Review – SharkRF openSPOT

by John ‘Miklor’sharkopen-200
K3NXU


OK, so what is a hotspot?

A hotspot an interface that allows you to connect to a digital network directly without the need of an actual repeater. There are several variations of hotspots available. Some may require your PC or Raspberry Pi interface, but the SharkRF openSPOT is a small stand alone IP gateway that connects directly to your internet router via the Ethernet connection. No other equipment required.

The openSPOT was developed by two hams that not only understand what hams want, need, and enjoy, but know how to make it work with minimal setup. With features not found in other hotspots, the bottom line is, they did it right.

openspot01So, here’s my take on openSPOT…

What’s In the Box

–   The SharkRF openSPOT
–   120-240V / 5V 1A  wall supply
–   USB / micro USB power cable
–   Small UHF antenna (SMA-Male)
–   39″ (1m)  Ethernet cable

Chassis Size: 2.75 x 2.5 x 1.0″
(71 x 67 x 25mm)
Weight:  5oz  (150g)
  
Enclosure


To start, the openSPOT is a very solidly built unit.  Don’t let the size fool you.  The chassis size is only 2.5 x 2.75 x 1.0″, but the weight is 5oz.  This is due to the weighted base plate inside
the enclosure to stabilize it when the cables are connected.  There is no heat build up inside, which allows me to run mine 24/7. The antenna jack is a standard SMA-F, with the antenna terminating with an SMA-Male. Four small rubber feet assist in keeping the chassis stable.
openspot02

The Manual

The openSPOT manual never goes out of date because it’s web based. The instructions and tutorials include both graphics and videos to guide you through the entire setup. As new features are added, the manual is updated online, so it’s never out of date.

Setup and Interface

To set up the openSPOT, I connected it to the USB power source and my WiFi router using the supplied Ethernet cable. The openSPOT has two internal micro-controllers, designed to use a web based interface. Once connected to my WiFi router, the openSPOT was accessed by simply logging into //openspot.local.  I didn’t need to load any additional software or drivers. Everything is self contained.

At that point, all that was necessary was to enter:
–  The operating mode (DMR, C4FM, D-Star)
–  My callsign
–  My DMR ID (available from DMR-MARC)
–  The desired server
–  The input and output frequency of my handheld
Note: The openSPOT allows you to select two different frequencies if desired.
After that, a 30 second calibration, and I was on the air.
The LEDs give a clear status indication during operation.

Once configured, time slot, trunk group, etc. information is controlled by your handheld. You set it, and forget it.
openspot-frontback
Cross Mode Operation

 
The openSPOT has cross mode capability, allowing a DMR transceiver to access C4FM, as well as  C4FM access to DMR.  This allows you to operate both modes with one handheld. I personally haven’t ventured into the cross mode operation, but understand it works perfectly.
 
OTA Audio Quality

This is where the openSPOT excels. In the past few months, I have learned to identify some hotspots by their robotic audio, much like R2D2 and BB8.  I can honestly say that I have never heard  an openSPOT with less than perfect audio. My reports have been nothing short of excellent.  I use mine on a daily basis, and have had absolutely no issues.

Firmware Updates

The openSPOT firmware is totally upgradable.  Periodically, SharkRF will post FW Beta versions on their site, however my personal preference is to wait until a final version is posted.  I do, however, like to review what is included in the beta versions to get a glimpse into the future. The developers are constantly keeping up with network changes so you always have the latest version.

Transmitter
 openspot04
The power level of the openSPOT variable up to a max of 20 mW.  That may not sound like a lot of power, but 1 mW is enough for me to hear the signal solidly throughout my entire house.  20 mW on an outside antenna will allow you to use a digital radio throughout your neighborhood.

 
But how about Mobile Installation

Here’s where I became a bit creative. Rather than connecting directly to my router (downstairs), I wanted to see the lights flashing, so I purchased a TP-Link TL-WR802N and set it up as a client to access my in home WiFi. The openSPOT never missed a beat.

