Motorola T552 Talkabout
Weight: Not a lot, but we lost the
The Concept Motorola’s T552 radios are basically souped up
walkie talkies. The basic set for just under £100 includes two
handset units and a recharger – you can also buy a waterproof bag, a
hands-free set up and a nylon carry case for easier stowage. Range is
claimed to be 3 km, but that’s line of sight and heavy foliage and /
or big chunks of landscape can reduce that considerably.
Features You get as many features as you can manage really –
all the electrickery seems present and correct with a choice of eight
channels, various interference suppressors, a scanning option so you
can find your dim mate who’s changed channel without telling you, a
key pad lock etc.
The units come with rechargeable batteries and a charger, which is
great, though you can use AAs if you want. Life based on an estimated
90- per-cent standby time use is around12 hours with the
rechargeables or a more useful 30 hours with alkaline AAs. The one
snag with the rechargeables is that it takes up to 14 hours to get
back to full charge. The display does include a battery meter though,
so you have an idea of what’s going down.
In Action We found the Motorolas straightforward to use,
though like any electrical device with an LCD menu – think mobile
phones – it takes a while to work out what does what.
the best use we found for them was on long mountain climbing and
scrambling routes, where your partner disappears round corners, the
wind whistles and belay calls get really confused. With the Motorolas
you can use your normal calls, but with the luxury of actually being
able to hear them. Potentially a life saver in fact.
We found the best place to mount them was on the shoulder strap of
a pack, close to your head, so you could hear the incoming bleep more
easily. Incidentally, you have to leave a pause before speaking or
the bleep buries your first word, but you soon get used to it.
With distances of only 50 metres involved, there were no range
problems at all and we reckon they’d be great for climbing
instructors or for club use. You’d want a waterproof case though –
we’ve heard from people who say they don’t like water – and possibly
a handsfree kit.
They can also some in handy for walking or mountain biking groups.
One at the front and one at the back means that if something goes
wrong, the tail end charlie can call ahead to the front man and
minimise confusion. That’s particularly the case with groups of
mountain bikers when a simple mechanical at the back of the group can
throw things into confusion with a load of shall we / shan’t we go on
/ back debates as everyone tries to work out what’s happened.
They’re not going to replace mobile phones though, the range is
too limited and subject to interference by hills, large shrubberies
etc. They might work well on high mountains though, where there’s
line of sight communication between camps.
More specifically we found them easy to use and we didn’t manage
to break them…
We haven’t given the Motorolas a mark since we don’t really have
anything to compare them with. However they feel well made and are
easy to use and Motorola is an established electrical manufacturer so
we’d expect them to be as good or better than anything else out
there. It’s also a big plus that you get a fully functioning pair
plus batteries and charger in one pack for around 100 quid, or
£99.99 if you’re going to be anal.
We suspect the main market for these is with professional guides
and instructors and possibly mountain rescue teams, but if you climb
a lot of mountain routes or get out mountain biking in groups, they
could make your life easier and, potentially safer. Not quite mobile
phones without tarifs as the range is limited and variable, but
within those limitations these are easy to use, seem tough and work
Drawbacks? The belt swivel mounts supplied aren’t great on rucksac
shoulder straps and the 14-hour recharge is slow, plus for multi-day
trips you’ll either need a fag socket recharger or to use AA cells
instead of the rechargeables supplied.
Overall, dead useful in the right situations, whether they’re
worth buying depends on you and the sort of stuff you’re getting up
to. If it’s long mountain routes or fragmented group days out, they
could make your life easier.
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