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Monthly Archives: January 2013

  • Radio 101 - The facts about squelch

    A common term heard among two way radio operators is squelch. It is a standard feature of consumer, business, amateur, air band, marine, and CB radios. But what is it? What does it do? In this episode of Radio 101, Anthony from Buy Two Way Radios explains what squelch is and how it works.

  • Midland GXT2000VP4 Two Way Radio Review

    GXT2000-front-detail-600x400.jpgIt's been a few days now since the brand new Midland GXT2000VP4 walkie talkie first arrived, so we've had a little time to kick the tires and find out what we like and what we don't. When we shot our first impressions / unboxing video, we were relying only on information provided by Midland, so it was a lot of fun to actually get to try out this long awaited two way radio.

    In this review we are going to draw a lot of comparisons to the Midland GXT1000VP4 walkie talkie. The GXT2000 is in many ways an extension of the GXT1000, and many of the features are the same. This review is going to concentrate on the differences between these two models, so you may want to take a look at a GXT1000VP4 review or two. It's also important to mention that even though we are testing the GXT2000, this info should also apply to the new Midland GXT2050VP4. The GXT2050 is basically the same radio except for the Mossy Oak camouflage and a few extra call tones. That said, let's look at a few features.

    Back-shot.pngThe GXT2000VP4 has a different FCC ID number than the GXT1000, which usually means that there were enough changes between the two models that Midland had to have the product tested and submitted for approval. Much of this test information is public, so we can see that the GXT2000VP4 was tested and found to have 2.649 watts of output power. This is less than half of 5.33 watts that the GXT1000 was reported to be pumping and is a slight disappointment. This is still a nice jump over the 1.67 watts of the Motorola MT352, for example, but we were anxious to see if this drop in reported power had any impact on the range in our real world test.

    A true comparison to the GXT1000 was what we wanted, so we took both radios to eight different locations in the area surrounding our office. These locations varied from .4 to 2.13 miles away. On our "test course" both radios performed very well at all locations at or within 1.5 miles - the audio was easily understandable and background noise was not overly distracting. At less than a mile, transmissions were even more clear and background noise was minimal. Our course included two locations that are in excess of 2 miles, and this is where we started to experience issues. At one location (2.13 miles away, 10 meter elevation difference) we were able to communicate consistently, but with moderate to severe background noise. The GXT2000VP4 outperformed the GXT1000 at this location, doing a better job of noise reduction. The other location was 2.1 miles away with the same elevation as our office and we were not able to communicate consistently with either radio. The GXT1000 would break squelch occasionally, but the GXT2000VP4 didn't give as much as a hint that it was sniffing out a signal.

    Based on the test, it does seem like the GXT2000 has less power than the GXT1000, but this was only noticeable when we were pushing the very edge of the range for both radios. The GXT2000VP4 makes up for this, in a way, with what seems like better noise reduction. In many of the locations we felt the GXT2000 had a stronger signal because the voice sounded louder and there seemed to be less background noise.

    Lithium Battery
    On-the-desk.pngThe most touted feature of the GXT2000 is its lithium polymer battery. Lithium batteries have a decided advantage over NiMH in that they are lighter and don't suffer from the "memory effect". There are few manufacturers of consumer grade GMRS radios using lithium batteries and we're excited to see Midland move to this technology. Midland advertises these batteries as having twice the power and three times the charge speed of the previous model. That is an average life of around 16 hours and a 2 hour recharge time. Both are impressive numbers.

    We discovered a couple of facts worth noting in regard to the batteries. First of all, Midland doesn't seem to be advertising that the GXT2000VP4 will operate on standard "AA" batteries as well as the included lithium ones, but we confirmed that they will! This is a nice feature if you find yourself needing radios right away and don't have time to charge them.

    It's also important to note that the charger is NOT compatible between the GXT1000 and GXT2000. The radios are the exact same size and have the same footprint, but the technology required to charge a lithium battery is different from that required to charge NiMH. Midland has taken some precautions by changing the GXT2000 charging base slightly so that a GXT1000 radio will not be able to rest on the charging contacts. The plug size is also different on the back of the charger so it isn't possible to use the same wall or vehicle plug.

