In defense of the "Bubble Pack" FRS Radio

I agree the recent T-series Talkabouts are built WAY better than their predecessors and the competition. The older Talkabouts previously were made for Motorola in China by Giant International. Motorola ended their deal with Giant International a few years ago and the latest T-series Talkabouts supposedly are genuine Motorola made. The build quality of the latest T-series is definitely better. I own a few T800 Talkabouts and absolutely love the blue LED display which shines through the case plastic instead of through a window for the display.

I have used the DTRs while indoors and outdoors and while mobile. I have never noticed any effects of foliage. If foliage affects coverage at all, the effects are way down in the noise compared to everything else that will affect coverage first and not worth worrying about. Where the DTRs do really well is inside buildings because buildings are more “open” at 900MHz compared to 462MHz or 154MHz for that matter and the reflections actually can help. The FHSS operation also helps because the frequency hopping also causes individual hot spots and dead spots to hop around, effectively stirring the modes so to speak. Where the DTRs blow everything else away is when aboard cruise ships. People who have used them on cruise ships report having 100% ship coverage on all decks compared to a pair of 4W UHF Part 90 portables on GMRS which had trouble penetrating more than about 2 decks. The DTRs work amazingly well and people keep underestimating them.

My favorite FRS bubble packs have all been made by Motorola. Even though I use the DTRs on 900MHz and my wife now prefers them over any analog radio, I found it worthwhile to keep a few Talkabouts around for occasional light use of FRS when needed.

I’m a fan of the Motorola FRS models too. I have way too many and gift them pretty often. My wife pokes fun at me about it. I did notice that the Giant models (even my good ole MT350) were ABS plastic and a more rubber-like duck antenna, where the Moto-built models use more rugged materials.

You caused me to look into the DTR line, and now I would love to have one, LOL. I have no business buying another radio :rofl:

I wonder how 900MHz would do during our road trip caravans… FRS works better than I would expect, and every now and then we can still reach a mile out (occasionally even more) from inside of our giant rolling faraday cages. MURS can forget it- once inside a car, those big waves are basically trapped. Always makes me cringe to see Amazon reviews of handheld CB radios where the buyer says they are total junk because they sat inside a car and expected the microscopic rubber duck to throw 11 meter waves outside.

I recently grabbed the green T800s (T801). I really like them as well. The LED screen reminds me of the SL300s. No weird polarizations of LCD when holding it at certain angles either. The newer versions of the phone app work better than originally too, if you like to play with the data features. It’s no GoTenna Mesh, but it certainly works. We can’t wait to try out those features on our next trip.

LOL, I have had too many Talkabouts too and have gifted a number of them away. I am definitely NOT gifting my T800 Talkabouts away anytime soon.

The DTRs do very well for road trip caravans. BTDT many times. When you finally do run out of coverage, FRS and GMRS simplex will also be gone too. Can’t cheat physics. Coverage will not be any less than simplex on GMRS/FRS and can actually be better in some cases. And unlike analog, you will have clear audio right up to the limit of coverage where if finally stops when you hit the digital brick wall. Range testing is easy with the DTRs because they have to sync up with each other before you can talk on them. You press PTT and hear the old familar NEXTEL DirectConnect chirp and then talk. If you are out of range, you get bonked out like with the old NEXTEL phones. The synchronization takes place during the PTT chirp time and is very fast. Range testing is easy because you will always know if you are in range or not. You can leave one radio at home on the kitchen table and then go for a drive with the other radio and see where you get connect hits or get bonked out due to no connection.

The DTRs were a spinoff from the NEXTEL off-network Direct Talk feature in some iDEN handsets back in the day. The DTRs use the exact same system but were coded differently from the DT feature in the phones. I suspect they became incompatible when more features were added to the DTRs.

FRS bubble packs definitely work fine for road trip caravans but you might want to step up to the DTRs. Also check out the DLR series because they are compatible with the DTRs and are smaller than most FRS bubble packs. The DLRs are aimed at the same target market where the UHF analog CLS series business radios are hugely popular. I like to think of the Motorola CLS radios as business bubble packs.

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Hoo-boy… I really want a DTR600 to mess with now, but I’ve armed a legion of friends and family with T600s, T480s and T260s (for their kids)!

