GXT900 review

I just received a pair of Midland GXT900s to replace a pair of GXT710s. Here are my initial impressions and observations. The Owner’s Manual is attached.

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 The radios now fit properly and can be inserted and withdrawn easily, without adversely affecting the electrical contacts.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.

you posted this in the wrong forum. You should have posted it in the reviews forum.

Here are the frequency assignments for the Midland GXT900’s channels 23-42:

Channel 23 = Channel 1
Channel 24 = Channel 3
Channel 25 = Channel 5
Channel 26 = Channel 7
Channel 27 = Channel 15
Channel 28 = Channel 17
Channel 29 = Channel 19
Channel 30 = Channel 21
Channel 31 = Channel 2
Channel 32 = Channel 4
Channel 33 = Channel 6
Channel 34 = Channel 8
Channel 35 = Channel 10
Channel 36 = Channel 12
Channel 37 = Channel 14
Channel 38 = Channel 16
Channel 39 = Channel 18
Channel 40 = Channel 20
Channel 41 = Channel 22
Channel 42 = Channel 1

If I had about a week with nothing better to do, I could try to identify the privacy code associated with each of the “extra channels.”


Thanks for the info on the GXT900. I kept waiting for some reviews from users, but couldn’t wait & ordered the radios any way. I got my GXT900’s last week just before leaving for a trip. So, I haven’t been able to really try them out yet. I hope to take them to some land that I own to see how they do in the woods.

OK, I had nothing to do this AM so I “cracked” the privacy code for the Midland GXT900’s Channel 23, which is really Channel 1. The privacy code for Channel 23 is CTCSS frequency 38. This proves that these “extra channels” are really just a combination of a standard GMRS/FRS channel (ie, 1-22) plus a privacy code.

I found most of them (Interestingly channel 34 -37 are FRS):

Midland Std Code
23 1 CTCSS 38
24 3 CTCSS 35
25 5 CTCSS 32
26 7 CTCSS 29
27 15 CTCSS 26
28 17 CTCSS 23
29 19 CTCSS 20
30 21 CTCSS 17
31 2 DCS 1
32 4 DCS 4
33 6 DCS 7
34 8 DCS 10
35 10 DCS 13
36 12 DCS 16
37 14 DCS 19
38 16 DCS 22
39 18 DCS 25
40 20 DCS 28
41 22 DCS 31
42 1 DCS ?

I did a few tests with the GXT900 and so far they look real good. I have been able to communicate between the inside of our stucco house and an intersection 7.7 miles away. This is over rolling hills where I can’t see the house, but no trees to block the signal. I was also able to hold a conversation at 4 miles away with my Wife inside the house and me inside the car. Again, rolling hills and such. I was able to communicate clearly in valleys along the road at 3 miles with no problem. I did lose the signal at 2.8 miles in a deep valley with lots of trees.

The rechargeable battery seems to hold up well. I did all these tests and the battery level is still at 100%. Probably had it on 6 hours or more.

From my experience using other two-way radios, these GXT900’s are quite powerful. I’m amazed they work so good when you consider how cheap they are. My other radios were at least $109 each (I can get three GXT900’s for that price).

As a newbie trying to learn as much as I can, this thread leads me to a few questions.

I’m sure I read this somewhere but can’t recall, but can someone explain the differences between CTCS and DCS?

Also, these Midland devices (900, 720, and 775) each have “extra” channels as already stated by the reviewer. If I’m not mistaken, these are repeater channels. Are they repeater channels and if so what does that mean? Would these channels be expected to have a greater range?

Finally, where do I find the EFR (effective range) for these devices? Each of the devices I list above advertise 5 Watt. Yet, from reading other reviews, that may not be the case as the effective range may be considerable lower.

Thanks in advance for replies!


I’m also new to this. Here some info on CTSS & DCS.



Main article: CTCSS
CTCSS (Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System) continuously superimposes any one of about 50 low-pitch audio tones on the transmitted signal, ranging from 67 to 254 Hz. The original tone set was 32 tones, and has been expanded over the years. CTCSS is often called PL tone (for Private Line, a trademark of Motorola), or simply tone squelch. General Electric’s implementation of CTCSS is called Channel Guard (or CG). RCA Corporation used the name Quiet Channel, or QC. There are many other company-specific names used by radio vendors to describe compatible options. Any CTCSS system that has compatible tones is interchangeable. Old and new radios with CTCSS and radios across manufacturers are compatible.

[edit] DCS
DCS (Digital-Coded Squelch) superimposes a continuous stream of FSK digital data, at about 134 bits per second, on the transmitted signal. In the same way that a single CTCSS tone would be used on an entire group of radios, the same DCS code is used in a group of radios. DCS is also referred to as Digital Private Line (or DPL), another trademark of Motorola, and likewise, General Electric’s implementation of DCS is referred to a Digital Channel Guard (or DCG). DCS is also called DTCS (Digital Tone Code Squelch) by Icom, and other names by other manufacturers. Radios with DCS options are generally compatible provided the radio’s encoder-decoder will use the same code as radios in the existing system. Be aware that the same 23-bit DCS word can, for example produce three different valid DCS codes.

