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GMRS HT Round Up


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I wanted to find a pair of handhelds I could give to my young kids while out hiking and exploring. Something that will help them feel more confident going out of sight, while remaining in contact with Mom and Dad, and not having to worry about losing / breaking an expensive radio. Keep in mind they are 5 and 8 years old doing 7+ mile hikes while carrying their own food and water. Keeping gear weight down is important.

My requirements are (in order of importance):

  • Small form factor and lightweight
  • Relatively cheap, but decent build quality
  • USB rechargeable

 

What I looked at:

  • Baofeng UV-5G
  • BAOFENG G11S
  • Radioddity FS-T1
  • TIDRADIO TD-H5
  • Midland x-Talker (existing radio)

 

Size Comparison:

1631915095_PXL_20220418_231922203_MP2.thumb.jpg.12bb6cfa36b6c70974ea4ba8bb7d4e1b.jpg

 

Radioddity FS-T1

Weight: 4.25 oz

Battery Capacity: 1500 mAh, 3.7V

Size: (see comparison pic)

The only new FRS radio, and also the cheapest at $35 for the pair. And you get what you pay for here. This one was easily the lowest quality of the bunch and just felt cheap and plasticky. The belt clip was terrible and looks like it will snap in no time. The flap covering the charging port ripped off during the first charge session. And micro-usb!?? Come on man … bummer. Not impressed at all.

Verdict: Hard pass.

 

BAOFENG G11S

Weight: ?? forgot to do this stuff

Battery Capacity: ??

Size:??

I liked this one, good build quality, durable feeling. But it was simply too big and heavy for the kids. I would recommend this if you want to get a decent GMRS HT that is simple to use for adult friends who are not radio dorks.

Verdict: Returned.

 

TIDRADIO TD-H5

Weight: 8.75 oz

Battery Capacity: 1500 mAh, 7.4V

Size: (see comparison pic)

The only one of the bunch with an actual USB-C charging port on the battery! Dang, why is this such a hard thing to find? Not sure, but moving on … You get a lot of stuff in this package, 2 radios, extra batteries, microphones, and more. But you also get what you pay for as well. Smaller battery capacity and while the radio felt decent in my hands, it had one really annoying issue that won’t bother most people. The channel selector has ~ 5 millisecond delay between when you press the button and when the radio responds. I work in software and performance issues like this drives me nuts, no way would I be happy using this. Interestingly the radio is much more responsive in menu settings. So the delay issue, larger / heavier form factor, smaller battery out-weighed the benefit of USB-C charging.

Verdict: Returned.

 

Baofeng UV-5G

Weight: 7.6 oz

Battery Capacity: 1800 mAh, 7.4V

Size: (see comparison pic)

I was really impressed with this one. It’s not the smallest or lightest, but it has a small enough form factor that when the kids wore it on their packs they did not complain. Has all the awesome features you already know about and love. Not much else I can say that hasn’t already been said by others. The only draw back on this is the standard battery still requires a charging cradle. Some other users pointed out that the upgraded battery pack comes with a barrel charger that can work on a USB adapter. That’s cool, if only we could do that on the standard size battery.

Verdict: Will keep this one for Mom and Dad!

 

Overall Conclusion:

Unfortunately, I was not able to find what I was looking for and will continue using the Midland x-talker FRS blister pack radios for the kids. It’s small and light weight and gets the job done. I’ll just have to be diligent about bringing extra set of fresh batteries. On the plus side, Mom and Dad got an awesome pair of repeater-capable radios with the UV-5G!

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I don’t know what kind of range you’re expecting out of the radios. The two with antennas close to a full quarter wave, around 6 inches, would have been on my list. The other two with munchkin sized antennas I doubt will perform as well range wise to the other two. That’s assuming they are all equal, in power output, another area where manufacturers don’t generally put that in the specifications.

