Best Walkie Talkie – How to Buy 2-Way Radios (Explained)
Walkie-talkies may not be as popular today as they were in the 80s and 90s. But you’ll be downright wrong to think that they are any useless yet.
Other than prepping, Walkie talkies are also just fun especially due to the old aviation terms that come with their usage: Do you read me, over?
If you are thinking of purchasing a 2-way radio for an upcoming camp, hike, or for use at home or business premises, allow us to guide you to some of the best walkie-talkies for the money.
We’ve analyzed 1594 reviews of walkies talkies, and compared them side-by-side.
Below you will find comparison chart.
Midland Consumer Radio GXT1030VP4
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A few things to keep in mind
The best walkie talkies are not toys. But that does not dispute the fact that the market also has a few toys that you could gift your kids with and avoid if you are after something serious.
If you are planning to get a walkie-talkie to keep you connected to your party in camps, hiking, and hunting expeditions, or if you want a set of walkie talkies for use within your business premises, you’ll definitely want to spend on a reliable brand and model that won’t frustrate you when you really need it.
We’ll delve into the basics that make the best 2-way walkie talkie radios in a few minutes. Before that, here are a few things that you need to keep in mind when shopping around for these gadgets;
- Where will you be using it?
- Do you want a UHF or VHF walkie-talkie?
- What type, FRS, GMRS, or Business Radio?
- What is its maximum range?
- What is its power output?
- Are you looking for something compact?
- Does durability matter to you?
- Would you like a radio with privacy codes?
- How many channels are you looking for?
Galwad-888S – Best For Budget
Galwad may not hold a candle to other renowned walkie-talkie brands in this industry (think of Motorola, Cobra, Uniden). However, this manufacturer is creating a really good buzz with the Galwad-888s walkie-talkies.
These radios come in a set of two at a price that you might not believe especially after using them. At just a little over twenty bucks, you can walk away with 2 radios that pack almost anything that you can think of on a radio at its price range.
The Galwad 888S are UHF radios operating within the 400-470MHz frequency range. The main advantage that a UHF-compatible radio offers is that it can be used both indoors and outdoors.
Thanks to UHF signal’s ability to penetrate walls, these radios will be of great use both in your home and business premises. Their versatility will also allow you to use them in amusement parks and camps during the weekends and holidays.
These radios offer a communication range of between 1 and 3 kilometers. This is enough coverage to keep you connected to your buddies and kids around your workplace and in camps.
In addition, we like that it offers 16 channels which are quite enough to meet the demands of a small business or party.
Other interesting features include a 1500-mAh Li-ion battery that offers several hours of usage per charge, voice prompt, emergency alarm, and a flashlight.
Previous users also appreciate its intelligent charging and clear audio output.
This radio has its set of drawbacks too. First, a few users say that their batteries couldn’t hold a charge for more than 4 hours. In addition, there were a few reports about broken charging systems.
Midland Consumer Radio GXT1030VP4 – Best For Confidentiality
The Midland GXT1010PV4 also comes as a pair. These radios are a little bit pricier than our first pick. The good thing, however, is that they bring more channels and a way of keeping your conversations a little bit safer from eavesdroppers.
What makes it special?
The most easily notable feature of this radio is its hybrid design. As I have explained in the buying guide below, a hybrid walkie-talkie allows you to connect to other radio users using the GMRS and RFS channels.
There are 2 key benefits to this feature. First, it means that these radios are compatible with other existing radios. Secondly, they will also be compatible with your future purchases. This is a great feature especially if you have the thought of expanding your collection of 2-way radios down the road.
The Midland GXT1030VP4 offers 50 channels. Honestly, these are way more than most radio users need. These channels increase your chance of getting a clear frequency at least most of the time.
But what will probably make it a go-to model for you are its 142 privacy codes. Multiplied by its 50 channels, these radios offer 7,100 different channel-privacy code combinations to keep your chats a little bit confidential.
It gets even better!
Considering its numerous channels and long range, these radios make a really good bet for business use. A great feature here is the Group Call function.