Why the TP-Link? Well, it is just slightly smaller than the openSPOT, connects via an Ethernet connection, and fits nicely on top of my RAVPower 22000mAh battery. I linked the TP-Link to my Cellular WiFi hotspot and now, instant digital mobile. I also successfully tried a Vonets VAR11N-300 mini.
openspot-mobile
Now when traveling or on vacation, I no longer need to program a codeplug for every repeater along the way.  I set the radio to mate with the preselected openSPOT frequency, and that’s it. I now have access to the worldwide Brandmeister network

The entire mobile hardware configuration is approximately 2 x 3 x 6.5″ (5.5 x 8 x 16.5cm), not counting a few cables sticking out. The entire configuration fits inside a pencil box.

I also noted that the cellular data required is relatively small. Approximately 6MB per hour.
  
So, why an openSPOT

Hotspots were not developed to replace repeaters, but rather to supplement them. In areas where there is No repeater, a hotspot allows the user to connect directly to a digital network via the internet. In areas of Heavy repeater use, a hotspot allows the user to access the network without competing for an available time slot.

If your local repeater gives you access to a network such as DMR-MARC, an openSPOT can give access to networks such as Brandmeister. You will now have access to the best of both worlds.

Summary

DMR repeaters are being placed in service daily, but currently there are only around 800 repeaters in the US.  As for me, I am 25 miles away from my two nearest repeaters and require an outside antenna to reliably use them (and I’m one of the lucky ones). In some areas of the country, digital repeaters don’t exist.

The solution quickly became obvious. To enjoy the freedom of a handheld, I needed the help of a hotspot.  After listening to several configurations over the past several months, I am convinced daily that I definitely made the right decision with an openSPOT, with everything I need condensed into one small package.

sharkopen-200
SharkRF –  Home Website
SharkRF –  Purchase

miklor_icon

Review – Connect Systems CS-580 DMR Tier II

by John ‘Miklor’
K3NXU
cs580-20
CS-580
The Connect Systems CS-580 is a feature packed band UHF DMR handheld with dual mode (FM) capability. Currently, there is only a UHF version, used for this evaluation.  There is a VHF version also in the works, but will be a few month out from the time of this review.

In the Box

Included with the radio are the:
–  7.4V  2100mAh  Li-Ion Battery
–  Charger base & AC adapter
–  Antenna (UHF) – 5 3/4″ (14.5cm)
–  Belt clip
–  Hand Strap

User and Software Guides can be found at the
Connect Systems website

General Description  /  Specifications
–  UHF
–  DMR   Tier II
–  FM capable
–  1W / 4W transmit
–  1024 channels
–  256 contacts
–  6 line Color LCD
–  Enhanced Monitor Modes
–  Digital Squelch

Certification

The CS-580 is US FCC Part 90 certified, so if you want to put it to use in commercial service, it’s ready to go.
cs580-p90Enclosure
The CS-580 case has a solid feel and weight that fits my large hand perfectly.  The backlit keypad buttons are large and require little pressure to make a positive contact.  There are two programmable side buttons that can be assigned to any four available possibilities.  Mine are set to Power, Zone, Scan, and Enhanced Monitor, but you have your choice of 28 options.

Transmitter

The frequency range is UHF 400-480 MHz.  Along with Tier II DMR, the radio also supports both Wide and Narrowband FM.  My OTA audio reports have been excellent, with absolutely not need to shout into the microphone. In fact, my best audio reports were talking in a normal voice approximately 2″ from the microphone.  As for the transmitter power, it was right where it should be.

4.2 Watts on high power, and 1.1 on low.

Receiver
The receiver sensitivity is excellent, and the audio quality is loud, clear and undistorted. There is no squelch, but the Talk Permit indicator emits a soft tone that lets you know when the channel is clear. There are several receive mode options for both scanning and site monitoring that are extremely useful, especially if you are on the road.

Receive Options

There are several very impressive enhanced receive options available with the CS-580.

– Enhanced Monitor – Simply put, I enter the repeaters frequency and the radio monitors everything that comes across, regardless of Time Slot.  If I hear a station I like, I press the Lock button, and I’m ready to transmit. The DMR ID, CC, Slot, Type, Contact #, Tx and Rx frequencies are displayed on the LCD.

