Review: Kaito KA500 Emergency Radio
Kevin Felts 04.24.17
The Kaito KA500 is marketed as an AM/FM/SW NOAA weather radio that can be powered by AA batteries or charged with with its built-in solar panel, hand crank dynamo, or micro-USB plug. It has LED lights under the solar panel for area lighting, or use the single LED light on the side for a direct beam flashlight.
The Kaito KA500 seems to offer everything someone may want in an emergency radio: AM / FM / NOAA, cell phone recharger and solar panel.
Let’s take a closer look and see how the KA500 stands up.
Kaito KA500 Operation
Operation is straight forward with knobs on the front and right hand side of the radio.
- Left knob – Weather band.
- Middle knob – Band selection: weather, FM, AM, shortwave 1, shortwave 2.
- Right knob – Power selector: Off, batt. (for AA batteries), solar, crank/DC, NOAA alert.
- Station tuner and volume are on the right hand side, with tuner above the volume knob. The tuner knob is just below the built in flashlight and slightly larger than the volume knob.
- Weight: 1 pound 2.3 ounces
- Width: 8 1/4 inches
- Height: 5 1/8 inches
- Thickness: 2 5/8 inches
- Available in a variety of colors – Red, Green, Black, Blue, and Yellow.
- 3.6V/600 mAh Ni-MH rechargeable battery pack
- Telescopic antenna
- Carry handle
I live in a rural area and the FM range is very important. The Kaito KA500 has problems picking up stations that are just 75 miles away. There are two cities nearby that are both around 75 miles from my location. The Kaito KA500 can only pick up one or two stations from the half a dozen or more that are broadcast from the cities.
So far, I have owned two of these Kaito KA500 radios and both of the have the same issue. FM reception leaves a lot to be desired. For an emergency radio, I feel the reception should be a lot better than this.
If you live in a city and the radio stations are no more than 30 miles, the Kaito KA500 may fit the bill.
If you live in a rural area and need good FM reception, look for a different radio.
Cell Phone Charger
Some people may see the solar panel and think, “Cool, this will recharge my phone with the solar panel.” This simply is not true.
The 600 mAh Ni-MH rechargeable battery pack will not offer very much of a cell phone charge.
After the battery pack is drained and the radio is running off solar, my test meter said there was only 4.7 volts and around 0.02 amps going to the phone. The solar panel on the radio is going to take a very, very long time to charge the phone.
As of April 23, 2017, the Kaito KA500 has a price tag of $49.95.
If you live in or near an urban area and want a solar powered radio that will pick up nearby radio stations, chances are the Kaito KA500 will do the job.
If you live in a rural area and want a radio with some range, look at something else.