Tytera TYT MD-380 DMR portable radio review
The Tytera TYT MD-380 is one of the latest value priced DMR radios to emerge from the Chinese market. This unit packs many features, including, superb audio, a multicolour LCD display, front panel programmability, rugged construction, plus much more. This is a great radio for anyone looking to get started with DMR and at the time of this review, the end user pricing directly from the vendor was $170 USD.
- Audio Volume and Quality: The audio from this radio is very full, with a good response to low frequencies, making it pleasing to listen to and it will get heard, even in the noisiest environments;
- Rugged Construction: This radio is very well built, so it should keep going long after typical ham radio units call it quits;
- Multicolor LCD Display: Having a multicolor LCD display on the radio allows for easy use and programming while on the move;
- Front Panel Programming: This radio is capable of being programmed via the keypad, allowing users to make changes without the need for the PC;
- Antenna Connector: The antenna connector for this radio uses a SMA connection, allowing it to easily be connected to an external antenna;
- Price: At $170 USD, this radio is a very attractive option for anyone looking to get started with DMR.
- Software Polish: There are a number of oddities within the firmware of the radio that impacts it’s overall user experience;
- Bluetooth Capability: This radio is not Bluetooth capable, so the use of wireless audio accessories is not possible;
- Desktop Charger: The desktop charger takes hours to charge the radio, plus the green “finished” LED indicator does not turn off, even when the radio is removed from the charger.
The Full Review
The Tytera TYT MD-380 radio comes standard with the following items out of the box:
- MD-380 radio operating on either the 400 – 480 MHz (UHF) or 136 – 174 MHz (VHF) bands;
- Stubby antenna (UHF model);
- Whip antenna (UHF model);
- Desktop charger cradle;
- 120/240V desktop charger power supply;
- 2,000 mAH Li-ion battery;
- Belt clip;
- User manual.
The MD-380 is a compact portable radio that is small, lightweight, has a great ergonomic design. Being only about 13cm (5 1/4”) high and 258g (9.1oz), this radio fits nicely in the hand and can even be carried in a shirt pocket, making it a pleasure to use. In addition to its design, the radio appears to be well built with a solid feel and the accessories fit well, including the battery, antenna and the accessory port dust protector. While the MD-380 does not claim to meet any specific environmental operating standards, its build quality should more than suffice for typical ham radio use.
Knobs, Buttons & Switches
There are two knobs on the MD-380 – one is the power switch/volume knob and the other is the channel selector knob. Both of these knobs are easily accessed on the top of the radio and they both provide a slight “click” as positive indication that either the radio is turned on/of or that the channel is changed. Unlike with some other DMR radios, the channel change knob does not continuously rotate and is limited to the standard 16 positions. Also, while the knobs have not been constructed using a high grip material, they can be easily used while wearing gloves or mittens. One small noteworthy item is that the channel selector knob and the channel numbers below it are not coloured white, so having a visual indication of the current channel number in use is difficult. Fortunately, all of this information is available on the LCD screen of the radio, so it shouldn’t be an issue for most users.
With regard to the buttons, the MD-380 comes equipped with two programmable side buttons, however unlike many other DMR radios, it does not have a programmable top button. The function of each of these side buttons can be set in the programming software to perform the desired task. Also, the MD-380 comes equipped with a 16-button keypad, which includes two navigation buttons to navigate the radio’s menu and settings. It should be noted that the MD-380 does include the DTMF keys “A”, “B”, “C” and “D”, which are sometimes used with ham radio applications, however the standard DTMF keys work as expected. Also, the keypad buttons are backlit, which helps a great deal when using the radio at night or in dark environments.
With regard to the side buttons, including the push to talk (PTT) button, they are constructed of high grip material, making them easy to push without having the fingers slip accidentally. It is important to note that the PTT button is slightly raised above the radio’s body, which could likely result in the accidental keying of the radio, so users should consider this when picking up the radio or carrying it in tight fitting carry cases.
The UHF version of the MD-380 comes standard with two antennas – a stubby antenna and a wideband whip antenna. Presumably, the wideband whip antenna will provide better performance than the stubby antenna, however likely at the cost of making the radio somewhat less portable. The antenna connector used with the MD-380 is a standard SMA female connector, making it easy and inexpensive to connect it with an external antenna with the purchase of a SMA male adapter.
One of the best features of this radio is its audio quality, which is impressive for such a small form factor. Not only does the radio have loud, clear audio, but it also has a wide audio frequency response, providing good response to low audio frequencies. The rated speaker output from the vendor is 1,000mW, which may be overstated, since the radio volume seems to be on par with other DMR radios that have a 500mW speaker. Nonetheless, this radio will be heard in noisy environments where many typical ham radio portables will be inaudible. The fullness of the audio is one of the best features of the radio, making it a very pleasing unit to listen to.
There are a few annoyances concerning the radio alert tones. First, the volume of the alert tones is not configurable, so turning on the radio in a quiet environment results is a loud power on tone. It would be ideal if the volume of such tones would match the audio volume setting or be configurable in the CPS. Another time issue with the alert tones was the Call Receive Tone, which at the time of testing, could not be configured to function. While neither of these audio items hinders use of the radio, they may be frustrating for some users and will hopefully be addressed with a future firmware release.
With regard to microphone audio, the audio appeared to be fine, right out of the box with good reports being received from other stations during test transmissions. It should be noted that the microphone audio level is not user adjustable at the time of testing, so if users receive complaints of hot or low audio, they will need to adjust the distance to which they are talking into the radio.
One feature that the MD-380 does not support, which is becoming more commonplace with DMR radios is Bluetooth capability, which is enables the use of wireless audio accessories. With the advent of distracted driving laws in North America, this feature is being used more and more by hams during their mobile operation. For users who require this functionality, they will likely need to look to higher tier DMR radios, which usually include this capability.