We’re not exactly afraid of every bump in the dark and creaking floorboard here at SlashGear, but all the same it’s nice to know that, when you’ve a sneaking suspicion that there could be something monstrous under the bed, there’s a torch to hand. That’s why it’s been useful to test Life+Gear’s hand-cranked PSD NOAA flashlight complete with AM/FM radio, NOAA National Weather Service Alerts and cellphone charger; can this compact device really earn its place in your emergency toolkit?
It’s a fact of life that, when you go to investigate what could possibly be a gremlin under your car hood, you tend to discover that the AAs in your flashlight have succumbed already, so the Life+Gear PSD NOAA is off to a good start: the bulb might only be a 0.5 Watt LED, but the fact that it’s powered via the simple hand crank is a lifesaver for anyone, like me, that tends to forget about batteries until they’re actually needed. The PSD will also run on standard AA batteries or a DC power supply, too, but it’s bright enough under your own wrist power; one minute of cranking is enough for around 30 minutes of torchlight.
Also in the rubberised casing is an emergency siren, which is as loud and annoying as you’d want a siren to be, together with two red flashing LEDs designed to draw attention to yourself; Life+Gear call them super-bright and, having looked at them straight-on when I switched the PSD on by accident, I can confirm that you’ll soon be spotted (or alternatively blinded). While you’re waiting for your eyes to stop watering, there’s a standard AM/FM radio that relies on a fiddly little dial to tune and has merely adequate sound quality through the in-built speaker, and the ability to pick up the NOAA weather alerts should you fear a storm coming. Hand crank radios are nothing new, but it’s still nice to be able to unplug at least one gadget and go off-grid with your entertainment.
The crank itself feels sturdy and capable of putting up with a serious churning, but the payoff to the PSD’s compact body is that the handle is relatively small. Anyone with large paws might find it tricky to use, and trying to grip it while wearing all but the thinnest gloves is a chore. Although Life+Gear have built a cellphone charger into the PSD, you’ll not be wanting to rely on it solely to power your handset.
Still, if you’re a regular flashlight user then you’re probably pretty good at keeping on top of fresh batteries; the PSD is more for occasional, emergency use, and in that sense it shines (forgive the pun). At $30 it’s cheap enough to leave in the glove compartment of your car for those “just in case” situations, and while it’s not going to replace a proper radio, emergency beacon or cellphone charger, it could readily step up when one of those takes a temporary dive.
Writing for R3 Media since 2006, Chris Davies is currently executive editor for SlashGear, Android Community and the other network sites. Based in London, UK, he's responsible for SlashGear's editorial decisions and covers all forms of consumer technology. You can follow him on Twitter.