It allows you to dedicate certain channels to groups/departments and be able to scan through them easily for quick access. Moreover, you can still be able to contact an individual from any group without attracting the attention of the entire group.
Two other interesting features include the Whisper function that let you talk silently and still be loud and clear to your target users and 10 Call Alerts for instant caller identification.
These radios also keep you connected to NOAA weather channels for up-to-date weather alerts. It also has an All Hazard alert feature to keep you posted on Power Plant warnings, fire, landslide warnings, and biological warnings.
To crown its versatility, this 2-way walkie-talkie uses both rechargeable and AA batteries.
Unfortunately, this radio’s numerous functions means a higher power consumption rate. As you can imagine, powering it might cost you a pretty penny especially if situations call for the non-rechargeables. There’s an option to turn off most of the functions though.
Retevis RT5 – Best For Rugged Design
If you love spending more time outdoors, for instance, hiking, camping, or simply on construction sites, then you need a radio that can hold up well in severe weather conditions. I bet the Retevis RTS Walkie Talkie is a reliable option here.
Compared to other walkie-talkies in this list, one feature that you’ll easily note about the Retevis RT5 is its rather ‘too busy’ front panel. All these controls depict how versatile this radio can be.
The RT5 is an FRS/GMRS radio that utilizes both the UHF and VHF bands. The good news is that it also offers FM signals to keep you entertained whether you are using it in the woods or within your office building.
This model has a customizable power output that you can switch between 1w, 5w, and 7w. The highest power output setting allows a wider signal range. This manufacturer recommends adding Retevis RHD-771 Whip Antenna to boost its coverage.
You could switch to the lowest setting if your target users are within a 1-3 mile radius and when you want to save on power.
The most impressive features of this radio include its 3-scan methods that allow you to search for active channels. This radio can also be programmed either from its keypads or via a computer.
The Retevis RT5 might prove a little bit tricky to use at first for people who are switching from regular walkie-talkies. But it should get easier after a few uses.
Motorola MT352TPR FRS – Best For Battery Life Performance
Next up we have another popular radio from a manufacturer that you won’t require an in-depth introduction for.
The Motorola MT352TPR will make a great choice if you are in the market for several walkie-talkies for an upcoming outdoor activity.
While what we are reviewing here is the Triple pack, these radios are available in a dual pack as well. One surefire benefit of buying 2-way radios in bulk and from the same manufacturer is that you are assured that they will be compatible with each other.
How does this radio perform?
The MT352TPR is an FRS/GMRS model with 22 channels and 121 privacy channels. Channels 8-14 are designated for family recreations by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). They can be used by anyone in the family including your kids. But you’ll need a license to transmit on channels 15-22.
This manufacturer states that this 2-way walkie-talkie allows communications within a range of up to 35 miles. Well, this is only possible in near perfect locations with no obstructions and with good weather conditions.
Although you won’t get the 35-mile coverage most of the times, you might be able to stay connected to your party up to 3 miles away with much ease.
Other than the range, the MT352TPR outshines its other siblings in audio clarity. No matter the communication range, let’s agree that audio clarity is the most important feature in 2-way radios.
Designed for reliability in your outdoor excursions, this radio is IP54 water resistant. This means that you can use it in the rain for up to 30 minutes without issues.
It also makes a good 2-way walkie talkie for a cruise ship.
Among other great features that you’ll probably like is the mini-USB charger that allows you to charge the radio both at home and on-the-go.
Speaking of charging, this radio uses a 1300mAh NiMH rechargeable battery that could offer you up to 15 hours of use. Even better, this model also takes 3 AA batteries when there isn’t a way to recharge the rechargeable battery.
I also like its Vibracall silent ringer that alerts you to a call by light vibrations where silence is key, NOAA weather alerts functions and VOX (hands-free) operations.
Motorola Professional CLS1410 5- 4-Channel UHF Radio – Best For Business Operations
Not many online reviewers include business radios in their lists. These models are generally pricey and, therefore, not as popular.
But this is changing fast. Most businesses are now considering Business Radio Service radios for smooth operations and efficiency in their premises.
If a business UHF radio is what you are looking for, then do check out the Motorola Professional CLS1410 model.
