UV-5X3 and Nagoya NA-320A Antenna review.

The Baofeng UV-5X3 is a Tri-band radio offering operation on 2m,1.25m, and 70cm bands. Most popular portable radios are on 2m and 70cm because its easier to manufacture a radio that performs well on these bands. 1.25m however makes things a bit harder to do. Specifically it is difficult to make an antenna that is resonant on all three bands. The UV-5X3 gets around this by giving a dual band antenna for use on 2m and 70cm and an additional antenna for 1.25m. Right now it seems that there is a lot of hype surrounding the Nagoya brand antennas and Nagoya offers a tri-bander, the NA-320A. I decided to order a UV-5X3 and the Nagoya NA-320A to see if I could get a radio that does better on 1.25m than my old Yaesu VX-7R. This

Here (See below) is a screen shot of the Dual band (2m/70cm) antenna that comes with the UV-5X3. As you can see its not too bad. The UHF portion is tuned to a lower frequency and the VHF side is still a little high in VSWR to call great but as far as cheap rubber duckies go I think this is expected results and usable. The UHF is getting rather poor when you start operating in the repeater portion of the band but it looks like the antenna is longer than it should be. A trim might improve this.

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UV-5X3 dual-band antenna (VHF/UHF)

Below you will see a screenshot of the 1.25m antenna. Marker 2 is about where you will be operating for this band. As you can see the antenna is tuned for a little bit lower than this. I was able to trim off about 1.25 inches from this antenna which put 223Mhz right in the sweet spot.

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UV-5X3 1.25m antenna

Here (See below) is a Picture of the Nagoya NA-320A. They managed to get the VSWR lowest in all the right places. At first look its a great trace for a portable antenna. Then you notice that almost the entire trace is above 3:1! what?! I spent some time looking for specs for this antenna but couldn’t find any. My guess is that its for a reason. I would not recommend this antenna based on this and the fact that its a rather large antenna. My guess is that most people will see a gain in receive signal and call it good but the TX will suffer and they have no way of knowing. Tools like this Anristu LMR master don’t come cheap so many Amateur Radio operators have little to go by other than on the air reports.

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Nagoya NA-320A Tri-band antenna

Motorola MCD 5000 Radio Remotes

IP is the future of LMR radio. There, I said it. Many of you are thinking “Duh!” and a lot of you are saying “uggg!”. The Motorola MCD 5000 is proof of the fact that IP is only getting a firmer grip on the last holdout of Legacy technology that is Land Mobile Radio.

I recently was able to play around with a MCD 5000 remote system for a recent project. I had to add a Radio Gateway Unit (RGU) with an APX 7500 Consolette. I knew the system was IP based but due to the fact that I have been using Tone Remotes up to this point I still approached it with the attitude that you configure the remote here, the radio there, and woo hoo! Right? Boy was I wrong. There is a reason Motorola refers to the MCD 5000’s as a SYSTEM. No longer are you able to quickly configure a tone remote, set your levels and walk away. No, the MCD 5000 system was designed to solve any radio remote need. With functionality comes complexity.

I like the MCD 5000. Its a top notch device. It better be at Motorola prices. However configuring the System makes me feel like I am working with a Prototype. Constantly changing My laptop IP address to go from Default IP to LAN IP. From Browser to CPS configuration on the APX to the Configuration Tool for the RGU  and MCD Remote not to mention Excel. Nothing seems to flow from device to device. Then there is the MCD 5000 CT software.

Maybe Motorola wants their configuration tools to be so horrible that you give in and pay one of their techs to install the equipment. The interface feels very old. The fact that you edit a CSV file makes me wonder if Motorola put any effort at all into making this a mature product.  It reminds me of the old radios that had to be programmed with HEX. I get CSV files and their use but why Motorola couldn’t have made a user interface within the Configuration tool that took care of that for you is beyond me.

