Hi all. New here... looking for "real" two ways...

Hello everyone. I recently bought two set of Cobra 30 mile range (tsk, tsk) GMRS/FRS radios for car to car use on the way back from vacation last week. As you may imagine I was less than impressed with their performance. 30 miles my butt, they can’t even do 3, and on the high setting at that. Sooooo…

If I want to buy good “real” two ways that actually have good range, what make would you recommend? Also should I stick with GMRS or go with the license free 900mhz type?

Advice and suggestions on this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thanks everyone.

When purchasing consumer radios, the top performers are Motorola (manufactured by GiantInternational) and Midland. Anything other than those two are usually not as good quality and will give poor range.
All consumer radios are quoted WAY above what an average user will get. “30 miles” as you learned is not very accurate even in the most ideal environment.

If you want reliable communications you have the right idea; step up to a commercial radio model. Just keep in mind you will have to have a dealer program it specifically to the GMRS frequencies because these radios usually do not come preprogrammed. Most dealers can “match” the channel and coding that comes default in the consumer radios so you can still talk to friends who have the cheaper models.
Some suggested business-class commercial radios for GMRS:
Vertex VX-231, VX-354, and VX-351
Motorola RDU4100, RDU4160, and CP200
Kenwood TK-3302

As for the license-free 900mhz radios, I love them! HOWEVER, i do not recommend them for car-to-car use. Reason is, because they are digital radios they require a “handshake” at the beginning of each transmission to confirm other radios are within range. If not, the radio gives you a busy signal and you can’t transmit. In a vehicle when you are moving at high speeds, if you get separated more than half mile, your radios may have trouble making the “handshake” and you will get frustrated with a lot of busy signals “can’t connect to other radios”. My experience with the DTR 900mhz license free radio is they are perfect for indoor, in-building operations. They do not do well in moving vehicles.

Good luck and let us know what direction you go in!

Thanks for the replys. I am also curious as to how manufacturers can get away with making claims that are not anywhere close to reality. I will have to look into the Motorolas and Midlands GMRS. Any suggestions as to models from those manufacturers? Especially ones that can bounce off of repeaters?

Also I live in south jersey (Cape May Court House) where would I find stores/shops that deal in that sort of thing?

I will send you a pm today. I am a Motorola dealer in NJ.

As far as the Motorolas’ and Midlands, these are the two I find that are supposedly the top ones:



Out of those two which would you buy?

To be honest with you, between those radios… go for the Midland.

Besides looking at the reviews, the Midland radios have developed an increasing reputation whereas over time Motorola has become “second best” for consumer radios IMHO. The Midland advertises 5 watts output power, whereas the Motorola does not state a specific wattage but you can estimate 0.5-2 watts. The antenna is longer on the Midland and will give you better receive and slightly better transmit range.

I’m a Motorola guy, and would much rather prefer a commercial portable radio. But when comparing those two I suggest the Midland GXT-1000

Well. I’m not against the commercial radios, but I have no idea where to start when it comes to them.

Well, I think your first question is will your usage justify the cost? Will you use them often enough to drop a few hundred dollars on a nice commercial grade portable, or is your budget more geared towards the radios you posted?

Well let me ask you a few questions. In my mind, the usage level would depend on whether ot not they are worth using if that makes any sense, meaning I’d use them more if they actually worked…

Now, what are the benefits of the commercial over the consumer besides build quality? Is the range significantly or only marginally better? What features differences are there that woudl make the commercial radios a better set? These are the things I’m looking at as far as where I would put my money.

The key question is what do specifically need to use them for? Both types of radios have their advantages and disadvantages, but each is going to be better suited for some applications than others. The best way choose between a consumer or commercial radio is to do so according to your specific need.

Commercial radios are generally going to be more durable than an FRS/GMRS radio and have a longer battery life. Commercial radios tend to be bigger and bulkier than consumer radios. Commercial radios also tend to have more accessories available to them than consumder radios. Consumer radios are a lot less expensive than commercial radios. Consumer radios operate on UHF frequencies only, commercial radios offer a choice between UHF or VHF frequencies.

Commercial frequencies are also more exclusive; meaning that they won’t be as crowded as FRS/GMRS frequencies. The trade-off is that the FCC requires users to have a commercial license to operate on those frequencies which is considerably more expensive than a GMRS license.

Consumer radios need to be programmed to specific frequencies licensed to the operator. Consumer FRS/GMRS radios are assigned specific frequencies as well, only those are pre-programmed and shared by anyone else with an FRS/GMRS radio.

We covered the details in the first two episodes of The Two Way Radio Show.

