on August 17, 2010
I purchased this with Motorola Earpiece with Boom Microphone. I couldn't first make them work together but the manual has an important detail:
Do not plug the headset when the radio is on. If you do that, then the radio immediately starts transmitting and does not stop no matter what you do until the head set is unplugged.
To use the headset, turn off the radio, plug in the headset, open the radio. When you do that it goes into VOX mode, it will start transmitting in about one second of your speaking. If you press PTT button, the VOX will be cancelled, and if you want to enable VOX again just turn off and on the radio.
on February 14, 2011
Being from the "old school philosophy", I hate texting, tweeting, or twittering,
or whatever; we do enjoy being in direct real time communication when we are
up and down hiking paths, out of sight, even in some rough terrain.
This product works well for us and we give it a "thumbs up" for use and effect.
You do have to find the one channel that is not commonly used to have uninterrupted communication; there are many channels to choose from.
We can not say that it will work well with 20 or miles of separation, for we
have only been @5miles apart from time to time. We can hear clearly and use
it easily-and that is what we wanted. Good product.
If it wasn't for the TERRIBLE battery packs, and junk belt clips in these things, I'd be very happy. Sound is clear, they're highly configurable (but the manual isn't much help), the base station is well-designed, and the build quality seems good. The range is better than I'd hoped, I only needed half a mile, and they manage that easily enough, even with many big obstacles in the way.
The battery packs are awful, and the cause of just about everyone's complaints. They're smaller than standard AA batteries, so they don't fit tightly in the compartment. That means with just little vibrations from carrying them around, the radios will randomly SHUT OFF completely, and stay off until you turn them off and on again. If you replace the battery packs with regular AAs, you won't have this problem, but then the charging base is useless, unless you feel like doing a lot of little electronics work to make the connections...
The belt clip is absolutely horrid... it sticks way out, doesn't clamp to the radio well, and is a flimsy bit of plastic that flexes all the time, and is sure to break pretty quickly. Frankly, a basic design like two screw holes and a flat piece of plastic (or metal!) would be an infinitely superior belt clip, and I don't see why they went out of their way to sell it with this more expensive and needlessly elaborate junk. After a few weeks of use, the plastic has been worn down, and the radios just fall off the belt clips.
The PTT button is far too small, smaller than the "glove-friendly" buttons on the face, and really just a little bit of rubber over two tiny buttons, easy to miss and requires the added complexity of clicking the top or the bottom half of it to select power level... a real mess, and a far cry from the one big solid plastic PTT button on Motorola's nice big industrial and mil-spec radios.
Other FRS radios are water-resistant, while not any more expensive than these units. If I had a bit more time to shop around, I would have purchased one of those, instead. After factoring in the cost to buy ear pieces for these radios, the Midland units would have been a much better value. And they have infinitely better belt clips. No idea about their battery packs or range and sound quality, but could it really be any worse? Still, after replacing the battery pack, these units have handled all-day usage for 6 months, so they deserve some credit.
As for range, with FRS, you should expect a range of about 1-mile. You can really only legally use 7 of the channels without getting a license from the FCC before-hand. It's pretty ridiculous that you can buy these radios at walmart for $50, put in batteries, turn them on, and hit transmit, and you're violating FCC rules, and could face severe fines.
For anyone who needs better range than FRS can provide, you should look at radios that transmit on lower frequencies. The lower the frequency, the better it will do at diffracting around obstacles like hills, trees, buildings, or just the curvature of the earth. However, low frequencies don't performas well in-doors and require much larger antennas and more power (bigger battery packs).
FRS: 462MHz (0.5 watt MAX)
GMRS: 462MHz (~2 watt TYPICAL)
MURS: 151MHz (2 watt MAX)
Marine: 156MHz (5 watt TYPICAL)
CB: 27MHz (4 watt MAX)
FRS/MURS/CB don't require a license in the US, and can give progressively better range.
FRS radios are damn cheap, and if you only need a range of about 1 mile without major obstacles, do a surprisingly good job for most tasks that previously required licenses and expensive radios. Getting a license and using GMRS channels and high power will only slightly improve the range of your FRS radio, as the high frequency is commonly the limiting factor.
MURS will do considerably better than FRS or GMRS, getting perhaps 2-4 miles, and are more commonly available in heavy-duty industrial units, though costing $70-200 (instead of $25 for a good FRS radio).
CB radio has issues with noise and interference that FRS/MURS does not, but can potentially broadcast much further. Hand-held CBs will only get 1 mile or so with tiny stubby antennas commonly included. But if you use a very, very long collapsible whip antenna, you can get 7-10 miles (but walking around with your 6+ft antenna extended all the time is impractical).
Since the limitations of CB are very problematic, particularly making hand-held units impractical and unwieldy, MURS is the only real improvement over FRS radios you can get without a license from the FCC.
Repeaters: If you are interested in stationary use (rather than mobile use like hiking or driving) an FCC licensed GMRS repeater base-station can be up to 50 watts. If properly installed on a mountain/hilltop/tower with a good antenna, a repeater will increase the range of many of these very cheap GMRS radios to 10-50 miles (the radios will say they support "repeater channels" in the description). In addition to the base station being licensed, the FCC requires everyfamily unit using the radio to have a separate license to use any GMRS channels.
If none of those options sounds appealing, well then you've pretty much run up against the practical limitations of radio communications. You probably want a network of repeaters that you don't have to install and maintain yourself, which means you want to buy a cell phone, instead. Portable cell phone signal boosters can be found, which help pull in a signal in poor-coverage areas. In extreme cases, a satellite phone may be the right option for you.