Considered the best in class among other contenders, this is a 4-channel radio with 56 frequencies dedicated solely for businesses. It also has 121 interference eliminator codes (privacy codes) to offer some secrecy and a wider usable frequency range.
Similar to the Motorola MT352TPR above, the CLS1410 also uses both VibraCall and audible tones for incoming calls.
VibraCall will come in handy where you need to receive calls discreetly. It also alerts you to an incoming call and notifications in noisy environments.
This radio also has an Advanced Voice Activation (VOX) feature for hands-free operations. There’s also a keypad lock to prevent accidental channel changes.
Is it durable?
Considering its price, you want to ensure that you are spending your money on a high-quality all-around radio that won’t stop being of use within a few months. In my opinion, the CLS1410 is up to scratch.
This radio has a rugged design that gives it a long life when dropped on warehouse floors and in the mud. On the same note, this radio is quite compact and, therefore, quite easy to hold or clip.
It has a good signal coverage and lasts quite well on its rechargeable batteries. It also has a compact size and it’s also relatively lightweight at less than 1 pound for your in-office operations.
How to Buy the Best Walkie Talkie
At a glance, walkie-talkies don’t seem as complex as cell phones. However, as you’ll realize by the end of this buying guide, a slight mistake can turn out to be quite expensive especially if you are eyeing several high-end units for your business premises.
So, what matters when buying a walkie talkie?
FRS, GMRS, or Business Radios?
This is hands down, one of the most critical points when purchasing a walkie-talkie. I’ve already discussed FRS and GMRS radios in detail in my other work of the best walkie talkies for a cruise ship. You might want to peruse that one too for an in-depth guide.
FRS (Family Radio Service) radios are the most basic walkie-talkies in that they are just a step ahead of toys.
These radios are meant for family recreational use either around the home or outdoors. They are engineered to offer a power output of utmost 0.5 watts. Consequently, they will only allow communications within a one mile (or less) radius as per the FCC requirements.
FRS radios are relatively inexpensive. The good news is that you don’t need a license to operate one. They can also be used by anyone irrespective of age.
How do they compare to other types of radios?
GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radios are a step beyond the FRS types. These models output up to 5 watts of power and will, therefore, offer a wider coverage of around 5 miles.
Even with their high power output and notably longer connectivity range, the FCC states categorically that they should be used for family use.
These radios can only be used by adults (18+ years). You’ll also need a license to transmit on them although no test is required.
Family Radio Service radios utilize channels 1-14 while their bigger siblings, the GMRS radios operate within channels 1-22.
This means that these 2 types of radios can connect within the shared channels (1-14). However, you’ll need a GMRS to reach another GMRS model within channel 15-22 block.
RFS/GMRS Hybrid radios
If you have friends and family members who have RFS and GMRS radios already, going for a hybrid model might be a sensible idea.
As the name suggests, hybrid radios combine RFS and GMRS radios in one unit. This makes it possible for you to connect with other radio users using either of the models.
Worth noting, however, is that you’ll need to have a license to be able to transmit legally over the GMRS-dedicated frequencies.
Business Radio Service
As I have just pointed out, FRS and GMRS radios are meant for family recreations only although they can also be used to report emergency situations.
Unfortunately, these radios are not meant for business use.
In that case, you want a radio that is dedicated to regular use. Such models are designed to withstand being roughed up and will, therefore, offer several years of use without giving in.
The FCC licenses BRS radios for various commercial activities including businesses, manufacturers, power, film and video production, motor carrier, and telephone maintenance among others. Read more about the Business Radio Service pool here.
UHF and VHF
To answer the question about the type of frequency to go with, you’ll need to determine where you intend to use the radio the most (indoors or outdoors) and the type of existing radios (if any).
UHF (Ultra High Frequency)
Ultra High Frequencies range from 400 to 512 MHz. These frequencies tend to be the most popular thanks to their ability to penetrate through buildings, hills, and wooded environments.
The major problem with UHF frequencies is that they are way shorter than VHF at around 12-14 inches. This leads to reduced antennal length and radio range.
