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Motorola Talkabout MR355R

July 13, 2012
Bill Waugaman , Ohio Valley Outdoors

When looking to purchase two-way radios, Motorola radios get a lot of attention. It is a name brand well known for electronics and has a reputation for good quality.

--- Physical Description

The MR355R is similar in design with the hour glass shape, but has quite a few enhancements. The control buttons are larger making it easier to use while wearing gloves. A red emergency siren button is located between the on/off/volue control and the antenna. On the left side, there are two (2) PTT buttons (one for high power, one for low power) and a mini-USB jack used to recharge the battery pack using a computer, wall outlet or car charger (optional cable required). A single LED in the bottom is controlled by a push button on the right side. The headset/mike jack is on the right side just below the antenna. Overall dimensions are approximately 7 " tall by 2 1/3" wide by 1 1/3" thick. The total weight with NiMH battery and excluding belt clip is only 6.0 ounces.

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Motorola MR355

--- Functionality

Each time a radio is released, features and functionality are enhanced or expanded from previous models. The MR355R is no exception and has just about every typical feature a person would want: 22 channels (7 FRS, 8 GMRS, 7 shared FRS/GMRS), 121 Interference Eliminator Codes (38 analog, 83 digital), 11 NOAA weather channels, 10 call alert tones and VibraCall vibrating call alert, hands-free (VOX and iVOX) mode, channel scan and channel monitor, QT noise filter, talk confirmation tone, backlit LCD display, battery power indicator, audible low battery alert, time out timer, keypad lock, keypad tones.

--- Worth Additional Explanation

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The single LED flashlight is very nice. In testing, the LED was on for 23 hours and only drained the battery down by one bar in the indicator. At night, it was surprisingly bright almost matching small, multi-LED flashlights.

The MR355R has 5 typical call tones and 5 animal call tones (duck, turkey, elk, goose, coyote). If you don't like the ringing or animal calls, all tones can be turned off and the radio can be set to vibrate.

Transmitting is the greatest drain on battery power. The PTT buttons on the MR355R gives the user a choice. Low power extends battery life but shortens the range; high power give more range but drains the battery quicker. FRS channels only transmit on low power.

The radio can operate on 3 AA batteries. Alkaline batteries can last 2-3 times longer than rechargeable NiMH batteries or the battery pack.

This radio had 8 additional GMRS channels (designated 15R to 22R) that work with repeater towers. Simply explained, when using a repeater GMRS channel, the signal from the radio is picked up by a repeater base station tower and then retransmitted; this gives the MR355R substantially more range than unit-to-unit communication. Using GMRS repeaters has requirements and possible fees that may apply. The advertised range of 35 miles is not based on a repeater channel.

There are two modes for scanning channels, basic and advanced. A 'priority' feature will automatically switches the radio to your base channel/code when scanning.

The MR355R can automatically receive NOAA Weather Radio emergency alerts.

The Emergency Alert Mode has to be one of the best safety features. When the button is depressed for 3 seconds, the red power indicator light stays lit, all buttons are temporarily locked, a warbling siren is emitted from the speaker at maximum volume for 8 seconds, the radio then goes into a 22 second transmit mode at maximum sensitivity without the need to depress the PTT button, a talk confirmation tone is transmitted and the radio then returns to normal function. Other Motorola radios (MR, EM and MJ series) within range will pick up the warbling alert, voice transmission and roger beep if on the same channel and privacy code (or the '0' privacy code). Other Motorola FRS/GMRS radios and radios from other manufacturers on the same channel/code (or channel/code '0') will receive a monotone siren, voice transmission and roger beep.

--- Room for Improvement

The iVOX feature is for voice activated communication using the built-in microphone. In the test radios, this feature did work but sensitivity was less than expected.

Having an optional ear wrap that could be attached or left off of the earbud would be good.

The MR355R is water resistant, not waterproof. In June, Motorola is releasing a waterproof model MS350R that floats.

QT Noise Filtering is designed to filter out unwanted transmissions from other radios in areas of heavy radio traffic. With over 2,600 channel/code combinations, I don't see this as a 'must have'.

--- Other Nice Features

It may seem very minor, but the belt clip attaching easily and swiveling is a very nice feature.

The sound clarity is very good through the built-in speaker.

Easy to navigate menu system.

--- Power Output

FRS: .380 Watt; GMRS: 1.32 Watts. Don't let this fool you. FRS/GMRS radios all have similar output due to FCC regulations. Several other factors come in to play that effect performance in two-way radios. The most important factor is the antenna specifications since it effects both the transmit and receive side. Effected Radiated Power and the circuitry in a radio further impact range.

--- The Range Game

Up to 35 miles? This is a calculated value based on optimum conditions and unobstructed line of sight. Motorola has a very good graphic printed on the packaging showing realistic communication range. My range testing are based on our typical terrain of open fields, underbrush, wooded lots, power lines, buildings, hills, valleys and any combination thereof.

.75 mile (open fields with a tree line in between) excellent communication on FRS and GMRS

.88 mile (half open fields and half dense wooded lot) excellent communication on FRS and GMRS

1.0 mile (2/3 open fields and 1/3 wooded lot) at this point, older model radios would have a problem; the MR355R had excellent communication on FRS and GMRS

1.3 miles (just over crest of hill) communication in GMRS was good, FRS was marginal

1.4 miles (10% open field, 90% thick wooded lots) no FRS, and GMRS was poor

2.3 miles (hilltop to hilltop, a mix of open fields, wooded lots) in GMRS, communication would rate as 'good'; in FRS, the signal was broken up with background static.

3.1 miles (hilltop to over crest on another hilltop) FRS would not reach, GMRS was OK, but with background static

One radio inside a house and the other outside - at .86 mile with a nearby house, power lines, a small hill and scattered trees in between, the radios would communicate in GMRS but had noticeable background static

Three other factors greatly effected the range. First, when one radio was inside a vehicle and the other outside; second, when one radio is stationary and the other moving; third, not holding the radio with the antenna vertical

Motorola offers two packages with these radios. The MR355R value pack includes 2 radios, 2 NiMH rechargeable battery packs, a dual drop-in desktop charger, 2 belt clips and 2 earbuds with PTT microphone. MSRP for the MR355R package is $89.99. The MR356R value pack has an MSRP of $109.99, and includes 2 radios, 1 mini-USB car charger, 2 flexible earpieces with boom microphone, a dual drop-in charger, 2 NiMH rechargeable battery packs and 2 belt clips.

I really like Motorola's MR355R. Anything considered unfavorable is more a matter of personal preference, not performance.

www.motorola.com

First Published May 2011

 
 

 

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