– Group Receive – This function allows you to load up to 16 contacts into a single receive group. If any one of those channels becomes active, that’s what comes through the receiver. When transmitting, the pre-assigned transmit contact for that channel is the one selected.

– Enhanced Scanning – This allows you to select a scanning range between 400-480MHz, repeater offset, and channel spacing. When a repeater signal is detected, the scanning stops, and there is an option to Lock onto the frequency. When keying the transmitter, the offset will automatically shift the frequency to the desired shift.

– Standard Scanning – This is when you add channels to a scan group. If you are listening to a TG or channel that is part of the group and select Scan, the radio will now scan all other TG or channels within that group.

– Enhanced Parameters – This is field programming made easy. It allowed me to program everything via the keypad. In the DMR mode, I entered the CC, Slot, Type, Contact #, Tx Freq, and Rx Freq. A quick press of the Lock key, and I was on the air.
In the FM mode, I entered the CTCSS Decode and Encode, Tx and Rx Freq. Once again, press the Lock key and it was on the air.

Audio
If you are new to DMR, the first thing you will immediately notice is there are no noisy signals. If a signal has enough strength to be heard by the receiver, it is digitally processed where all noise is eliminated and what would be a noisy signal on FM now sounds as though the person is standing right next to you, with no robotic R2D2 sound found in some other digital modes.

Antenna
The supplied antenna is 5 3/4″ long and cut specifically for the UHF band and performs well. It is terminated with an SMA-F connector, so if an antenna upgrade is desired, any UHF antenna with an SMA-F connector is interchangeable.

Display
I found the 6 line multicolor display easy to read with all pertinent information displayed at one time. The LCD measures 1.2″ x 1.4″ with excellent resolution. The large power level, signal strength and battery level icons were clearly visible.
cs580screen20
Programming and Software

If you are entering the world of DMR for the first time, be aware that programming a digital radio is a bit different from a standard FM transceiver. Although the FM side is standard, with Freq, Offset, CTCSS, the digital side requires a bit more in depth knowledge. I would personally recommend that you find someone in your area or radio club that can assist with a basic understanding of how it all comes together. Once you understand the basics, everything will fall into place nicely.

Firmware
The CS-580 was introduced in November 2016, and the firmware is fully upgradable. When changes and upgrades are introduced, the firmware can be upgraded with a standard Windows based PC. You will always have availability to the latest version via the Connect Systems website.

Programming Cablecs580cable20a
The programming cable resembles that used by Motorola style radios but a bit smaller. The business side of the cable is approximately 1″.  Once placed in position and screwed down, the connection is 100% positive, eliminating the possibility of a bad connection.  The programming UART chip is in the radio, not the cable, and the proper drivers load automatically making the cable virtually Plug and Play. When the connector is attached to the radio and plugged into the PC, a distinct icon is displayed on the LCD showing the USB cable is connected and ready to go.

Battery and Charger
I easily get a full day of use plus from the 2100mAh in the digital mode. The battery slides on securely which I’m sure contributes to the moisture proofing of the radio.  The charge indicator is a definite red when plugged in and a bright green when charged.  The 9V 1.0Ah wall charger takes a depleted battery to full charge over night with no problem.  While the radio is in use, one of the side key options is Battery Power which very clearly displays the battery level.

Accessories
Al this time, the available accessories are 2100mAh Batteries, Spkr/Micr, and Programming Cables (a must have).

Conclusion

I’ve had the opportunity to use this radio for the past few weeks and have had absolutely zero issues with it.  The six line readout is clear and sharp, and every audio report has been excellent.
It’s a commercial grade DMR radio designed around a Tier II platform. You may pay a few dollars more, but for $130, you definitely won’t be disappointed.
Jerry has hit the nail on the head with this one.

Information:  Connect Systems,  Miklor

Review – BTech APRS-K2 Cable (TRRS/APRS)

by John ‘Miklor’

aprs-k2-25
APRS-K2
It’s long overdue, but there’s finally a TRRS/APRS cable available for radios using a standard Kenwood style K2 connector.

