GXT900 review

I just received a pair of Midland GXT900s to replace a pair of GXT710s. Here are my initial impressions and observations.

The 900s are not simply 710s with updated circuitry. The 900s are redesigned radios, which are larger than the 710s and have a few new external features (for example, different battery compartment cover closure, waterproof rubber cover for mic and phone jacks, different shaped keypads). The radios come with a pair of headsets, a charger and two batteries, and a car charger cord.

The batteries are Midland-supplied rechargables that are identical to those in the 710s (Type BATT-5R), but the chargers are different. The new charger for the 900s provides a VERY tight fit for the radios, and insertion requires lots of push power. Obviously, this translates to excessive holding power by the charger, and withdrawing the radios requires grasping the charger with one hand or the entire charger/radio combination will be pulled up. This is the result of two small tabs in each of the 2 charging compartments, which are designed to hold the radios in place – a great idea if you plan to mount the charger upside down. I eliminated this issue by grinding off the tabs with a Dremel tool. The radios now fit properly and can be inserted and withdrawn easily, without adversely affecting the electrical contacts.

The radios themselves have all the “bells and whistles” as advertised, and these work well. Whether one plans to use them all is a personal decision.

Because of the intense discussion about the possibly greater listed RF output for the 900s, I conducted a rough field test to determine whether there was a difference between the 710s and 900s. I placed one 710 and one 900 next to a large picture window on the 13th floor of a highrise building in Manhattan. These radios were operated by my wife. I then took the matching 710 and 900 down to the street and began walking south. By the way, the 710s were on Channel 20 and the 900s were on Channel 22 – both channels were clear. All four radios contained freshly charged BATT-5R batteries. I communicated with my wife every 2 blocks (1/8 mile) while walking south (surrounded by many highrise buildings). The reception was equivalent for the 710s and the 900s for 12 blocks (3/4 mile) – the signals were identically strong with no breakup, although the audio (clarity) of the 900s was superior. At just beyond 3/4 mile, the 710s began to breakup, and at 7/8 mile, breakup was so severe that it was essentially impossible to decipher the transmission. In contrast, the 910s continued to provide clear reception. At that point, I terminated the test. My guess is that the 900s would have continued to provide clear transmission/reception for at least 1 mile.

With respect to the “extra” channels 23-42, these seem to be simply fixed combinations of a GMRS channel plus a CTCSS frequency. The only utility for these extra channels that I can think of is an easy channel switch with a privacy code in place without the need to play around with the MENU button to reset CTCSS or DCS codes. This might be useful at a theme park or other site where many FRS/GMRS radios are in use and a clear channel is difficult to find. Otherwise, I don’t get it.

Overall impression: The Midland GXT900 is a great new radio well worth the price. My rough field test showed that it’s range exceeds that of the GXT710. It will be interesting if someone can provide antenna output readings to confirm this.