Walkie-talkies are incredibly versatile tools that, even in the age of the mobile phone, are still the go-to communication option in a huge range of scenarios.
For the consumer, this popularity means that when it comes to choosing the right two-way radio solution, the choice can seem bewildering. The sheer range of models and options available can make picking the right option a tricky matter.
At Lynn Communications, it’s important to us that our customers are delighted with their purchases. So, we have compiled a handy guide to help you choose the perfect communications solution.
Why choose a walkie-talkie?
Before we look at how to pick the best walkie-talkie, it is worth considering the question – Why are walkie-talkies the best option?
In a world where just about everyone has a smartphone, it might seem that walkie-talkies have become redundant. Nothing could be further from the truth, as a communication tool over shorter distances, two-way radios have many advantages and features that mobile phones simply can’t match.
- Simplicity – In situations where instant communication is essential, a walkie-talkie’s simplicity makes it the best option. Mobile phones need several steps to establish communication – waking the phone, unlocking it, bringing up the dialler or messaging app, etc. Even in good weather, this is time-consuming, in bright sunlight or lashing rain, it is worse. Compare this against the simple push-to-talk operation of a walkie-talkie, and you get the picture.
- No need for mobile network coverage – Venture out into the wilds, and there is a good chance you also venture outwith a mobile signal. Walkie-talkies don’t rely on mobile networks or wi-fi to function.
- Robust – Smartphones, as most of us have found at some point in our lives, are not known for their ruggedness. Walkie-talkies are far more robust than any phone, and some models are designed to withstand the harshest of conditions.
- Cost – Most walkie-talkies are cheaper to buy than even lower-end smartphones, and there are no contracts or top-up charges to think about after your purchase.
- Clarity – Modern walkie talkies offer incredible communication over distances of up to several miles.
Choosing the right walkie-talkie
To help you select the right radio, we have listed some of the main factors that you should consider when making your choice.
1. Leisure or Business
The first consideration is whether you need a walkie-talkie solution for business or leisure purposes. This is important, as the needs of both niches can be distinctly different:
What to look for in a business two-way radio
- Robust – This depends on the working environment, but in many instances, businesses will need rugged handsets that are both waterproof and Atmosphere Explosive (ATEX) certified.
- Multi-channels – This feature allows for different conversations to happen simultaneously
- Battery life – The longevity of the battery life can be a critical factor in many business scenarios
- Range and clarity – Industrial and business operations often rely heavily on clarity of communication over long distances.
What to look for in leisure walkie-talkies
Some areas are applicable across both business leisure. For instance, if you require a leisure handset for camping or hillwalking, then waterproofing and ruggedness will be important. Whereas these are not imperative factors if you just want a simple set to keep in touch with the kids on a camp-out in the garden.
- Simplicity – Most leisure models are simple to use and set up.
- Cost – Even top of the range leisure models aren’t expensive.
- Range and power – In many leisure scenarios, these are not essential factors. Remember that even relatively simple models like the fantastic Motorola Talkabout T42 have a range of up to 4km, which is perfect for most leisure activities.
2. Do I need a licensed radio?
Walkie-talkies come in two flavours – Licensed or Unlicensed.
In simple terms, a licensed radio will offer more in the way of security and clarity but require the owner or business to apply for a license to legally operate them. In the majority of cases, this restricts their use to businesses. For leisure use, the benefits of a licensed radio are overkill in most circumstances.
3. VHF or UHF?
The next factor to consider is the frequency of the radio set. Once again, there are two types to consider – VHF and UHF –
- Very-high Frequency (VHF) – This is the longer of the two wavelengths and is capable of longer-range using less power. However, VHF radio waves don’t have much penetration power, and this makes them more suited to open environments like fields or bodies of water.
- Ultra-high Frequency (UHF) – This is the most popular choice, the shorter wavelength of UHF allows it more penetration when it comes to obstacles like walls and steel.
4. Distance and range
The first thing to note is that all distances quoted by manufacturers relate to the handset being used in ideal conditions. In real life, this rarely happens. Factors like terrain, interference from other radio sources, atmospheric conditions, buildings etc., all have a detrimental effect on the range.
What this means is that if you need a range of one mile, then a handset with a one-mile max range isn’t right for the job. If you have any doubt about what range to get, then we are always able to help.
The next section also deals with the range in a little more detail.
Power and range are closely interlinked. A walkie-talkie’s power is described in terms of watts, and a very rough way of calculating the maximum possible range is to equate one watt of power as providing a mile of range. In other words, the higher the wattage – the higher the range.
Higher power does come at the expense of battery life, though, so if you opt for a high-powered model, then try to pair this with a model that also features enhanced battery life.
We hope this guide helped you to narrow the choice of walkie-talkie down to a range of models that suit your needs perfectly.
At Lynn Communications, we want to help you pick the right two-way radio solution. If you need any further help picking your walkie-talkies, why not contact us today for some friendly advice from our team of experts.