Thursday, April 28, 2016

Traditional HT's Versus the Chinese Brands

There has been a large interest in the cheaper Chinese manufactured handy talkies. These new and quickly changing models seems to be more popular everyday. This has been primarily due to the low cost.  I do not blame anyone for giving these "cheaper" radios an eye in this day of rising costs and lower wages. Are these radios up to the task of being a great solution in the event of an emergency? (continued below...)

First, I want to say that any radio is better than no radio. I do not want to convey the message that people should not have one or two of these stored away in a faraday box or in a go-bag. I do however, want to caution the consumer to understand the functionality of these devices before throwing $60 or $80 for one to use as their primary radio. There are some limitations to these devices and you need to be informed before making your purchase. Think about the following items.

Many of these radios are virtually impossible to program by hand. It can be done, however it is not an easy task. Most people find the need to purchase a software program to aid in the programming. If this would be the case, you will need programming software and a programming cable. This is an additional cost. Another option of programming is to find a friend with the same model and clone their frequencies into your radio.

Because these items are difficult to manually program in the field without software you may find yourself struggling to program your radio if you are relocated in the event of an emergency. The frequencies needed may be different than those in your radio. If you do not have a way to easily program or clone it to new frequencies, then you may be stuck with the call frequency and a lucky hit on a repeater frequency.

In the early models of these radios there were numerous quality issues from software bugs to complete failures. For example, if you look across the Internet for problems with Baofeng, you will see many complaints with squelch, noise, and receiving issues. It appears the cheaper radios do not have the quality filters and receivers as some of the higher priced name brand competitor's products. Keep in mind as each new version of the radios is released many of these problems are corrected. As higher quality filters and receivers are added to these radios then the price will gradually climb.

If I was in the market for a new HT today that would be my primary radio, I would consider the following:

  • What radios are easily programmed by hand?
  • What radios have a strong receiver and good filters to protect against intermod? (In high RF areas this is a major problem)
  • How many bands do you want to RX/TX on the HT?
  • What output power do you want the radio capable of?
  • What features do you want in the radio? (dual watch, scan, cross band repeat, digital, APRS, etc.)
  • What are the Internet reviews of the models you are interested?
  • What is the quality of the customer service? (Try it our before you buy)
  • What is your budget?
Do your research and homework. You do not want to be a Ham Radio operator that wishes he or she would have bought a different radio in the event of an emergency. 

Don't forget you usually get what you pay for. 

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