Two-way radio has revolutionized communications, but does it still have its place in the cell phone world? In this review we will not only look at Uniden’s Uniden XTRAK50, but also explore why this technology is still so relevant.
The Uniden XTRAK50 is a premium battery powered UHF portable radio. It has a range of up to 17 km and is made to withstand dust and water.
Details: Uniden XRAK50 Smart UHF Radio
|Price (suggested retail price)||€ 329.95|
|From||Autobarn, jaycar, TJM|
|Instruction manual||User manual|
|Country of manufacture||China|
|About||Uniden Australia Pty Limited is part of the Uniden Corporation of Japan and operates worldwide in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the South Pacific. Founded in 1966, Uniden has grown into a global leader in wireless communications and a major global consumer electronics brand.|
What are the? advantages of a 2-way radio versus a mobile†
With a few or more radios in a restaurant, construction site or recreational four-wheel drive, a walkie-talkie provides instant, easy and clear communication that doesn’t rely on other infrastructure. Here are a few more benefits:
- Requires no network towers and works within range in remote areas
- Direct communication (no calling)
- Can simultaneously communicate with a group of compatible radios
- No monthly fees or licenses required
- Simply press and talk, especially with work gloves
- Generally more robust
- Better battery life
- Better security (discussed later)
Find more details on buy a walkie-talkie in our sister publication Small Business Answers.
XTRAK50 – What’s in the box†
The XTRAK50 radio requires some assembly once removed from the box, including screwing in the antenna and attaching the 2700 mAh battery. A full battery is quoted to provide up to 30 hours of use. However, the fine print indicates that this is 90% standby, 5% receive and 5% transmit. Transmitting draws the most power.
The device comes with a charging station with both 240-volt and 12-volt charging cables. From empty, the battery takes up to 4 hours to recharge. A belt clip also attaches to the back of the battery.
Most pleasantly, the package also includes both a speaker microphone and an earphone microphone. The speaker microphone allows a traditional speaker/microphone attached to a coiled cord to be connected to the unit. This allows the UHF to be used while clipped to your waist or placed in a car. The earphone microphone allows more private communication. You hear audio through an earpiece and a separate microphone can be placed on your collar near your mouth. This accessory enables a VOX function. This is a hands-free solution that uses your voice as a signal to start and stop your communication, so you don’t have to press a send button.
A cheap UHF radio can be had for under $50, so why spend $300 on a model? The short answer, lots of extra features.
According to Australian regulations, the transmitting power of a UHF radio should not exceed 5 watts. At this power, assuming an uninterrupted line of sight from antennas, two UHF radios can be up to 17 km apart. Uniden allows you to choose between 1 watt and 5 watt transmissions over 80 channels. With 1 watt you could only get 7 km, but this would extend the battery life.
The TRAK50 has a 2 watt speaker, which doesn’t sound much but is more than enough to be heard in a noisy environment. In addition, a dedicated button allows you to replay up to 4 minutes of received call. This is a good option if you didn’t hear the broadcast the first time and you don’t need to ask the other party to repeat itself.
This radio has an IP67 rating, which means that it can be submerged in water at a depth of up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. Likewise, it will take a bit of abuse and dust, but like any appliance it will last longer if you take good care of it.
A scan function allows all channels to be scanned for active traffic. You can also customize the scan to watch only specific channels. As an extension of this, Uniden offers a feature called Master Scan. The radio is smart enough to avoid overloaded communication channels and to enable multi-channel group communication by switching all radios in the group to an available channel.
A shared channel silent filter allows two or more radios to operate without hearing other users on the same channel. This is accomplished by using one of 154 (CTCSS or DCS) codes on each of the group’s radios.
A voice scrambler feature provides additional security so that others cannot understand your conversations, and is ideal for private chats.
Other features include a key lock to prevent you from accidentally pressing buttons, a flashlight that is handy just like on your smartphone and an OLED display. The advantage of this is that it can be read in bright sunny conditions as well as at night.
Note that the XTRAK50 has a big brother, the XTAK50 Pro. The Pro also offers location sharing and tracking when paired with a smartphone and the ability to use Bluetooth like your car audio system to hear communications. We hope to test this device when it becomes available.
Real world experience
For any radio, sound clarity is extremely important, especially when used in a noisy environment. We compared the XTRAK50 with a Uniden UH9060, a 5-watt car radio with an external antenna. To make the reception more even, we used the optional external antenna connected to the XTRAK50. With the external setup, we did not see any improvements in reception. However, from an audio quality standpoint, we found the XTRAK50 to have superior audio reproduction with a clearer, easier-to-understand voice being played.
Optional car kit
If you plan on using the handheld in your car, Uniden offers an excellent Car Kit accessory for $130 RRP. It includes an external antenna with a 3.2-meter cable, a 12-volt charger and holder, and an adhesive mounting bracket with a magnetic lip that attaches to the battery pack. This package improves reception and allows the handheld to be easily removed from the dashboard when in use. This can be further improved by using the speaker microphone as a traditional in-car UHF.
You want this product for its reliability and the ability to transmit up to 17 km away. This handheld is also a good replacement for a car-mounted UHF radio, with the external antenna and the ability to transfer quickly between vehicles.
It is also lightweight and comfortable to hold. The Replay function and excellent sound quality make it a pleasure to use. And because not everyone wants to listen to and be heard by others on open channels, we love that this unit allows you to have uninterrupted private communication.
All in all, the XTRAK50 is a premium 2-way radio with a solid combination of design, durability and price, and it won’t disappoint you in terms of features.
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