A Search For The Ultimate Portable UHF Radio – It’s Time To Replace The HT750

John Konrad
Total Views: 20
October 19, 2010

uhf-radio-ship-bridge-wing Photo By OneEighteen

If you work on ships it’s likely you are familiar with the Motorola HT750 Portable Two-Way UHF Radio. It’s well built, simple to use and is intrinsically safe. What I like most about the radio is the lack of an LCD screen, which can crack, and it’s minimalist approach to it’s button layout. The radio is almost perfect in that I can just pick it up, dial into a channel and it just works.

But even with this radio their are a few areas that need to be improved. Most notably it could be stronger, lighter and have a longer battery life.

Motorola EX500 Small & Light Portable UHF Radio

motorola ex500 portable uhf radioWhile not any stronger the EX500 is nearly half the weight and size of the HT750 and is available with the same basic accessories as its forefather  meaning I no longer have to keep a brick clipped on my belt. The real innovation however, is in it’s lithium-ion battery.

You can buy Li-Ion batteries for the 750, but replacing perfectly good batteries is a hard sell to management (believe me I’ve tried!). Why are Li-Ion batteries better? Well they charge faster, last longer, are lighter, don’t have memory effect…. The list goes on, but basically if you’re ever in an emergency when you battery dies, you’ll wish you had Li-Ion.

Motorola APX 7000XE P25 Portable Radio

Motorola Rugged UHF APX 7000XE P25 Portable Radio
I once dropped an HT750 from 20′ onto a steel deck, the battery popped out but their was no damage to the unit but I have seen one dropped from about 30′ and it broke apart. Certainly the HT750 is strong enough for my everyday needs but what would be the harm in having one that’s a bit stronger?

Introducing the Motorola APX 7000XE P25 Portable Radio. While I hate the name and it’s not any lighter or smaller than the HT750 I do like the design. It’s got some great features:

Voice Encryption

FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certified hardware encryption provides tamperproof security to ensure the highest level of secure communications.

In the open ocean you have no need for encrypted traffic but transit the Gulf Of Aden it’s a must-have accessory. The conversations on a regular UHF radio can be heard by anyone with a cheap Radio Shack scanner but maritime security relies on secure communication and this radio provides it by encrypting the voice traffic.

Encryption has other uses as well. In a busy port it makes it impossible to cross signals with nearby ships… because when a nearby ship squawks “Drop The Anchor” over a common frequency you don’t want your boatswain to start swinging the break. And if he does release the anchor underway you don’t want the local media station listening in on the next polite words you say to him.
Dual Microphones

Directional-sensing technology locates the talker and activates sophisticated algorithms in noisy environments, cancelling out unwanted background noise and delivering clear communication.

Ok, I have no idea if this works but it does sound cool.
Integrated GPS

Enables accountability and location tracking of an individual or vehicle, which can be sent to a map-based location application, allowing dispatch operators to manage and track personnel resources.

While this technology is still being worked out, in the future it might help you track the location of your fire team on deck or help you locate your Fast Rescue Boat in fog.

Ergonomic and Rugged

…our most advanced, rugged radio with innovative features designed by first responders for first responders in extreme environments. Together we created an ergonomically superior radio that is easy to operate, with glove-friendly controls and a large top display.

We do not have specifications as to how tough these radios are just the promise from Motorola that they are more rugged than the HT750… and that’s all I need to hear to put a smile on my face.

This Is Important

You may think “It’s just another radio”… something you have given very little thought to in the past and are unlikely to think much about in the future. But UHF’s are important. In the past few months I have read countless incident reports while doing research for my book and a large majority of them have witness statements that goes something like this “I woke up and tried to contact the ECR but the phone system was down and there where no sound-powered phones around.” and this “I woke up and went to my emergency station not knowing what was happening.” None of them mention radios because none of them had radios on them.

If you have duties on the station bill then you need to have a UHF radio on you at all times which means you need to have a charger in your room. Sharing radios with your roomate who works a different shift is not good enough, when the bells sound you should pop out from bed, turn on your radio and start listening to what is happening outside.

Next week’s topic…. having a spare set of boots, hardhat and fire-resistant coveralls hanging IN YOUR ROOM AT ALL TIMES. Having your gear in a boot locker outside, in the laundry or buried in your locker is not safe in the event of a big emergency. And while your coveralls are hanging throw a spare set of gloves, eye-protection and a flashlight in your pocket… they may save your life.

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