When the FCC re-wrote the rules for Part 95 in 2017, there was some expectation that the market would become inundated with higher powered FRS radios aimed specifically at small, on-site business users as well as consumers. As expected, radio manufactures have indeed added more FRS radios to their product lines, and the license free Family Radio Service, now allowing more powerful radios, continues to be popular among business and personal users alike. Up until now, the GMRS has largely been ignored. That may be starting to change. With the introduction of the new T290 and T295, Midland seems to be shifting focus back to the GMRS.
The T290VP4 and T295VP4 are two new additions to the Midland X-Talker line. The family resemblance is quite apparent. In fact, they are reminiscent of several other radios in the T70 series, although not as contoured, as an LXT633. They have the same general features and operate on the same frequencies as their T70 cousins. The difference, then? it's all about power. The T71, T75 and T77VP5 are all FRS radios, operating at well below 2 watts. The T290 and T295 are GMRS models, capable of transmitting at nearly 3 watts.
The Midland T290 is most like the T77 in features and function. It has the 22 GMRS channels plus 14 extra channels pre-programmed with privacy codes, which at first glances seems somewhat gimmicky in terms of "more channels", but can actually be convenient for those who want to filter out unwanted chatter from others but don't want to take the time or effort to set manually a CTCSS or DCS code to a channel themselves. As for the choice of codes, the T290 has 121 available, which can be very helpful if you are in an area where the airwaves are clogged.
In addition to the GMRS channels, the T290 also has 10 NOAA weather channels with weather alert. It includes a weather scan feature to maximize its benefits as an emergency weather radio. It features 9 level e-Vox, silent operation, channel scan, and 5 call tones. It also has adjustable high, medium and low power settings.
The T290 is cosmetically pleasing, with an attractive black and silver two tone color scheme. It's fully compatible with other FRS/GMRS radios, but as a higher power radio, it does require a GMRS license to operate. The X-Talker T290VP4 Value Pack comes with two radios, a dual pocket desktop charger, AC adapter, two C-ring style earpieces with in-line PTT, two belt clips, and two 700mAh battery packs. Price- $89.99.
The Midland T295 is the same radio as the T290, with two important differences. The first one obviously cosmetic. It's camo, using the same Mossy Oak® camouflage design used by the T75VP3 known as Break-Up Country. If you're a fan of camo, this may be quite appealing. If not, stick with the T290.
The other difference with the T295 is audible. The T290 has 5 call tones. The T295 replaces those with 5 animal calls. These include Cougar, Duck, Crow, Wolf, and Turkey. Like the GXT1050, T65VP3 and T75, This is clearly a radio designed with hunting and other outdoor activities in mind.
As with the T290, the T295 requires a GMRS license to operate. The X-Talker T295VP4 Value Pack includes two radios, a dual pocket desktop charger, AC adapter, two C-ring style earpieces with in-line PTT, two belt clips, and two 700mAh battery packs. Price- $99.99.
While part of the X-Talker line, the T290 and T290 lack a couple of features that are standard with the other T-Series radios. Most notable is the USB port. Simply put, there isn't one. Most, if not all of the other models in the series allow drop-in and USB plug-in charging. The T290 and T295 allow plug-in charging, but through a dual purpose two-pin audio/charge port only. Also, Many other X-Talker radios provide for multiple power options for greater versatility, most notably the option to switch from rechargeable batteries to alkalines, and vice-versa. The T290 and T295 do not offer this option. They operate on NiMH rechargeable battery packs only. It's not necessarily a deal breaker, but something to consider when shopping around.
Some GMRS operators may note the lack of certain features expected of a dedicated GMRS radio. The first is a detachable antenna. It isn't an option with these radios. The second is a higher capacity lithium-ion battery, a preferred choice for some GMRS users who transmit on higher duty cycles. Also, these radios are not repeater capable.
General Mobile Radio Service operators who need a radio with a heavier duty cycle or repeater capability for use on the GMRS may want to opt for something like an MXT115, MXT275 or MXT400 MicroMobile radio. However, if you just need a consumer grade GMRS radio for recreational use or on the go, the T290 and T295 are pretty good buys that may fit the bill.