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Faced with the same issues I bought a pair of Retevis RB26s. They are simple radios. No screen, no keypad. You turn a knob for in/off/volume and there is a rocker switch on the side for channels. Basically you tell the user what channel to keep it on and that’s it. Only the basic GMRS channels and 8 repeater channels, and they have to be programmed via computer (they come with codes in every channel 😞. They use the usual k type programming cable, not included) and they are only 3 watts (although they seem to have the same range as my 5 watt HTs), and the antenna is not replaceable (no hex screw) but the battery lasts all day, and they are dead simple to use. And they can be inexpensive. I bought mine for less than $20 each. 

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Good point about power output. I don't need much range for this scenario; up to 1/2 mile is plenty. The kids need to go over the hill and around the bend and be able to call in a "bear report" and that's about it.

 

15 hours ago, Lscott said:

I don’t know what kind of range you’re expecting out of the radios. The two with antennas close to a full quarter wave, around 6 inches, would have been on my list. The other two with munchkin sized antennas I doubt will perform as well range wise to the other two. That’s assuming they are all equal, in power output, another area where manufacturers don’t generally put that in the specifications.

 

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On 4/19/2022 at 12:47 PM, WRPCinci said:

Good point about power output. I don't need much range for this scenario; up to 1/2 mile is plenty. The kids need to go over the hill and around the bend and be able to call in a "bear report" and that's about it.

½ mile over a hill and around a bend may exceed the capability of GMRS 

 

 

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On 4/19/2022 at 9:47 AM, WRPCinci said:

Good point about power output. I don't need much range for this scenario; up to 1/2 mile is plenty. The kids need to go over the hill and around the bend and be able to call in a "bear report" and that's about it.

 

On 4/20/2022 at 5:55 PM, AdmiralCochrane said:

½ mile over a hill and around a bend may exceed the capability of GMRS 

In both cases, it depends on the obstacles in the way.

Over a small hill may not pose much of a problem, but a big hill or mountain will almost certainly pose a problem (unless you can go around it instead of over it).

The same is generally true for "around the bend." If that bend involves a hill or mountain, you would likely be okay to a point, then it would drop out completely.

The only way to really know if it's going to work for you is to try it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

i bought a pair of the TIDRADIO TD-H5, for the price was like $85, got 2 radios, 2 lapel mic's, 4 batteries that charge via usb-c, couldn't beat it.  they push ~4.35watts and work well.  you can also swap antenna's on these with a small allan key.  I put a 15.5" Nagoya whip on them, and can now make the repeater 3 miles away (couldn't hit it with the OEM rubber ducky)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I didn't read the whole post, sorry if this had been covered but my kids, 3 and 5, get Retevis RT22 radios. 1/2 watt on low, 2 watts on high. Battery lasts a long time. They get limited buttons to mess with (basically on/off, volume and channel up or down).

They come in pairs and six packs. A pair is about 30 bucks.

They charge via USB which is nice for extended hikes if you need to charge them off a battery pack or solar charger.

 

The built in antenna isnt horrid, yes a 5 watt radio with a better antenna goes further but I found these are impressive.

 

These radios are small enough you can attach them right to the shoulder strap of a backpack and there is no need for a shoulder mic. This places the radio near the ear so they can hear and also places it close to their mouth so they can key it and talk.

The radio programs with Chirp.

I was using one today on a solo hike.

20220509_160437.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...

If you're looking for cheap FRS, I got a pair of Pofung BF-T11's on sale for $20. Programming cable was extra but worth it to get rid of tones, change band to wide and higher power where applicable. I took them fishing and they outperformed my pair of Midland LXT600pa's.

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  • 2 months later...
On 5/26/2022 at 1:48 AM, back4more70 said:

If you're looking for cheap FRS, I got a pair of Pofung BF-T11's on sale for $20. Programming cable was extra but worth it to get rid of tones, change band to wide and higher power where applicable. I took them fishing and they outperformed my pair of Midland LXT600pa's.

Where did you find the software? I got a pair of these a while back but gave up looking for the software and now they just sit collecting dust.

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18 hours ago, NC654 said:

Where did you find the software? I got a pair of these a while back but gave up looking for the software and now they just sit collecting dust.