    Audio Quality
    This may actually be our favorite new feature. The GXT2000 lists "HD Audio" as a feature on the back of the packaging, but this feature wasn't heavily promoted by Midland so we were very curious as to what it meant. Well, it didn't take long to find out! The volume on the GXT2000 is noticeably louder and clearer than the GXT1000. There was an issue with previous Midland models in which the radio volume was very low when an accessory was connected. We connected an XLT SM300-ML1 to the GXT1000 and the volume could be heard, but would be a struggle in a noisy room. The GXT2000 was considerably louder and more on par with what you would expect.

    We compared a Midland GXT2000 to a Motorola MR350R, both using the XLT SM300 speaker mic. At maximum volume the output from the speaker was around the same loudness, but the GXT2000 seemed clearer.

    The "HD Audio" feature may also be responsible for the reduced noise noted above.

    Larger Display
    Midland's press release states that "the GXT2000 series adds an improved LCD screen that is larger and easier to read". Honestly, we're not too impressed. The technology used for the display is identical to what was used previously. The new screen may be slightly larger, but it is hard to see a difference. The layout is definitely different, with a row of icons underneath the main portion of the screen, but that doesn't necessarily make it easier to read. Like most FRS/GMRS radios, you still need to have some idea of what the icons and acronyms that are shown mean if you want to explore any advanced functions.

    Direct Call / Group Mode
    The GXT1000 had a direct call and a group mode feature, and Midland removed both of these in the GXT2000VP4. These features were very difficult to use - you almost had to have the manual in front of you just to use it. We would love to see Midland implement this functionality in a future model, but make it more intuitive and easier to use. If having these features in the GXT2000 meant that they had to work the same way they did in the GXT1000 then we're probably better off not having it. It only leads to unhappy customers when someone buys a radio because they want direct call, and then they get it and find out it is more difficult to use than it's worth.

    Weather Scan
    Midland also added the ability to scan weather channels with the GXT2000. This is new, and when activated the radio automatically scans the NOAA weather channels until it finds one with a signal. If you move out of range or the signal stops then it continues to scan. We're not huge fans of this feature. It's common to be in an area that can receive a broadcast from more than one NOAA station, and you're better off selecting the station that is closest to you. Relying on weather scan could result in landing on a station that is a good distance away and broadcasting weather for a different area. We can understand that it may be useful while travelling, but generally we recommend you avoid this feature.

    We are fans of the Midland GXT2000VP4. They have definitely improved the audio quality and accessory volume. The lithium batteries are lighter and longer lasting than the NiMH batteries in previous models, but Midland didn't sacrifice the ability to operate on standard AA's. The power of this radio does seem to be lower, but in our testing this was made up for by the improvements in audio.

    Do you have a Midland GXT2000VP4? We would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think of it!

  • TWRS-50 - New Motorola Products For 2013

    We look at new products from Motorola/Giant International for 2013. We also review a book called Two Way Radios and Scanners For Dummies.

    Intro :00
    Billboard 1:15

    Topic Discussion 1:34
    We preview some new products in the world of two way radio technology coming out this year from Motorola. We'll look at the lineup of new Motorola Talkabout FRS/GMRS radios, some recently launched Motorola radio accessories, and tell you what we think of these new products. For tips on using your two way radios, watch our new Radio 101 video series hosted by Anthony.

    Commercial Break 21:08
    buytwowayradios.com 1:00

    Product Review 22:07
    Today we review the book Two Way Radios and Scanners For Dummies.

    Questions and Answers 28:06
    Questions from readers of our Two Way Radio Blog and members of the Two Way Radio Forum.

    Wrap up and Close 33:20
    Send in your comments and questions for Danny, Anthony and Rick to show[at]buytwowayradios.com. Feedback on this and other topics will be read by the hosts and included in future episodes of the show. Visit us at www.twowayradioshow.com!

    © 2013 Cricket Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved.

  • A Closer Look at the Upcoming Motorola Talkabout MU350R Radio with Bluetooth

    Motorola Talkabout MU350R RadioLast week I briefly talked about Motorola's new Talkabout radios for 2013. As I said in that post, the new Motorola MU350R is deserving of more than just a passing mention as one of several new models. This radio is expected to do something we don't see a lot of with consumer grade radios - move technology forward. We're expecting big things out of this model, so I think you'll agree it needs its own first look.

