Updated: October 12, 2015
Two Way Radio Reviews:
You might remember growing up with walkie talkies, well today they are called two-way radios. I remember going to Radio Shack to look at their selection of walkie talkies as a kid and always dreaming of having a high powered military set that had ranges of over a mile. Today almost all two-way radios have ranges from 1 to 2 miles and they are much smaller than the ones we had a decade or so ago. Two-way radios
are very useful - they are great for long road trips when taking separate cars, on the ski slopes, at amusement parks, when hunting or camping, on backcountry hiking trips, or even in large shopping malls. Businesses can use two-way radios instead of cell phones in many situations as well. There are no per minute charges with 2-way radios which is one benefit over traditional cell phone use. Plus, if you are in the woods where cell phones don't always work, a two-way radio may just save your life. What should you look for in a two-way radio from the store? We get into two-way radio features in our buying guide down below.
The main features to consider when buying a two-way radio are: channels, privacy codes, lock features, range, FRS/UHF/GMRS, size, usage life, display screen, and call features. Most two-way radios comes with 2 to 14 channels, the more expensive ones offer more channels. Extra channels can come in handy when you are trying to operate the two-way radios in a congested area. Some radios have sub-channels which greatly increases your choice and reception. To keep people from picking up your channel, look for two-way radios that offer privacy codes. Privacy codes or private call features will scramble your voice so outside parties will not be able to listen to your conversation. Weather reception channels are available on most two-way radios and are great for finding out about local weather conditions. A lock feature allows you to stay on your particular channel even as you move around. A range of 1 to 2 miles is what most two-way radios will provide. The actual distance will vary as the terrain around you changes. For a longer range, you will need to get on a GMRS (General Mobil Radio Service) which will require a special license that the FCC can supply. FRS (Family Radio Service) is the general radio frequency for families and recreational use that two-way radios use. You will also find two-way radios on the UHF (Ultra High Frequency) for better reception. Compared to the large walkie talkies of 20 years ago, todays two-way radios fit right in the palm of your hand are rather small. Most are only 5 to 12 ounces in weight. Two-way radios run on alkaline batteries or nickel cadmium batteries (check with the manufacturer). Battery life for 2-way radios is based around 90% standby, 5% reception, and 5% transmission. The display screens on two-way radios is not that large, but you can get a lot of information on the screen like battery life, clock/time, alarm, stopwatch, digital compass, thermometer, alitmeter, and indicators for transmitting or receiving a signal. LCD display screens are easier to see in changing light conditions so look for a model that offers that. A channel saver feature is nice to have and some models do it automatically for you while others require it do be done manually. Talk confirmation lets your other party know when you are done talking and when it's safe for them to respond. Memory location will store the channels you use most so you can access them more quickly. A scanning feature lets you see which channels are currently in use. Last channel recall feature lets you pull up the last channel you were on. All two-way radios have an incoming call alert which is often just a simple ring. Look for models that offer a vibrate mode instead of the ring as this will come in handy when you are out hunting and need the quiet. The top brands in two-way radios are Motorola, BlackBox, Cobra
, Kenwood, Midland, and Uniden. Prices range from $25 to $250 for two-way radios. You can buy two-way, or handhel, radios in retailers like Best Buy, REI, or Radio Shack. Online e-tailers also carry these consumer and business radios on sites Amazon.com
. We found some great reviews by consumers at Twowayradioforum.com, CNET and Amazon.com. Down below we have listed the best two-way radios on the market. You can view the entire listing of the top selling two ray radios here
Best Two Way Radio for Families:
Morotola makes the best handheld two-way radios on the market. Their brand name has catapulted them to the top of the cell phone industry and I'm sure that helps sell two-way radios as well. The Motorola TALKABOUT T9500XLR Two Way Radios
($75) are the most powerful consumer radios you can buy. This new model has a larger antenna w/ a possible maximum range of 25 miles in the best conditions, but about 2 miles in urban areas. The T9500XLR doubles as a weather radio with support for 10 NOAA weather channels. Want a speaker phone function, the VOX hands free feature works great. The VibraCall vibrating alert is an excellent alternative to a ring alert when quiet is demanded. The Motorola T9500XLR supports all 22 FRS and GMRS channels and you get 121 privacy codes per channel. These two-way radios give you 10 call tone alerts, a backlit display, and a channel scanning feature. When you buy these two-way radios you also get NiMH rechargeable batteries (for each radio), a dual-pocket desktop charger, and black and yellow faceplates. Consumers say the T9500XLR works great on ski slopes and in amusement parks. Kids find it easy to use and adults feel safe knowing their children are just a quick "ring" away. See all the Motorola two way radios here
Budget Two Way Radio:
If you want exceptional value from a two-way radio without having to spend $100+, then consider the Cobra two-way radios. The Cobra LI-6000-2WXVP Two Way Radios
($65) is a high end model from Cobra but offered for a much cheaper price than competitors similar models. The LI6000-2 WXVP provides 11 hours of battery life on a powerful radio. It uses lithium batteries and has 3 watts of power for a maximum range of 17 miles. The Cobra two-way radio supports 22 FRS/GMRS channels with 121 privacy codes per channel. Other features include VibraAlert silent paging, 10 call alert tones, channel scan, auto squelch, key lock, a backlit LCD display, and 10 channel memory. You get all the luxury features of high end 2-way radios for a discounted price when you buy Cobra. Owners say the radios perform "incredible" and they like that the units are water resistant so outdoor use is never an issue.
Business Two Way Radio:
Small businesses that have workers in the field or constantly on the move have found that two-way radio contact is cheaper and simpler for them than having cell phones. The Motorola CLS series of two-way radios were designed just for this use. They are lightweight, have intuitive functions, and are small enough to hold in the palm of your hand. Motorola says they are recommended for those that work in retail, schools, event coordination, restaurants, and construction. The Motorola CLS 1110
($125) is the most popular model and rates high in customer satisfaction. The two-way radio has excellent coverage of up to 15 floors, 5 miles, or 200,000 square feet. It supports 56 UHF business frequencies and gives you 121 private line codes. Interference is not an issue and compatibility with the Spirit GT series is a plus. The CLS 1110 uses 3 AAA batteries or a rechargeable battery pack (lithium pack included). Comes with a drop-in battery charger and a 1 year warranty. Other features include 3 call alert tones, talk confirmation tone, battery meter indicator, keypad lock, channel monitor, and cloning. Why pay cell carrier companies $100's a month to have your employees on cell phones when these two-way radios work just as good.
Two Way Radio for Hunting:
One of the more common uses of two-way radios is for hunting purposes. Whether you are in the backcountry hunting elk, deer, or geese, a two-way radio can really improve your chances at a successfully hunt. Hunters have been using walkie talkies for years, but the new Motorola TALKABOUT T9550XLR Two Way Radios with Earbuds
($85) are the perfect companion in outdoor conditions. They have camouflage faceplates and push to talk earbuds. This two-way radio is identical to the T9500XLR listed above, except for the features listed here. For quiet communication in the woods, this model is top rated by hunters. The convenient belt clips allow you to clip the radio to your waist and use the earbuds for private communication. RECOMMENDED
- We suggest the Midland Outfitter Series GXT950VP4 5 Watt 42 Channel 30-Mile Waterproof GMRS
- these radios are perfect for hunting trips. You get a 30 mile range on this 5 watt 42 channel radio set. There is voice privacy scramble with 142 privacy codes. Reviews are more than positive on the Midland two way radio - owner comments include "best hunting radios" and "rugged and powerful".