Published at 08:49 on 13 July 2021
It is basically what I envisioned it to be: a cheap Chinese radio. It works as advertised, but its overall quality is inferior to the products sold under the major Japanese brands. If a suitable Japanese radio was available, I would have bought it. Since one is not, the BTECH is the best alternative available, and works well enough.
This frequency range is allocated as a ham band only in ITU Region 2, meaning that the majority of the world’s hams, and in particular hams in Asia (where most ham radio equipment is manufactured), do not have access to this band. This latter fact is responsible for the worst thing about the 220 MHz band: poor availability of equipment. This lack of equipment in turn creates a lack of popularity for the band.
Because 220 MHz is not a popular band, I want to have more than just 220 MHz capability in my truck. Because my truck has limited space for 2-way radio equipment, that means I must have a multi-band radio. Since 2 meters is by far the most popular VHF or UHF ham band, I would want at a minimum a radio that can handle both bands.
Such radios are (with one exception, the BTECH UV-25X4) currently not being made. So my choice was to either get a UV-25X4 or to buy something on the used market, and due to being artificially scarce, the used radios were expensive. Not just expensive, either: they were also (as is typical for used gear) sold as-is, and most of them are now quite long in the tooth, being well over 20 years old.
Now, there are currently-manufactured Japanese radios that in theory cover both 2 meters and 220 MHz, but if you look at their specifications, 220 MHz is clearly an afterthought, with a limited transmit power on that band. The latter is typically only 5 watts, which is simply not enough for reliable mobile use. The BTECH is rated to put out 20 watts on all three bands it supports.
As such, after much pondering, I decided that a new cheap Chinese radio was a better deal than an old and possibly trouble-ridden Japanese one. Both were risky from a reliability standpoint, but at least I could purchase the cheap Chinese radio from a dealer with a good record of post-sales support and return it if it was defective.
It Is What I Expected
Going into my purchase, I expected I would be getting something whose design, build quality, and user interface would not be up to the standards I had grown to expect as a user of the Japanese brands, but my hope was that it would still be usable for my purposes. That is basically what I got:
- The first radio died soon after I received it. (Thankfully, I had ordered it from BTECH and I was able to exchange it for another with no hassle.)
- The internal speaker is tiny and tinny and has a vibration problem. (Solved by using an external speaker.)
- It is front-panel programmable, but only in theory. In practice, it is so difficult to program via the front panel that one is best treating it as programmable only via software and a USB cable, much like a Part 90 radio.
- The receiver is a poor second cousin to the receiver in a quality Japanese transceiver. I have had to learn to simply ignore random bits of intermod as I drive around.
- Six months in, that second UV-25X4 still works, and it lets me get on 220 MHz or 2 meters while mobile. As a bonus, it also lets me get on the 70 cm (440 MHz) band.
My experience with “infant mortality” leads me to strongly recommend those tempted to purchase a cheap Chinese radio to purchase one from a well-established dealer with a domestic presence. Having to kiss away my money on a nonreturnable dead radio would have not been worth a somewhat lower initial purchase price.
Furthermore, cheap Chinese radios are for the most part not FCC type accepted, and have a well-deserved reputation for regulation-violating lack of spectral purity on transmit. This is another advantage of BTECH: they actually have submitted what they sell to the FCC for type acceptance, so one can have some assurance of not violating regulations every time one keys the mike.