TYT MD-390 UHF DMR Handheld First Impressions.

Started by gil, January 03, 2017, 04:31:35 am

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January 03, 2017, 04:31:35 am Last Edit: January 03, 2017, 04:38:41 am by gil

The TYT MD-390 uses the same case as the MD-680, except for the color screen. It feels rugged. As far as functionalities I believe it is the same as the MD-380. I use V1.36 of the programming software, which I will attach to this post along with the latest firmware and flashing program. Don't "upgrade" if yours is a more recent version. Programming is different from the MD-680 but once you understand what a Color Code, Time Slot and Talk Group are, it is pretty easy. You only have those three terms to understand to use DMR radio.

Why buy a DMR radio? I personally think it is more of a gimmick than anything else, for prepping at least. A DMR radio is also an analog radio, so you can use it like any other handheld. The DMR part is an extra feature... I paid about $145 for the MD-390, $80 for the MD-680, so those aren't in the Baofeng price range. They are both waterproof to IP67. One advantage in our realm of use is the added security. Not everyone is going to have a DMR radio to listen to your conversations. The MD-680 even allows encryption but it is not compatible with amateur radio since it does not have TS2 (Time Slot 2), only 0 and 1. Encryption is illegal anyway, but you would have that feature after a total collapse. I got the two radios to talk to each other using DMR in simplex. If the MD-390 can do encryption I haven't found out how yet and did not see any place to enter the keys.

The MD-390 uses a proprietary programming cable since the USB/Serial chip is inside the radio, not the cable like the Baofeng cable. The Baofeng cable does work for the MD-680. If you get a 390 make sure the cable is included. The latest firmware below added the 1750Hz required to open many repeaters in Europe, but the power selection button no longer works. Oh well, I need the 1750Hz tone since my local analog repeater does not use CTCSS. I can't understand why not use both... ::)

Using the two radios I was able to maintain a conversation up to ten kilometers between my car and a fifth-floor apartment terrace. Unlike analog, DMR has a great sound right up to the edge of the operational range. One minute it works, the next, nothing.

A few HAMs here have a local unlisted repeater. One is being built right now for the town of Lille, so my MD-390 will be used regularly. I can't help but think that when the Internet goes down, so does DMR, at least the network part. A repeater will still work locally of course. I also programmed my radio to listen to the PMR channels, which is the equivalent of FRS for Europe. I wish TYT made a VHF/UHF version. Someone undoubtedly will.

I listen to two talk groups here, the local one on 20859 and Florida on 3112. You can listen to Florida here: http://hose.brandmeister.network/3112/ and my local talk group here: http://hose.brandmeister.network/20859/ in French of course, but you can call me in English if you see my first name pop up. Don't miss the Brandmeister site: https://brandmeister.network and DMR Marc: http://dmr-marc.net where you register your radio.

Choosing UHF for local communications has been a tough call. 70cm allows the building of small efficient antennas, my primary concern. It is more subject to obstacles and will generally not extend beyond a somewhat clear line of sight. My other choices were 2m and 6m. VHF would have been a great choice too. I yet have to try 2m SSB. There might be an MFJ-9402 with my name on it somewhere... I like the idea of 6m as well with military manpacks like the PRC-351 and PRC-350, but those are heavy. Handhelds are just more practical. I need to revisit the idea of using CB for local communications, which should have a slightly better range than UHF. Yet, a Yagi-Uda for 70cm is pretty small. One has to stop somewhere... Piling up gear that will seldom be used is futile.

I would definitely recommend the MD-390 if you plan on making contact with the outside world. For inter-group communications, the MD-680 has a lot to offer.