Motorola Talkabout T9500/9550 Review

This review of Motorola’s T9550 two way radios is the culmination of 3 months of testing. We started the first weekend of October 2010, finished up on January 8th 2011, and conducted our testing outdoors in temperatures ranging from 12F to 95F across a variety of terrains. Our test gear included the camo pair of radios, two NiMH battery packs, two push-to-talk earbuds, a drop in charger, and two belt clips.

Motorola Talkabout T9550XLR Camo

The T9500 series of radios operate in the GMRS and FRS bands. Operation in the GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) is subject to the rules and regulations of the FCC which requires radio operators to be licensed to operate. Check with the FCC for licensing fees and procedures. Operation in the FRS band requires no FCC license. The primary difference between GMRS and FRS is the Transmit power. While operating in the FRS bands Motorola’s radios transmit at 1/2 watt, while the GMRS bands transmit at 1 watt. More transmit power means you can communicate at greater distances.

The radios have a total of 22 channels and you can select 1 of 121 different privacy codes for each channel. Bottom line, there are 22 times 121 (or 2662) channel/privacy code combinations which means you can definitely escape any interference that you might encounter. Other features we found very useful were the auto squelch (these radios were pretty much background noise free), backlit screen, the integrated 7 NOAA weather channels (which you can set-up for weather alerts), and the iVOX. The iVOX feature allows handfree operation, or simply stated voice activated. While you are in the iVOX mode, you can just start talking and the radio will transmit without the need to perform the push-to-talk action.

Motorola makes some pretty bold claims about their 25 mile range ability. Perhaps in optimum conditions 25 miles would be possible, but we never got anywhere near that kind of range. In heavy vegetation our test radios performed well at distances of 1/2 mile (GMRS) with exceptional voice quality. At distances beyond 1/2 mile there was a definite degradation in voice quality. ¬†Operating on flat terrain with no vegetation we were able to transmit cleanly up to 2 miles (GRMS) on clear days. Rain and fog hampered our range in all terrain, but that is what we expected as radio signals don’t propagate as well in these conditions. Temperature did not seem to affect our radios’ ability to transmit with the exception of two mornings when we were operating in temps below 20F. Below 20F the life of the NiMH batteries dropped off significantly, which required more trips to the drop in charger. The other thing we noticed that affected our transmit range was proximity to the body. The radios performed better if they were positioned at least 2-3 inches away from the body. I should note that we found this out while distance testing; not just in casual two-way radio communication.

We used these radios while camping, hiking, and hunting. In fact, we used them so much that somewhere along the way we became separated with our users guide, which I (happily) found on Motorola’s website. We chose not to test them while fishing as they are not water proof, but the T9500 series of radio can certainly be used in conjunction with a number of outdoor activities. They seemed to be perfect for a family that wants to stay in contact with each other while enjoying mother nature, and even more so in areas that do not have cell phone coverage. The backlit screen is nice while your operating in the dark, we really liked the push-to-talk ear bud, and the NOAA weather channels. The belt clips were great for hiking and we even hung the radios up in our deer blinds with them. With the exception of sluggish batteries at temps below 20F, we found voice quality to be exceptional and did not experience any additional issues with these radios. Although the radios are packed with features and backed by Motorola, we just can’t rate them as a sure hit due to the results of the range distance testing.

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