Chinese PMR Special – A Buyers Guide to Low Cost Two Way Radios on the Internet

If you have been online recently looking at the radio category on the popular auction website eBay then you have probably seen a large number of Chinese sellers selling radio communication products at incredibly cheap prices. Some pieces of gear and well known brand names in the communication industry such as Icom and Yaesu but there is a growing number of unfamiliar names to the radio scene. Jington, Puxing, Wouxun, Linton and Weierwei and Abell may not yet be “household” names but they are doing their best to get the western radio amateur interested in their products. So are these two way radios junk or do they compete with the big names? At the lower prices they are sold for on eBay you could be forgiven for dismissing them as junk but as the following article proves, that is not necessarily the case and they may also appeal to those on a limited budget and just starting off on the air.

Introduction

Many of the radios on sale are clones of popular commercial two way radios such as those made by Kenwood and Motorola. The story goes that a number of Chinese manufacturers bought the rights to some of the older Kenwood and Motorola designs. Indeed there are a number of radios on sale that model themselves around the big brand name equivalent. Abell for example, produce a radio called the Abell TH-378 and is the same as a Kenwood radio of similar name and model number. The Abell company even reuses the old Kenwood instruction booklet! So why buy the clone radios when you could have the original brand name? Well for starters the price difference! Some of the radios are sold as cheap as £25 including postage for a fully functional 2m or 70cm radio! Some of the better models cost around £50 per set but that is practically nothing when you compare a Motorola commercial PMR equivalent costing £250 upwards. I’ve seen a number of guides point out that these radios do not comply with FCC and CE approvals meaning that they cannot legally be used on a commercial PMR system in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. Whilst this is true the vast majority of purchasers are simply radio amateurs and they can legally used non-type approved equipment (with the exception of M3 foundation class licence holders).

So is the quality any good? Again, decide for yourself but I have purchased several different brands and put them through their paces and all have been surprisingly good! The sound, audio quality and signal strength in most cases has been as good if not better than some ham gear I have owned! A lot of rubbish has been written in the past regarding inferior build quality on certain models but really you need to put it into perspective for the prices you are paying. Some of the transceivers we are going to take a look at in this review feel as well built as anything that Yaesu or Icom has ever produced. Some simply are non approved because they have not been submitted for testing in Europe. The first Chinese manufacturer to achieve CE and R&TTE approval is Puxing.

Generally the radios do not always meet requirements as the deviation level and bandwidth may not match the band plan of that country for commercial purposes. Some of these transceivers actually have wide and narrow selectable bandwidth on the newer models but remember that they should not be used for PMR! It is worth noting that whilst illegal, many users are buying these cheap radios and using them on the Euro licence free band, PMR-446. Many of the sets offer the rather useful 6.25 KHz step so they can be programmed up exactly on the frequencies required for this band. Other users are simply unaware that they are doing anything wrong and buying either a VHF or UHF radio and finding a clear channel to make a private chat frequency. It is worth scanning the main frequency ranges that these radios cover because it is a bit of an eye opener to see how many people are breaking the law, some without even knowing! One of the interesting points that was made to me recently is that the radios appear cheap on eBay but the postage is high. The key thing to remember with the sellers on eBay is that they are making money on the postage costs. Always remember to add the price of the radio PLUS the cost of postage together as this is the total price you will pay. Think of the total cost you are paying as the price for the radio including delivery. It still works out very reasonable and the main reason sellers on eBay do this is to avoid the high final valuation fees that eBay charge. It would be all the same if a seller charged £50 for a radio and then £5 for postage but instead offered the radio at £25 and charged £30 postage!

Coverage

Generally two type of radio are sold; VHF and UHF. So far I have not seen any dual band variants but given time I am sure they will appear. Some of the older models from a couple of years ago only had limited coverage of certain bands so it is important that you do not buy these as coverage starts too high for the 70cm ham radio band, assuming that is what you are going to use the radio for. The VHF radios usually cover 136-174 MHz and the UHF ones 400-480 MHz although I have seen some that go even higher than this but remember that the TV broadcast band is above 470 MHz in the UK so you definitely want to stay away from there!

Buyers Guide

Please note that this is not a definitive guide to all manufacturers products, just a few we have picked out that are the most popular or easily available on Ebay and similar outlets. There are many variations out there and possibly some others we have never seen! Please let us know if you spot any more that are becoming increasingly popular and we will add them to the list in a future article. Nearly all the radios listed in our buyers guide have the following features.

  • Computer programmable with data cable and software for Windows
  • Direct Keypad Frequency/Channel Entry
  • Backlit Display
  • Scanning
  • Alpha tags memory
  • CTCSS and DCS
  • Drop in Charger using Li-On Battery or Ni-Mh

Most of the radios share one thing in common, an appalling user manual written in strange variants of the English language. Obviously translation was not their strong point but then again neither is my Chinese! Don’t say you were not warned! Expect to figure things out yourself or ask for help in our forums and I’m sure someone will come along to assist!

