Hey folks! I know I said I was going to wait a few days... possibly a week... before my GMRS-50X1 features review, but I spent hours using this radio today and I had a great time. I figured I would just go ahead and get it out there.
For the features review, I am going to start with the Cons this time. Since the quasi-tech review ended with the focus on the negatives, I would like to end this review with a positive vibe. Please keep in mind, this is purely opinion based after using the radio.
There are tons of features... I am only going to cover what I believe would be the most common/popular to use among most people.
1.) While talking simplex to a station that is closer than 2 miles, I had to use low power, NFM and turn the mic gain down to 1. If not, the person I was talking to complained about audio clipping and audible popping sounds. After 2 miles, I could turn the mic gain back up and use WB FM.
2.) The display is going to be both in the Pros and Cons section. As some are aware, I daily drive a Jeep Wrangler. For at least 50% of the year, my Jeep has no roof and no doors. That fact brought out a big drawback for me.
The display has no means of adjusting the brightness. Regardless of what I did, while the sun was out and the roof and doors were off, the display was 100% washed out. I literally could not tell the radio was on by looking at the display. At first, I put the soft top on, and the display was still heavily washed out, but was usable. I had to put on my top and my doors with 20% light transmission tint on the windows, before the display was good to use.
Another drawback for the display is, there is a lot of very useful information in a tiny little spot. It takes a bit of focus to look at the display and get a feel for exactly what is going on. This is not good if you are driving and want to make a quick change. I found that I had to pull over to be safe while making minor adjustments.
2.) They advertise that it has NOAA radio built-in, but it really doesn't. The VFO covers a frequency spectrum that includes those frequencies. Not a big deal, but it is up to you to manually tune to those channels and save them to memory.
3.) You can't add new GMRS saved channels that are capable of transmitting. On my iCom, I have multiple saved channels for channel 15, for example. One with no DPL, one with tone coding and one with digital coding. Depending on who I am with or the group I am talking with, I need to use different values. With the BTech radio, I will have to manually change it every time. I am assuming this is so they could get FCC type approval.
4.) You can't transmit in VFO mode, at all, not even on GMRS frequencies. This was probably needed for FCC type approval. Still a drag that you can't manually dial to a GMRS frequency and use it.
5.) There are a lot of unneeded features and unusable functions that are locked out. Seems pointless to even have them because they will likely add a lot of confusion to new operators. Examples are Remote Stun which remotely disables transmitting and Remote Kill remotely disables transmit and receive. These are typically repeater management features that a typical GMRS mobile user just doesn't need.
While the aforementioned features are present and function, there are a ton of other repeater related functions that are still in the menu, but you can't change them. It almost seems like they took a shortcut and used UV-50Xx software and just tweaked it for this radio.
1.) Range.... My son and I ran a field test today; both simplex and repeater use. Anyone who has read my quasi-technical opinion review, knows I was less than impress with what I saw. That said, going from my BTech mobile to my son's HT inside his car, we easily talked 5.5 miles in rough terrain and while I was on the blind side of a hill, 100 feet+ below the top of a hill and there were lots of trees, buildings, etc. between us.
I was pretty impressed that we got that range with my son's radio "inside" his car, while driving, and he was using an HT that has a maximum power of 8 watts. That was more than twice as far as the results we had with another brand mobile I own... using the same HT.
Once we were out of simplex range, we switched to a local repeater. I am 22 miles from the repeater as the crow flies. I was using low power (2.5w) WB FM. My son was 19 miles away from the repeater using the HT, on full power and WB FM. My son gave me the the same signal report as others. He said there was some noise on low power, but when I switched to medium power (18w) I was full quite and great audio quality. Given the RF signal quality I observed with analyzing tools, I am seriously shocked.
2.) While the display washed out very easily by the sun light, the display colors are extremely flexible, allowing the user to adjust the color contrast, making it easier to read as well as using font color to further segment the many items displayed on the screen.
3.) The owners manual states that the device has a 50% duty cycle. There is no power level specified, but I assume in low power. My son and I talked for more than 30 minutes, with most of my transmit time being at medium power and at about 35-40% duty cycle. During our conversation my son reported that there was no noticeable deviation of carrier or modulation. My receive quality stayed great the whole time as well.
4.) The radio only draws 3.5 amps while using the radio at full power, with the cooling fan running. The radio came with large gauge power wires. They are not labeled, but they measure about 2mm. They are likely 14 gauge, rated for 15 amps. That's a plus, as you are less likely to have voltage drop over the length of the wire and the fuse will pop long before the wires become a fire risk.
5.) While its not very useful for most cars/trucks, it does receive commercial FM Radio. This is great feature for vehicles that don't have a radio, such as ATV's, older work trucks, construction equipment, etc.
6.) You are able to monitor up to 4 frequencies and/or channels at once. The ability to mix monitoring VFO and Memory channels can be pretty handy.
7.) A cool feature that this radio has is, you can sync the displays in pairs of two. This can be a pretty neat feature. I set display A (top left) and display B (bottom left) to be in sync. This means when I change the channel on Channel A, channel B changes as well. The inverse also occurs. This allows a user to do things like have the channel Name displayed and the frequency displayed at the same time. You don't have to guess where you are if you are using channel names.
8.) This unit displays the DPL code and method on the screen. This is awesome, because you don't have to guess if your DPL is set or to what value. Its right there to read.
9.) This unit has a feature that is getting more popular; DPL scanning. If there is a group that is using DPL and you want to be part of the conversation, you can have the radio scan tone squelch and DCS values while the other station is transmitting and the radio will detect the value that the group is using.
Something that is not really a pro or con... since we can only transmit on the hard-coded GMRS channels, 225 additional memory channels does not make a lot of sense to me. I'm sure some will love it. With the exception of programming the WX channels, I likely wont use any more than that.
Quasi-tech review aside, if you are willing to tolerate some of the technology shortcomings I noticed in my radio (noted in another thread), for a low cost radio, this can be a lot of fun to play with. Sadly, the display washout is a deal-breaker for me, personally. However, I think I am in the minority there.
In short, I am not going to recommend or condemn the radio. It's not for me, even with all the cool features. That said, I leave it to you to use my two threads as a tool to make an informed decision. I'm just 1 guy with one radio... but there it is.