You can try http://www.pofung.cn/UploadFiles/20211020203444963.zip but I am not positive that is the correct one.  You can also privately send me your email and I can connect you to my Google Drive folder if you like.  The rar file I originally downloaded was named "Pofung T11 programming tool and guid" but of course I cannot find the web site now.

Note: I used my UV-5R programming cable with this software and it worked correctly.

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 8/12/2022 at 9:14 AM, back4more70 said:

You can try http://www.pofung.cn/UploadFiles/20211020203444963.zip but I am not positive that is the correct one.  You can also privately send me your email and I can connect you to my Google Drive folder if you like.  The rar file I originally downloaded was named "Pofung T11 programming tool and guid" but of course I cannot find the web site now.

Note: I used my UV-5R programming cable with this software and it worked correctly.

Thanks for the tip about the software: my dual-pack arrived, I charged them up and used my UV-5R cable with your programming software (in Windows XP in Parallels on my Mac Mini) and it programs very easily.

I note some SCAN settings; see below.  Have you been able to activate Scanning on these units?

I notice that the software uses the xml format for its data files.  I brought up the file in my XML editor and it loads, but I have not tried to modify any settings this way yet.  What interests me is the possibility to modify one HT to transmit on a Repeater Input frequency, while using the other to listen to that same Repeater's Output frequency and in effect give them Repeater capability (or even do split transmit/receive on one channel).

Screen Shot 2022-08-31 at 12.12.55 PM.png

1309792507_PofungBF-T11User-Manual-4518348.pdf

Screen Shot 2022-08-31 at 12.23.45 PM.png

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36 minutes ago, MichaelLAX said:

It just may be a setting in the CPS software, as I cannot find a way to scan.

Use a different manual 😁

http://www.pofung.cn/UploadFiles/20200827094748361.pdf

 

It explains that you must have all 22 channels programmed and then power on while on channel 22. It will automatically begin scanning:

Scan
This function can be activated only by means of the optional programming software. To enable the Scan function, all 22 channels must be programmed. If you turn on the radio on channel 22, the scanning will automatically start. Whenever any signal is detected, the scanning will stop on a busy channel. If the PTT is pressed, you will transmit on the latest busy channel. Channel 22 is the priority channel; therefore if you don’t pick up any signal when you press PTT, the radio will transmit on channel 22.

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4 hours ago, Sshannon said:

Terrific find!  Now in addition to the two other versions of the manual that I have downloaded.

It is not working: when I turn off on Channel 22 and then turn back on, it comes on Channel 21 but does not scan.

If you look at my CPS screenshot above, I will try turning ON first the BusyLock and then the JumpCode to see if it works! 😀

UPDATE: The SCAN paragraph is indeed in the printed manual that comes with these HTs! 

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There is some sort of glitch that I have not figured out yet:

Programmed as shown in the Screenshot above, and left on Channel 22 when programmed it works.

But once it is on another channel and then manually set to Channel 22 and then turned off and then on, it is not working.

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7 minutes ago, MichaelLAX said:

There is some sort of glitch that I have not figured out yet:

Programmed as shown in the Screenshot above, and left on Channel 22 when programmed it works.

But once it is on another channel and then manually set to Channel 22 and then turned off and then on, it is not working.

It’s a feature. 🥸

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On 9/1/2022 at 9:07 AM, back4more70 said:

I was wondering how this would work on a radio with only a channel display and two knobs.  This doesn't seem to be a feature I would use on this radio, but thank you for pointing it out.

I've noticed one of these FRS HTs has much more volume on receive than the other; any ideas?

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26 minutes ago, MichaelLAX said:

I've noticed one of these FRS HTs has much more volume on receive than the other; any ideas?

Interesting.  My guess would be one is narrow and one is wide, but you probably already programmed them both to be wide, so that wouldn't explain it.  I don't think that happened to me, but I probably turned mine to different volumes without thinking about it.

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4 hours ago, back4more70 said:

Interesting.  My guess would be one is narrow and one is wide, but you probably already programmed them both to be wide, so that wouldn't explain it.  I don't think that happened to me, but I probably turned mine to different volumes without thinking about it.

