An interesting comparison

In 2004, during a sale I bought 4x set of Midland G150 GMRS radio at US$19.90 a pair costing an overall US$39.80 for the 4 units (at Fry’s). Over the years they worked well, no problems (never used much thought) but I’ve always assumed that because they are cheap that…well they performed cheaply, but there was no other set to compared them with.

Then, in an impulse, a week ago (July 2009) I bought a pair of Cobra Li4900 GMRS radio, at Changi airport for US$78.85 (S$115 after all the vouchers given). I now have a set that cost almost 4 time the old Midland and here’s some observations.

Design and features
The Cobra looks “cool”, while it is quite smaller than the Midland it is also quite thick, thicker than the Midland, there are a lot of useful discrete buttons such as channel etc. which makes it easier to use without having to go through menu. The antenna is its best looking feature, a square flat design. This uses LiON battery, a huge plus for me.
The Midland was designed as a “family” set, almost like a baby monitor, so it’s smoothly contoured, with a neck sling to hang down, there is no single sharp angle on the body of the transceiver, the antenna flowed upwards from the body. This unit uses 4xAAA battery, not so cool but OK

On the outward design the Cobra wins hands down

Technical features
Cobra can do a lot of things including vibrate that the Midland can’t, it also come with a charging dock. Many things to say here but overall the Cobra is the clear winner

In real use
First off, both units of the Cobra has manufacturing faults with the buttons, the down channel button on one and the CALL button on the other, they clicked but do not make contact. Being good at screwdriver I opened them up and found that the buttons are the etched on the PCB board type with a clicky cap on top, the button is a long rubber rod that presses down. Because of this the buttons are vague and …well rubbery and if they point slightly off will click the cap but not make contact. An additional layer of sticky tape is all it take to remedy, but do remember that this is not a usual trick for the normal user, beside voiding the warranty. As it was both unit warrant a return to shop.

Anyway now that I fixed them, to the real use.

  • Cobra’s sound is a bit fuzzy, Midland has a much clearer voice quality
  • Cobra claimed 18 miles, Midland 6 miles, in real life they are identical
  • As mentioned Cobra’s many buttons are vague and rubbery, there are time when they clicked but not activated, in contrast the 4 buttons in the front of the Midland are direct and responsive
  • There is a definite delay in the Cobra sound transmission, even with all DCSS or DCS switched off, the Midland transmission is much faster (as well as better sounding). Here’s how I tested them:

I set my laptop to be a speaking clock with time announced every minutes, the 2 devices are standing next to the speaker and set to Vox, I make sure that their sensitivity is good and they pick up every time, one is set on channel 19 the other on 20, both on full power (1W). Then I rode my bycicle away with the two receiving sets, hearing the clock every minute.
They both received or failed to receive their respective transmission at almost exactly the same place -> identical range under identical transmission and condition.

But while on the Midland I can hear the full “… time now is eleven minutes and ten second” the “the” being lost as the first part of the transmission as the set pick up vox and send away, on the Cobra one can only pick up the “…and ten second”, quite a bit of delay. I checked it manually later and it’s true that Midland is almost instant while the Cobra has a noticeable delay.

So there you are the Cobra is a cool looking set, good features and outward design, but “rough” electronics and perhaps in construction and inherent mechanical design (the long rubber fingers to prod the switches). It probably doesn’t really matter for most people, it’s just how surprised I was at the differences.

I have since ordered a set of TriSquare transceivers, awaiting their arrival.

Thank you for this review, very helpful mate! :slight_smile:

Let us know how the TriSquares work… they seem to be causing quite the stir across the internet

Interesting comparison thanks!