Never mind the fugly, feel the er, quality..
Yes, that’s a real photo of a real chinese electrolytic someone found during a repair.
I’ve not been doing much radio lately, as life kind of got in the way and my interest in amateur radio is somewhat on the wane, but every now and again it’s good to raise your head from out of the trough long enough to taste the cool summer breeze, as i do, i notice a new email from China in my inbox, i wonder if the air is as fresh over in Quanzhou, Yes, it’s another Chinese radio for me to purchase, or not, this time it’s DMR (TDMA) and it’s a Wouxun, it’s the first DMR Wouxun i’ve seen, and the previous FM set whatever it was was, probably wa the best selling (useable) dual band HT after the ‘christmas cracker quality’ Baofengs which hit the streets, so it slightly caught my attention. It kind of goes without saying that the Wouxun i foolishly bought, shuffled off it’s mortal coil after a only couple of years, after randomly crashing, rebooting, reverting to the default mandarin and forgetting everything. dreadful. At least it was a one minute job to re-upload the frequencies back in the set via the USB lead, Worse still was the Yupiteru 7100 scanner which lasted about the same span, then randomly crashed and burned at random moments too, and occasionally forgot it’s nearly 1000 memories. No USB programming there, that got old really quickly, so sold it as scrap, which reminded me of several Yaesu’s having done the same to me since i was a kid SWL, leaving me fed up and with a broke radio, not good enough.
I moved over to Motorola hardware several years ago and have never been let down with their solid hardware (just their occasional crappy DMR firmware) Yaesu have let me down hundreds of pounds for years, and forced me away with bad gear and worse after sales support, so obviously won’t be buying Yaesu or any of the other Ham names anymore, besides which, i think It all looks like it comes from the same Baofeng factory anyway. I love my FT 101 ZD, probably the best HF rig Yaesu Musen ever made, i love the build quality, but i will get rid soon, as i don’t use HF anymore.
Bad experiences aside, i must say I’m quite pleased that the Chinese manufacturers are now making DMR, obviously the quality is not the main priority when they’re knocking these things out en masse, and predictably the programming software is crap too, thank goodness then for Chirp the open source CPS that does a few other (not just Chinese branded radios) and hooray, i don’t have to even use Windows. Thank goodness for that. 2016 huh.
The firmware in the Chinese sets is often poor, but somewhat shockingly, even Motorola screws up firmware releases, the affected Gen2 MotoTRBO Motorola sets crashed and rebooted if you set the DSP and scanlist in certain combinations, and as if Moto didn’t learn by that mistake, the code monkeys at Motorola recently released a firmware which stopped the sets going into transmit mode. Nice job Moto, but hey, why bother actually testing this stuff ? I am available as a beta tester, email me for my details Moto.
If you’ve got a Chinese radio you may have the added bonus of fixed, naff, and quiet TX audio too, which seems to be getting solved nowadays, and with some recent Chinese DMR sets, there is talk of slot timing issues which slightly worries some DMR repeater keepers (but which Amateurs measure the slot timing accuracy and rise / fall on TDMA sets anyway ?) – these sort of things should be sorted out, if only they spent as much refining these things as they do with bloody cell phones.. but i digress, there seems to be little evidence slot-timing issues are much of a real world problem at present for Amateurs, my guess is the MotoTRBO repeaters are perhaps adjusting their tolerance ‘on the fly’ in these circumstances, but i’ve no proof..
You do get what you pay for of course, and the Chinese sets and Motorola are of course aimed at 2 different markets, and i hope the Chinese manufacturers one day could open-source their software and get the community to do some of the bug testing and development for them, but maybe the Chinese manufacturers are protecting their own IP (insert: irony) or maybe they’re reluctant to anger DVSI and Motorola’s legal department. Only joking 🙂 – well, it’s not stopped them making clones has it, and if it’s not all fake cell phones, and dodgy copies of Windows98 in China, let it be known there were or maybe still are some fake Apple “STOERS” (sic) over there, apparently even some of the employees thought they were actually working for Apple… You can’t make this stuff up can you.. Hopefully the chinese manufacturers will use their famous ingenuity to embrace a emerging market (us lot) my guess is that maybe there aren’t the numbers in the hobby to justify them spending on such R & D..
