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

Review – Pofung (Baofeng) UV-82HP

by John ‘Miklor’ K3NXU

Not just a Power Upgrade
The new UV-82HP is not just a power upgrade, but a combination of all major features of both the UV82 and UV5R series in one package.

82HPWhat’s in the Box
– The UV82HP
– Newer upgraded A-V85 Antenna
– 7.4V 1800mAh Li-Ion Battery
– Upright Charger and wall-wart
– Manual written in English
– Belt Clip
– Hand Strap

The radio sports all traditional features of the UV82 design, with the larger keypad buttons and the zero at the bottom of the number pad where it belongs, etc.  It also is built using the latest generation chipset.

– The frequency range is the full  136-174.99 MHz, 400-520.99 MHz range.
– VHF output on the test unit clocks in at 7.3W with UHF at 6.0W
– The Dual PTT button is now an option that can be turned off. Previously only available with the commercial version (UV82C)
– Live On-the-Air audio reports are exc
ellent.
– Alpha tags can be added with the required software below.
– The receiver sensitivity is still excellent.

So, What makes this version an upgrade?
– The original UV82 took a traditional UV5R, and added design features such as an upgraded case and Dual PTT switch. (comparison)
– Next came the UV82C which included options to synchronize the Dual PTT function to emulate a Single PTT, and the ability to lock out the VFO to prevent accidental field programming.
– Next came the 8W F8HP, the first of the high power Baofengs.
– An expanded feature added is R-Tone, a repeater tone for those requiring a 1000, 1450, 1750 or 2000Hz audible tone for access. This is not to be confused with CTCSS or DCS. Prior models provided Burst for 1750Hz only.

The UV-82HP now includes all of the above features in one package. The PTT synchronizing, VFO lockout, High Power, R-Tone, and newest generation chipset.

It has kept the traditional UV82 case design to ensure compatibility between all existing options, including Dual PTT Spkr/Micr, battery cases, holsters, battery eliminators, etc.

Feature UV82HP UV82 UV82C F8HP UV5R
High Power  7-8W Yes Yes
Dual PTT Yes Yes Yes
Single PTT Sync Option Yes Yes
VFO Mode Disable Yes Yes
Repeater Access Tones
    1000, 1450, 1750, 2100Hz
Yes 1750Hz 1750Hz 1750Hz 1750Hz
As mentioned above, with software, the UV-82HP can lockout the VFO mode to prevent accidental changes.
.
The Factory Software has been added to the Miklor.com  Software section.  The radio has also now included in the Latest Daily Build of CHIRP.
Note: A programming cable is required to run the software. Acquiring a quality cable is highly recommended. You will spend more time using the radio and less time trying to load special backdated drivers to your PC. A generic cable is less expensive, but a cable with an FTDI chip is Plug ‘n Play.
.
The UV82HP allows locking the PTT Button to simulate a Single PTT and override the Dual PTT feature.
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Software Note
As you may have expected, running the UV82HP software will not activate or create new features on an older UV-82/82C.
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Compatibility
All of my accessories for the standard UV82 are compatible, including the Dual PTT speaker/micr. With the exception of the battery and charger, all UV5R accessories work as well.
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Conclusion
You can always run this radio in low/mid power to conserve battery, but when you need the extra power, it’s there.It’s nice to see a true upgrade of features to the UV82 series, and not just a fancy case or the addition of extra letters and numbers to the UV82 label.
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A Feature Comparison published between the standard UV82 and its predecessor can be found at UV82_vs_UV5R
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A full in-depth Technical Review of the Original UV-82 was done by Hans last year.
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More Information:  CHIRP,  Miklor.com, Review, BaofengTech

CHIRP Support now available for the new Anytone 8R series

By John ‘Miklor’ K3NXU

CHIRP, software that now supports over 80 different models of transceivers, isCHIRPlogo now providing basic support for the two newest models of the Anytone series, the TERMN-8R and the OBLTR-8R.  CHIRP’s Latest Daily Build can be found HERE.

The advantage of the basic settings is the “spreadsheet memory editor” which will allow owners to:
– import channels from a *.CSV file
– import channels from an *.img filexTERMN-LG
– copy-and-paste the stock config file
– load from external sources like RepeaterBook and RadioReference.

That is a BIG step and additional settings will be added in small groups.

SUPPORT:
Development of CHIRP is an all-volunteer effort and is offered as open-source software, free of charge. If you like CHIRP, please consider contributing a small donation to help support the costs of development and hardware.

More Information:  CHIRP, Miklor.com

 

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.

 

Review Anytone NSTIG-8R

NSTIG-8RThe NSTIG-8R was the first radio I tried out, mainly because it came with a fully charged battery. I punched in some frequencies and took off on a 5-mile walk. The radio performed quite well.