…I’m gonna have to put our house on the market to upgrade them to 900MHz, or have nobody to talk to, LOL :laughing:

Be sure to check out the DLRs too. The DLR1060 is the model to get. The DLRs are rich with a lot of unadvertised features that work with the DTRs. I used to own a small fleet of DLR1060 radios and later sold them to a friend after getting a small fleet of DTR700 radios. The DLRs are less expensive and very appealing because they are so ‘expletive’ small and smaller than most FRS bubble packs. They have loud audio like the DTRs. Battery life and range and performance are identical to the DTRs. The DLRs program like the DTR600/700 models. No programming is needed to use the DTRs and DLRs right out of the box at the factory default settings. Some settings are programmable on the radio after entering programming mode from the keypad. Customization of features requires the CPS and is a free download from Motorola. I think the CPS cable is sold on this site. Amazon sells it for around $35.

It is also fun to “spot” DTRs and DLRs in various places. Our local Apple store uses DTRs, and many retailers now use DLR radios. I also saw a DTR in “Mission Impossible 2” … and we all know how realistic THAT film is!

Seriously though, I have done head-to-head tests of VHF, UHF and DTR/DLR radios in real world conditions. Firstly, VHF is not always better in rural locations. That is part truth and part myth. Plus, the DTR/DLR at 900MHz beats both VHF and UHF in both outdoors and indoor locations. Plus the biggest single factor for me is that they are always 100% readable.

Both GMRS and FRS radios have their place. I would never disparage “bubble-pack” radios, but they are designed for consumers. They will not stand up to heavy use or multiple business or student users. (I find the first thing to go is the headset sockets!) I am liking the new breed of GMRS business class radios. (Here in Canada, one doesn’t need a licence for GMRS.)

(I’ve even seen shows where the actors are using UV-5Rs, ha!)

I bet those 900MHz radios do so well in part because of the antennas… A 1/4 wave at that frequency is still very portable, and that’s pretty awesome.

For all the hype around VHF, I’ve only noticed it working better on a select few occasions. I really thought it was going to blow UHF away. I suppose there have to be some instances where it does, but I sure haven’t found them. Not even outdoors. If anything, my FRS radios had caused me to go “wow, it will really work here this well?”. I guess that’s why I am so curious about the DTR/DLRs at this point.

I have dropped T600s and T480s on accident many times, among other things. A T480 fell into a stream we were fly fishing in (That line is IP54 rated, not IP67) and has worked with no issue in the past year since. They can take quite a beating. That said, I have only rarely used a headset with them. Now when I look at something like an RMU or RMM series, there are solid chunks of metal under that outer shell. I don’t doubt that those will take more abuse. But for the target audience, these things hold up impressively well.

My experience has shown most folks who “trash talk” the ‘plastic wrap’ radios are only looking for what they believe is a logical reason to illegally purchase/operate Amateur Radio 2 meter radios. For some reason in their mind it is the manufacturers fault as well as the FCC that they cannot operate 2 meter Amateur Radio without first obtaining a license.

In defense of bubble pack radios, bubble pack radios include but are not limited to FRS bubble packs. The Motorola CLS1110 and CLS1410 UHF business radios make the CLS series Motorola’s most popular business radio. The CLS radios are hugely popular with restaurant staff and retail outlets. I like to refer to them as business bubble packs. I can very easily spot CLS radios in use.

Motorola also makes a custom version of the RMM series MURS portables exclusively for Walmart*. I suspect Walmart* is Motorola’s largest customer for their VHF MURS portables.

One of my first jobs used CLS radios… Those things were put through the ringer but always did the job.

I see people all over the internet asking about MURS radios and if they work with Walmart… Hard to tell how many just want to troll the poor staff and how many (I’ve seen some say it) just want a radio of their own to use at work.

I have to say that the more recent upper-tier FRS radios have something that I wish more radios would- USB charging. Motorola, Midland, and I THINK Cobra and Uniden all include it. I don’t see this being a concern with business / public service radios- these users would be more suited to placing their radios in the docks at the end of a shift and pulling them with fresh charges the next morning. However, I absolutely love the feature and wouldn’t buy a personal radio without it now. I’ve been in the wilderness and used a USB solar panel to top off one of these before. Midland T71VP3 models can use both a dock AND USB, which is a nice option both ways. Another feature I think works well for “consumer” radios (and NOT professional radios) is AA batteries. In a pinch the ability to swap could be invaluable. I “hack” my Moto radios by making my own NiMH packs out of AA Eneloops (with great results). While I again don’t think these are relevant concerns in the business/public space, I DO see a case for this kind of versatility in amateur radio. I am sure that not all hams would care or agree on this, but I would personally love to see USB charging ports on some amateur HT models.

Regarding MURS radios working with Walmart* radios…yes they do. I am not surprised some people out there want to troll Walmart* employees on MURS.

