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Top five easy-to-use radios for 2018

By Oliver Trebilcock

We pick five great-sounding and simple FM and DAB radios all with handy features to make it easy to listen to the radio - plus three to avoid.

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

A poorly designed digital radio will leave you fumbling with tiny buttons and struggling to find your favourite station due to over-complicated menus. These radios are a waste of money and you won’t get the most out of them.

Our independent lab tests help us to identify the radios that are straightforward to use and have features that are particularly useful if you’ve got dexterity problems, hearing impairment or poor eyesight.  

Not only do the Best Buy radios in the table have impressive sound, but they also have carefully considered designs and functions that can make them simpler and hassle-free to use.

Which? members can log in now to see our selection below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which?.

Easy-to-use radios

Lowest price (in stock) £59.00
Which? score 82%
Reviewed Dec 2015
Overall sound quality:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Ease of use:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Battery operable:
Member exclusive
Remote control:
Member exclusive

Our highest-scoring alarm clock radio has an impressively large and clear screen, with a bright display that can be dimmed for night-time use. It sounds great, and the buttons on top are well spaced. The only downside is the small, hard-to-read button labels.

Lowest price (in stock) £59.00
Which? score 80%
Reviewed Jul 2015
Overall sound quality:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Ease of use:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Battery operable:
Member exclusive
Remote control:
Member exclusive

Simplicity done well, this radio is a basic model - DAB and FM radio, plus a couple of alarms - but it sounds great. It’s a Best Buy that surprised us with its capability despite its diminutive size. Add four AA batteries and it becomes portable, too.

Lowest price (in stock) £219.00
Which? score 73%
Reviewed Jan 2015
Overall sound quality:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Ease of use:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Battery operable:
Member exclusive
Remote control:
Member exclusive

The sizeable volume knob on top of this radio, and the surrounding buttons, are very straightforward to use. The large screen is basic, but clear and easy to read. It’s expensive, but the sound quality is excellent and this is a very high-quality, well-built radio.

Typical price £195.00
Which? score 72%
Reviewed Mar 2011
Overall sound quality:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Ease of use:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Battery operable:
Member exclusive
Remote control:
Member exclusive

Made in conjunction with the British Wireless for the Blind Fund, this radio excels in terms of usability. It has protruding yellow buttons and knobs, which are well sized and easy to operate, as well as a clear amber backlit screen. It's a solid and simple radio that sounds good, although it isn't cheap. It's one of very few radios to have Braille markings.

Lowest price (in stock) £139.00
Which? score 67%
Reviewed Dec 2016
Overall sound quality:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Ease of use:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Battery operable:
Member exclusive
Remote control:
Member exclusive

The high-quality colour screen is easy to read in any light conditions and the large handle on top operates as a giant snooze button. The protruding knobs are easy to grip, although the buttons and their labels are on the small side. But overall it's a simple radio that sounds good.

Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct at September 2018.

Not found the product for you? Browse all our digital radio reviews.

And here are three to avoid

Don't be fooled into thinking that a very basic radio must be easy to use. We've seen some radios go through our testing that not only sound awful but defy logic in being far too complex to do even the most basic of tasks, from storing presets to barely readable screens - even for those with good eyesight. 

They’re a chore to use and it doesn't matter how many features they have if it's not easy to access them. We’ve seen radios with impossibly small buttons, portable radios that burn through batteries in a matter of hours, and labelling on buttons that's virtually unreadable - if it's there at all. Avoid a costly mistake by staying clear of the radios in the table below if you see them on the high street or online.

Worst radios to use

Lowest price (in stock) £52.10
Which? score 51%
Reviewed Jul 2017
Overall sound quality:
1 out of 51 out of 5
Maximum volume:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Ease of use:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Battery operable:
Member exclusive
Remote control:
Member exclusive

This radio from a big, popular brand shows that even going for very standard-looking radios can be a serious problem. Don't be fooled into thinking a good-looking display guarantees an easy-to-use radio. Not only does it sound very poor, but it has tiny buttons and minute labels mishmashed together in a skewed grid on the top of the unit. They’re almost all the same size, so you’ll probably still have to look intently at the labels even after months of use.

Lowest price (in stock) £249.10
Which? score 51%
Reviewed Jul 2015
Overall sound quality:
2 out of 52 out of 5
Ease of use:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Battery operable:
Member exclusive
Remote control:
Member exclusive

This model shows the need to take care when choosing highly stylised radios. Entering your wi-fi password with the tiny joystick is frustrating even for those without limited dexterity. Even worse, the minute buttons and their microscopic text labels mean you might even need glasses solely for the job of operating this radio.

Lowest price (in stock) £169.90
Which? score 41%
Reviewed Sep 2017
Overall sound quality:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Maximum volume:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Ease of use:
2 out of 52 out of 5
Battery operable:
Member exclusive
Remote control:
Member exclusive

Besides the underwhelming sound that doesn't match the high price, it's the experience of using it that really lets down this radio. The terrible display is almost unreadable - even for those with good eyesight - and you have a fiddly task on your hands to get the battery connected when you first get it out of the box. It's so unpleasant to use that it's a Don't Buy.

Digital radio features to choose for ease of use

Knobs and dials

Radios with physical knobs and dials are generally much easier to use, as changing volume or switching stations doesn't involve fiddly buttons. The chunkier the dials, the easier they are to grip. It’s also handy if they are a contrasting colour to the body of the radio.

Display screens

Good radios generally have large displays that are bright and clear enough to be seen from various angles and in different light conditions. Some also automatically adjust their brightness so that, when it's time for bed, you're not bathed in a disruptive glow as you try to get to sleep.

Preset buttons

Digital radios tune in automatically to all of the available stations when you first turn them on. You can scroll through the names of the stations and store your favourites as presets. Beware, though, as some radios can have a large number of presets but a fiddly journey to access them. Dedicated direct-access preset buttons – one for each of your top few favourite radio stations – are much easier to use, as they can be accessed instantly with the push of a button.

Alarms

The best radios have multiple independent alarms so you can set two different wake-up times if required. They will also have separate settings for weekdays and weekends, so you don’t have to be constantly reprogramming the alarm every week. Some also have alarms that function as kitchen timers, which is handy when cooking.

Remote controls

Some radios come with a remote control, so you can have your radio on a high shelf and still operate it with ease. Many brands including Pure, Roberts and VQ, also allow their radios to be controlled with free apps that you can download onto your smartphone to effectively turn it into a remote control.

Simple menus

Some radios have incredibly complex menus that are tricky to navigate. Before buying, try to visit a retailer that stocks it and have a demonstration so you can check you’re happy with how it operates. 

Carrying handle

If you plan to move your radio around, opt for one with an adequate carrying handle. On some Pure radios, the carrying handle is touch-sensitive and doubles as the snooze button, which makes it very easy to hit snooze so you don’t disturb your partner with the alarm.

Volume and tone presets

If you’re particular in terms of your sound requirements, many radios have tone presets with optimised settings for different musical genres and spoken word. Some also have bass and treble controls, so you can get it sounding how you want it. Reducing the bass and increasing the treble and middle frequencies can make it easier to understand speech in radio without having to turn up the volume as much.

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