Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Those Chinese Radios • Part 2

DUAL BAND FM MOBILE RADIO COMPARISON

In this comparison of the AnyTone, Yaesu, and Wouxun dual band mobile transceivers, you will note that the Chinese manufactured AnyTone AT-5888UV (Qixiang Electronics) is a near clone of the USA-Japanese Yaesu FT-8900R in its user features and functionality.  The Wouxun KG-UV920P on the other hand, and sadly, has a very complicated user interface and on-screen menu, with buttons seemingly designed for a small child’s fingers!  Here’s an initial visual comparison below. Click On Any Photo To View A Larger Image.


The Chinese AnyTone AT-5888UV Dual-Bander

Yaesu Screen Layout Above • Compare To AnyTone Top Photo


Yaesu Button Layout Above Vs. AnyTone Buttons (Top Photo)

IDENTICAL ANYTONE & YAESU MOBILE RADIOS?

Between the AnyTone and the Yaesu dual-band FM radios above, you will note that SCREEN MENU LAYOUTS ARE ABSOLUTELY IDENTICAL!  The design and position of each icon is exactly the same for each radio’s displays.  Coincidence?

Now, before anyone says anything:  Yes, I am aware that the Yaesu FT-8900R is actually a QUAD-BAND FM transceiver, operating on the 2M, 6M, 10M, & 70 CM bands.  But for our purposes here, I'm going to continue to refer to the Yaesu FT-8900R as a "dual-bander," in order to avoid confusion and also as most hams use this amazing radio on 144/440 MHz bands, rarely on the 6M or 10M bands.


AnyTone AT-5888UV w/ Front Speaker Mic For Portable Use

As to the KNOB LAYOUT, the AnyTone AT-5888UV utilizes the VERY SAME left-right volume and squelch layout as the Yaesu FT-8900R.  This is a very nice and well-thought out feature, as controlling the volume of each side-by-side band screen is very convenient indeed.  The LOW (output power adjustment), V/M (VFO/Memory), HM (Home Memory Channel, and SCAN buttons are in identical placements.  The AnyTone, however, did move the SET button to the upper left-hand side of their radio.  Oh well, you can’t everything!  Now, let’s look at the Wouxun KG-UV920P dual-band FM radio:

THE WOUXUN KG-UV920P

The best way I can summarize the Wouxun User Interface is this: Confusing.  The VFO (frequency tuning) knob is on the left, while the VOLUME controls on the right are NESTED, for each of the side-by-side band screens.  This makes volume adjustment a bit tedious. It gets more interesting: the SQUELCH adjustment is made via a SCREEN MENU OPTION.  Oops!

The Wouxun KG-UV920P Dual-Band FM Radio


Speaking of which, the MENU OPTIONS as seen on most Yaesu, Kenwood, Icom, and other popular radios are SPLIT here between PANEL BUTTONS and ON-SCREEN MENU selections.  This makes for EXTREMLY CONFUSING selection of a number of “on-the-fly” options one would necessarily like to make during an emergency or disaster scenario, such as changing CTCSS codes for a particular repeater, jumping to lower power, a quick squelch adjustment, etc. 

THE PRAISE REPORT

These radios do provide a much-needed alternative to the higher-priced, more rugged land-mobile VHF-UHF public service radios manufactured by Motorola, Vertex, Harris, Daytron, and others.  Inexpensive and programmable, these radios are great for light use by Army-Navy MARS, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol, SATERN, Red Cross, and other emergency community response radio stations which operate OUTSIDE the FCC Amateur Radio bands or within the NTIA U.S. Government bands.

The inexpensive Chinese ($250-$300) dual band rigs – namely the AnyTone & Wouxun mobile models -- offer multi-colored backlit LCD screens, detachable remote heads, dual-fans with large heat sinks, FM broadcast reception (most models), DTMF microphones, alpha-numeric displays, low power consumption on receive, CTCSS/DCS Encode/Decode, cross-band repeat, dual band simultaneous reception, encryption capabilities (scrambler), narrow & wide band, 2.5KHz frequency steps, remote "kill," password protection, and more.  Of the two, my money would be on the AnyTone, mainly for its ease of use.

WHAT SETS THE CHINESE RADIOS APART?

From a design standpoint, the Chinese designers of the AnyTone & Wouxun models got a lot of things right. For instance, most FM transceivers coming out of China -- 50W mobiles & 5W handhelds -- have FM broadcast receive 68-108 MHz built in.  Nice feature for listening to your favorite country music station while on the road!  The AnyTone models add AM aircraft band receive, which I particularly like. Great for monitoring 121.5 MHz, the aircraft "Mayday" channel.  Top-mounted speakers on all mobile models means you can throw your mobile on the passenger seat next to you in your car, plug the 12VDC power cord into a cigarette lighter socket, throw a mag-mount antenna on the roof, clip the speaker microphone to your jacket, and you're good to go mobile!

As an emergency comms backup radio for your "Go Kit," there are a lot of nice features that are hard NOT to like!   I already mentioned the speaker-mic feature, air band monitoring, dual band receive and scanning, and dual, thermostatically-controlled rear fans.  But the feature I like the most on an emergency comms unit (which is also on the Yaesu FT-8900R) is Full Duplex Cross Band Repeat. Click HERE to view nice video tutorial on how to setup a duplex cross band repeater, using the Yaesu FT-8900R.

