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Friday, June 5, 2015

Grenadier1 Review: TERMN-8R Radio

AnyTone (The TERMN-8R manufacturer) is awaiting final details from FCC before releasing more TERMN-8Rs to sales/distribution channels.  They expect this to be resolved very soon.  If you have a TERMN-8R(s) ordered, we'll ship them as soon as they hit our shop.

Grenadier1 sent over his review of the radio, posted below.  We appreciate gear reviews from serious Patriots.

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The Three Percent society kindly provided me with a sample of the Termn-8r to do a review. I have had the device for a couple of weeks now and this is my thoughts on the general impression of the device and its performance.

Initial impression

Out of the box the unit is impressive. Its construction seems solid and rugged. You can feel that while this device is plastic it is a thick resistant plastic and I suspect it will sustain heavy use and treatment. It is not a water proof unit so keep that in mind. I think that would be the next step for Any Tone and one area I think they could improve on. The unit includes a battery, charger, antenna of the short rubber ducky style and a cheap ear piece. The battery and charger are pretty straight forward although one feature not normally found, is that you can obtain a second battery and it will rest and charge in the charger without the radio attached. This allows you to charge one while operating with the other. That’s a little touch but I like it.

Lay out of the controls is well thought out. The keypad is easy to operate and I found it large enough to work with a pair of gloves on. Drawing from other radio designs the Termn-8r places channel select, volume and power on pot switches arranged on the top of the unit. This allows for easy operations while the unit is in a pouch or clipped to a belt. Very much in line with the commercial or industrial use this unit may find itself in. There is also on the top of the radio a small “emergency” button. This can be configured via software to transmit an emergency message to other devices in the same talk groups. Again a nice little feature that could prove useful.

The PTT button is large and easy to key and slightly below it lie two additional push buttons that are user programmable. This is a good feature and the configurations are pretty wide. You can set one up to be a PTT for your second channel allowing you to monitor and talk on two different channels without fear of inadvertent cross talk.

The headset and mike cable are the Kenwood type two pin connector. This was a good choice as it is consistent with other low cost units on the market and many users will already own accessories that will mate up with the Termn-8r.

Operation

After unpacking and assembling the unit I powered it up. The display is clear and well lit. The key pad is back-lit as well so this will facilitate operation in low light conditions. You can configure the unit to display in a number of different ways. I set up the display to show the alphanumeric designations from the memory banks so that I could see the repeater designations. The display can show frequency, or alphanumeric names of the channels. Since this unit is capable of operating in various transmission modes the configurations can also be set to lock out changes to settings. This means that if you configure the unit as a commercial radio on a commercial license that it can be locked to only function on the set frequency and settings that you configure via software and cannot be modified in the field. While this might seem silly to the average operator, it's vital for commercial operations. This could be useful in a grid down setting to keep the units configured to a set range so that inexperienced users cannot inadvertently “brick” the radio. Most non radio people can understand “turn it on and push the talk button to call”. They don’t have a clue when you start to get into picking new frequencies and tones.

The TERMN-8R is capable of multiple frequency bands including Short wave. Air bands AM/FM commercial radio, 2M and 70cm amateur bands and weather radio. These are all set from the main keypad with normal power up operation. 

The other modes of transmission are selected at power up so that you can chose to operate on the GMRS and MURS bands with the required limitations of those modes hard coded into the unit. This is different than other low cost units on the market and prevents you from doing scans of all the bands in long continuous sweeps. That could be a problem for some users but I think the other benefits of the device offset that configuration. As I mentioned the scanning of channels I will touch on that here. Its fast, at least faster than my other handheld. The speed can be adjusted so that you can set it to the level you want.

Transmission and reception is good. I had no issues hitting my local repeater. I have been able to reach a few other repeaters that were not accessible using my other low cost handheld. I currently lack equipment to really give the transmission and reception capabilities a good test so I can only speak from practical application but its to be expected that given similar set ups that a little more output power will be a benefit.

Programing

The software for the device is available from the Any Tone website so I downloaded it to a laptop. I have a programing cable for another radio that will work with this unit so I attempted to program a configuration. I had issues with this. I could not get the radio to talk to the software even following the instructions in the user manual. I intend to keep working with this and trying different options, however I wanted to get the local repeaters programed into the radio so I downloaded the latest version of CHIRP which has upgraded to work with the Any Tone units. Very quickly I was up and working and had the radio talking and uploading a configuration. Now CHIRP does not seem to control the vast number of options that the Any Tone software is set up to configure so I would recommend getting the manufacturer package to function if you can.

At this point I will touch on the big potential of this radio when we first read the spec sheets. FHSS. For those who are not aware FHSS or Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum is a technique to prevent unwanted surveillance of your conversation. Essentially it has the radio hopping across a spectrum of frequencies in a pattern controlled by a mathematical algorithm. Unless your radio has the same code set as a transmitting radio you will not be able to pick up the conversation. It takes very sophisticated gear, as in military grade SIGINT gear to pick up on the hopping. So this is a potentially good thing and something that had me really looking into this radio. Well unfortunately I can't find the information in the otherwise very good user manual on how to configure this option. There are mentions of it and options in the menus to enable it but it is not clear if this is actually taking place or what frequencies the radio is utilizing. The manual says the frequencies are set via the software although I have yet to see where this option is at.  Reading around on the internet tells me that this FHSS option is not really functioning like the name would imply and that something else is going on. The jury is still out on this and I am still working on getting it configured.

Conclusions

So out of the box the Termn-8R is a very fine radio. I think it is in the top of the class for the inexpensive Chinese handhelds. The inclusion of multiple bands and dual monitoring along with a host of other features are worth the additional costs associated with purchase. While I do think that there is work to be done by Any Tone I think over all the unit is solid. I would like to see the issue with the FHSS cleared up and corrected. I would like to see water and dust protection on the device and I would like to see the cost drop down to sub $100.00 on this unit. I think that would position the radio at a very good spot in the market. The radio is easy to use and while I did experience some issues programing the unit via software I was able to do set ups manually and with a non OEM software as a workaround. I fully expect to clear up the software issues since it very well could be my machine or some step I am missing. Your experience may be better in that regard.

So is this unit a must have? No I think there are other units out there that will do the job, however I think cost and complexity of the units matter with first time buyers. I would have no issue recommending this unit to a new Ham or a preparedness group looking to standardize. It has a group of features that I think are good to have in a single unit. It’s a rather straight forward unit to operate and it will interface with other lower cost radios like GMRS and MURS.


On a 1 to 10 scale I would rate it a solid 8.

- Grenadier1

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