‘USA 1776’ DMR Talk Group

DMR-logoOne of the nice things of D-Star and DMR is the ability to talk all over the world without the need of an HF rig and a bunch of big antennas. While this largely reduces a radio to a simple Internet-driven communication tool – just like Skype or other VoIP apps – it’s definitely nice to use.

There are a few problems surrounding DMR, one of which is the lack of more than two time slots. For example, if hams are using the Dutch Hytera network and occupying talk group 204 on slot 1, World Wide (which uses the same time slot) will be unavailable. Because 204-1 is a busy place, world wide QSOs are often impossible. It’s one of the reasons I thought of dumping DMR all together — I can talk to the same Dutch guys on analog while enjoying a much better quality audio.

There are reasons to keep DMR too. DMR is maturing; there are more than enough possibilities to put less pressure on the nation-wide network by going local. Now if only hams would do that…. but most don’t. Another reason to keep DMR for now is the gateway we recently added, which connects D-Star to our DMR network.

Not available on the Motorola network, sorry — some people responsible for that network appear to be so scared of such innovations that they will ban a repeater from the network if such a gateway is detected.

Talk group ‘USA 1776’ could add to the appeal of DMR. It’s unclear on which network this talk group will reside, but my best guess is that it will be the Motorola network.  MITCON writes:

The “USA 1776″ (English preferred) Talk Group will be distributed worldwide to DMR networks upon request.  The spirit of “1776” is to continue the Amateur Radio tradition of international friendship and to push the boundaries of technology in the new frontier of digital communications.

USA 1776USA 1776 is intended to be a flexible, politically neutral, unrestricted Talk Group that can be used as Push-To-Talk (PTT) or Full-Time (FT) to meet the operating requirements of a DMR Network.  DMR subscribers are welcome to use 1776 as a universal meeting place to “Rag Chew” or as a jumping off point and QSY to an alternative Talk Group if desired.  To add USA 1776 to your DMR Network please contact us to schedule a time for configuration & testing.

Advertisements

Review Pofung (Baofeng) GT-1

I didn’t pay much attention to the GT-1 because I assumed it was just old wine in a new bottle. Time to rectify this, due to popular demand.

We all know the Baofeng BF-666S / BF-777S / BF-888S radios: 16 UHF channels, no display, low power output, a receiver which can be overloaded by snapping your fingers, but they are dirt cheap. The GT-1, co-developed by SainSonic, promises to improve on this concept by adding FM radio, a higher capacity battery and higher power output.

Look & feel
When it comes to looks, the GT-1 looks a bit more modern than its predecessors. The radio is slightly taller and less deep. All in all the GT-1 looks and feels nice. The basic concept didn’t change: 16 programmable UHF channels between 400 MHz and 470 MHz, scramble (voice inversion), a on/off/volume pot, a 16-step rotary encoder and a flashlight. Apart from emitting a steady beam of light the flashlight now offers an ‘SOS- mode: three short, three long and three short pulses.

You can order the radio with side keys in different colors: yellow, orange or green. The (of reasonable quality) manual comes in three languages: English, French and German. Nice touch.

Pofung GT-1Battery
GT-1 Battery LabelAccording to the specs printed on the battery the nominal voltage is 7.4 Volts @ 1800 mAh, the same capacity as the UV-5R battery.  Such a capacity would be in line with the higher power output promised on the radio label: a solid 5 Watts instead of ‘less or equal to 5 Watts’ printed on a BF-888S (which proved to be 2 Watts only).

The first hint of something being terribly wrong was the weight of the battery. It felt so light that I was afraid that it might end up at the other end of the living room if I had a nasty cough. Time to to take a closer look at things. Let’s take a look at the weight first as more cells always translates into a heavier battery.  The amount of plastic used plays a role too, of course. So while this is not a 100% reliable method, it does give you an indication.

Battery weight comparison
Pofung GT-1: 47 grams
Baofeng BF-666S: 54 grams
Baofeng UV-5R: 80 grams
Anytone NSTIG-8R: 96 grams

As you can see the weight of the GT-1 and BF-666S batteries are close. The UV-5R and NSTIG-8R batteries are too, both proven to be 7.4 Volts @ 1800 mAh. The GT-1 battery seems just too light to be in the same 7.4 Volts / 1800 mAh league.

I took my multimeter and checked the GT-1 battery. Not to my surprise it only measured 4.0 Volts (freshly charged), so the nominal voltage is 3.7 Volts only, just like the BF-666S battery. The capacity will likely be the same too, somewhere between 1000 mAh and 1500 mAh.

GT-1 Radio LabelTransmitter
After finding out that the battery might even be inferior to the one supplied with its predecessor I didn’t expect the GT-1 to be able to reach 5 Watts output at all. That proved to be correct. Two samples measured the same: between 1.5 – 2 Watts, depending on the frequency.

TX Audio
A bit brighter and slightly louder than my BF series, which is a plus.

Phase noise and harmonics
Less phase noise than the BF series. There are some unusual peaks visible, but nothing scary.

Pofung_GT-1_spectrumReceiver
At -126 dBm the GT-1 is sensitive enough, but that won’t help you much. It doesn’t take much of an out-of-band signal to make the radio as deaf as a post. Even the local repeater can’t be received in my city center; only if I’m about 3 kilometers away from the center the receiver comes to life.