Some radios even have a scrambler built in along with other interesting features! One even has an FM radio that you can use whilst waiting for a call! One thing is for sure, the Chinese are shaking up the communications market with all this cheaper gear and love it or hate it, it’s here to stay!


Puxing

Chinese Site: http://www.pxdz.com/english/products.asp

Puxing 777 RadioPuxing 777

Available in VHF and UHF models. As of 14/10/06 only VHF model has achieved certification of CE compliance and R&TTE compatibility. UHF model currently being tested.

A Puxing 777 PLUS model has now also been launched. It appears to be the same as the previous model but has a voice scrambler and ANI function (like an identifying number for each radio in a group).

  • VHF 5W UHF 4W output power
  • 118 Groups of memory channels
  • Built-in 50 Groups of CTCSS and 104 Groups of DCS
  • Wide(25kHz) and Narrow(12.5kHz) available
  • Comes with 1200mAh Li-ion battery
  • Input Frequency By keypad
  • VOX built-in
  • Scan function
  • Three colour LCD backlight display
  • Emergency Alarm
  • Programmable by PC (Cable available separately)
  • Bell ring when receiving signal
  • Priority Scan Function
  • Adjust power Hi/Lo
  • Switching between Channel/Freq.
  • Adjust squelch level(0-9)
  • Busy channel lockout
  • Keypad lock
  • Reverse Freq Function
  • Channel stepping 5k,10k,6.25k,12.5k,25k
  • DTMF code

Comments: Good all round radio. Nice build quality, intelligent battery charger that turns off when battery is full. Sounds good on the air for both transmit and receive. Compatible with some Kenwood accessories such as speaker microphones etc. Very bright LCD backlighting in attractive colours. Nobody would realise that you paid peanuts for it!


 
Linton/KYD

Website: http://www.linton.cn/ (appears to be down at time of writing)

LT3288 Two Way RadiosLinton LT-3288 UHF / Linton LT-2288 VHF

Main distributor: Euro Radio Sales – http://www.euroradiosales.com/

  • Memory Channels: 99
  • Freq. range: 400-470MHz  (or 136-174 MHz)
  • Channel Steps 5, 6.25, 12.5 & 25KHz
  • Power Supply 7.4V DC Ni-MH
  • RF output: MAX 5W @ 12v DC
  • 50 Ctcss Encode/Decode
  • Keypad operation
  • HI/LO RF output power
  • 99 Memories
  • Repeater Shift
  • Key Lock
  • Battery level indication
  • 6-Digit Alphanumeric Memory Tags
  • Blacklight display & keypad
  • Rugged Die-Cast Aluminium Case
  • Audio output: 1.5W
  • Auto power off
  • Size: 100 x 55 x 30mm
  • Fully field programmable via the keypad
  • PC programmable via interface cable (not included)

Comments: Very high quality audio on incoming RX. Perhaps the best in the group we have tested. Outgoing audio excellent too. Some models appear to be distributed with Ni-MH batteries and others with Li-On. The two battery types and radios are not compatible, e.g.. you can’t upgrade Ni-MH model to Li-On later. Good all round performer but expect it to be dropped from current product line soon as it’s been in production for over two years now. Other models have more features but still worth checking out due to audio quality. UHF model I tested had an annoying “birdie” frequency on Channel 4 of the 446 band.

KYD appears to be the same as Linton. All features are the same but different colour backlighting and packaging. Other than that they are practically the same specifications.


Weierwei

Manufactuer site: http://www.gzwew.com/ (you need Chinese Character set font to view correctly)

Weierwei VEV3288sWeierwei VEV-3288s UHF

  • Frequency Range 400 ~ 470MHz
  • 118 Groups of memory channels
  • Built-in 50 Groups of CTCSS and 104 Groups of DCS
  • Channel Steps 5k,10k,6.25k,12.5k,25k
  • Wide(25kHz) and Narrow(12.5kHz) available
  • Comes with 1200mAh Li-ion battery
  • Input Freq. By using keypad
  • VOX built-in
  • Scan function
  • Three colour LCD backlight display
  • Emergency Alarm
  • Programmable by PC
  • Bell rings when receiving signal
  • Priority Scan Function
  • Adjust power Hi/Lo
  • Switching between Channel/Freq.
  • Adjust squelch level(0-9)
  • Busy channel lockout
  • Keypad lock

Comments: Another good radio to look out for. Works well and does the job efficiently. Not as easy to program as the Linton’s. It has a programming mode and a channel mode which involve holding down keys at power on. Software is available for programming from the link above and you will need a Kenwood type lead to do this as with most of the clone radios.  Strange Alarm mode included when you press the two side buttons. Bizzare! Rather thin/slimline antenna supplied but works extremely well. The only thing I worry about is snapping it off! (not the antenna shown in the picture). 