Episode 1 - An Introduction to Consumer Radios

Episode 2 - An Introduction to Business Radios

These audio podcasts are tutorials on the basics of two way radios and compare the differences between consumer and business radios.

Also, we discussed radios on road trips in Episode 10 - Radios on the Road.
Episode 10 - Radios on the Road

It’s funny but I know what you mean… If something works better of course you are more likely to use it and will be willing to invest more money into it. On the other hand, if a more expensive radio only gives marginal improvement, then it would not justify the cost of the commercial radio.
Look at it like this, commercial or business class radios are more of an investment, for two reasons. 1. The higher cost equates to higher durability and better quality components. Remember, the receiver settings, speaker size, and overall specs have to meet higher standards by the manufacturer. The higher cost can be “depreciated” over the years of service the radio gives you. 2. The ability to do more with a commercial radio: you may start programming GMRS frequencies into your radio. A year later if you decide you want to build your own GMRS Repeater, you can edit te frequencies to work with your repeater or a community repeater. Now 3 years later you open a business, or sell your radios to a business that is just opening up. The radios can be reprogrammed to any UHF frquency within the manufacturer’s range.

The difference in simplex (radio-to-radio) range between a consumer radio and commercial radio is usually marginal. IE:a consumer radio car-to-car works 1/2 mile, whereas a commercial radio gives you 1 mile. It honestly depends on a lot of factors. An added benefit of te commercial radio will be the addition of a “real” antenna, not a built-in stubby antenna. When dealing with UHF (GMRS) you will notice your height above ground and general elevation plays a huge role in range. Since you are around cape may, you are in relatively flat terrain. Try taking your radio to the top of a building or rooftop and transmitting. You will notice your range will increase twice-fold.

If/when you dive more into radio communications, and you use the radio in your vehicle, consider a mobile radio aka vehicle radio. If you are using a portable radio in a vehicle remember you are transmitting from inside a metal box! It’s vital to get your antenna as high as possible and outside the vehicle.

Welcome to the world of radios KDOG! There’s so much to learn and its good to see someone taking an interest beyond the bubble pack/consumer radios.

My primary use for them is disaster preparedness, car to car, and general use. I am definetly interested in commercial I just have to scratch my head and rub my chin alittle more. I’ll get reading those articles. Its interesting to note however, only the Motorolas have the repeater use function out of the two makes I listed for comparison, unless I am missing it.

Anyhow, are there any new consumer radios coming out on the horizon that you think I may be interested in?

You are correct, Motorola has been the only one to attempt adding repeater freqs/option to a consumer radio. I honesty have not used them in repeater mode so I am not quite sure how well it works. Talking with a repeater a commercial radio will have much more range advantage IMHO than a consumer radio.

Its a shame the Midlands don’t have the repeater function, with the full 5 watts they claim, they should be able to get to repeaters more than the Motorolas…

By the way, whats the full power output of the Motorolas?(MR365Rs)


I see Midland has a Mil-Spec radio out but it still doesn’t show a repeater function. kind of a bummer:


I wonder if at least the antenna is detatchable so an external antenna could be used?

Yea, if you look at most of the reviews online for the GXT5000 everyone seems to be disappointed they did not include repeater frequencies in it. :mad:

As for Motorola wattage, [Giant International] Motorola doesn’t seem to be publishing that information anymore… If I remember correctly last time it was on the packaging it was 1-2 watts high power, 1/2 low power.

Argh. Hmmm. I emailed Midland and asked them about it and if their would be a model coming out that would include a repeater function.

KDOG, do you mean the MR356R? If so, the MR356 is the same radio as the MR355 with a camo faceplate. According to the FCC, the MR355 is .38 watts FRS and 1.32 watts GMRS.

Ugh. That isn’t very much. The midlands seem like they would SMOKE the Motorolas’ in the range dept…

KDOG- try doing a “search” on this website and enter “reviews” - it might help in giving you some information regarding radios such as MR 355, Cobra and Midland radios… a lot of the reviews were written by jwilkers and provide some good information regarding a variety of bubble pack radios that he personally tested.

2-way radios are like computers, buy the best you can afford. I have never had too much computer or a 2-way radio that was too good, but I have had not enough of each. A “real” radio, not the FRS/GMRS radios, will give you more durability/reliability, more range and much, MUCH better audio on both the transmit and receive sides of the radios. These can be achieved by buying a good commercial grade radio which you can use for many years to come.

As an example, I don’t use a chain saw very often but I bought a good one. I want it to work when I use it and I want more chain saw than I need. That’s just my method of doing things. There is an old saying, it is better to have and not need than to need and not have. That applies to radios also.