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TYT MD-680 DMR Handheld for Local Comms, Review.

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My first UHF TYT MD-680 arrived today. I wanted to test one before buying more.. They are not as easy to find as the MD-380 and MD-390 models. The 680 is more of a commercial targeted product with no screen and only 32 channels in two banks of 16. Output power is either 6 or a whopping 10W on high.

Why buy a digital radio? I have never liked the idea of digital voice, but it is becoming hard to ignore. My local repeater just tested a DMR system for three months and recently went back to analog while they plan a definitive switch. That got me thinking; since during that period all I heard on the frequency was burping digital sounds. It made me think of privacy. Sure, someone else with a DMR radio can potentially listen to you, but the risks are much lower than with analog. I also need to cover about ten kilometers from ground to a 5th-floor apartment. 10W in UHF should do it. If not, I will need to be a bit creative with antennas, more on that later..

I will compare the TYT to my Baofeng UV-5R+ since that is the only other handheld I own right now.

My first impression upon unboxing the radio was that it seems solid and well built. The plastic is a bit better than Baofeng's, more in line with Yaesu or Icom. The controls click positively and do not wobble at all. I really like the fact that there is no screen, just a 16-click channel selector. The radio is supposedly submersible, but I will not try. The little plastic door covering the jacks doesn't seem to have a seal, though it looks like there is one around the jacks themselves. It might work just fine, I don't know. I certainly would not hesitate using it in heavy rain, unlike my UV-5R+, which I have to admit survived a Gulf Stream crossing and got splashed repeatedly with salt water spray, so who knows.. Contrary to the item description on Ebay there was no programming cable in the box. Fortunately, my Baofeng cable does work, otherwise I would not have been a happy camper. One rubber-ducky antenna is included, a belt clip and charger, which uses 12.5VDC out of an included wall-wart.

The Baofeng does have a few advantages over the MD-680. You can listen to two channels at the same time with the UV-5R. On the TYT you switch memory banks by pressing one of the two programmable buttons below and above the PTT button. You can program them to switch power levels, turn off squelch or change banks, among other things. You switch between channels with the channel selector knob. A voice in English announces the channel numbers. Upon switching banks you hear one or two beeps telling you which bank you are on. That's all there is to it and I like it! There is no way to enter a frequency manually. It does however have CTCSS tones and the 1750Hz tone to open European repeaters. The UV5R is also smaller and lighter. TYT has a female SMA antenna connector on the radio, the opposite of Baofeng.

I had to download the programming software proprietary to the MD-680. I will attach it to this post but check for the latest version. TYT is at They only have the Windows version, unfortunately. It does seem to crash once in a while, so make sure you save your files often. It always surprises me how these Chinese companies can deliver seemingly decent hardware but their software really sucks. I hope this model is added to CHIRP, but it is unlikely. No explanations are included, so I will have to search YouTube videos for DMR programming. Fortunately, programming analog channels is easy. I did get a radio number from the DMR-Marc site:

Sound quality is good, receiving transmissions or heard on another radio. You will have to wait a bit for a range report, to be posted on this thread later, along with further testing. I need to investigate the possible effect of using a 10W UHF handheld close to my head.. I certainly won't use the high power setting unless absolutely necessary or with a remote antenna.

DMR does make sense with an analog capable radio. I would not have bought it had it been digital only. I consider it an extra to a good UHF analog radio. Antenna efficiency is better on UHF than 2m given the short rubber duckies sold with handhelds. Tactically it will offer better privacy if ever needed. The price isn't bad around $80. I will order at least one more, maybe two, or a 390..


I just had my first contact with the Lille repeater about ten miles away. The repeater reported me at S9+. Even with the short rubber ducky it seems to work fine. The repeater antenna is at 88m, close to 300ft up.





I found out tonight the MD-680 might only support Time-Slot-1... The programming software lets you choose between TS0 and TS1, but I thought Slot0=TS1 and slot1=TS2, apparently not... This will limit its usability on amateur repeaters. Any talk group on TS2 would thus not be accessible.

Not a big deal for me, since those will be used mostly for simplex, but if it is the case, it would have been nice to have TS1 and TS2. My local repeater had the local talk group on TS1, so it would have been fine. I hope they keep TS1 when they install the new repeater. I won't be able to access any talk group they put on TS2 with the 680 however.

I guess I will be getting a TYT MD-390 after all and only one more MD-680, not two...

If anyone has any information about this, please reply to this post, thank you.



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