FM Radio
By holding the upper side key while switching on the radio, the GT-1 will switch to FM radio, something the BF series don’t offer. There doesn’t appear to be a way to tune to a preferred station though; it randomly tunes into stations it finds. This makes the feature of limited use.

Edit: pressing the upper side key shortly will make the radio switch from station to station. Some in-house interference made the system fail when I tested it. The interference caused the scan to stop when encountering these false positives.

RX Audio
A bit raw, just like with the BF series, but more tinny. Audio distorts quickly if you crank up the volume.

Software
The GT-1 can be programmed with the same software developed for the BF series. CHIRP works too, but lacks a few options such as switching on scramble. Changing power output from ‘High’ to ‘Low’ in the software still doesn’t work; the radio just ignores that setting.

The verdict
After being confronted with all the lies surrounding the Pofung GT-1 there’s no way I can justify a diplomatic way of saying things. The GT-1 is just old wine in a new bottle, the battery voltage / capacity is one big lie and so is the promised power output.

The receiver is still disappointing unless you live in the proverbial ‘middle of nowhere’. To make matters worse the GT-1 is more expensive than a Baofeng BF-666S / BF-777S / BF-888S.

In short: don’t buy one unless you’re a notorious masochist. Go for a UV-5R instead or, if you like/need this particular concept, buy the superior Anytone ANILE-8R.

Review Baofeng FF-12P (UV-5X)

Probably because Baofeng is running out of letters (although I didn’t see the Baofeng UV-5Y or Z yet), there’s a new numbers game in order. The FF-12P is essentially a UV-5X and my sample came in…. silver.

Baofeng FF-12PThe radio houses the latest chip set and firmware. Pressing various keys confirm this: pressing ‘0’ for a bit more than a second shows the battery voltage, pressing PTT + Band generates 2100 Hz, PTT + A/B generates 1750 Hz, and PTT + VFO/MR generates 1450 Hz.

The display is of the inverse type, the antenna the short one we all learned to hate, “FF-12P” is printed on both the left and right side of the radio. Batteries / accessories aren’t compatible with the standard UV-5R. While I could find enough suppliers of the FF-12P and UV-5X, not a single one appears to sell spare batteries or any other accessory.

Charger / battery combination
I wasn’t able to charge the battery at first, because the battery and charger don’t match: the two indentations of the battery prevented it from being inserted in the charger. After scraping away enough plastic in the charger I got it to fit.

CHIRP
CHIRP recognized the radio as being a UV-5R and squelch thresholds could be modified without a problem.

Scanning
A clip on YouTube suggested that the UV-5X / FF12P scans faster. This proves to be true: the FF-12P outperforms all other Baofeng radios I own, including the GT-3 Mark II. Scan speed is about 5-6 channels/sec.

Transmitter

Frequency accuracy of the sample: +2 Hz on VHF, -11 Hz on UHF.

Power output VHF: (@ 145 MHz): 4.1 Watts (high), 1.7 Watts (low)
Power output UHF: (@ 435 MHz): 3.6 Watts (high), 1.8 Watts (low)

TX Audio: Bright and loud. Very nice.

Harmonics: the usual peaks on VHF and UHF. Still not very impressive.

UV-5X_FF-12P-VHF
UV-5X_FF-12P-UHF

Receiver

RX Audio: good.

Front-end: surprisingly good, just like the GT-3 Mark II. Nice.

Sensitivity: -127 dBm (VHF), -125 dBm (UHF). These are good numbers.

Conclusion
The FF-12P aka UV-5X is the typical Baofeng: value for money, but not without its flaws. Harmonic suppression is a mixed bag and the lack of accessories is a potential problem.

The fact that I had to modify the charger to make the battery fit is a dumb factory mistake. The short stock antenna just doesn’t want to die — put a few bucks aside to buy a better one.

The positive side of the radio is the good receiver, good TX audio and faster scan speed. And, if you care about such things, it comes in shiny SILVER!

Anytone Tech models, additional notes

Overall, reviewing these Anytones was a pleasant experience. After the reviews I looked into a few other things.

  • The batteries of the ANILE-8R (1300 mAh) and the NSTIG-8R (1800 mAh) are exchangeable.
  • The belt clips used on the ANILE-8R and NSTIG-8R are never a perfect fit. With the 1300 mAh battery there’s a gap (easy to lose a radio that way), with the 1800 mAh battery it’s too tight.
  • The antenna on the NSTIG-8R heats up fast at maximum RF output; the behavior resembles that of a Baofeng UV-5R stock antenna. The antenna appears to be reasonably efficient though. More tests are in order.
  • No such problems with the antennas of the ANILE-8R, the TERMN-8R or OBLTR-8R.
  • The NSTIG-8R, TERMN-8R and OBLTR-8R can display the remaining battery voltage. Measurements show that the radios are surprisingly accurate. If the radios say “8.1 Volts”, it really is 8.1 Volts. The ANILE-8R will round it down/up to the closest integer.
  • The TERMN-8R is difficult to use on SW because it defaults to 10 KHz steps. SW stations are 5 KHz apart, not 10 KHz. You can use the keypad to enter the correct frequency though. I had the bug confirmed by John; it’s now on the ‘to do’ list and will be fixed.
  • The more I had the TX audio compared by other hams, the more impressed I (and they) became.
  • There’s an odd problem concerning spectral purity with all x-band capable hand helds I reviewed. It only occurs when both VFOs are active; we (me and a few more knowledgeable RF lab gurus) are looking into that right now.