    The super mega headline grabbing feature of the Motorola MU350R is definitely its built-in support for Bluetooth, so it makes sense to start there. How will it work? Is it easy to setup? Where's the push-to-talk button? Is the Bluetooth feature really better than using standard accessories? Since we're still six months away from the target release date of July, 2013, I'm sorry to say that I don't have all of the answers. I do, however, have some information from our friends at Giant International (manufacturers of the Motorola Talkabout series) and I am more than happy to share what I know.

    Bluetooth Support
    The MU350 is the first FRS/GMRS radio to have built-in support for Bluetooth. This means that you will be able to pair an MU350 with a standard Bluetooth earpiece - just like you would use with your cell phone - and communicate without having to pull the radio off of your belt. What's the big deal, you ask? There's already a ton of headsets and earpieces for Talkabout radios, you say? The problem for many is that all of those earpieces right now have a wire that runs from the earpiece and plugs into the radio. Some people hate this wire. It's always too long or too short; always in the way or always catching on something. Eliminating the need for a wire has been a big feature request for a long time.

    One difference that people will need to adjust to when using the MU350R with a Bluetooth earpiece is the lack of an in-line push-to-talk (PTT) button. If you're using an earpiece today, you're probably used to having a PTT/microphone somewhere along the wire that you click and speak into. If you're using a standard Bluetooth earpiece you will have to press the PTT on the side of the radio in order to transmit. This sure beats having a wire hanging across your body, so I don't expect that we'll hear too many complaints. Motorola has also mentioned that they may be working on a wireless Bluetooth PTT that you can attach anywhere that is convenient, so if you really don't like to use the radio's PTT there may be an option for you.

    The biggest questions I have can't really be answered until the product hits the shelves. I would really like to know how good the audio quality is when paired with a Bluetooth headset, and I would also like to know how difficult it is to pair a radio and a headset. There are a few aftermarket products that Bluetooth-enable your two way radio, but they are notoriously difficult to pair and sync.

    Improved Audio Performance
    If the Bluetooth isn't enough for you, the Motorola MU350R adds a few other goodies, The most interesting of which is "improved audio". Audio quality is passable on most consumer grade radios, but is generally lacking when compared to business radios. Hey, what do you expect for 1/6th of the price? Motorola claims that they have added a Class D amplifier and DSP filter to this model, so I'm curious and excited to see how much closer they get to "business quality" sound.

    Batteries and Charging
    While there's not a lot that is completely new per se, there are a few things related to charging and the battery that should be pointed out. The MU350R will ship with 1300 mAH battery packs which are expected to deliver around twice the life of the battery pack that ships with most Talkabouts. This battery is also included with the MT352R so it isn't completely new, but most people are probably not aware of it.

    As is the latest trend with the Talkabout line, the MU350R will not come with a dual pocket charging cradle, although one may be sold separately in the future. The Talkabout line seems to be moving to plug-in style charging, like you are already used to with your cell phone. Even though it kind of feels like something is missing, I actually like this move - especially considering the fact that they're using standard mini-USB connectors. Cables that can charge these radios are easy to find and cheap, so that's always a good thing.

    They do claim to have improved the charge time with the MU350R. They claim the mini-USB charging port has "fast charge capabilities" and can fully charge a battery in 7 hours. I think some may argue that 7 hours isn't exactly fast, but I guess it's an improvement.

    What Else Is New
    NOAA weather scan is also a new feature. I don't have any extended info on this feature, but I can speculate that it works like the one for the new Midland GXT2000. It honestly seems like a pointless feature to me, so I would guess they added it just so it wouldn't seem like Midland was getting ahead. In weather scan mode, the radio will cycle through all of the NOAA weather channels until it finds one with a signal. It will stay on that channel until the signal goes away and then continue to scan. I don't recommend you use this; just choose the NOAA channel closest to you instead (usually the one with the best signal) and stay on that channel.

