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Giving cell phones to your kids just to be able to stay in touch with them locally seems like a waste of money, considering the alternative—no-fee two-way radios. What used to be called walkie-talkies are now smaller, lighter and more reliable than ever. Transmission distances range from about two to 18 miles or more. Commercial-class models carried by employees in a sprawling enterprise can help a business watch its pennies, too.
Motorola is offering up to $200 cash back on every five eligible two-way radios purchased through June 30. The Radio Rebate Days promotion is geared to any business that operates a warehouse, large store or houses offices in a corporate park or high-rise or has employees at a resort or construction site. B&H stocks 10 Motorola models eligible for the rebate. They range in power from 2- to 5-watt models. They include the Motorola RDU2080D with display, RDX Business Series Two-Way UHF Radio in black (right).
Higher-powered models will deliver a greater range than lower-powered models. However, location and topography impact the practical range. Signals will travel farther outside with no obstacles (water, deserts, pavement) than across hilly, wooded terrain. Indoor range also varies according to whether you're communicating across a theater or supermarket or through multiple stories of a high-rise building. Check the specifications on each model.
Lower-powered models are meant for family or recreational use. These radios are smaller and cost less. Called Family Radio Service (FRS) models, they operate at a half watt of power and usually offer 14 channels. A half watt of power provides a maximum range of six miles under ideal conditions. The next step up is a class called General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS), and these models generally offer one or two watts of power and 22 channels.
Except for the least expensive models, all two-way radios use rechargeable batteries. For example, the Kenwood ProTalk TK-3230XLS Two-Way UHF Radio (left) contains a lithium-ion battery that fully charges in 2.5 hours, then provides 18 hours of talk time. A three-level battery indicator lets you know how much power remains. The ProTalk contains a 1.5-watt transmitter and weighs 5.5 ounces with battery. The Eartec MC-1000 Competitor 2-Way Radio (right), which Eartec correctly terms a transceiver, uses a 1-watt transmitter that can broadcast up to two miles. In broadcast mode, one transceiver can communicate to an unlimited number of other Eartec MC-1000 radios, perfect for video and film location shoots. The MC-1000 uses a NiCad battery. A belt clip and desktop charger are included. The transceiver weighs 7 ounces with battery.
Lower-end models use disposable batteries. For instance, the Motorola FV300 Talkabout Two-Way Walkie-Talkie Radio takes three AAA batteries. These walkie-talkies are best used outdoors, such as on a camping or boating trip. The FV300 Talkabouts access 10 channels and can use 10 call tones. The FV300s are sold as a pair as are the Motorola MJ270R Talkabout Two-Way Radios (right). The MJ270R is a more robust model, offering a greater range (up to 27, versus 10 miles, under ideal conditions.) They also have integrated flashlights. Two rechargeable battery packs, two charger cradles, and two USB charging cables are included. Stepping up to the MJ270R Talkabouts will save money over time since you won't be blowing through disposable batteries like you will with the FV30s. And in a pinch, the MJ270R Talkabouts do each take three AA batteries.
To see all the two-way radios offered by B&H, including ones considered military class, click here. Meanwhile, isn't it time to start cutting down on those cell phone bills?