Pros: Inexpensive, easy to use, and provides realistic coverage. Rechargable. No license for FRS.
Cons: 18 miles is misleading. Need license for GMRS channels.
My daughter has a friend down the street and they now go to different schools. I thought it might be fun for her to keep in touch with some walkie talkies (WTs). We've had some cheap ones that we used in the house, but the audio was terrible. So I decided that we would buy some Family Radio Service (FRS) walkie talkies.
I searched around a number of places until I located these on Amazon for about $25 per pair. I was primarily looking for a set that had rechargable batteries, and an advertised range of more than 5 or 10 miles, and I wanted two chargers, since one would reside at the friend's house. These fit the bill, mostly.
About the product
These are supplied as a pair, and include one charger. They support the 22 channel FRS and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) frequencies. 7 FRS channels, 8 GMRS channels, and 7 shared FRS/GMRS channels.
They take 3 AAA size rechargeable batteries which are supplied. You must first figure out how to remove the belt clip before you can install or remove the battery cover. There is a little release and it slides down for removal. Then to remove the battery cover, you must depress the cover slightly to allow it to slip off. Took us about 5 - 10 minutes to figure that one out. The instructions were none to clear on this little detail.
The single charger has a split cable so that you can charge both WTs at one time. It is important that you charge the batteries only after the low battery indicator shows, and for 24 hours, no more no less. The instructions are very specific about this, as I suspect these are not smart chargers, and they keep cost low by not including those sorts of features.
These WTs are pretty small, and fit easily in the palm of my hand. They have a fixed molded plastic antenna, an LCD for operation, 4 control buttons, and the push to talk button (unless you know someone who is long winded,and then it is a release to listen button :) There is also a small microphone opening, and a reasonable sized speaker on the front.
On the side opposite the PTT button, are two jacks. The top one is a speaker jack, and the bottom one is a dual function jack accepting a microphone plug, or the charger plug when recharging. There are accessories available for these such as various types of headphones and microphones, some which are tailored to motorcycle or tactical use.
The four buttons on the front panel work as follows: Right button is held for a few seconds to power on or power off. If pushed momentarily, it toggles between channel select or Voice Operated Switch (VOX) on/off selection modes. The left button starts scanning the channels if pressed momentarily, and when held for several seconds toggles the lock key function. The center buttons are channel/volume/VOX up/down or on/off respectively.
Do you need a license?
When used on the FRS or shared frequencies, a license is not required. When used on the GMRS frequencies, technically, you must apply for a license. There is a proposal being considered to remove the license requirement from the GMRS radio service.
How well do they work
I charged these up, and found them very intuitive to change volume, channels, and other settings. I would not recommend using the VOX, unless you are familiar with its use, and or have a headphone. I found the audio to be fairly good for pretty low cost units. These are advertised to have an 18 mile range. But that is only under the most ideal line of sight conditions, say across an 18 mile long lake with no obstructions. The local friend is about a 100 yards away, and we have been able to talk to then from inside our houses with little to no problem. However, I took these for a ride in the car, and in about an half a mile, I was no longer able to reach home. I hope to do some more testing once the leaves fall in October. That may improve the range.
I'm an amateur radio operator, and I knew from experience what to expect from WTs with low power, low gain antennas in the 460 MHz range. I'm not disappointed in this regard. You get what you pay for, and for true 18 mile range, you will be paying more like several hundred dollars a piece.
I solved our two charger dilemma by purchasing 2 sets. I rationalized this by figuring that we will have 3 WTs for our family use, and one for the friend. So far that has worked well.
For the cost, I am very satisfied with this product. Just being able to reliably talk between houses a few addresses away exceeded my expectation. These have worked fine around the neighborhood when outside, but don't do so well over hill and dale, or from inside a car. I am happy to recommend these to my friends and epinions readers. Just be forewarned, don't expect 18 mile range unless you have ideal conditions.