Unfortunately, the AnyTone AT-5888UV is not available in the USA just yet, as the first batch sent here from China had to be recalled last week for harmonics problems.  We should begin to see the final USA model by March.  You can pre-order the latest AnyTone dual-bander at www.wouxun.us.

A PROGRAMMING NIGHTMARE

There are TWO popular methods for programming your dual-band FM mobile radio:  Windows-based PC programming software or direct-input, using the DTMF microphone keypad.  However, it should be noted that Part 90 FCC Accepted land-mobile radios may ONLY be “bench programmable,” that is using a PC computer.  No Part 90 “in-the-field” user programming of frequencies, tones, etc. is allowed, although the Chinese offerings above do so.

For years now, Amateur Radio gear could be programmed quite easily -- even “on-the-fly,” as it were.  Yaesu, Kenwood, and Icom, for instance, allow programming of their mobile radios via the DTMF microphone keypad in a similar fashion as the programming of their handheld, portable units via the DTMF keypad on the front of the radio.  The “programming transition” between radio types is pretty seamless, once you get the knack of it.

Enter the Dragon!  When the Chinese entered the field, my “Programming Dream” became a “Programming Nightmare!”  Programming the Wouxun via the DTMF microphone’s keypad is tedious, to say the least.  My biggest complaint is the jumping between on-screen menu options and the pressing of the tiny front panel buttons to reach a programmable result.  Wouxun’s PC programming software, although improved recently, leaves a lot to be desired, as well.  All that aside, in an emergency, am I always going to have my laptop handy?  Not likely!



Lastly, I was so please recently to discover that RT Systems has entered the field by providing USB programming cables and Windows-based software for the most popular Chinese handheld and mobile radios, such as the Baofeng and Wouxun models.  As a ham radio operator, I have appreciated the intuitive RT Systems software for programming my HF rigs and Yaesu handhelds for years.  Not to go into great detail, but if you have ever been challenged by not being able to move memory channels up or down or had the “CSV Import-Export” dilemma drive you batty, you will love the ease and convenience of RT Systems software!  BTW, the USB cables and software are VERY affordable, too.  To see how easy programming your rig can be, visit www.rtsystemsinc.com.

Want to learn more about these fascinating FM mobile radios? You can download and/or view a user manual by clicking on one of the selected model links below:


AnyTone AT-5888UV User Manual

Wouxun KG-UV920P user Manual
Yaesu FT-8900R User Manual

There are many choices becoming available these days for the Volunteer Emergency Radio Communications Responder. My advice? Investigate, ask questions, and most of all, CHOOSE WISELY!

18 comments:

  1. Nice review Jason! Do you think there will be a China version of the ft-857??????

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very nice review. One thing to note, AnyTone AT-5888UV IS capable of x-band repeat. See http://wouxun.us/Manuals/AT-5888VU_%20english%20manual_v2_S.pdf for more info. I am thinking seriously about getting one of these for a mobile setup. Crossbanding is a definite must for me as I like to fox hunt and the crossband capability comes in handy for the high-powered fox. 73, Steve

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  3. I picked up an Anytone AT-5888UV in Dayton. So far it is a great radio. I used chirp to program it and into my car it went. One great feature is the detachable face since my car does not really have a good place to install it. While I am still figureing out all of the features it is a great Mobile for the beginner like me or a spare.

    ReplyDelete
  4. So.....

    You can save about $30 and buy a hard to program Chinese radio with questionable quality and a horrible warranty situation with only 40 watts on UHF....

    Or....

    You could spend the extra $30 and buy a genuine Kenwood with great quality, a solid warranty, and a full 50 watts on both bands. .

    So why on EARTH would anyone buy one of these Chinese radios? What am I missing here?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David, what Kenwood can you get for $330 that does cross band repeat? I'll take one!

      Delete
  5. Look up Part90 with respect to public safety and you'll have your answer!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with the part 90 cert. and also another reason is the 2.5 kHz tuning steps too. Kenwood only goes down to 5 kHz.

      Delete
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  7. Wondering if the Anytone will program split ctcss ,another word's, transmit one tone while receiving on another in the same channel. I tried programming TX ctcss tone say 123 and went to re ctcss tone as 173 and it seems to fall back to the transmit only ctcss mode.

    ReplyDelete
  8. when programming your Radio from the computer were do you connect the USB connector in...the front panel of the 8900 that come of or the radio body and does the power have to be on?

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm glad to have visited your blog and good to know you! I find it interesting and informative.
    Dual band mobile signal

    ReplyDelete
  11. "plug the 12VDC power cord into a cigarette lighter socket":
    You plug a radio that can draw this sort of current into your cigarette lighter plug?

    "throw a mag-mount antenna on the roof":
    Fine if all you want to do is receive, I thought this review for for a Transceiver? Have you tried using a mobile on full power with a Mag Mount? If you do, you'll find melted plastic all over your roof.

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. Anonymous:
    Stay that way. You sir are without a key to the clue box!

    ReplyDelete
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  16. I have one of these fro use at home and love it. Actualy receives better than my ts-2000.
    Only have 2 minor complaints:
    1) Can not switch to reverse frequency mode if the display is in CHANNEL/NAME mode.
    2) Can not have Frequency mode on one side and NAME mode on the other.
    The programming software was not that hard to figure out.

    ReplyDelete