The Walkie-Talkie Market Review: Motorola vs Uniden

Walkie-talkies, or handheld two-way radios, allow families and recreational groups to stay in contact without incurring call charges and without relying on cell phone services. There are many walkie-talkies on the market, but two of the main manufacturers are Motorola and Uniden.

Walkie-talkies fall into two groups: those that require a license and those that don't. You don't need a license to use the Family Radio Service (FRS), whereas operating on the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) requires at least one member of the group to have a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). FRS radios transmit less power and therefore have a smaller range than GMRS radios.

In the FRS radio range, Motorola offers the T4, T6 and T8 as "urban" options and the Talkabout FV300 and MC220R as rugged outdoor options. With increased range, the models also offer additional channels and features such as backlit LCD display, keypad locks and an inbuilt LED torch. There is so little difference in price as to make the T4 and T6 options seem pointless. Although Uniden offers several dual FRS/GMRS models, all but the 1GMR1235-2 are closer in price and range to GMRS models, and the GMR1235-2 is as basic as the T4, albeit with a much better range.

If you want to stay in touch over longer distances, you'll need to get an FCC license and go for a GMRS option. Here Motorola offer models ranging from the Talkabout MH230R up to the Talkabout MR356R, with an impressive 35-mile maximum range. It's in this category Uniden shines, with options from the 18-mile GMR1838, up to the top-of-the-range waterproof and submersible GMR3689, which can transmit up to 36 miles. Although the price difference between FRS models, coming in at around $20 to $30 and GMRS handsets starting at $60 to $90 is quite substantial, if you're going to make the extra outlay, it probably makes sense to go for the top-end models.

In short, if you want to stay in touch in a relatively small area and don't want the hassle of getting an FCC license to use your walkie-talkies, the Motorola T8 or MC220R is probably your best option. If you need the extended reach of the GMRS radio service, then Uniden's GMR3680 is pretty hard to beat.

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