I’ve been wanting to get involved with APRS for a while now, and this made it extremely easy.

APRS-K2 interface cable
The APRS-K2 cable allows you to interface your handheld transceiver with your existing mobile device, including. iPhone, iPad, and Android.

One end of the cable uses the Kenwood style K2 connector, while the opposite end is aprs-xover-25terminated with a TRRS connector. Also included with the APRS-K2 is a Reverse Adapter to insure compatibility with all devices. This adapter allows cable to connect to earlier 3.5MM TRRS standards, such as Nokia.

App Driven
The APRS-K2 cable uses a virtual TNC found in several apps, such as APRSDroid, APRS.fi, and Pocket Packet. Plug in the cable, turn on the VOX, and you’re pretty much set to go.

Product Description
BTECH APRS-K2 TRRS / APRS Cable A simple way to start using APRS by using devices you already own. The BTECH APRS-K2 Cable will quickly connect your radio to APRS by using virtual TNC (app driven) on your tablet or device. The APRS-K2 cable is built with a custom circuit board that will automatically adjust the audio for clear packet transmissions with minimal adjustment; along with protecting your devices from strong over modulated signals.

Along with allowing APRS functionality the APRS-K2 cable can provide a simple interface gateway to allow several features to your radio!

Easily record radio conversations:
By connecting the APRS-K2 cable between your radio and any recording (line-in) device.

Use the APRS-K2 cable as a Mic In Connector:
Set up VOX on your radio to accept any form of incoming audio – such as a Push-to-talk application on a Phone – or a Line-out application from your computer.

Use the APRS-K2 cable to push transmissions over a speaker system:
Easily play audio over a intercom or speaker system from your handheld.

With a backup radio and your own ingenuity, the APRS-K2 cable can serve as an interface for a variety of applications for any amateur. Compatible with Kenwood K2 Accessory Slot Radios (such as BaoFeng, BTECH, Wouxun, TYT) Compatible with all phones, tablets, and computers with 3.5MM Audio In/Out Ports

Includes:
APRS-K2 Cable
Reverse Connector Adapter
Quick Start Guide

Conclusion:

The cable comes with a simple one page instruction sheet which should have you up and running in about 10 minutes after the appropriate app is loaded.
–  Plug in the cable
–  Set your handhelds volume control
–  Turn on the VOX
–  Set your handheld to 144.390 (US)
–  Activate the app

That’s all it takes. If you’ve been considering building an APRS cable, you might find this an easy Plus and Play alternative.

The APRS-K2 can be ordered from   Amazon, or if outside the US, you can go to their website and contact them directly.   Baofeng Tech

Too many toys, too little time.
John ‘Miklor’   K3NXU
http://www.miklor.com

Review – BTech UV-5X3 TriBand Handheld

by John ‘Miklor
.
.
5X3 front 4UV-5X3
Although the case design is familiar, the radio inside is not.  BTech has recently introduced the new UV-5X3 to the US Ham Radio market.  This radio is a true triband transceiver with internal filters specifically configured for triband operation.The firmware in this radio has been reworked to include several new features not found in similar appearing radios.
.    
In the Box

Included with the radio are the:
–  1500mAh Li-Ion Battery **
–  85 page User Guide – English
–  Charger base & AC adapter
–  Hand strap
–  Belt clip
–  PTT Earpiece / Microphone
–  Antenna (1) – VHF / UHF  6  5/8″ (16.9cm)   A-V85
–  Antenna (2) –  220 MHz    6  3/4″ (17.4cm)
.
** This is the identical battery that is commonly mislabeled as 1800mAh on some handhelds.
.    
Tri-Band – VHF  220  UHF
The UV-5X3 was specifically designed as a Tri-Band transceiver.  The internal filtering allows not only the traditional VHF and UHF frequencies, but also includes the 222-225 MHz Ham band for the US.
.   5X3 label 2Case Design
The UV-5X3 has the traditional case design, which allows me to use my high capacity  BL-5L  3800mAh battery with no alteration to the base. Accessories such as my mobile battery eliminator, Spkr/Micr, etc. are fully compatible.
.
Transmitter
The frequency range is VHF 130-176 / 222-225 / UHF 400-480 MHz, supporting both Wide and Narrowband with 2.5kHz steps.The radio’s filtering scheme allows for full power on all bands. My OTA audio reports have been clean with clear with mellow audio.  Power levels are respectable using a Bird VHF/UHF Termaline.
.
UV-5X3 146
MHz
224
MHz
446
MHz
High 5.2 4.2 4.6
Low 1.7 1.6 1.6
     
