Pros: Great Range; Advanced Features; Peace of Mind
Cons: Pricey; Requires A FCC License (currently $75)
My husband is an avid hunter, hiker, angler, etc.; he can spend hours roaming the countryside and quite often forgets about time while Im back at camp waiting. Im a worrieryou know, the kind that wants to call out the National Guard as soon as hes overdue by five minutes. He has a cell phone, but most of the areas we go are so remote no cell service is available. Years ago, I bought him DPS Talkabouts (http://www.epinions.com/elec-TwoWay_Radio-Motorola-Talkabout_Distance), which at the time had a 5-mile range but were the size and weight of a brick. We've also had the cheaper FRS "toy" models that had a 2-mile range. Of course, it's 2-miles of coverage if theres not a thing between the two unitsa hill, building, a rock, etc.
We made the mistake of loaning our DPS units to a trail-building group--upon their return they were rusted and unusable. They'd been stored in the trunk of a car--put there while wet inside. Heartbreaking, but we never used them because they were so heavy! This one is very lightweight and comfortable. In addition, this one has 22 channels with 38 codes to help keep your conversations private. If someone overhears your conversation without the scrambling code, they hear a garbled transmission. In urban areas or theme parks, it becomes tougher to keep from crossing over others conversation.
CHANGE IT UP
This one comes with three interchangeable faceplatesSunstreak Yellow, Ever Green, and Advantage Timber?. Our original set was the equivalent of Sunstreak Yellowwe camouflaged them with paint because they were so bright! Theres one for every usebright yellow for on the boat so you can find it before it sinks, camo for those paintball games, and dark green. These cover only the front, the back & sides are dark grey.
A great addition to this new unit is that it gets NOAA weather broadcasts and audible weather alertsmy husband is a weather-fanatic and this is not only fun for him but adds to his safety. He takes it along when he hikes alone as well knowing that hell have the weather features even if he isnt able to raise someone on the walkie-talkie. This service only works where NOAA is broadcast-you radio needs to be in the two-way mode in order to receive alerts. This also means that if youre talking to someone you may mean an alerttheres no workaround for this.
Hands-free operations (VOX) voice activation is another new featureit comes in handy if you have an earplug and microphone on, otherwise you still have to bring it up to your face so pushing a button isnt a big thing.
The FCC differentiates between FRS (Family Radio Service) and GMRS (General Mobile Service). FRS is limited to a maximum power of 1/2watt (500 milliwatt) and must have a non-detachable antenna. If a radio is over ? watt and/or has a detachable antenna it moves up into the GMRS group and requires the licensethis radio falls into this category. You can get information about licensing at www.fcc.gov. Youll need forms 605 & 159. The FCC requires you to do this before you operate the units. You can download the form from the FCC website or call 1-800-418-3676 for help. The fee to do this was $75the license is good for 5 years.
Technically this radio has 8 GMRS and 14 FRSthe FCC says that as long as you stay on the FRS channels you dont need a license. We didnt realize it at the time and licensed ourselves. Since we dont use them anywhere but out in the boonies, finding a clear channel isnt a problem. I am neither a FCC person nor a lawyer, whether you license or not is up to you. The literature that comes with it does state you need a GMRS license.
TURN IT ON
When you receive the radio, the batteries will need to be charged. It comes with a rechargeable Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) batter. On a full charge, youll get just under 13 hours of usethe amount of time is dependent on the amount of stand-by vs. talking time. Chat often and the battery will run down faster. If you were to press talk and keep talking until the battery ran dry, Id estimate itd take 2-1/2 hours. However, who would want to do that? It comes with a standard drop-in charging tray but optional chargers including a car charger are available. A fully depleted battery can take up to 10 hours to fully chargeafter a day of use it usually takes 6 hours to replenish itself because its not fully depleted.