Wouxun

Manufactuer website: http://www.wouxun.com/

Wouxun 669KG-669

  • UHF 400-470 MHz or 136-174 MHz VHF Version
  • DTMF encoding and decoding, CCIR standards
  • Steps: 5, 6.25, 10, 12.5, 25 KHz
  • Output power VHF 5W/UHF 4W
  • VOX transmission (VOX level adjustable)
  • 105 groups DCS/50 groups CTCSS
  • All call, group call and select call.
  • ANI ID code (Caller ID)
  • Scrambler set (Optional accessory)
  • 128 memory channels and 1 group emergency channel
  • Voice prompt (Chinese /English)
  • Width/Narrow brand select (12.5KHz/25KHz)
  • Three color back light can be selectable .
  • 1200mAh Li-ion battery and intelligent charge
  • Frequency/Channel/Frequency+Channel display mode
  • Multi scan mode(TO/CO/SE)
  • Calling ring and ring overtime auto answer
  • Multi silent mode(QT/QTADT/QTXDT)
  • Alarm/Emergency calling
  • Keyboard lock(Auto/Manual)
  • Talk around function
  • Busy channel lockout
  • Programmable by computer
  • Menu/Channel reset
  • FM radio function

Comments: Good build quality and has an FM radio built in. Reception quality on FM radio was very poor with supplied antenna but this will obviously be a compromise considering that the antenna is cut for 400 MHz. Maybe works better on VHF version. This radio actually speaks to you! Voice prompts on the menus along with numerical confirmations. Feature can be disabled if needed. Chinese or English language is selectable. Radio is very sensitive and works well across it’s given range. No scrambler or in review model but ANI appears to work. A “Plus” version has appeared recently and this has the scrambler function built inside. The only problem with this model is that I haven’t worked out how to put it into PC Programming mode! Can anyone help?


Feidaxin FD-150Feidaxin

Manufacturers website: http://www.feidaxin.com/english/index.asp

FD-150A/450A

  • Built-in 50groups of CTCSS and 104 groups of DCS
  • LCD & keypad backlit display ,blue digital keyboard
  • Standby time:120hours
  • Scan function, keypad lock
  • Rainproof
  • Hi/Lo power select(1W-5W)
  • Programming method: computer/manual
  • Charger LED indicator (red-charging; green-fully charged)
  • Signal strength indicator
  • Key sound
  • Battery indicator
  • Semi-duplex operation
  • Reverse Frequency
  • Adjustable squelch level:0-9

Comments: Similar to other radios from Puxing and Wouxun. We have not tested this model but the feature set is virtually the same as others in the price bracket. This model claims to be rainproof. Makes some radios in very bright colours! Red, Yellow etc.
 
FD-268A and FC-268B

New 2007 models from Feidaxin – these are some really slim stylish transceivers measuring 56(W) x 96(L) x 30mm(D) and even includes a bright white LED flashlight. Ideal for camping and other night time useage.

  • Built-in 50groups of CTCSS and 104 groups of DCS
  • LCD & keypad backlit display
  • Standby time: 120hours
  • Scan function, keypad lock
  • Rainproof
  • Feidaxin FDC-268Hi / Lo power select(1W-5W)
  • Programming method:computer/manual
  • Charger LED indicator(red-charging; green-fully chaged)
  • Signal strength indicator
  • Key sound
  • Battery indicator
  • Semi-duplex operation
  • Reverse Frequency
  • Adjustable squelch
  • Frequency Range…
  • (FD-268A) 136-174MHz
  • (FD-268B) 400-470MHz
  • Channels Memory: 99
  • CTCSS: 50 tone
  • Channel Steps: 5, 10, 6.25, 12.5, 25kHz
  • Power Supply: 7.2V 1200mah Li-ion
  • Operating Temperature: -30°C ~ +60°C
  • Antenna connector: SMA(SMA-J)
  • Antenna Impedance: 50ohms
  • Dimension (H x W x D): 98 x 50 x 30 mm
  • Weight: 198g

 Jingtong/Kington

UK Distributors website: http://www.jingtong.co.uk/ (radios shipped from Thailand!)

Jington JT-308Jingtong JT-308 (UHF) / Jingtong JT-208 (VHF Version)

Available in UHF and VHF versions. Kington and Jingtong appear to be similar radios with just slight modifications to casing. Kington was released to appeal more to Western buyers.