DTMF / IRLP Access

Something new also appearing on this model is a DTMF gain adjustment, allowing me to adjust the DTMF audio to the transmitter to a comfortable level for both repeater control and IRLP access.
.    
Tone Burst
If you are in a area that requires tone burst for repeater or network access, the 1000Hz, 1450Hz, 1750Hz, and 2000Hz burst are accessible by pressing the PTT along with one of the four pre-assigned keypad keys.
.    
Receiver
The receiver sensitivity is excellent, and the audio quality is clear, loud, and undistorted. Along with the 3 TX/RX bands, the receiver also includes the traditional commercial FM radio band. (65MHz-108MHz)
.    
Tone Scanning – The receiver also has the ability to identify the tone of a repeater being transmitted by a received signal.
.    
Scan Add / Delete
This feature gives me the ability to add / delete channels from the scanning list using the keypad. No longer a software only function. The more I can do from the keypad, the better I like it.
.     
Scanning
A Long Press of the [*SCN] button will start the scanning process.Channel Mode – When scanning with the Display Sync set to ON, the upper and lower display will scan together. This is explained below under Display Synchronization.Frequency Mode – When entering Scan, the image below will appear on the screen. Enter the first 3 digits set the range start, the second 3 digits sets the stop.
Example: Entering   146 : 146
Start  the scan range at  146.000
Ends the scan range at  146.999
.
5X3 scan rangeAntenna
I found two antennas included with the radio. One was the standard upgraded A-V85 antenna, and a slightly longer one for the 220MHz band.
Antenna (1) – VHF / UHF  6  5/4″ (16.9cm)   A-V85
Antenna (2) –  220 MHz    6  3/4″ (17.4cm)
The separate antenna specifically tuned for 220 MHz is a great addition. The SWR shows 1.3 which is excellent. No compromise. I labeled my 220 antenna, as they are very close in appearance.
220AntLabel.
Display

The radio has a tri-color display, allowing the color options of the blue, orange and purple.  The LCD can be formatted in either of three formats. Choices are Frequency, Channel number, or up to 6 Alpha Characters.
Display Synchronization
The UV-5X3 supports display syncing, which gives ability to track both the upper and lower LCD. I keep mine set to display the channel name in display A, and the frequency in display B. When you change the channel, both the upper and lower displays move together.5X3 sync.
Programming
Manual programming is pretty straight forward once you enter a few channels. A programming guide can be found at Manual Programming with a Menu Definition summary available at Menu Definitions.
.   
Software  
The software support for the UV-5X3 can be found in the Latest Daily Build of CHIRP. There are a few new options that will be added to the 5X3 in the near future. One is the ability to Stun, Kill, Revive. This gives you the ability to disable your radio remotely.
.    
3rd Generation Chipset
The new chipset (RDA1846S and RDA5802N) provides reduced AGC switching noise and a low-IF digital audio processor for improved sound quality.
.    
Programming Cable
The programming cable requires a traditional two pin Baofeng / Kenwood style. There are several cable available. The generic cables may require special drivers, due to the use of cloned chips. For Plug and Play, a cable using an FTDI chip is recommended.cableK2 Conclusion
The UV-5X3 firmware has obviously been reworked to include:
–  Tri-Band Support: VHF/1.25M/UHF
–  D-ANI  (Display incoming DTMF Tones)
–  Synchronized Displays
–  DTMF audio gain level adjustment
–  Add / Remove Channels from Scanning list via keypad (LCD Dot Indication)
–  On the Fly scanning by Frequency Range
–  4 Tone Burst options
–  Remote Stun, Kill, Revive
.
It appears that BTech has once again managed to stay one step ahead of the curve. With the 220 MHz ham band operation back on the rise in the US, this radio hit the market at the right time.  Even if 220 isn’t popular in your area, the additional new features still give it an edge over the traditional dual band series.
.
More Information:   Miklor.com,  BaofengTech,  CHIRP
.