    Dual watch is also new and allows you to monitor two channels at once. This is rarely needed, but can definitely be useful in some circumstances.

    Is It Waterproof?
    The waterproof level of radios seems to be a topic we're hearing more and more about now as manufacturers are releasing radios that heavily promote their resistance level. The MU350R is not fully waterproof (submersible) like the MS350R, but it does meet the standards for IP54 - the same level met by many business grade radios. Motorola is marketing the radio as "Weather Proof" and this rating means it should hold up to a heavy rain without a problem.

    Price and Availability
    I'm told that Motorola is targeting a July, 2013 release for the MU350R. Since we're still six months away and we're dealing with some new technology it wouldn't surprise me at all if it were August before they start shipping. The MSRP (suggested price) is going to be $149.99 for a set, but I expect that we'll be selling them for around $120.

    Bottom Line
    If you have to use an earpiece with your radio and you despise wires then I expect that you will want to give strong consideration to the MU350R. It's the only FRS/GMRS radio that is going to work with a standard Bluetooth earpiece and I can see that being a major selling point for a lot of people.

    The biggest drawback is the price. At $120 a set (estimated) you're looking at spending twice what a set of Motorola MR350Rs would cost you and that's not even considering the price of a bluetooth headset (usually $20-$40 each). Don't forget you're getting improved audio as well, but the price will definitely be an obstacle for many. Is it worth it? Check back with us in July for the answer.

  • Radio 101 - Using VOX on two way radios

    Most higher end consumer two way radios usually have a feature known as VOX. But what is it? What does it do? More importantly, how can I use it in my application? In this episode of Radio 101, Anthony from Buy Two Way Radios tells you exactly what VOX is, what it does and how to determine if this feature is right for you.

  • Motorola Announces New Talkabout Radios for 2013

    The new year is here and the new product announcements are starting to roll in! We recently received information on some additions to the Motorola Talkabout line of FRS/GMRS walkie talkies that will be available later in the year and thought our loyal blog readers might be interested in the details.

    There are only four new radios this year and two of them are basic, entry level models. They more than make up for it though with the MU350R - the first consumer grade FRS/GMRS radio with built-in Bluetooth support! Read on for more details.

    What is Going Away
    Usually when something new is released, something old is discontinued. Before I get into the new stuff, let's cover what's going away. First on the list is the Motorola T9680R-SAME. Even though this model has been around since 2008, I really hate to see it go. While it was never really a big seller, it is the only GMRS radio available that supports S.A.M.E. technology for proactive area-based weather alerts. Also going away is the MB140R, which is a very low cost radio with little range and just the basic features.

    New Entry Level Models
    Motorola Talkabout MG160AReplacing the MB140R are two models, the MG160A and the MG167A. Like their predecessor, these are very basic entry level radios that will have an MSRP of $29.99 for a set of two. Unlike the MB140R, however, both of these models will ship absent rechargeable batteries and a charger. They will operate using standard AAA batteries, which are not included.

    Motorola Talkabout MG167A Two Way RadiosThe most interesting thing about these new models is the color. The MG167A is hot pink from the bottom of the radio to the tip of the antenna! This is very unique and I wouldn't be surprised if it makes this set of radios a hot seller! The MG160A is identical to the MG167A except it is dark blue. Both of these models are expected to start shipping in May, 2013.

    Expanding the MD Series
    Motorola Talkabout MD207RLast year Motorola introduced the MD200R. This radio is black with almost-obnoxious green buttons and a large PTT, but people seem to love the look. It's a low priced radio with a basic feature set, but with decent range/performance.

    This year, Motorola is introducing the MD207R. They're keeping the same look as the MD200 except they're switching the obnoxious-green buttons with obnoxious-orange ones. More importantly, they're adding two of the most popular features: privacy codes and weather channels! I expect that the addition of these features will quickly make the Motorola MD207R one of the most popular radios in the line. The MSRP is $54.99 and they are expected to launch in June, 2013.

    Bluetooth Support in a Consumer Grade Radio
    Motorola Talkabout MU350R Two Way RadiosI have saved the best for last! The Motorola MU350R will be the new flagship radio in the Talkabout line and adds several new features over current models. I'll be doing a special post taking an in-depth look at the Motorola MU350R, so we're just going to scratch the surface here.