Just for clarification, Midland does not appear to include the output in watts of its GMRS walkie talkies in any advertising copy. Midland provides a range such as “up to 22 mile range,” “up to 26 mile range,” or “up to 30 mile range.” Midland finesses the RF output by stating “X-TRA TALK Power, Maximum allowed by law” in its advertising copy (see http://www.midlandradio.com/comersus/store/catalog/GXT775.pdf).

Some resellers provide ad copy stating that certain Midland walkie talkies have an RF output of 5 watts (just do a Google search for “Midland GMRS 5 watts” and you’ll see), but you won’t find this on Midland’s web site.

A true 5-watt output in such a compact and economically manufactured package as the GXT900 and other Midland models advertised by Midland as having a 22-, 26-, or 30-mile range would be dramatic. For example, Motorola business band radios in the UHF range (which encompasses GMRS frequencies) seem to have a maximum RF output of 4 watts (5 watts for VHF) and cost almost 10 TIMES the price of the Midland GXT900 with fewer features! So, can someone measure the actual output at the antenna of the GXT900?

One more note on CTCSS & DCS, which you may already know. Using these codes doesn’t prevent others from hearing you, but you from hearing others.

Example, if you are on Channel 1, CTCSS of 38 and another person is on Channel 1 CTCSS 0 (or off), you would not hear the other person, but they would hear everything you said.

Using CTCSS or DCS just allows your group to only hear each other’s communications & not every one else on the same channel as you.

Thanks to wfiedelman and cqbdriver for providing answers to my questions!

It seems that advertising is quite good is this area and succeeds very well in confusing consumers.

This kind of reminds my of digital photography where mega pixel (MP) is king but in reality it only serves to confuse consumers into thinking more is better when it is not always the case.

I’m simply looking for the best range and bang for my buck seeing that I may be using any purchased device in a no service for my Virgin Mobile cell phone.

The best consumers can do is research fine sites like this to learn and read reviews.

Thanks again!


Earl Wallace-

Your results with this radio sound great, I’m interested in these same radios, thanks for posting your findings.


I just did a quickie range test, and am pleasantly surprized.
I had my wife stand at the curb in front of our house, as I drove down the street.

The street is straight for 2 miles, lined in large trees, in a residential neighborhood, houses on both sides, power poles the full distance, and many obstacles relative to line of sight.

at 1.5 miles, transmission, and reception, was clean and clear.
at 1.7 miles, there was some static,but still had understandable conversation.
at 1.9 miles, more static, a little had to make out, but still usable.
at 2.0 miles, too much static while in the car. I parked and got out, and stood at the curb. TX/RX was much improved, and very useable.
(remember this is a very populated area)

I cant wait to get them mounted to the handlebars of our Quads, and try them out in the open desert. I have the optional helmet speaker/mic sets, and I’m confident that these will greatly improve our riding enjoyment.

I just got from trying the GXT900 out at my property. The property is rolling hills with woods. I also tested my old Motorola SX700 & Trisquare TSX300. My campsite is on top of a hill. I drove down a road the leads away from the site. All transmissions were done outside the vehicle.

0.5 miles at bottom of a hill: GXT900 & SX700 perfectly clear. TSX300 was broken up & I couldn’t understand the other person

1 mile on hilltop: GXT900 & SX700 perfectly clear. TSX300 was understandable, but weak.

1.5 miles on hilltop but a hilltop in between campsite & vehicle was slightly higher: SX700 & TSX300 – no signal. GXT900 was understandable, but weak.

Using JWilkins format for reporting FCC information, I thought that I’d add some FCC testing facts:


[b]Test Results[/b]
                                   [u][b]Measured Output Power[/b][/u]

                      [b]   Frequency
       Channel No.    (MHz)    (dBm)                    (mW)[/b]

        FRS CH-4    462.6375  26.30                     426.6
       GMRS CH-4   462.6375  37.30                   5370.3

well from these testing results…these radios cannot be sold in Canada…as their law for consumer grade radios concerning the ERP cannot exceed 2 (or 2.5) watts. it is something in the 2’ish range which is actually the main reason why companies have created these 4-5 watt radios but limited the ERP to under 2 watts (so they can have 2 markets to sell their radios).

nice to see Midland break the consumer-grade stigma of crappy ERP

To finish out your list: Channel 42 is channel 1 with CTCSS code 14. Midland picked an odd pattern for these “pre-coded” channels. I haven’t figured out what their logic is yet. Doesn’t seem to follow any order.

So… an actual user measured true ERP???

They actually do have a 5 watt ERP… Impressive.

I just got my gxt-900 couple days ago, and very impressed by the quality of communication. I am not new to these transceiver. I used to have MOTOROLA gp-68 , SABER, SX-700R , Kenwood tk-3107 tk-3130, ICOM IC-f14, vertex f20 and now I use HT-1000 and vertex standard VX-900 for family outing. This radio , Midland GXT-900, can really Tx and Rx from basement to 19th floor by high power output. And it is the most clear radio at this price I have used. The only thing I am not satisfied is that the sound is not loud enough, if compare to MOTOROLA HT1000 or VX-900!