Then there is the issue with the need to have the CSV file to make changes to an existing system. There is not a single device that holds the configurations. Having a PC with the CSV file IS the master database or so it seems. This presents a problem if you loose the file or perhaps decide to go with another company for your service. I can’t help compare the MCD 5000 with Cisco’s IP telephone systems like Call Manager Express (or take your pick of any other IP phone system). When you get down to it, you are doing the same thing. Sending Audio from one machine to another. I feel like Motorola is far behind here. Have you looked at Cisco IPICS (Now Instant Connect)? You should. Cisco has been able to take an IP deskset and use it to make calls, connect to radios, among other things like check your sports team scores. Not only that, Cisco is doing this on the same hardware that IT folks have been banging on for years. Chances are your IT group already has a Radio Gateway at every location, they just don’t know it. Cisco has been doing RoIP/VoIP for a while now. When you compare Cisco’s solutions to Motorola’s you start to see how new Motorola is to the IP game.

Its not all bad though. I’m sure I have some wrong information in this article  as my experience with the product is still young. When you compare the New remotes with what they replaced you start to see a method to the madness. The MC 3000 was a great remote but it was rather rigid in its implementation. With the MCD 5000’s you gain the ability to connect to radios from long distances. You gain the ability to connect to a system of radios, not just one radio. Security features like User permissions and login screens prevent unauthorized use of radio resources, something the MC 3000 had no control of. The build quality on the MCD’s is excellent.

Bottom line is that Motorola has moved on from the old analog days and for those of us that lived to see the hay day of Analog LMR systems, well, we just have to live with it. This isn’t the first time there have been technology changes in the industry and it wont be the last (LTE?). I think the younger technicians that are more IP savvy will have little issue with the MCD 5000. The key now is to take the new technology and go out and build better radio systems!

Motorola RLN6554 Bluetooth Mic

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Motorola’s RLN6554 Bluetooth microphone.This could be the best bluetooth mic on the market. Well built when compared to the aftermarket Bluetooth mics that you may be accustom to but it isn’t perfect when paired with Motorola APX radios like the APX 8000. More on that later.

 

The Top of the Microphone has three buttons fulfilling simple functions. on the Left hand side you have the power button. In the Center you will find the volume up and volume down functions, and to the right you will find the familiar Orange emergency button. Simple.

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On the right hand side you will find a Headset jack. A feature many officers will appreciate. This takes the standard 3.5mm plugs.

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On the left you will find the PTT button that is in the same styling as the APX line of portable radios. Just Below the PTT button is a light button (sorry we forgot to get a picture of the LED on the bottom of the mic).

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On the rear of the mic is a rotating clip that allows the mic to mount to clothing at different angles.

As for the performance of the Microphone, Audio is loud and sounds better than most Bluetooth mics. Running the volume at full blast produces a rather impressive level of audio. The PTT button has a crisp break so you can feel if you are keying up. The layout is intuitive and consistent with existing shoulder mics so users will have no problem figuring out how to operate it. Pairing is where Motorola has really made it easy.  With the Portable radio on (Bluetooth turned on as well) simply turn on the microphone and  bring the blue dot on the microphone to the blue dot on the radio and the pairing process will start automatically. No need to scroll through menu’s, search for devices etc. With Motorola’s Accessory Programming Software, users have the ability to customize how the microphone acts. For example users can turn off tones, change the functionality of the light button etc. but what about when used with a APX radio? When we used this mic with a APX 8000 radio we found that the Bluetooth mic had much more gain than the radio mic. This caused audio levels to change depending on what the user was using. We had to tweak with the audio profiles in our radios to get the mic to sound more like the radios mic. I would have expected Motorola to have had this closer right out of the box. A note to technicians setting up APX 8000’s, Pay close attention to the audio settings in CPS. Don’t count on Motorola on this one. Where was I? ahhh yes on with the review…

The Range of the Microphone is quite good. Some of our facilities are in dense concrete buildings. It turns out that a lot of work we do is right were the radio doesn’t have coverage. With the Bluetooth mic, we are able to leave our radio by a window or in a room closer to the exterior where there is coverage. I found it is also nice to leave my radio on my tool bag and just carry the mic with me if i’m up on a ladder. As you start to reach the limit of Bluetooth range, The microphone will beep letting you know you are going to far. The beep is also a good reminder that you might be leaving your radio behind.