    This model will not ship with Bluetooth headsets, but will be able to pair with the same type of headsets that you use with your cell phone. This is a big deal and is something people have requested for a long time. You see this type of functionality on a business radio like the Motorola CLP1060 for 5 times the cost.

    The MU350R also adds the ability to scan NOAA weather radio channels and claims to have achieved improved audio performance by adding a Class D amplifier and DSP filter. It also adds Dual Watch, which is the ability to monitor two channels at once. This model also comes with two high capacity rechargeable battery packs (NiMH), charges through a mini-USB port, and has "fast charge capabilities". The MU350R has an MSRP of $149.99 and is currently expected to ship in July, 2013.

  • New Earpiece Coming For Motorola CLP1060

    clp-accessory-kit.pngThe Motorola CLP1060 was one of the first two way radios to provide built-in support for a Bluetooth earpiece. As we mentioned in our Motorola CLP1060 review that aired last May during The Two Way Radio Show, this freedom from wires was something that many businesses had been looking forward to for years.

    The CLP1060 uses standard Bluetooth technology and will work with most Bluetooth earpieces that are designed to work with cell phones. It even ships with the Motorola HK200, which is also sold separately for use with cell phones. As convenient as it seems to be to use a standard headset, the feedback that came from businesses was clear: they wanted a different earpiece. Motorola determined that businesses were looking for an earpiece that was more comfortable to wear for long shifts, was optimized for either ear, deterred theft, had longer battery life, and was less expensive to replace.

    On January 10th, Motorola announced the CLP Bluetooth Accessory Kit. The "guts" of this product is the Bluetooth Pod (HKLN4512). This is a small (1.75" x 1.25" x .5") device that communicates with the CLP1060 radio using Bluetooth. A swivel earpiece with an in-line microphone (HKLN4513) is included and connects to the Pod. A charging cradle (HKLN4509) is also included for charging the battery powered pod.

    HKLN4512.pngThis accessory kit will start shipping with the CLP1060 radios instead of the current HK200 headset later this year (estimated to be sometime in May). This addresses many of the concerns some businesses had with the previous headset and is expected to be a more business friendly solution. If you liked the old earpiece, don't get too upset about this change. The CLP1060 will still maintain compatibility with standard cell phone style Bluetooth headsets, so you can always purchase one separately.

    Want more info? Check out this flyer on the Bluetooth Accessory Kit for CLP Radios.

  • Midland GXT2000VP4 two way radio unboxing and first look

    This is an unboxing and close-up first look at the new, long-awaited and eagerly anticipated Midland GXT2000VP4 two way radios. In this video, Danny Feemster of Buy Two Way Radios presents the GXT2000 for the first time ever in an out-of-box experience and compares this latest model in the Midland line with the ever-popular and best-selling Midland GXT1000VP4.

  • Radio 101 - How to remove the faceplate on a Motorola Talkabout radio

    Removing or swapping a faceplate on a Motorola Talkabout two way radio is very easy if you know the trick. In this episode of Radio 101, Anthony at Buy Two Way Radios shows you how to do it in two simple steps.

  • The Midland GXT2000VP4 has arrived!

    If you have been waiting on a pre-ordered Midland GXT2000VP4 radio, we have great news! On Friday, January 11 we received our first shipment of this much anticipated new model at Buy Two Way Radios!

    Now the bad news: this first shipment was very small, and we didn't even receive enough radios to fill our pre-orders. We will be filling our pre-orders on a first-come first served basis, so the oldest orders will be given priority. If your order was filled, you will have received an email with your tracking number by 6:00PM EST Friday (1/11/2013).

    The Midland GXT2000 has been a much anticipated model because it is essentially a GXT1000VP4 - our best-selling GMRS radio - with a few nice enhancements. The biggest improvements are a lithium battery with the ability to fully charge in 2 hours and a larger and better quality display.

    Since it's been almost a year since we first announced the Midland GXT2000VP4, we couldn't wait to test one out! Check out the exclusive video unboxing of the GXT2000 and stay tuned for more information on the performance and features of this new radio from Midland!

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