When Adam at 121radio.co.uk contacted me with an offer of an XTL446 for review on Transmission1, I really couldn’t resist. For those who don’t yet know, the Motorola T6222 is now out of production and its successor is the XTL446. Almost 3 years ago I wrote the review of the T6222 and as our regular readers know, this is the reference set that all other 446 units are judged by. So, does the XTL cut it against its older brother? Read on and find out.
The XTL446 is now shipped in a more compact and basic looking box than the colourful packaging that accompanied the original T6222. Basically Motorola have done away with the bright retail packaging and gone for a more business-like black and white approach. Maybe they are aiming this product at the more serious radio user? In the box you will find the radio, instruction manual and belt clip. Nothing more, nothing less, no surprises here.
First impressions of the XTL 446 are that it does resemble the T6222 but appears to have become a little fatter around the middle! The profile of the two radios is very similar. The button layout is exactly the same but the antenna of the XTL has been modified slightly and appears to be a little longer. Picking the XTL up, it feels very solid in the hand and is easy to grip thanks to “ribs” down each side. The interesting thing about most Motorola 446 units is that the PTT button is still in the centre of the radio and most users are still split between love and hate. Personally I don’t mind the PTT being located in the centre and I have found that children find a radio easier to use in this location.
The power and lighting buttons are located on either side of the LCD display just as in the previous T6222 but the bad news is that they have become even smaller than before. I find them extremely thin and this also goes for the call tone and scan button located just below these. During my testing I found them to be a little frustrating due to their lack of responsiveness.
Many people looking to buy additional units to complement their T6222 will be delighted to know that all the accessories for the previous model are compatible with the XTL thus saving much money as you’ll be able to use your speaker microphones and headsets and batteries etc.
So what has actually changed on the menu and the way that the XTL operates? Well, nothing really, the menus are exactly the same and operate the same way as the T6222. That’s not a bad thing as the T6222 was easy to operate and functioned as expected. If you want a full overview of the features in very much detail then you would be advised to read my previous review of the T6222 as this is exactly the same.
One of my favourite features of the XTL446 is the CTCSS decode. This is one of the few radios that can actually decode the CTCSS channel that other radios are using. Simply pressing the scan key with the CTCSS code set to 0 (disabled) on a channel will result in the radio scanning all 8 PMR-446 channels and when activity is found it will stop and show the channel number along with the CTCSS code if the other radio user is transmitting one. This is an exceptionally useful tool if you are unsure of the code the other person is using. It’s also great for being nosy around your neighbourhood.
I’ve always enjoy scanning around the 8 channels to see how much activity is available in my area and usually it’s quite busy. I live in a reasonable sized town with a mixture of business users and leisure users. We are located by the coast and during the summer months our population rises to around 250,000 meaning a very high chance of activity on the 446 band from holidaymakers, boating enthusiasts and other outdoor pursuits. For the past three months we have had some major building work going on nearby to our house and not surprisingly the builders and other contractors are using PMR 446 to communicate around the site. This means that during the day there is plenty of signals on channel 8 and channel 2 to try out radios with!
The rise in popularity of licence free radio and the availability of cheap sets from Argos and Currys means that there is never a dull moment. The XTL is certainly the best radio for scanning and talking to other users on, it’s so easy to use and the range is exceptionally good.
On air testing of the XTL446 reveals that the audio quality is very high. The built in microphone seems very sensitive to sound and you don’t need to talk close up to the radio in order to be heard clearly. on the menu of the radio there are three microphone sensitivity settings which should suit just about any voice and my advice is to simply experiment with whatever sounds best for your needs as everyone is different. Speaking of voices the XTL naturally supports VOX (Voice activated) mode when using a headset or ear pieces. Adjustments can be made for VOX sensitivity in the menu quite easily. One of the accessories I have tried with the XTL is a Motorola speaker microphone originally designed for the TA288 which is one of Motorolas very first 446 radios introduced at the very beginning of licence free radio in Europe. This works extremely well and the audio was crystal clear.
External speakers and microphones/headsets etc can be plugged into the side of the radio. There is a single pin port on the left hand side of the set. This looks slightly different from the T6222 in that it has a round bezel but all original accessories work just fine. Speaking of accessories the only thing that I have had trouble with is my own T6222 battery chargers. Basically the charger points line up fine on the back of the radio and the radio even fits into the holder perfectly but for some reason it won’t charge up with the rechargeable battery back fitted inside the XTL unless I press down firmly on top of the radio. Maybe it’s just my charger but I can’t confirm this at the moment. One of the selling points of the XTL is that battery life is supposed to be better than the T6222. To be honest I never did find that battery life was a problem on the older model but it does seem to be even better on the XTL. It’s always a difficult performance indicator to measure unless you check it under laboratory conditions as the battery time is directly related to how much you transmit as well as receive.
Performance wise I did some interesting testing against the old T6222 and the XTL. I am pleased to report that the XTL has the same good sensitivity that made the T6222 famous and the way the radio performs on air is just as good. So no major changes there either, after all, why change something that isn’t broke? one thing that certainly hasn’t changed is the 1 minute time out which cannot be disabled by software or otherwise. The Time-Out timer means that if you talk for over 1 minute continuously the radio will stop transmitting. This shouldn’t be a problem unless you have a lot to say! Unfortunately this means that the radio isn’t really suitable for gateway (repeater style) operation, this shouldn’t be a problem for the vast majority of people as this is a specialist enthusiast mode of operation. See 446user.co.uk for more information.
On air I spoke to a number of people to test the XTL446 over a wide range of users. When I switched between the older T6222 and the XTL no one could tell any difference. This is great if you have a business and want to extend the number of radios you currently use, they will be fine to work with the existing Motorolas and should fit in just fine.
The longest distance I had out of the XTL was about 7 miles from a local high point back to the town. Obviously this distance is extreme because I was out in the countryside but if I was in a built up area this was probably drop to around 1-2 miles at the most. Don’t underestimate PMR-446, it has great range potential without making modifications to radios or antennas which would of course be illegal. There are one or two users in my area using ex-business PMR gear reprogrammed for the 446 band which is against regulations but the XTL still held it’s own against them for audio quality and signal strength.
Finally the radio has 10 call tones, all slightly melodic and supports vibrating call alert and has a rather unique feature of showing a little “music note” icon on the screen that stays on after you receive a call from another Motorola unit until you press the PTT bar to cancel it or talk back to the other party. This is very handy for the odd time that might have missed a call due to being in a noisy location or if you put the radio down and missed a call. A little like a mobile phone when you miss a call.
The XTL446 is a worthy successor to the T6222. Whilst it doesn’t offer anything in the way of new features the design has been modernised to give it a new feel and look whilst retaining the best ideas from the old model. The price of the XTL446 was somewhat higher at launch being around £89-99 which seemed rather odd compared to the £59 price of the old T6222 but at the time of writing the XTL446 is now available for the most reasonable sum of £59.99 from 121radio.co.uk thanks to the latest price drop. Basically the best place to buy this new model. If you do happen to visit their website for any radio gear please let them know that Transmission1 sent you along.
My thanks go out to Adam at 121radio.co.uk for the loan of the set. I’m sorry to see it go back, it’s been great fun testing it out around our area over the last few weeks. Definitely one of the finest radios you can buy at this moment for PMR-446.