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

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VR-6600PRO and FTM-350 Inside

The most frequently asked question is: how identical are these two radios? Vero Telecom made it clear from the start that the PCB design was their own.

On the outside it’s a close call. On the inside there are some similarities, but enough differences too. The VR-6600PRO isn’t a 100% copy of the Yaesu, a fact that was impossible to miss during tests. Some properties are in favor of the Yaesu, some things are in favor of the VGC. I’ll get back on that subject in the final review.

The Vero Telecom VR-6600PRO inside:

VR-6600Pro-inside-small

Click image for high-res version

The Yaesu FTM-350 inside:

FTM-350-Inside

Vero Telecom VR6600PRO first impressions

The VGC VR6600PRO has been in my shack four days now. These are just first impressions; we didn’t do any measurements yet.

VR-6600Pro-box

Box InsideInside the box:

  • The radio itself (main unit + front panel)
  • Microphone
  • Suction cup
  • High quality power cable, no cheap round fuses, but the ones used in cars
  • Separation cable
  • Bracket
  • Manual
  • Fan

Extra (these are optional accessories):

  • BTG-6600A1 (GPS & APRS module)
  • PG-660 data cable
  • GPS antenna

Manual
The manual is brief but clear. No funny / bad translations.

Operation
It takes a while to get accustomed to the menus, but I got the radio up and running within 15 minutes. Programming the 1000 memories is not difficult, but the radio isn’t very patient — within two seconds or so the menu will be gone. This should be extended somewhat; more than once I wasn’t fast enough. 10 seconds or so would be nice.

Menu

VR-6600Pro Menu

The suction cup is as strong as a horse, but it needs a perfectly smooth surface in order to be reliable. In the shack I use a ‘mouse pad’ made out of glass, a present I once got from Intel. Imperfect surfaces failed, some quickly, some overnight.

TX Audio
No ‘Chinese Disease’ here: loud and clear. In the menu you can adjust the microphone gain to match your voice.

RX Audio
Not too bad for home use, but the built-in speakers won’t have enough punch for mobile use. Buy external ones. Plural? Yes, you can connect two speakers to the radio, one for the left VFO and one for the right VFO. You can choose Stereo or Mono, when set to ‘Mono’ one speaker will do too. There’s a tone control in the menu, which allows you to match the tonal quality to the speakers in use.

No noisy AF amplifier, fortunately, and no volume problems. Volume to zero = silence.

Display 2

Display in Clock mode. Working frequencies visible on top.

Display 1

Green is the default display color.

Display
Colors, brightness and contrast can all be set in the menu.

Microphone
Front: DTMF keypad, four programmable buttons. Right side: lock switch, backlight switch. PTT switch is smooth and won’t give you the cramps.

Responsiveness
There’s a slight delay between giving a command and the radio carrying it out. I would describe it as ‘a bit sluggish’.

Scan speed
Slow, about 1.5 – 2 channels / second. This radio is clearly not a competitor for a real scanner.

General Coverage RX
This works surprisingly well, even a few (strong) medium wave stations could be received on a Diamond X30 antenna, which is basically useless for these low frequencies. 1.25 Meters (220 MHz) is there too, but my European version won’t transmit there.

bandsCross-band Repeater
Not tested yet.

APRS & GPS
Not tested yet.

Bugs
I might have found a minor one, but I’m not 100% sure. The VGC engineers enjoy their spring festival holiday now, so an answer will take some time. VGC confirmed that the firmware will be upgradeable.

Oh yes, the fan!
The fan is a funny one. It comes with a special power connector and a temperature switch (TO220 size). The bracket has been designed in such a way that you can mount the fan just below it. Spacers between the bracket and the fan guarantee a good airflow. If the radio gets too hot, the the fan will switch on.

Want to test the VGC VR-6600PRO?

Mindy from Vero Telecom asked me to share this information with all of you: there’s an opportunity for licensed hams to test drive their dual-band radio.

Important Update: read the terms and conditions first! – http://www.verotelecom.com/~verotele/test-letter.htm

The radio won’t be free of charge, but you will get a $100 discount after submitting your test report.

The application form can be found here.

Test Invitation