year warranty on parts. Even though the batteries are not included, when you invest in good batteries, they will last up to 80 hours because this radio doesn’t draw a lot of power to run. It does have a telescopic antenna, so you can get a wide range of radio stations around you. For a traditional portable radio, this is the best option you’ll find on the market today.

Pros:

  • Great radio option for AM/FM portability
  • Handle
  • Telescopic antenna
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • Doesn’t come with battery or AC adapter

Our choice for the runner-up for the best portable radio is the Sangean TB-100 Toughbox. This is a very different kind of portable radio from our top choice for portable radio, but it was a tough decision, so this gets the runner-up award. This is a rain resistant portable radio, which makes it a great choice for construction sites of those who work outside on a regular basis. So while it’s not water-proof per se, it can take a bit of rain until you can get it out of the elements. This is a very well designed portable radio, and you can tell by looking at it that it is built to take a beating. It accepts rechargeable batteries, and it has an indicator light to let you know when the batteries need to be recharged. It takes “C” size batteries, but they aren’t included in the package. It does come with an AC power cord for when you want to connect to a power source for more listening time. The cord is quite long, measuring 2.7 meters, which means you can put this radio almost anywhere and still be able to hear it with ease. The speakers are large and provide a great sound, overall.  It has an audio port for an MP3, CD or smartphone connection so you can listen to your downloaded music as well as the radio. The radio has 10 memory presets which can include 5 FM stations, as well as 5 AM stations. There is a good size LCD display so you can read the radio station or see the time easily.

There are a number of other great features about this portable radio including a digital tuner for the radio itself, weatherproofing including dust and shock resistance, and the long cord can be wrapped around the back of the radio unit for easy storage and durability. The speaker measures 5.25 inches and provides a great quality sound.

Pros:

  • Large speaker
  • Digital AM/FM tuner

Cons:

  • Doesn’t come with rechargeable batteries

You probably already know that Panasonic is a great brand when it comes to audio quality, but they are making the list as the middle-of-the-road option on this list of the best portable radios because it offers just enough features and options to get you what you want in a portable radio. Basically, this is a “nothing fancy” portable radio, but that’s what makes it a good choice: sometimes, you just want a radio. It is small and compact, measuring 3.2” x 9.2” x 4.8” and weighing less than 3 pounds. This means that you can grab this portable radio on the way out the door and literally take it anywhere you want to go. It’s small enough to throw in a backpack, or even your jacket pocket. It makes a great option for when the power goes out or during an emergency situation; it makes a great addition to any emergency kit. It has a quality built-in speaker and an earphone jack so you can listen without others hearing. It also means that you can pop this in your bag to listen on the go. It features a telescopic antenna. This radio runs on 4- AA batteries, and it has a removable power cord that is included with the device.

Pros:

  • Great, basic radio
  • Analog tuner
  • Compact
  • Convenient

Cons:

  • Doesn’t come with batteries

If you are looking for a good option for a portable radio, you’ll want to consider the HIFIMC portable radio. This is a fun looking radio that delivers good sound and portability. It features a modern and sleek look with an attached handle that makes it easy to grab and go on the way out the door. Many portable radios are elongated and come in rectangular shapes, but this radio is in a fun square shape and makes it ideal for any home decor. You can easily put this radio on a fireplace mantel, or put it in your bag and head to the park with it. It is tiny, measuring only 3.5” x 3.5” - that’s about the size of a Post-it ®  note. This is more than just a radio though: it offers a multiple range of options to choose from. This portable radio has Bluetooth connectivity, and you can connect your smartphone or mobile device to it. It offers ground sound, and is run by batteries and AC power. This portable radio does come with the AC adapter, as well as an AUX cable. The Bluetooth speaker features 3-D sound, which means you get a large sound in even the biggest rooms or outdoors. This little portable radio also offers the ability to make and receive phone calls because it has a built-in mic, as well as the Bluetooth speaker that can connect to your phone to make those calls. This modern portable radio offers extended battery life so you can listen longer on the go. The handle is made from a leather-look product and is sturdy and durable. This little portable radio is a good option for someone looking to get an on-the-go radio for an affordable price with a good selection of options. There is an easy volume control, FM radio scanning, and you can even install an SD card with your own music on this radio. If all that wasn’t enough, this little portable radio is water-resistant making it great for the golf course, patio, backyard, and more.

Pros:

  • Lots of options
  • Good battery life
  • Small, compact design
  • Has a nice carry handle
  • Bluetooth connectivity technology

Cons:

  • This portable radio doesn’t come with its own batteries

The iFox IFS309 makes a great entry level and economical choice for a portable radio system. This is marketed as a Bluetooth speaker first, but it has FM radio capabilities. It offers a fun and unique design which looks great on any shelf, and because it’s a Bluetooth device, it can connect to any mobile or smartphone device for additional listening options. Stream your favorite podcasts, live radio, as well as traditional FM radio. It is great for on-the-go fun and is small enough to tuck away when you aren’t using it. The unique design means it doesn’t need a handle to grip it securely and move it easily. With the touch of a button, you can go from listening to your iPod to listening to the FM radio dial. This portable radio comes with a 12-month warranty, and the manufacturer promised to replace it if it stops working. This stylish radio offers up to 8 hours of battery life and has a great sounding speaker system. The radio system also has an AUX cable, bright LED button displays that are easy to see even in the dark, and crystal clear sound. It weighs about 2 pounds which makes it ultra-portable, and easy to carry around with you while traveling to the beach, on the golf course, or in the work shed. The one drawback of this portable radio is that it isn’t capable of picking up AM radio stations, so if you are looking for that, this isn’t a good option for you. However, considering the price point and the other features that come with this economical portable radio, it’s a good choice to consider for your speaker and radio needs. What’s more, this doesn’t have an FM tuner, so users need to search through FM radio channels manually. If a radio is your priority, this gets the job done, but it’s at the bottom of the list because other radios get the job done better.