Review – BTech UV-50X3 (Tri-Band)

by John ‘Miklor’

50X3combo-SFour years after its initial design, the VGC 6600PRO has evolved into the BTech UV-50X3, a full featured Tri-Band mobile that delivers a full 50W on VHF and UHF, with addition of a 220 MHz module that delivers 5W output.  The 220 MHz module was specifically designed and filtered for 222-225MHz US ham band operation.  I mention this as there are currently radios being advertised as Tri-Band operating in the range of 240-260MHz that are not adaptable to frequencies below 240MHz due to their internal filtering.

 
What’s in the Box

Included with the radio are:
–  Remote control head
–  Control Head Suction Cup Mount
–  18′ Separation Cable
–  Microphone with a 20 button keypad
–  Chrome metal microphone hanger
–  Metal mounting bracket with screws
–  Cooling Fan with Thermostat
–  Heavy Duty DC Power Cable (HD Auto Fuses)
–  Full 33 page English User Manual

50X3  Weight:  Main Chassis  2.1kg (4.6 lbs)
Chassis Size: 5.5″ x 1.8″ x 6.0″  (140 x 46 x 150mm)
Control Head: 6.3″ x 2.6″ x 6.0″  (157 x 66 x 33.5mm)

Specifications

The 50X3 is FCC Part 90 certified for commercial use in the US.
Full specifications can be found HERE
 
Enclosure and Mount


The main chassis i
s a solid 4 lb heat sink with an added cooling fan. The chassis and cooling fan can be mounted either under the dash, or trunk mounted using the included 18′ control cable.  The radio is terminated with a standard SO-239 connector.

 50X3case-S  50X3mount

Control Head

The suction mount is about the best I’ve ever used. It requires a smooth metal or glass surface, but the silicon rubber cup will not let loose. My control head has been mounted atop my computer for over a month, and it is going nowhere.
 

The control head has two tuning knobs as well as two volume controls allowing the transceiver to essentially function as two separate radios in one package. The left can be scanning in the Channel mode while the right can be monitoring in the VFO.

The button functions are displayed on the LCD screen for easy function identification. The PTT button on the upper right is for Momentary or Toggle PTT. One press turns the TX on, next press turns it off. Setting to Toggle is convenient if running a net or using a mobile headset.

50X3head-S

Cooling

The radio chassis is one large block of heat sink that when testing takes forever to heat up. When it does, the 70 x 70 x 15mm cooling fan turns on. It’s very quiet and because of it’s size it’s very effective.
  
Transmitter

 
One of my main interests was the included 220MHz US ham band, as I have several Ham repeaters within 35 miles from my house. The power on 220MHz is rated at 5W, which I found was more than enough to reliably get into my local repeaters.  The signal and audio reports have been excellent.

I used my 13.8VDC power supply to emulate a standard auto battery. Running the radio at high power (50W) into a Bird Watt meter for 3 minutes showed no decrease in power or excess heat.

The 220 ham band transmit range is limited to 222-225MHz. The receiver is capable of being programmed above and below those frequencies, but may be outside of the performance range due to the ham band specific filtering.

Freq Low Mid High
146 8 20 50
222 5 5 5
446 10 24  55


HP 6580 analyser images

Microphone

The radio comes with a full function keypad style microphone. On the right side are two slide switches that control the Lock and Lamp feature, and on top of the microphone are two frequency Up and Down buttons.  Along with a 16 button DTMF style keypad are 4 programmable function keys. Choices are Squelch Off, TX Power, Rptr Shift, Reverse, and Tone Call.

