Some Thoughts on Digital HTs

Photo of 5 handheld radios on a shelf: Motorola XTS2500, Motorola XPR7550e, Anytone 878 UV Plus II, Radioddity GD77, Yaesu FT-5DR

Like many amateur operators, I have far too many handie talkies (HTs). I’ve cycled through many, and sold or given away many that I was done with. Some of those I wish I hadn’t sold (like the Kenwood TH-D74), but others I was glad to be rid of. I thought I would take a few paragraphs to talk about what I use day to day, and what I like and don’t like about these radios. I should note that I won’t discuss the HTs that I use in wildland fire communications as that is an entirely different purpose and topic.

On a regular basis and in addition to analog FM, I use DMR and Yaesu C4FM. To a lesser extent, I use P25 on amateur networks. Rarely do I ever use D-STAR any more, and then only via DVswitch and the mobile app on the phone.

I like using DMR. I’ve always liked the networks (specifically Brandmeister) and the architecture. I know, the digital audio is totally different than the richness of analog, but it’s still fun. And DMR was where I really learned about bridging and how I got into XLX reflectors.

For DMR, I mainly use the Anytone 878UV Plus II. I also use a Radioddity GD77 with the OpenGD77 firmware, and a Motorola XPR7550e. Of these three, I think the 878 is probably the best everyday choice. Yes, the 878 has its weird quirks, and the CPS (Customer Programming Software) is pretty bad, but the radio is fairly solid and easy to operate. And it sounds very good, both on receive and transmit. I also like the form factor and feel in the hand when operating. The OpenGD77 firmware is probably the most ham-friendly DMR firmware in existence, and is a pleasure to operate. But the hardware (Radioddity GD77) isn’t nearly as nice as the Anytone. I do like this radio as well, and keep one in the shed and use it while I’m out working in the yard. These radios as so inexpensive that you can have a couple and not worry about beating them up. In addition, both the 878 and the GD77 work very well with the Mobilinkd TNC4 for packet.

I don’t use the Motorola XPR7550e as much. It is a good solid radio, but is lacking a lot of the ham friendly features (like direct TG entry and persistence). I use it mostly on the Rocky Mountain Ham Radio region-wide DMR network where I am usually parked on one repeater/TG (Talkgroup) or roaming on a single TG.

For Yaesu C4FM (commonly referred to as “Fusion”), I use the FT-5DR. I also have an older FT-2DR, but it is relegated to my PDN (Personal Digital Node). The FT-5DR is a decent radio, and has a lot of APRS features. But to me, it feels pretty cheap. Indeed, mine has develoepd the dreaded case crack (or “mold line” as Yaesu likes to call it). It also goes through batteries very quickly. I always carry 2 extra batteries for this radio. I think my main gripes about this radio are the audio quality and the form factor. It does not sound very good, probably owing to the tiny size and small speaker. And it feels uncomfortable to hold an operate. I mostly use Yaesu C4FM because it is becoming more and more popular in our area, but I will admit that I am a bit of a reluctant user.

In my opinion, the Kenwood TH-D74 was the best APRS HT that I have ever owned. I should not have sold that. Kenwood’s APRS implementation and UI are much better than Yaesu’s, and the receiver in the Kenwood radios is much, much better than the Yaesu. I just wish Kenwood hadn’t gone with D-STAR as their digital mode of choice.

Finally, I use P25 a bit over a hotspot on amateur radio. For that I use a UHF Motorola XTS2500. I said I wouldn’t talk about wildland fire radios in this post, but I did it anyway. I also use this radio on fires, as it is one of the NIFC (National Interagency Fire Center) approved radios. This is a very solid older radio with great audio. The CPS is a real bear to deal with (read: it is horrible and not ham friendly), but the radio is awesome. On fires, I use it with a very large AA batttery clamshell that holds 12 batteries, but around the house I use an old rechargeable battery.

Anyway, as you can see I like HTs 🙂 Maybe in a future post I will discuss some others, and talk about what we use in wildland fire.






2 responses to “Some Thoughts on Digital HTs”

  1. Erick/KE0SMR Avatar

    Good points, Bud. I also prefer the 878 w all their quirks. And have moved more Yaesu direction because of the company I keep on the XLX303. I think DMR is easier to use–I knew little enough about ham radio programming and enough about a database, I never had a problem w AT CPS. I wish there was better access to digital repeaters in Colorado Springs. RMHAM is robust, but limited. Skyhub wires-x has many gaps in its coverage. Trying to make a neighborhood node out of my FTM-200; need to get antenna up to increase range.

    1. Bud Talbot Avatar
      Bud Talbot

      Thanks, Erick! I think DMR is easier than YSF, too. SOunds like you and I use YSF for the same reasons.

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