If you’re in the market for two way radios, it can sometimes be confusing to read about all the features and specifications of the models available. Many people are surprised that so many options exist. And if you’ve never used two way radios before, things may seem even more complicated. So, if you’re looking to buy two way radios, but you’re not quite sure of where to start, here are some tips to get you going!
The basic question you need to ask yourself is what you’re planning to do with the radios. Answering that question thoroughly will help you determine what kind you need. Here are the main points to consider before you begin shopping around:
1) Do you need digital or analog radios?
Most two way radios today are digital, which has many advantages: clearer audio, longer battery life, and increased capacity, to name a few. The only downside is that digital two way radios generally cost more. So, considering your must-haves in this area will help you decide which to choose – if you just need basic communications or you’re working within an existing system, analog may be the way to go.
2) Where are you going to be using them?
This matters because two way radios vary in terms of optimal range. When you look at the specifications for the units, remember that the ranges given are for optimal line-of-sight communication. This means you have to consider the terrain where you will most likely be using the radios. For instance, if you’re going to use them out in the open with few obstructions, you’ll have a better range than if you’re in a city or indoors calling between buildings, depending on the radio you choose. So, consider the probable terrain of the locations where you’ll likely be using the radios.
Available frequencies include VHF, UHF, and 900 MHz Onsite. What are the differences between these types?
VHF (Very High Frequency) radios work best for outdoor applications where maximum range is required with little to no obstruction. For instance, VHF may be a good choice for rural fire departments, agriculture, long-haul trucking and field operations for energy companies.
UHF (Ultra High Frequency) is better suited for indoor applications with some obstructions. Industries that may benefit from UHF are warehousing, manufacturing, hotels, and educational environments.
900 MHz Onsite DTR650 is a special Motorola option for organizations that need superior in-building coverage. Organizations making use of this specialized technology include hotels, retail, and light manufacturing.
3) Do you need the radios to be highly durable or intrinsically safe?
Essentially, are you working in an office or an oil patch? Do you work in conditions that could damage your radios?
If you are likely to be using the radios outside in all types of weather, waterproofing is very important. Two way radios without waterproofing can be damaged if exposed to even small amounts of water.
Dust-proofing is also important if you will be using the radios in rugged environments. Industrial-strength radios made to withstand the elements and heavy usage will benefit industries where harsh conditions are the norm, such as construction and emergency response.
Speaking of harsh environments, if you work in one that has a higher than normal fire hazard, you’ll definitely want to consider intrinsically safe radios. Radios with this certification are safe for use in the oil, gas, and mining industries, or any combustible environment where the tiny sparks normally produced by standard radios could start a fire.
4) What type of battery do you want?
If you will be in remote locations with spotty access to power sources, your radios will need batteries that last longer than average. Matching your radio with the right battery is critical. Lithium-ion batteries are now the most common batteries in radios because they offer top-quality energy densities, limited memory effects, and can be stored for long periods of time. You may also want to consider IMPRES batteries, which lengthen battery life and extend talk time, ensuring that your battery will be ready when needed.
5) Do you need special features for your radios?
Do you need an emergency call feature or a man-down alert? These can be very useful in industrial settings and harsh environments. Scanning and color display features are also available if needed.
6) How big do you want the radios to be?
The size and weight of radios varies widely. So, imagine the way you will actually be using and storing the units, and choose an option that fits your intended space requirements.
7) Do you want a headset or some other hands-free option?
Once again, imagine the most likely uses for your radios. Is hands-free an important option to you? If so, you will need to confirm the option is available on the models you are considering.
Basic Checklist for Requirements
Once you have clearly defined what your uses for the radios will be, then it is time to see how all the options measure up. When you have narrowed down your choices with the questions above, hold the radios in your hands and test out the following things:
- When you test the radio in the real world, is the signal clear?
- Are the controls easy to figure out and use?
- Do the batteries provided have a reasonably good lifespan?
- Do the radios come with an acceptable warranty?
- Can you easily scan channels, if that is an option you need?
- Do the radios have privacy codes that will help eliminate some of the outside chatter you will get when using them in real-world settings?
- If you chose the hands-free option, how does it work in a test environment?
After considering all these things, if you’re still unsure about which two way radios to purchase, it is possible to rent them for a short time to get familiar with their features. If you need to purchase or rent two way radios, contact us. We’ll be glad to discuss your options and help you choose the radios that will be the perfect fit for you. Want to do the research on your own first? Try our FREE Portable Radio Selection Guide below.
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