There are two microphone input jacks. One on the control head, the other on the main unit. There is also a built in microphone element inside the control head. Although the audio quality is excellent, the sensitivity is that of a standard microphone. The OTA reports were excellent with plenty of audio, so there’s no reason to shout.

A nice feature in the audio section is an adjustable microphone gain control. There are 5 settings available. Min, Low, Normal, High, and Max. Normal is great for speaking in a normal volume an inch from the microphone. Running a net with VOX and a headset, you can bring it up a bit. Driving in an off road vehicle, you just might need to set it back.

50X3mike-S

Receiver

The UV-50X3 has two Double Conversion Super Heterodyne receivers, each with 500 channels, for a total of 1000 memories.

Along with the standard VHF / 220 / UHF frequencies, the receiver covers:

0.5-1.7 MHz   (AM Radio)
76-108 MHz   (FM Radio)
108-136 MHz  (AM Air Band)
137-250 MHz  (Ham & TV Band)
300-520 MHz  (Ham & General)
with a scan rate of 4 channels per second.

The control head has built in speakers, as well as one in the main module. An external speaker jack in the rear also allows for a larger speaker if desired. The jack provides for either mono or stereo output. (each receiver can have it’s own speaker). I found a menu setting to adjust the tone of the speaker as well. Although there is more than ample audio output, when the volume control is all the way down, the radio is silent, as it should be.

Cross Band Repeat

The radio takes full advantage of the independent receiver by including a Cross Band Repeat function.  I entered the VHF and UHF frequencies, power level and tones, selected the Cross Band mode, and was ready to go. The audio levels are preset and the audio quality reports were excellent.

Cross band repeating using a 220MHz frequency was not possible. This is more than likely a precaution due to the minimal frequency separation.

Display

The control head has a large 5″ LCD with your choice of background colors. Options include White-Blue, Sky-Blue, Marine-Blue, Green, Yellow-Green, Orange, Amber, and White. The brightness and contrast are also menu selectable.


Programming

 

When you first attempt to program the radio manually, it may take a few tries to understand the flow of the menus.  After that, everything falls right into place. I’ve put together a programming flow to help assist with understanding the process.  All functions including the entry of 6 character Alpha labels can all be entered manually.

50X3menu

Unless you are only entering a few channels, I would recommend the optional PC05  programming cable. The UV-50X3 uses the CHIRP programming software.
 
Up to six Alpha Numeric characters (upper and lower case) can be displayed to identify each channel.

Scanning in the VFO mode allowed me to scan either the VHF, 220MHz, or UHF band.  In the Channel mode, the scan would select any channel in the list regardless of band.

Power Cable

The power cable supplied with the 50X3 is properly fused and will easily handle the current draw of the radio. This cable was meant to be connected directly to the battery or fuse panel.

There are radios that draw less power whose power cables use thinner wire, lower value fuses, and  can be plugged into accessory plugs. Do NOT use these cables, even though they may be plug compatible. The 50X3 draws twice the current, and will blow the fuses and possibly overheat the wire.

The cable on the 50X3 appears to match that of the hi-power Yaesu, Icom, Kenwood series.  ONLY use the proper cable for the radio.

Base Station Operation

The 50X3 draws upwards of 11-12A on high power transmit. A power supply capable of 15-20A continuous (not just surge) is recommended. Here are a few power supply Examples.

For mobile drive testing, I teamed this radio with a Nagoya Tri-Band  TB320A  and SB-35 NMO mag mount and the results were excellent.

Conclusion

The 50X3 has the power, functions and quality you would expect in an upper end tri-band transceiver.  It is based on a proven design, and I have found no issues with the radio over the past month. A bit more power on 220 would have been a plus, but it still gets me into the local repeaters fine.

Some of the added advantages to the US market are the FCC Part 90 certification, local US support, and exclusive program support using CHIRP software. The radio can also be shipped worldwide by contacting BTech directly.

This is definitely one of the nicest mobile transceivers I’ve used; and yes, I’ve owned the “big 3”.

 

50X3combo-S

More Information:   Miklor.com