In the box:

  • Radio
  • 1800 mAh battery
  • Antenna (SMA female)
  • Simple headset
  • Charger
  • AC adapter (110-240 Volts)
  • Belt clip
  • Wrist strap
  • Manual
Factory specifications

Frequency range: [TX/RX] 136 – 174MHz, 400 – 520MHz
RX only: 68-108MHz (FM Broadcast)
Channel Capacity: 200 Channels
Channel Spacing: 25KHz (wide band)12.5KHz (narrow band)
Sensitivity: ≤0.25μV (wide band)  ≤0.35μV (narrow band)
Operation Voltage: 7.4V DC ±20%
Battery: 1800mAh
Frequency steps (KHz): 2.5, 5, 6.25, 10, 12.5, 20, 25, 30 and 50
Antenna: SMA-Female
Accessory Connector: Kenwood 2-Pin standard
Stability: ±2.5 ppm
Output power: 5W / 1W
Size: 113×62×40mm (with battery)
Weight: 220g (with battery, antenna, belt clip)
Audio Power Output: 1000mW

Build quality
The first thing I noticed is the weight of the NSTIG-8R. While the dimensions of the radio are nearly identical to those of a UV-5R, this radio is quite a bit heavier: 129 grams vs 91 grams (without battery and antenna). With all the bells & whistles attached the scale shows 240 grams vs 209 grams. All in all the radio has a solid feel to it.

Side keys
The NSTIG-8R has three side keys also, and these can be programmed by the user. At default the upper key will switch on the flashlight, the middle one will show you the remaining battery voltage, and the last one will bypass the squelch (monitor).

Dual PTT
If you like you can reprogram one of the side keys to function as PTT for VFO B. The main PTT key is reserved for VFO A and can’t be re-assigned.

Display
3-color DisplayAt default the three-color display (amber, blue or purple) shows two frequencies at the same time and will be in dual watch mode. There’s no ‘TDR’ option in the menu; if you want to switch off dual watch you press Function+Main to toggle between dual watch and single band mode.

In single band mode you can switch between VFO A en B by just pressing the Main key. The system takes a little bit time to get used to.

2-color RX LEDNice touch: even when attached to your belt you can see which VFO is active. When the RX LED turns green the upper VFO is active, when turning blue the lower VFO is active. Contrary to a Baofeng you can select VFO mode or memory mode for each individual VFO.

The S-meter is one that actually works. Meters on hand helds are never accurate enough to give a meaningful signal report, but at least you get a basic idea of the field strength.

Programming
Most of the programming can be done from the keypad, including alpha tags. The software is necessary to change the welcome message, or give the radio its own ID and pre-programmed DTMF sequences — something you will need if you decide to use individual or group calling. You can do a lot manually, which will come in handy in the field, but using the software will work faster and give you access to a lot of other options.

I think it’s really a shame that there’s no Help section in the software. With basic channel-editing software I couldn’t care less, but this program offers quite a few exotic options. I guess that figuring it all out will be left to us, after which we can document it on Miklor.com.

Memories
You can program 200 VHF/UHF frequencies and 99 FM broadcast frequencies. I won’t be able to fill that up easily, but I’m sure there will be others who won’t have any problems filling these up to the max.

Scanning
Most Chinese radios are poor, painfully slow scanners. For the first time in years I can report that scan speed is actually acceptable: about 4-5 channels/second. Not brilliant, but usable. The top models in the 8R series have a Fast Scan mode which clocks at 10 channels/second.

The NSTIG-8R can scan for CTCSS/DCS codes, and you can set VFO scanning limits.

Bugs
Haven’t been able to find one.

Various measurements

TX audio: loud and clear, just like the ANILE-8R. No complaints.

RX audio: Same story: loud and clear, with no noticeable distortion.

Sensitivity VHF (@ 145 MHz): -127 dBm (@ 50Ω, 12 dB SINAD).
Sensitivity UHF (@ 435 MHz): -125 dBm (@ 50Ω, 12 dB SINAD).

Frequency accuracy of this sample: VHF: 0 Hz, UHF -13 Hz.

Power output VHF (@145 MHz): 1.3 Watts / 4.9 Watts.
Power output UHF
(@435 MHz): 1.1 Watts / 4.3 Watts.

Front-end: good, but not as good as the Wouxun KG-UV6D or QuanSheng TG-UV2.

Harmonic suppression: three measurable harmonics on VHF, varying between -53.05 dBm and -60.20 dBm, on UHF there’s only one at -57.33 dBm.

NSTIG-8R_VHF

NSTIG-8R_UHFConclusion
I really like the NSTIG-8R. The design is refreshing, the radio offers more functionality than the average low cost radio, and it’s built like a tank.

The price of the radio is twice that of a Baofeng and half that of a basic(*) Yaesu FT-60. I understand people muttering about prices (it’s the first thing we hams do, it must be in our DNA), but the relation between price and quality is right on target here.

There’s always a choice: you go for the cheapest, for the best, or for something in between. Seen from that perspective the NSTIG-8R nicely fills the gap between Baofengs and Yaesu’s entry level radio.

(*) Here in NL the Yaesu FT-60 does not come with a desktop charger, 1800 mAh battery or headset – we need to add about $120 for these accessories)

Price: $68.89 (Amazon)

More information: Anytone Tech