We have a winner! Motorola’s T6222 could be the finest PMR446 handheld on the market right now!
Motorola have a tradition of making quality communications gear both in radio communications and mobile phones. It comes as no surprise that Motorola have branched out into more consumer based products in recent years. Having developed many two-way classics such as the Radius GP300 they have gone on to transfer some of that experience to consumer products at a much lower price. The FRS band in the US and the PMR446 standard in Europe have proved extremely popular so what better place to start than this?
Today we’re going to take a look at the Motorola T6222 PMR 446 MHz radio, designed as a replacement for the older T200 series of radios, now looking a little dated in terms of style and features. First impressions of out of the box give the radios a “professional” look. The review models here were supplied in Black although two other colours (Nordic Blue and the rather garish Citrus Yellow) can be supplied.
I chose black as this is always acceptable in any environment and I believe that they look more professional than radios in bright colours! The box and packaging are minimal, the radios being packed in an “egg carton” style container. A belt clip is supplied along with a comprehensive user instruction manual and accessory guide.The T6222 is a well made radio, the plastics used in the casing feel high quality and the overall appearance is very pleasing with it’s rounded edges. In your hand the Motorola feels natural to hold and the way the casing has been made helps you to grip the radio without the potential risk of dropping it. This has obviously been designed with the outdoor enthusiast in mind. The first noticeable thing about this radio is the lack of any volume control on top of the radio. Unlike previous models that have had a volume knob, the T6222′s volume setting is controlled from the buttons on the front. There are 20 volume settings numbered from 1 to 20 represented by a numerical value on the LCD screen, 20 being the loudest.
Carrying on from previous Motorola designs for consumer radios, they have chosen to place the PTT (Push to Talk) button in the middle of the radio. Whilst this may seem odd at first it has a number of advantages. The small size of this radio means you can hold it easily and press the PTT button with your thumb and secondly because the PTT bar is not side mounted it stands a lot less chance of being knocked inadvertently whilst in your pocket. on each side of the PTT button is a smaller button, on the left a call button and on the right a scan/signal meter/monitor button (depending on what mode it is working in!). Directly above the PTT button are three further function buttons, a plus and minus function (can be used for multiple operations such as changing volume and channel etc) and in the middle a menu button. A little further up towards the LCD display screen you will find the power button (bright orange) and on the opposite side of the display, a backlight button to operate the bright red backlit LCD.
Paying attention to the LCD display, the backlighting is very good and can be seen in any light conditions. The light is unusual because it’s bright red and this gives a very pleasing effect and a real change from the normal green or yellow. Upon turning the radio on, you are greeted with a short multi-tone bleep and the display springs to life showing the various operating modes of the radio. The channel number, CTCSS code in use and battery status. Further symbols can be shown depending on options chosen. Operation of the radio is quite simple. Pressing the menu button repeatedly cycles through the various user programmable options. In order of keypresses here’s the list:
1) Channel Select – Allows selection of the 8 PMR-446 channels2) CTCSS Sub Code Select – Allows selection of the 38 sub codes3) Scrambler Option – on/Off – Analogue Encryption is selectable!4) Call Tone – Choice of 10 melodious ringing tones5) Ring/Vibrate – Choice of options here as on mobile phones!6) VOX – Activate Voice Operated features – even without a headset7) Microphone Level – 3 levels for those who speak loudly or quiet8) Scan Lockout – Select any channel to be scanned or locked out 9) Auto Power Off – if radio is not used for several hours then turn off – choice of up to 8 hours delay 10) Battery Gauge Nicad/Alkaline Battery – to ensure that the radios’ battery gauge reads correctly it needs to take into account the voltage difference between Rechargeable (1.2v) and Alkaline cells (1.5v). This function allows the user to set their correct battery type. This feature was absent from some earlier Motorola models. As you can see, the feature set of the T6222 is very complete and programmable. The user manual also tells of a “basic” operating mode where the more advanced features are hidden from the user. This could be useful for inexperienced operators who have a tendency to play with the menus and get themselves into a pickle. Apparently it masks everything apart from volume and channel change operations. So, how does the radio work in real life? The short answer is amazingly well. Having tried a number of cheaper PMR radios I can assure you that these are going to be about the best you can buy in terms of usability. The radios have been tested in a variety of situations and the range has exceeded all expectations. Starting with the usual test I decided to leave one radio at home with my girlfriend and go for a walk. We live in a built up area with a number of high buildings around so this is always a good test. The audio quality was exceptionally clear with plenty of tonal quality (in other words the speaker inside the radio was of a good quality!) and there was very little flutter with the signal as I walked further away from the area. We managed a usable distance of nearly 1.5 miles before the signal started to get choppy and this is excellent considering the buildings around.
