In our last blog, we gave a brief overview on FRS and GMRS radios, how they are used in everyday activities, how they can be utilized to great effect in your personal emergency preparedness plan and in actual emergency situations. In this blog, we are going to review two examples of Midland FRS and GMRS radios.
X-Talker Extreme Dual Pack T77VP5
Fully loaded with six different accessories the X-Talker Extreme Dual Pack includes two of Midlands feature packed T71 FRS (no license required) two-way radios along with some of the company's most popular accessories. Everything comes in a VERY nice, good quality firm-shell zippered carrying case with MIDLAND embossed on the lid. This case will protect your radios and accessories in most conditions but it's not a Pelican style hard case so don't go testing it by running over it with a Hummer!
Inside the case is nicely done pre-cut foam insert containing the two T71 handsets which have 36 channels pre-programmed channels and 121 privacy or sub-channels (I'll go into more detail on the "privacy" channels a little later). Also in the case are two belt clips, two rechargeable batteries, a dual desktop charger, an AC wall charger, a Micro-USB charging cable, two boom microphone headsets, a 12v auto adapter and an owner's instruction manual.
The radios give clear, crisp communication with easy button control and access to the feature laden menu which includes:
The radios can be charged via the supplied drop in charger or by Micro-USA port on the side of the radio. The X-Talker T77 radios come with a 3 year warranty. You can find the X-Talker Extreme Dual Pack T77VP5 HERE through our Amazon affiliate link.
GXT1000VP4 TWO-WAY GMRS RADIO KIT
The kit comes with two GXT1000 radios with 50 pre-programmed FRS/GMRS channels plus 42 privacy (or sub-channels) giving you 3124 channel options to create private or secret channels (more on the "privacy" channels a little later).
Among the many included features and settings of the GXT1000 are:
In the GXT1000VP4 kit, you get two GXT1000 handsets, two belt clips, two rechargeable batteries, a dual desktop charger, an AC wall charger, a Micro-USB charging cable, two boom microphone headsets, a 12v auto adapter and an owners instruction manual. The GXT1000 radios come with a 3 year warranty.
It is to be noted that the quoted "36 mile Range" and Xtreme Range "up to 38 miles range" claims on the packaging of these radios is under "ideal circumstances". The important thing to remember is LINE OF SITE, no obstructions between the radios and no changes in the topographical elevation = flat terrain between units or out at sea ... these conditions are where you will see OPTIMUM coverage.
Unfortunately there is no case included like with the X-Talker Extreme Dual Pack kit so I picked up a bright orange lockable hard sided case, replaced the "Pick 'n' Pluck" foam with the awesome Kaizen foam, added the Midland ER210 E+Ready Compact Emergency Crank Wx Radio to the kit and made a custom ready to go Emergency Radio case.
You can find the GXT1000VP4 TWO-WAY GMRS RADIO KIT HERE through our Amazon affiliate link.
Test and Evaluation
Specifically for this series on Emergency Preparedness in a suburban setting, I tested these units in what was most definitely NOT an ideal topographical environment. I did not achieve anywhere near the 36/38 mile range with these units. To evaluate the performance of the T71's from the Extreme Dual Pack and the GXT1000's from the VP4 kit, we had one radio from each set based with my wife in the home office and I took the other T71 and GXT1000 handsets plus a Midland MXT275 MicroMobile* mounted in my car to carry out the transmit and receive distance tests.
* A more detailed review on the MXT275 and MXT115 MicroMobiles will appear in a future blog.
The MXT275 MicroMobile is a 15 watt power unit and comes with a small 6" magnetic mount antenna which was placed centrally on the roof of my car. As per the theme of this blog series, the test was carried out in a suburban location with some pretty severe challenges, changes in elevation up to 100 ft over a very short linear distance, lots of tall trees and 3 story buildings between radios. Due to the terrain, test transmissions were made every eighth of a mile. Obviously with a more powerful mobile unit, you would expect the smaller and lesser powered (0.5 watt) T71 and GXT1000 hand held to suffer in the range test, but that was not the case with this particular test. The X-Talker T71's could receive transmissions from the powerful MXT275 AND send back transmissions that were clear & audible at up to a mile and from there on messages were audible with static but were clear enough to understand. While the reachable distance of the T71's was much less than the "38 miles" posted on the box, for the most part, transmissions were clear and understandable for up to a mile and a half.
Considering the troublesome terrain and multiple obstructions, I was pretty impressed with the performance of the little portable radios. The X-Talker T71's have a fixed stubby antenna which is mandated by the FCC rules for FRS radios and the antenna size does restrict the distance the radio can transmit and receive effectively. The GXT1000 antenna is slightly longer/taller so you would expect a little further reach but there were a few times when the T71 performed a little better but both units were very capable given the tough task.
I was easily able to "customize both the T71 and GXT1000's to my preference with such things as Hi/Low & Hi/Med/Low power settings, alert tones, volume alert tones and volume. Both the T71 and GXT1000 come with privacy channels, which are not actually private. These extra channels allow you to block out other uses transmissions on your chosen channel so as not to disturb you or interrupt your conversations ... however,if they have not chosen to add the "privacy channel you chose, they are able to hear all the conversations on the main channel. Example, you have chosen to use channel 26 and "privacy channel" 32. If you and a friend are talking on channel 26 32, you will not be interrupted by any one else transmitting on channel 26 ... unless they also are using channel 26 32 ... but anyone else who has their radio set to just channel 26 and no "privacy channel", WILL hear your transmissions. Hopefully that isn't too confusing. Best to remember, none of your transmissions are actually private, so behave accordingly.
There are more options to tempt the techies out there if needed. The X-Talker T71 units are pretty small in overall size (6.1" tall, 2.45" wide) and the GXT1000 comes in a little bigger at 8' tall, 2.61" wide so they're easily stored in a pocket or on a backpack strap. The included belt clips are sturdy and work well on most belts up to 1.75" wide. Both the T71's and GXT1000's can be charged in their provided drop in charger, via usb in your car or with one of those portable power blocks you use to charge your cell phone or even one of those big 250W+ power stations. We're hoping to test a portable power station option in the future.
Conclusion: Please understand, my findings are exactly that ... my findings. The test location was not exactly typical of all suburban areas but it did provide a very good test of the radios abilities, under what was far from ideal conditions for most radios. Other people may achieve different results ... better or worse.
My initial goal was to identify a form of communication that was easy to use in a suburban emergency, where power and normal lines of communication were not available and could be used by family and friends alike. Once that was achieved, I wanted to see if the FRS and GMRS radios would be of any actual use in that setting.
Personally, all things considered, I think the Midland USA X-Talker Extreme Dual Pack T77VP5 and GXT1000VP4 Two Way GMRS Radio Kits were a huge success. I consider knowing the limitations of "something" is always a plus. When that "something" actually exceeds expectations, is to me, exceptional.