I do know however, that exactly what the hacking / Ham community needs are people like Travis Goodspeed there in this Youtube presentation over at ShmooCon giving a presentation of his now famous firmware hack of the Chinese TYT MD380 handheld.. and there needs to be more of this. This retro looking website might be interesting if you’re interested. Travis’s blog is interesting too, even if it seems he’s not updated it for a few years.
After seeing this brand new shiny Wouxun KG D901 i was reminded of something else the Chinese HT designers should fix, less important perhaps, it’s the look of some of the sets, this bugs me way more than it should, appearances are of course subjective, but to me, the vast majority of chinese radios seem plain Fugly indeed, some look like they’ve gone out of their way to make them as ugly or as infantile as possible, and some look like they’ve just dropped out of a clown’s arse, stop making them look crap, keep it understated and tasteful, I’m not asking for Johnny Ive to design the bloody things (i mean, it wouldn’t have any buttons would it ?) but make them look like a proper radio, not something that is so ugly you’re likely to get beaten up for just having one at the next radio rally.
Amazingly this DMR Wouxun has a variable mic gain (must have given the designers sleepless nights) but still, they have 16 channel max scan lists ? – not all DMR sets are so limited, so any arguments about scan speed and missing calls ‘because of large scanlists’ is based on an incorrect premise, that such large lists increase likelihood of missing calls, well possibly, do dealers programme huge scanlists into commercial users systems, instead of only just what they need ?
Somewhat refreshingly, there are occasional breaks from this ‘tradition’, as an example, I do like the huge number of contacts you can add to the Connect Systems HT (a few thousand i think it is) – they’ve gone that extra step, which makes it better for masochists who like keeping full contact lists, it seems like Jerry as Connect Systems checked his email, and took notice, and i do understand that there are limitations on what can be done with the hardware and firmware, but it looked interesting and it peaked my interest originally, but i thought the CS700 seemed quite overpriced when compared to what North American buyers were paying, as it’s still a chinese HT, and i refused on principle, I’m an Amateur and i’m tired of pointless restrictions, life’s too short, and if you’re charging Amateur prices, give Amateur facilities.
Some advertising burb even suggest the TYTERA / TYT MD 380 are a copy of the Motorola DP4800, er, no.
I know the TYTs are popular sets, i might even try one, but damn, they need a bit of a makeover, they’re not like a DP4800 other than the keyboard is under the display, the proper place for it. I only just forgave Motorola for making the nice but FUGLY DP3600 and then replacing it with a model that *is* pretty, and screwing the pooch by neglecting to fit an SMA on it – (unless you pay another couple hunded pounds for the blue ATEX model) Yes, Motorola, you suck too, Hams buy your gear too, Moto, and some are about to stop, but to be practical, I require a VFO and other amateur features on my sets now,
I know Moto are not consumer Ham type sets, but i’m already tired of the DP4801’s lack of SMA and lack of real FPP ond no VFO’s and real FPP, it’s not even a real option for us in the west, and vendor lock-in is bad for buyers, if only they recognised it, and If i find a DMR HT with the features below, my DP4801 will be on Ebay and i’d likely buying a HT with hackable firmware. for me a useful DMR HT needs:
- SMA aerial
- standard 2 pin TRS (jack) or something stronger / more pins features, non proprietry but Moto style.
- scanlist not limited to 16ch
- open source firmware / programming software for general hackability, so we can avoid the hateful chinese CPS
- obvious mic gain & other standard features in radio menu you’d expect to find in any other radio
- Full FPP including up/down VFOs and full TG creation without PC. ALL TG rx like the hack for the TYT / Tytera / Retevis MD380 sets
- doesn’t look like crap, good font and display on set too.
There may be more, like not being overpriced, but that’s obvious, and i don’t mention roaming, though i use roaming on our TAC-9 repeaters, and so think it’s very useful, MotoTrbo compatible roaming would be a sure winner in non-Moto sets, but i can live without it. I do wish the HTs were as pretty as the Moto’s however, below are some of the ugliest HTs i’ve ever seen, apologies if you own one, actually no, but why can’t they make them look less crap ?