  • Frequency Range – 400.000 – 470.000MHz
  • Rated Voltage – 7.2v NiCd Battery Pack
  • Memory – 15 Channels
  • Frequency Steps 5 / 10 / 12.5 / 25KHz Selectable.
  • Antenna Connector SMA
  • Antenna Impedance 50 ohm
  • Dimensions 100x50x30 mm (Approx)
  • Output Power 2.5w
  • Modulation Mode FM VHF
  • Display Backlit LCD

Comments: Bargain basement handheld. Reasonable receive but lower output power than other handhelds. No 6.25 KHz steps. More of a first generation radio than some of the newer sets but can be found about £15 + shipping on ebay sometimes! Some units feature CTCSS but others don’t have the facility so it’s worth checking. Main problems include muffled sound. Comments from others say “It sounds like you’ve got a sock over the microphone”. Apparently this phenomenon occurs on some sets because the manufacturer didn’t place a hole in the right part of the case to allow the built in mic to pick up correctly. This is easily overcome using a speaker mic or headset. I’ve tested a couple of these radios and they didn’t exhibit the problem so it may only be on earlier production runs. 


 Quansheng

Manufacturers Website: (Fujian Nanan City Quansheng Electronics Co., Ltd): http://qsfj.en.alibaba.com/ UK Distributors website: http://www.jingtong.co.uk/ (radios shipped from Thailand!)

Quansheng TG4AT-1-4Quansheng K4AT Transceiver (UHF Version) / K2AT (VHF Version)

  • Frequency Range  400-480 MHz – check before purchase (some older models have 450-470 MHz coverage)
  • Channels 99 Storable
  • Antenna SMA fitting, Inductively Loaded. 50 ohms. Imp.
  • Output Power 4-5 Watts (selectable)
  • Dimensions (Approx)
  • 80 x 50 x 28mm
  • Modulation Mode FM
  • Voltage 7.2v Battery Pack (NiMh)
  • Frequency Steps 5 / 10 / 12.5 / 25KHz
  • Display, Bright Green Backlit LCD
  • Power Socket for using a car charger. Headset Sockets (2.5mm,3.5mm).

Comments: Some models only cover from 450-470 MHz. No 6.25 KHz shift. Probably of limited interest in Europe because of small frequency coverage although I have seen versions of this radio that cover 400 – 470 MHz so it might be worth doing some research. Interesting speech function similar to Wouxun. 


There are others of course but the ones above show the diversity of the Chinese market at this current time. The list will be updated periodically to introduce new brands or models as required. Remember that unless you are a licensed radio amateur these radios could be illegal to use in the UK and Europe. I’ve tried to make the list as accurate as possible but the source of information has been compiled from various sites around the internet and as we all know, mistakes do occur in translation. If you notice any errors then please contact us through the forums or the PM system and we will take a look at your information. Likewise if you know of any other brands that are doing the rounds on the Internet then please do get in touch!

List last updated on 29 May 2007.

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About Transmission1 64 Articles
Simon is the founder and owner of the TM1 website. Since 1999 he has provided the online community with a place to meet up with like minded radio enthusiasts and discuss projects relating to the hobby and a large number of equipment reviews and resources totally free of charge.

7 Comments

  1. Buyer beware, if you buy one of these and it’s faulty on arrival or breaks down a few weeks after purchase then be prepared to pay around 10-12 pounds to send it back to china and wait 3 months for a replacement.
    Also remember that none of these meet uk laws and even though they can be programmed for ham use, you are still breaking the law and face prosecution if caught using one.
    Some of these are also being used on pmr 444, using pushing 10 times the legal power use on uhf, well people think they are but testing a lot of the 4 watt handies suggest they are actually transmitting less than 2 watts, that’s why the battery lasts so long.
    One of those small batteries would give around 25-30 mins talk time if 4 watts were coming out of the antenna.
    I have tested the 2 watt mini ones and measured 1.5-1.7 watts and tested some of the 4 and 5 watt big guns and measured 2.3-3 watts max.
    But as a pro ham user we all know that 1/2 watt and a decent antenna can hit a repeater 10-15 miles away

  2. 坚韧运气儿子! (Tough Luck Son!)
    Try searching for a local Chinese speaking person to translate for you, but be aware that you might then need an Electronics speaking person to translate from “Chinglish”.
    Having tested a lot of Chinese equipment for import into Australia, I can tell you that quality does indeed extend from “Very Bad Toy” to excellent test equipment std. It’s not their ability to manufacture to worry about, but their laws that make it virtually impossible to make a company responsible for their product.
    Most functions will be similar to other radios, and you may even find one that it was copied from -yes, they do that as well.

  3. Please send via email relevant information on how i can begin small to be marketing two way radios. How can i purchase a few samples of the cheap but efficient ones as a sterter. I look forward to your earliest response. Thank you. Richard Opigo.

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