Retevis has a Black Friday event going on until 24 November. It might be a great time to pull the trigger on budget friendly dual-band HT.
After years of frustration with the infamous Baofeng UV series of rigs, I found myself looking for a budget-friendly alternative for a couple of my VHF/UHF dual-band HT projects. Thankfully, the budget-friendly dual-band HT has evolved. Some of these rigs have become rugged alternatives to the budget-bashing models from the bigger brands.
My previous name-brand dual-band HT experiences came from radios like the Yaesu VX5R, FT-60, and Kenwood TH-D7, TH-D72, … Each of these radios brought practical features to the market.
- Yaesu – Ingress protection
- Yaesu – 12v DC charging port
- Yaesu – SWL RX, wide RX
- Yaesu – Magnesium case
- Yaesu – Optional GPS add-on
- Kenwood – Full duplex TX/RX/TX VHF/UHF, VHF/VHF, UHF/UHF, …
- Kenwood – TNC built-in
- Kenwood – APRS built-in
- Kenwood – GPS built-in
- Kenwood – 12v DC charging port
Searching for a Japanese HT
Recently, I began doing more work on dual-band VHF/UHF radios on the channel and blog. This process actually started about half a year ago, but I could not find a new Japanese HT with the feature set I wanted/needed. Older models had many of these features, but they had been discontinued.
Those amazing features have been rolled back by Japanese manufacturers, in favor of a sometimes “less is more” approach to the dual-band HT. Don’t get me wrong though. The radios are great and have lots of features. Sadly, the most practical (and advanced features) aren’t always on offer.
What I wanted was an analog radio which was:
- Waterproof and dustproof
- Has USB-C port for charging
- Has wide RX for listening to out of band frequencies
- Has cross-band operation
- Won’t require a charging dock for charging
- Able to send analog data modes when integrated with a digirig.
- Full Duplex would be nice (but not holding my breath)
The Kenwood TH-D75 would have fit the bill, but it lacked ruggedness, and was way out of budget. It also isn’t available yet.
Retevis RA89: Searching for a more budget-friendly HT
As mentioned earlier, I didn’t have lots of experience with other Chinese brands beyond the UV series. I did have a few offers from companies offering to work with the channel for reviewes, and content, … One of them was Retevis.
Reluctantly, I gave them my requirements and told them about the projects I had in mind for the radios (and glad I did!). They suggested two different radios for the analog projects. One of them was the Retevis RA89 dual-band HT. The other was the Retevis RA79 dual-band HT.
Both of these rigs have practical features any Operator would like to have.
The RA89 is an IP68 waterproof/dustproof analog dual-band radio. It has charging over a USB-C port via its 2500mah battery. It does not require the docking port for charging!
Considering this radio would be used on a chest pack, the IP68 ingress protection was a huge deal. Not having to protect the radio from the elements, means I can mount more fragile components inside the chest pack, while the HT rides in a skeleton pouch externally.
The above image shows a mock-up of my VHF/UHF data modes chest pack go kit using the Retevis RA89.
From a rugged perspective, the Retevis RA89 was designed to be a step up from the previous IP67 selection from Retevis. Moreover, It was designed to meet or exceed FCC & EU requirements for spectrum purety and harmonic distortion. The radio received certifications for both US and EU regulations. Take a look at this video from “The Smokin Ape”, testing the RA89.
The USB-C charging was also huge. One of the things always putting me off from the UV-style radios was the need to carry that charging dock around to charge the radio in the field. Yeah there are cable adapters and special battery packs, but I’m all about the “Keep it simple stupid” approach to my kits. So no unnecessary cables or adapters.
The RA89 allows us to plug straight into the battery pack with a USB-C cable for charging. It also allows us to drop the radio into a traditional charging dock, itself plugged into a USB port. Yeah, we have come a long way!
So, the ruggedness of the RA89, its USB charging and optional charging dock use, its clean clear audio and spectral clarity, as well as its budget-friendly price make it a practical dual-band HT worth investigating.
If you’re interesed in the Retevis RA89, you can use the links for your region for a Black Friday discount.
These are NOT affiliate links.
Retevis RA79: Excellent features, budget-friendly
The RA79 also has some very interesting features. First and foremost, the wide RX from 50Mhz, up to 600Mhz continously. This includes airband, NOAA, FM broadcast band, … The specs are slightly different from North American than Europe.
This wide RX capability is huge as it allows us to monitor our primay frequency, plus an additonal out-of-band frequency eg FRS, GMRS, PMR, Airband, … with a single radio. It’s also possible to select two out-of-band frequencies to monitor, utilizing the RA79 as a receiver.
Like the RA89, the RA79 also has built-in USB charging. Unlike the RA89, the RA79 has emplemented the USB port on the radio case, rather than the battery. This clever feature allows one to change or remove the battery pack while the USB cable is plugged in, without having to power down the radio. The RA79 will take its power from the USB port during a battery swap! That’s very clever!
In my opinion, someone put a great deal of thought into how Operators will use these radios out in the field. The very pragmatic hot-swap capability of removing a fully charged battery pack, replacing it with a depleated pack (or vice-versa) for charging, provides us with very capable battery and charge management. I may be mistaken, but I have not seen this functionality demonstrated on any other dual-band HT in this budget price range.
HD1 DMR radio
There was one more radio I thought to mention. I’ve said this before, but will say it again. The world is becoming more dangerous! When operating with a local or community group, we require HF AND VHF/UHF comms capabilities. Having only one or the other won’t cut it. To that end and in addition to HF radio concepts, we will begin working with DMR radios on the channel.
DMR radios have certain capabilities that can help ensure our safety and ultimately, our security if SHTF. The HD1 GPS should arrive during the next few weeks, and we’ll start our journey down the DMR road. You may want to be subscribed to the Rumble channel, as some of the DMR content, may not be “YT friendly”. All in good taste, but we need the freedom to explain concepts and means, from outisde the box.
I’ll leave it there for now.
The HD1 DMR radio with built-in GPS is fully DMR Tier I and Tier II compliant, has built-in APRS, Cross-band operation, 3000 channels 256 zones and up to 200000 contacts; support signal call group call and all call; IP67 waterproof walkie-talkie allows you to use it in rain or snow or inclement weather.
Data Modes Chest Pack
If you would like to know more about my VHF/UHF Data Modes Chest Pack, take a look at the article here. https://oh8stn.org/blog/2023/11/09/retevis-ra89-microsoft-surface-chest-pack-go-kit/
The chest pack kit was designed to carry a VHF/UHF data modes load out, independent of a ruck or INCH pack. Infact, it was specifically designed to integrate with the various packs we would be carrying anyway.
Certainly looks like some of the Chinese brands (like Retevis) are doing the research work to better understand Operator needs. If they keep moving this fast, they will certainly bridge that gap between where the UV radios were just a few years ago, and where the big name brands are now. In some respects, Retevis may have already surpassed some of the mainstream rigs. Interesting times fr sure.
Huge thanks to Retevis for supporting the channel without conditions.
For those of you remembering or celebrating Thanksgiving, wishing you a wonderful festive season.
Off-Grid Ham Radio blog: https://oh8stn.org
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