How do I Choose the Best PMR Walkie Talkie?

Mal Baxter

A personal mobile radio, or PMR walkie talkie, is a handheld two-way transceiver, commonly known as a walkie talkie. These mobile devices permit bidirectional communication between multiple units, typically in a range of 1 to 5 miles. Small, sleek, and stylish, today's handheld devices feature diverse functionality, which the user should understand in order to select the type of radio most suitable for individual needs. Aspects affecting choice can include range and cost; more specific options offer features in design, function, and lifespan of the unit.

A PMR walkie talkie allows bidirectional communication.
A PMR walkie talkie allows bidirectional communication.

A PMR walkie talkie operates on the ultra high frequency (UHF) band for private and licensed use. The private frequency in the US is called the Family Radio Service (FRS) band, while the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) band is reserved for licensed use by commercial and governmental organizations. Typically, FRS radios operate better in dense, urban areas with shorter ranges than their GMRS counterparts, which may be equipped with additional features and more powerful components. Common household FRS radios are often smaller, feature more stylish design, and range in quality from cheap to professional grade.

PMR walkie talkies allow communication over short distances.
PMR walkie talkies allow communication over short distances.

Selecting a PMR walkie talkie depends upon its intended uses. These radios permit convenient communication over short distances. They can allow for hands-free operation and extended talk times, and increased durability over their cell phone counterparts. Many radios offer other functions such as additional subchannels, enhanced clarity, global positioning systems (GPS), and accessories such as earpieces. Given their practicality for family communications, they make a more economical and functional choice for people separated by short distances, as in outdoor activities, in caravans, around the neighborhood, or even separated by a single floor.

Technical features of a PMR walkie talkie to consider might include whether it has a display that indicates channels, subchannels, or a battery meter with a low-battery alert. Range depends upon the quality of the antenna, which can be internal, external, or a fixed hard loop. Channel-busy alerts, roger beeps, automatic squelching functions, and auto power off add further usability. Before purchasing a unit, it's also important to try out the quality of the controls, if possible, to feel their sensitivity and durability. Also consider battery power, battery recharging or replacement, lifespan, and the total unit weight, which may feel heavier with continued use.

The final question you should ask is how far you can carry your PMR walkie talkie and still have reliable communication. Differences in power, quality, and atmospheric conditions will affect their performance, as well as degree of water resistance. In terms of value, consider how many total units can be used together, and whether additional accessories are included, such as chargers, replacement battery packs, belt clips, or headsets. Read reviews to learn about actual consumer experiences in the field to see if the units can perform to your requirements. Other types of two-way radios include helmet sets for motorcycle enthusiasts, and baby monitors.

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