Introducing EARL: a rugged, solar-powered GPS and Android tablet with built-in shortwave radio


The Earl Backcountry Survival Tablet

A good friend recently introduced me to the Earl Backcountry Survival Tablet; a crowd-funded project that may very well come to fruition.

What makes this tablet really stand out are its impressive list of features which are all based on outdoor survival/adventure. Features include:

  • A rugged, waterproof/weatherproof body; IP67 rated!
  • Built-in solar panel
  • 20 hour battery life
  • An E-Ink, touch sensitive display screen
  • An excellent GPS chipset
  • ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity for devices to measure heart rate, pace and cadence
  • Android Beam technology
  • Built-in thermometer for measuring temperature, hygrometer for measuring the water density of air (humidity) with dew point, barometer for measuring air pressure and altitude and an anemometer (micro hot-wire) for measuring wind speed
  • A two-way radio featuring a FRS, GMRS and MURS transceiver. Earl can send secure text or voice messages via Walkie-Talkie; transmit weather, location, and route information
  • An eReader
  • A radio receiver that covers AM (medium wave), FM, LW, NOAA weather radio (North America) and Shortwave
  • Much more: check out the Earl project page

EarlRadioOf course, I’m very interested in Earl’s receiver. Not only does it cover shortwave, but it covers a very wide frequency range (2.3 – 21.85 MHz)! Most impressive.

I don’t expect Earl to be a fantastic performer on the shortwave and medium wave bands–I doubt it’ll compare to the PL-390, for example– but perhaps it will be good enough to hear the major broadcasters. An inductively coupled loop antenna may help on AM (medium-wave). A port for an external SW antenna, would be a major plus.

Better yet, with the right Android app, I bet Earl could decode VOA Radiograms on the fly. Imagine being miles away from civilization, far out of reach of 3G/4G mobile systems, yet you’d be able to receive your news on your eReader over the shortwaves.

A dream? Perhaps, but one that’s well within grasp.


EarlRadio2At time of posting, Earl is 90% funded. You can pre-order Earl for $249 US–a 30% discount from projected retail. (A price that is only $100 more than a Sony ICF-SW7600GR.)

I just pre-ordered an Earl. I will plan to give a full review here on the SWLing Post. They expect to ship production units in August 2013. If they don’t receive funding, all pre-sales purchases will be refunded in full.

If you would like to back this project, check out Earl’s full list of features and pre-order on their website:

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16 thoughts on “Introducing EARL: a rugged, solar-powered GPS and Android tablet with built-in shortwave radio

  1. Tony

    I preordered one two weeks back. I just received this update:

    “We’ve received some great suggestions from our supporters and have started working on a few new features including an SDR radio receiver and PLB (personal locator beacon). As well as tweaking the pressure sensor found in Earl to accommodate glider enthusiasts. We can’t wait to get Earl into the hands of users around the world and are excited with the apps developers are creating for Earl!”

    SDR would seem to imply to me that with the right code, and considering it already has transmitter capability, pretty much any frequency and mode within the limits of the hardware should be theoretically possible. Since Android and its apps are open source I’m sure it won’t be long before hobbyists get this little gadget to do all sorts of things the inventors never dreamed of.

    1. Thomas Post author

      Will do, Etienne. Looks like units will be in production and shipping in August. Fingers are crossed that the radio is a capable one! This could be one great piece of rugged technology, with some humanitarian applications as well!

    1. Thomas Post author

      Indeed! The Earl makes for a nice travel companion, too; especially since all of the connectivity is standard enough for international use.

  2. Neil G

    With both MURS and GMRS support, I have to wonder if it would br modifiable for 2 Meter And 440 Mhz Amateur Radio. That would close the deal for me.

    1. W4ASZ

      I agree !
      That would be the nice device, for sure.
      No electrified thing is truly yours until you’ve modified it and voided the warranty.

      1. Thomas Post author

        I once saw a tee shirt with a large image of a screw driver and the caption, “Voids warranties.” Very fitting, me thinks!

    2. W4ASZ

      We see innovative products such as EARL which includes shortwave radio, and many new excellent radios with SW coverage, but governments are falling all over themselves to do away with shortwave broadcasting.

      I can”t wrap my mind around it.

      1. Thomas Post author

        Agreed. Perhaps, just perhaps, innovators will begin to see how the shortwave radio bands make for an excellent platform of digital communications as well. A handheld Android-based receiver makes for a good start.

    3. Thomas Post author

      That would make for an excellent mod, Neil! I would pay a good premium for 2M/440. Adding APRS or even D-Star ? OK, now I’m dreaming.


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