My next test was a little more ambitious and I really thought I was being a bit too ambitious. Leaving a radio at home again I headed off up to Flamborough cliff tops – my usual high spot for a bit of radio testing. This is about a seven mile drive from my house and must be at least 5 miles in a straight line but bear in mind that my town is down at the bottom of a hill to the north side from this location and it is not possible to see many buildings (other than churches).
When I walked out onto the cliff tops I turned the radio onto the agreed channel and gave a call out. Amazingly I got a response with a good clear signal and very little background noise once I had found the best location in which to point the small antenna. We had a conversation for about 5 minutes without problems – I was truly impressed with the quality. Out of interest I brought another PMR radio to compare the Motorola’s to. It was a Telecom TE-200 that is a relatively cheap but well performing radio. Switching the Telcom on I could hardly hear the signal – it was very scratchy and breaking up and on the transmit my girlfriend could only just hear the Telcom so I changed back to the Motorola. This proves that the Motorola’s sensitivity is far superior to a lot of other radios. The Telcom is no poor performer but this just shows how the Motorola excels compared to other models in terms of sensitivity.
Moving on to the scan function this can operate in two different ways and is very different from the basic “stop on a channel” scan found in most units. The T6222 is equipped with a CTCSS tone decoder so when activity is found on a channel the unit stops scanning and even the code number the people are using is displayed! This is great for finding users and joining channels when you don’t know the subcode in use. Up until now it has almost been impossible to contact other groups of people unless they had their code disabled, for example set to 0. A quick press of the scan button revealed lots of activity on all 8 channels from time to time and this was fascinating. I wondered if I would be able to contact anyone so I decided to wait until the scan found someone. If you find activity and wish to join that channel you can press the PTT bar and the radio automatically changes to that channel and allows you to transmit. The only disadvantage I can see is that the scan resumes after 5 seconds of inactivity so you need to either stop the scan and enter the channel and subcode again or keep talking at short intervals. However, that said I was able to make contact successfully with a number of people who were quite some distance away back in my town – some of which were near the seafront and sounded surprised when I told them how far away I was. Some didn’t even believe me because they said “they only go two miles!” – literally believing what the box tells you! In the open you can communicate much further!
I managed to make a few other contacts one of which was on the other side of the bay about 16 miles away. The Motorola’s transmit and receive truly are exceptional. Another secondary function of the scan button is quite interesting. Holding this down for two seconds releases the squelch level so you can hear the very long distance contacts and in addition shows the signal level in the form of a number from 1 to 5 on the screen with 5 being the strongest.
A week later I went to the same spot again and certainly wasn’t prepared for what happened. It would appear that the weather conditions had created a perfect troposphere because one contact I made was unbelievable baring in mind the output power of PMR-446 being only half a watt ERP. I spoke to a lady who was on channel 1 without and subcodes and she replied back to me but sounded like she was from a different area of the country due to her accent. I asked whereabouts she was from and I discovered that she was in Sherringham in Norfolk! Even in straight line from where I was stood on the cliff tops at Flamborough in East Yorkshire it was at least 100 miles! It turned out that they were right on the beach. They own “Cafe Del Mere” in Sherringham and have an ice cream kiosk on the beach and they bought a couple of cheap Telecom TE-100 radios to keep in touch between there and the cafe.
Considering that the TE-100 radios are the most basic on the market with just the standard 8 channels and no CTCSS this was even more amazing. I got the phone number for the cafe so I could verify the contact and then had a chat with the owner of Cafe Del Mere, Chris who, was very interested in the contact I made because he also worked for the Coastguard down in Norfolk and used radio equipment in his job. He was very impressed with the Telcom’s they had purchased considering that they only paid £29.99 for the pair! The battery life in the T6222 is excellent lasting a full day on rechargeables with a lot of use. Motorola also produce battery packs for the radios with a very nice multi-purpose charging unit and intelligent charger unit (with status indicators in different colours). This is an option extra but simplifies the use of the radios even further as battery packs can be left inside the unit when charging saving the hassle of opening them up all the time, and reducing wear and tear.
A number of optional accessories are available in addition to the battery packs, these include waterproof bags, headsets, earpieces (like mobile handsfree kits), extra belt clips and many other items.
The T6222 is a fantastic PMR radio set and they don’t currently get better than this. Everything you need for reliable communication is included in one small, robust package. Since I got these radios I haven’t been able to put them down because they are so useful! Great sound quality and I can’t really think of many improvements that could be made to such a good radio. The only thing I would change is the way that scan resumes after you have transmitted on a channel, I would prefer this to stop there until the scan button is pressed again, it would make it perfect for me anyway! If you were to buy a couple of these radios I don’t think you would be disappointed in anyway. If you are a little more serious about communication then consider spending the extra money on something that will last you a good few years rather than the cheap radios that fall to bits with too much handling.
These radios win the prestigious Transmission1 Gold Award for being the best PMR446 transceiver we have tested to date. It’s going to be hard to follow this one up. Every now and again an outstanding radio comes along and this is it for 2002. They don’t get better for the money.