We purchased the Alkaline model and the optional NiMH rechargeable pack (see info below). We use the NiMH as the primary source and the alkaline as a back-up. There are times when we dont have a power source available for recharging. 4-AA batteries actually last longer than the NiMH but theyre so much more expensive. Its nice to have both options though. It adds considerably to the cost of the unit. $149 each for theseNiMH only runs about $129, AA-only about $112.
Features also use up battery powersome are worth it though. One is the backlightit turns on automatically any time you press a button on the front. No worries, it goes off after youre done but it sure makes it easer to see your LCD display so you can check your signal strength, channel, and settings.
The other feature I use every time is the keypad lockwithout it, Id beep my husband accidentally every time I picked it up--not good when he's stalking something. I also silenced the keypad buttonsit comes with them programmed to beep at every pushannoying.
ELIMINATE YOUR ENEMIES
Want to hear everyone on the channel? Set the code to zero. Turn out others by setting a privacy code and go one step farther by adding an eavesdrop reducer scramble codeonly the person who knows your code will be able to hear you (unless someone has too much time on their hands and randomly starts entering codes). These are some features you wont find on the cheaper models. Over-talk is a major problem on the toy models
ALERT YOUR FRIENDS
Each radio transmits a set of toneschoose from 10 tones available and predesignate a specific one for your friend and youll be able to signal them that youre trying to reach them. To talk to them you both must be on the same bandwidthselecting your bandwidth is detailed in the manual and just takes a few minutes (but I dont understand it so I cant help heresorry).
PICKING YOUR CHANNEL/FRIENDS
You can scan the channels to see who else is out therefind something interesting and you can lock on to the channel. You can also manually search for channels. If there are certain channels you want to block youre able to do this as wellyou can temporarily block it or edit it permanently from the list.
HOW FAR CAN YOU GO!
Flat, open areas have the best receptionsthats the 5-mile range quote. Add trees, buildings, etc and youre in the 3-mile range. Dense areas (theme parks) are in the 1-1/2 to 2 mile rangestill better than the lower-end FRS models. They suffer the same problems only they start at 2-miles for the best and end up at about a ? mile if youre lucky. Youve seen those people at Disneyland screaming into theyre walkie talkies, WHERE ARE YOU? annoying the heck out of the rest of us!
CARE AND FEEDING
Dont immerse it in water or clean it with harsh chemicals. If it does get wet, let it dry completely before trying it. Make sure to turn it off and take out the batteries. Ours have taken some bumps and can get quite dirty. My husbands suffers the most because it is in his pocket and smashed moreit definitely shows the wear. The plastic hasnt cracked, but it is gouged, scratched, and stained. Our old set stood up to years (literally 8 or more) of being tossed about the house by kids and abused in every way possible. Had our original DPS units been dried out as shown above they probably would still work. The FRS units look horrible but they still work and we can use the FRS and the new ones together as long as they're on the same frequency.
CAN YOU LIVE WITH IT?
Absolutely! This little thing is 8 x 2-1/2 by 1-1/2 which includes the height of the antenna. It weighs just 0.359 oz with the battery. Comfortable to hold, easy to operate, and a bit of fun with the changeable plates, this has been a good buy for us. A little peace of mind and a lot of gabbing from the fieldhe now likes to tell me all about what hes shooting at. Lucky me, Im a vegetarian. Oh well, its fun being able to talk to him and weve used a few times when weve had to take two cars on a long tripkeeps us both entertained and awake. The signal is amazingly clear compared to the lower-end models as well. Pricey but it does the job.
UPGRADE KIT INFO
T7000 Series Charging NiMH
Upgrade Kit - 53897 $39.99
This kit allows you to use your AA alkaline two-way radio as a NiMH rechargeable two-way radio.
One-year from date of purchase. 800-353-2729
Transmit Power 2W GMRS (conducted), 0.5 W FRS
Receiver Sensitivity 0.18uV
Audio Output 500 mW
Receiver Technology Digital Direct Conversion - DZIF
7 GMRS/FRS 2 Watt Channels
7 FRS 1/2 Watt Channels
8 GMRS 2 Watt Channels
8 GMRS 2 Watt Repeater Channels