IIRC, the factory default codeplug in the Motorola RMM series MURS radios is the codedplug used in the MURS portable that Motorola sells exclusively to Walmart*. I suspect the Walmart* codeplug became the factory default codeplug for the RMM series because Walmart* buys so many of them. I think Walmart* was using 154.57 and 154.6MHz long before MURS was created and it made sense to stay there.

All of Motorola’s Business Radios including the DLRs and new DTRs are USB chargeable through the single unit charger (SUC) tray. Any cell phone charger with a micro USB connector can be used. Motorola didn’t put a micro USB connector on the radios but put it on the charger tray instead. It was a small tradeoff Motorola made for the business radios to make them more rugged considering how they are used. So fear not, Motorola’s business radios including the DLR1020/1060 and DTR600/700 are USB chargeable. Multi-Unit Charger (MUC) accessories are also available for them.

Motorola’s business radios will talk to each other right out of the box at the factory default settings. All of them have some programmability using the buttons on the radio after entering programming mode. Customization of features and settings requires the Motorola Business Radio CPS, a free download from Motorola. The same CPS cable is used to program them through the SUC tray. The CPS cable is available on this site, IIRC, and is around $35 on Amazon.

I wish Motorola would offer higher tier FRS radios built like their UHF business radios. This would put Motorola at the top of the (bubble) pack (LOL) with FRS radios and set them apart from the crowd of cheap bubble packs. There might be a strong enough of a business case for it where Motorola could leverage their business radio designs and their higher tier PMR446 offerings in Europe to make an FRS version. I would definitely buy a small fleet of them.

I think the PMR crowd across the pond already has this luxury!
(Edit- Just realized you mentioned this as well)

The XT420 looks like an RMU series radio made to operate on PMR! That’d make a killer FRS radio :slight_smile:

Of course, there are those “consumer” features that I do appreciate… Such as NOAA radio (Which I know Moto has added to at least one of ther professional radios). Regardless, as a “buy it for life” kinda guy, yeah- I’m with you here.

Motorola could really raise the bar with FRS if they wanted to by offering an RMU based FRS radio like what they already offer for PMR446. DROOL :slight_smile:

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I know this won’t happen, but my own ideal would be an RMU-type shell, with an SL300-like display (ala-T800 series I guess), AA/NiMH battery pack compatibility, NOAA + FM (ala-T480), flashlight, and a built-in USB charge port along with the ability to dock.

I’m not kidding myself here- what I think would be MY perfect radio is probably the next guy’s Ford Edsel :rofl:

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The closest thing I’ve seen to the shell on an FRS capable radio was the Midland GXT5000. Although it didn’t have the T800 display and it was really intended for GMRS, it was a pretty rugged and classy combo radio at the time.

(Those GXT5000s were awesome) I thought about this a little bit and took a look at my T480, since it has all my desired features in one unit, and I guess I’ve come full-circle… The shell is very sturdy, has rubber-like bumpers on the top and bottom, and has a nice weight to it. I don’t even think the shell material is dissimilar to the RMU units, just different color and perhaps texture. Maybe not QUITE as thick, but I have opened one of these and it’s thicker than one might think. It’s very well sealed against the elements. Range has never disappointed me. I think the main difference is the chunk of metal inside that probably forms a nice backplane in the business class radios.

I agree with n1das that a “professional style” FRS radio would be nice (since a lot of at least semi-professional users buy FRS anyways… A fairly sizable pet supply store chain here uses Moto T400s), but I don’t know how well or not it would sell. A business buying FRS radios is probably doing it because they don’t want to spend the money on a “purpose-built” radio fleet. I am just a sucker for tough-built stuff, so I am always going to like to see things like that. But after consideration, I still think the available FRS models at the upper price points are very well-made. They have just been built with a different user in mind. Since I like all these features unique to them, I guess that includes me!

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I like the build quality of the latest T-series Talkabouts. They supposedly are genuine Motorola made instead of made for Motorola by someone else through a purchase for resale (PFR) agreement. Giant International in China was the supplier for many of the Motorola Talkabout radios for a while. IIRC, a few Talkabouts may have also been made by Maxon. I think most of them have been made by Giant International and I read somewhere that Motorola’s deal with Giant ended a few years ago and the latest T series Talkabouts are genuine Motorola made. The build quality appears to be better in the latest T series Talkabouts.
http://shop.giantintl.com/Products.aspx

You can see some design similarities since the Motorola takeover of the Talkabout design. The RMU units have a similar “curved top”, for instance. I didn’t DISLIKE the Giant-designed models at all… I like my MT350R a lot, but you can feel the difference in materials used (ABS vs. PC). The new models feel tougher and have a nice weight to them. The belt clips are night and day (although still nothing fancy), but the Giant radios had clips that were terrible- they broke easily, and felt very cheap