Two-way radio revolutionised communication, but does it still have its place in the world of mobile phones? In this review, not only will we look at Uniden’s Uniden XTRAK50 but also examine why this technology is still so relevant.
The Uniden XTRAK50 is a battery-powered premium handheld UHF two-way radio. It has an operating range of up to 17km and is constructed to resist dust and water.
Uniden Australia Pty Limited is part of the Uniden Corporation of Japan, operating globally in America, Europe, Asia and the South Pacific. Since its establishment in 1966, Uniden has grown to be a global leader in wireless communications and a major global brand in consumer electronics.
What are the advantages of a 2-way radio vs a mobile?
With a couple or more radios in a restaurant, a construction site, or in recreational 4-wheel drives, a two-way radio provides instant, easy and clear communication that is not reliant on other infrastructure. Here are a few more benefits:
Does not require network towers and work within range in remote areas
Instant communication (no dialling)
Can communicate with a group of compatible radios simultaneously
No monthly fees or licences required
Simple press and talk, especially with work gloves
The XTRAK50 radio does require some assembly once removed from the box, including screwing in the antenna and attaching the 2700MAh 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 will draw the most power.
The unit ships with a charging cradle with both 240-volt and 12-volt charging leads. From empty, the battery takes up to 4 hours to charge. A belt clip also attaches to the rear of the battery.
Most pleasingly, the package also contains both a speaker mic and an earpiece mic. The speaker mic allows a traditional speaker/microphone attached to a curly cord to be plugged into the unit. This enables the UHF to be used while remaining clipped to your waist or positioned in a car. The earpiece mic allows more private communication. You hear audio via an earpiece, and a separate mic can be placed on your collar near your mouth. With this accessory, a VOX feature can be enabled. This is a hands-free solution that uses your voice as a signal to start and stop your communication, removing the need to press a transmission button.
A cheap UHF radio can be bought for less than $50, so why spend $300 odd dollars on a model? The short answer, lots of additional features.
Under Australian regulation, a UHF radio transmission power cannot exceed 5 watts. At this power, assuming an uninterrupted line of sight of antennas, two UHF radios could be up to 17km apart. Uniden allows you to select between 1 watts and 5 watt transmissions across 80 channels. At 1 watt, you could only reach up to 7km but this would extend battery life.
The TRAK50 has a 2-watt speaker, which does not 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 conversation. This is a great option if you did not hear the transmission the first time and saves asking the other party to repeat themselves.
This radio has an IP67 rating, meaning it will survive being immersed in water at a depth of up to 1 metre for 30 minutes. Similarly, it will take a bit of abuse and dust, but like any device, it will last longer if you look after it.
A Scan function allows all channels to be scanned for active traffic. You can also customise the Scan to only look at specific channels. Leading on from this, Uniden offers a feature called Master Scan. The radio is smart enough to avoid congested channels for communication and allow group communication over several channels by switching all radios in the group to an available channel.
A shared channel quiet filter allows two or more radios to operate without hearing other users on the same channel. This is achieved by using one of 154 (CTCSS or DCS) codes across each of the group’s radios.
A voice scrambler feature provides additional security so others cannot understand your conversations, and is great for private chats.
Other features include a key lock to stop you from pressing buttons by mistake, a torch that is handy just like on your smartphone, and an OLED display. The benefit of this is that it can be read in bright sunny conditions as well as at night.
Note the XTRAK50 has a big brother, the XTAK50 Pro. The Pro additionally offers location sharing and tracking in conjunction with a smartphone, and the ability to use Bluetooth like your car audio system to hear communications. We hope to test this unit when it becomes available.
For any radio, audio clarity is extremely important, especially if used in a noisy environment. We compared XTRAK50 to a Uniden UH9060, a car-mounted 5-watt radio with an external antenna. To even up the reception, we used the optional external antenna connected to the XTRAK50. With the external set up, we saw no improvements in reception. However, from an audio quality perspective, we found the XTRAK50 to have superior audio reproduction with a clearer, easier to understand voice playing back.
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-metre cable, A 12-volt charger and cradle and an adhesive mounting bracket with a magnetic lug that attaches to the battery pack. This pack improves reception and allows the handheld to picked off the dash easily when used. This can be further enhanced by using the speaker mic to act as a traditional car-mounted UHF.
You will want this product because of its reliability and the ability to transmit up to 17km away. This handheld also makes for a decent replacement for a car-mounted UHF radio, with the external antenna and the capability to be quickly transferred between vehicles.
It’s also a lightweight and comfortable to hold. The Replay feature and excellent audio quality make it a joy to use. And, as not everyone wants to listen to and be heard by others on open channels, we love that this handset allows you to have uninterrupted private communications.
All up, the XTRAK50 is a premium 2-way radio with a solid combination of design, durability and price, and it won’t leave you wanting for features.