To curb this issue, most manufacturers opt to use a sizable antenna and a higher power output to maximize on a signal range. This is more work, and it makes the UHF compatible radios a little bit pricier.
All in all, considering UHF signals’ ability to penetrate through the soil, earth, concrete and to go around steel, these radios are your best bet if you want a device that you can use comfortably both indoors and outdoors.
VHF (Very High Frequencies)
VHF signals offer the best performance when the 2 radios are in a clear line of sight. As I explain in another article on the best VHF radios for marine, these frequencies cover more distance across open areas such as the sky, massive water bodies, golf courses, and open fields with fewer obstacles.
Another definite advantage of VHF is that it does not use a lot of power for transmission. Even these frequencies go through foliage and trees easily compared to UHF waves.
So, which frequencies should you consider? Well, if you plan to use the radio mainly in open outdoors, a VHF walkie-talkie might make a more reasonable choice.
On the other hand, if the radio will be used both indoors and outdoors, then a UHF model might be the most reliable choice considering its ability to penetrate walls.
Channels and Privacy codes
Channels in walkie-talkies and other types of radios are what phone numbers are to cell phones. The only difference is that no radio has a dedicated channel to it. Rather, the user selects a clear frequency from the available list and uses it to communicate with other radio users.
Worth noting, different walkie talkies have a varying number of channels depending on the type and brand.
The number of channels that you want on your radio depends on the size of your party or the number of departments within your business.
Privacy codes, on the other hand, bring some sort of privacy by minimizing the chances of being listened in.
To make your chats a little bit confident, you’ll need to combine one of the frequencies available to you with a privacy code.
But do know that no frequency-privacy code combo makes your conversation 100% private. This is because any other radio user using the exact combination will still be able to eavesdrop.
If privacy really matters to you, then you’ll need to consider a radio with more channels and privacy codes.
Size and weight also matter a big deal depending on how you use the radio. The first walkie-talkies were the size of backpacks and could weigh up to 25 pounds.
Thanks to technology, the modern models such as the Motorola CLP Series radios measure around 3.5’’ by 2.0’’ by 0.75’’ and weigh approximately 2oz.
This size and weight make it easy to hold and use the radio in your hands for long without fatigue. But do know that compact walkie-talkies often compromise on signal range due to the reduced antenna and transmitter size.
Therefore, don’t be blinded by the small size. Ensure that you are getting a good range to meet your communication needs.
Other key considerations
Consider the type of battery that the radio uses. Lithium-ion batteries are currently the crème de le crème on this front.
These batteries don’t have issues with overcharging or memory burn. They are also the best for high wattage devices. The only issue is that they can be quite pricey.
Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries also make a good bet especially due to their durability. Unfortunately, they are pricey and can have issues with overcharging.
Speaking of batteries, check out whether the walkie-talkie can take AAA or AA batteries as well. This versatility makes it easy to stay connected even when there’s no way to recharge the rechargeable batteries.
It’s also important to consider the radio’s construction design depending on how often you intend to use it and how rough you can be.
If you work at a construction site where the radio is more susceptible to being dropped on concrete floors, a brick-format model might fit the bill. Most of these radios do not have a digital display although you could also get a model with it.
In addition to this, check out whether the radio comes with any form of protection against dust, dirt, and splashes and spills. Waterproof radios will definitely make a great choice for mariners.
Similar to your cell phone, the keypad lock feature prevents accidental changes to your working channel.
When it comes to reliable walkie-talkies, I believe any of the above picks will do quite well. What matters is getting a model that will connect you to your party of family while in recreational parks or workmates at your place of work.
Importantly, ensure that you have a license depending on the signals that you intend to transmit on.
So, which radio is your choice of the best walkie-talkie from the list above? In my opinion, the Midland Consumer Radio GXT1030VP4 takes the cake here.
What’s great about this model is that it offers quite a good bang for the buck thanks to its features and functions.
The GXT1030VP4 offers both the FRS and GMRS spectrums thereby offering you a larger community of radio users near you. The unique features, however, is its Group Call and Vibrating Alert functions.