BUDGET vs. CONSUMER vs. PRO
In this range test, I’m comparing three PMR446 walkie-talkie radios to see how well they perform against each other in a built up, urban setting.
The Retevis RT24 (pictured right) sells for as little as £12 per radio. This includes a USB charging dock and a 1,100mAh Li-Ion battery.Retevis RT24 on Amazon
The build quality is decent on these units so the low price has to make you question performance. That’s why it’s the budget radio in this test. How well does it stack up against the more expensive radios from the respected brands?
The Motorola XT420 (pictured right) sells for over £100 per radio. This is the real deal. It’s a business radio and is a tool to get a job done. It has no frills and no unnecessary features. Check out this video if you want a close up look around this radio.Motorola XT420 on Amazon
Remember though, that this is still a PMR446 radio so it only operates at 0.5W. There’s no real reason this should transmit any further or better than a budget Baofeng.
The Motorola TLKR T80 (pictured left) sells for about £30-40 per radio. This includes a USB charging dock and a battery pack. It has now been replaced by the T92.Motorola T92 on Amazon
You can do a lot more with this radio as the display and buttons give you easy access to changing CTCSS codes and accessing other features. It’s very well made but not to the same spec or standard as a business radio and doesn’t come with the same power options as standard. However, does it perform as well in a range test? Is this a valid cheaper option for a small business needing mobile radio communications?
RANGE TEST DETAILS
The idea is simple. I use a Whistler TRX-1 scanner to receive and record the transmissions. The scanner is placed in the window of my apartment. It uses a standard omnidirectional antenna and the receive sensitivity of the scanner at 446MHz is roughly the same as that of a PMR446 radio.
I then take a walk and transmit back to the receiver at various locations until one of the radios does not open the squelch on the scanner. The transmit location is ground level in a built-up area.
I then map each of the transmit locations to check the RF line-of-sight profile. One of these is shown below. You can see clearly that the later transmissions were not line-of-sight. This is quite a challenge for a 0.5 Watt PMR446 transmission. This is intentional as I want this to be a ‘real life’ range test rather than a theoretical test as I did earlier in 2018 here.