Pros:

  • Modern design
  • Small and compact
  • Lightweight
  • LED light up buttons
  • Bluetooth Connectivity
  • FM Radio capabilities

Cons:

  • Doesn’t pick up AM radio stations
  • Doesn’t have handle
  • Doesn’t have FM tuner - have to search through channels manually

Buying Guide

Knowing what you need and want in a portable radio before you buy one makes it easier to find the one that suits your needs. There are several things to consider and take into account. These aren’t just radios, after all. There are lots of features added to these portable radios that make them great, and there are even a few classic radios that deliver on quality and sound too. Here’s what you should look for when you head out to buy your next portable radio.

Size

Because you want your new radio to be as portable as possible, you’ll want to consider the size of it. Lighter and smaller radios are great for tossing in your backpack or leaving in the glove compartment of your car. They are great for the cottage or boat when you are enjoying a fishing trip on the weekend, and they are easy to store in an emergency kit for when the power goes out in your home. If you are looking for a portable radio for a construction site, you can go with a larger portable radio. If you want something to sit on your patio while you BBQ, size probably doesn’t matter as much as needing a portable radio to fit in your backpack.

Power Source/ Battery Life

Portability means needing a power source that can travel with you. Many portable radios have dual power sources: battery and AC power. AC power is great for when you have a constant power source, or when you need to recharge your portable radio. Battery life is important when you are on the go. You’ll want to consider buying a portable radio that has either a rechargeable battery or one that doesn’t draw too much power from traditional batteries. A great battery life for a portable radio is about 80 hours. When you think about it, if you were listening to your radio every day while working for 8 hours a day, that’s 10 days of listening time. Over time, buying extra batteries for your radio might mean you don’t actually use it as much as you might have originally thought, so opt for a radio that has a longer battery life, so you get the most use out of it as possible.

Radio + More

While you are in the market for a portable radio, it’s nice to get a few extras with your new radio. Some models have Bluetooth technology, like popular speakers that are on the market these days. Opting for a radio that offers Bluetooth technology gives you more options, but it’s not necessary. Other radio models have a USB port and audio port so you can connect other devices, like your smartphone, to the device via a cable. Again, this is not necessary if all you want is a great portable radio, but the options are there if you want to consider them in your purchase. 

Something else to consider is water-resistant design. Some portable radios offer water-resistance; water-resistance is different than water-proof, so if that is something you want in your portable radio be sure to check the difference on the specs of the radio you choose.

Sta​​​​​bility and Sturdiness

Portability means your radio is going to go everywhere you go. That also means that you want a radio that can handle what you are going to throw at it. Getting a radio that is sturdy and has good stability means it’s well built and will last a long time. Investing in a good brand name will help ensure that your portable radio is well built with quality parts. If you plan to take your radio on the road, into the backyard, to the worksite, on a boat, or in a golf cart, you’ll want to make sure you get one that can stand up to your travels.

Controls

Some portable radios have digital controls, and some have manual controls and dials. Depending on what you are going to use your portable radio for, you might opt for digital or dials. Digital controls are more compact and keep your radio from catching on things in your backpack or toolbox.

However, digital dials draw more power than dials do, so that is something to consider to make your battery last longer. Basic radios have tuner dials and on/off switches, which is all you really need. As more functions are added to portable radios, more dials and controls need to be added, so the simpler, the better sometimes.

Carrying Handle

Every good portable radio needs a carrying handle. Some models don’t have one, and it’s not a deal breaker, but given that these radios are meant to be moved on a regular basis, it makes sense that they would come with sturdy handles. Some handles are made from fabric, leather, or plastic. Some models are ergonomically designed, so they don’t have handles, but it’s always a good option to have something to grab onto so that you don’t drop the radio while you are transporting it from place to place.

Now that you know what to look for in your next great portable radio let’s review the best portable radios on the market today.

The Best Portable Radio

We let the cat out of the bag early when we told you which portable radio was our choice because it is such a classic AM/FM radio. Sure, there are other radios that offer more features, but when you need a reliable and compact portable radio to get the job done, the Sony ICF38 Portable AM/FM Radio is the radio we would turn to for all our on-the-go needs. Not only does it have a classic radio design, and it won’t draw a lot of power from the batteries because it’s an analog tuner system, it’s from Sony, which is a classic sound machine company, and you can trust the brand to deliver a solid product. So whether you need a radio for your fishing boat, or you want to keep one in your backpack for when you travel, the Sony ICF38 is a great option for your next portable radio.

Conclusion

Investing in a portable radio is a good idea if you are on the go a lot, like to listen to the news or radio talk shows, or if you just want to have a portable radio in case of emergencies. Portable radios are economical in their own right, but they can come with a number of features that make them more expensive than they need to be. A traditional portable radio is great for bringing along to the golf course, or for the cottage. They are great for when the power goes out, and you want to stay connected to the outside world. They are also great when they double as Bluetooth speakers. So, whatever your needs are for your next portable radio, you are sure to find one that catches your attention in our roundup of the best portable radios.

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