If these are /true/ FRS radios, they are ONLY NFM (indicated in the manual as 12.5kHz bandwidth and 11K0... modulation).

Not knowing how the receive volume is being determined -- speaking on one and listening on the other isn't going to be the most usable test (the transmitter of one could have left the factory with a slightly wider deviation). Setting both of them out like a set of stereo speakers with each set to the same volume level, and listening to OTHERS transmitting would be the simplest test (and maybe swap left/right to ensure one's hearing isn't compromised on one side 🧐 ). If there is still a volume difference it may just be a case of different audio stage amplification tweaking (Is the volume control a real potentiometer -- which may be difficult to get both to the same position, a glob of solder could reduce the pot by a few turns of wire, changing the range it covers, etc.... Or is it a rotary encoder with the volume handled in steps? Given the On/Off is part of it, I suspect a pot rather than encoder).

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10 hours ago, back4more70 said:

Interesting.  My guess would be one is narrow and one is wide, but you probably already programmed them both to be wide, so that wouldn't explain it.  I don't think that happened to me, but I probably turned mine to different volumes without thinking about it.

Yes: As noted in my screenshot of the CPS programming above, I did reset them both to WIDE.

Not sure why the CPS allows these changes, if as @KAF6045suggests, these are not to be changed in FRS radios, but WTH!

One will cause substantial feedback/squeal to the other; but in the opposite case: not so much!

I suspect that one of them is just a bit defective; but for $12.50 each, one can hardly expect too much quality!! 

UPDATE: Amazon is sending me two more, so I should be able to get at least two "good" ones out of the batch!

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On 9/5/2022 at 5:48 PM, MichaelLAX said:

Not sure why the CPS allows these changes, if as @KAF6045suggests, these are not to be changed in FRS radios, but WTH!

Quote

§ 95.563 FRS channels.

The FRS is allotted 22 channels, each having a channel bandwidth of 12.5 kHz. All of the FRS channels are also allotted to the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) on a shared basis. The FRS channel center frequencies are set forth in the following table:

As I mentioned "true FRS". For GMRS HTs, the 467MHz interstitials are also limited to NFM...

Quote

§ 95.1773 GMRS authorized bandwidths.

Each GMRS transmitter type must be designed such that the occupied bandwidth does not exceed the authorized bandwidth for the channels used. Operation of GMRS stations must also be in compliance with these requirements.

(a) Main channels. The authorized bandwidth is 20 kHz for GMRS transmitters operating on any of the 462 MHz main channels (see § 95.1763(a)) or any of the 467 MHz main channels (see § 95.1763(c)).

(b) Interstitial channels. The authorized bandwidth is 20 kHz for GMRS transmitters operating on any of the 462 MHz interstitial channels (see § 95.1763(b)) and is 12.5 kHz for GMRS transmitters operating on any of the 467 MHz interstitial channels (see § 95.1763(d)).

In the case of the 467MHz interstitials, the intention is to minimize interference with repeaters. Repeaters operate in 20kHz bandwidth (though many radios don't offer that, they just have 12.5/25.0 bandwidths. GMRS main channels are /spaced/ on 25kHz. The interstitials are jammed in between the main 8 channels (15-22 in the unified numbering scheme). Repeater 15 is 467.550, Repeater 16 is 467.575=> 467.540-467.560 & 467.565-467.585; the interstitial is 467.5625 => 467.55625-467.56875. Note that the NFM interstitial just intersects both FM repeater frequencies.

If the radio had been designed before the 2017 FCC reorganization, it may have been sold as "FRS/GMRS". In those days, FRS was only 0.5W and originally only the 462&467 interstitials (so 14 channels total). GMRS meant it had the 8 main channels, power >1W, and maybe repeater mode. With the reorganization, if it had 0.5W 467 interstitials, <2W 462 interstitials and main channels (but not repeater mode) it is classified as FRS (and should be operated on NFM only -- it is possible the FCC would consider wide FM as a qualifier for GMRS and license required).

 

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