Midland MXT100 GMRS Mini Review

spencyg

This Space For Rent
Hello All,

I recently participated in an adventure with Mountain State Overland on their video shoot for Season 3. As a burgeoning presence in the Overland video scene, they were sponsored by a number of significant companies, not the least of which was Midland USA. Because of that sponsorship and my participation in their production, I was offered a new MXT100 GMRS radio to install in my van for use during the trip. This is a very informal review of that radio.

The contents of the radio include the radio itself, a nice microphone with a healthy amount of high quality coiled teather, a magnetic mount external antenna a microphone mount with an adhesive patch for securing to your vehicle, and a radio mount. The radio mount can be installed either in a "hanging" or "sitting" orientation. There is a pair of instruction manuals which describe well both the installation and functions of the radio.





The radio uses a proprietary power disconnect which includes an inline fuse and fuse holder. The antenna attaches with a standard PL259 HF connection, male on the back of the radio. There is a good sized heat sink built in to the back of the unit.



Installation will be somewhat specific to an individual vehicle and preference and is no different than installing a CB radio. I did not utilize the factory provided magnetic mount antenna, instead leveraging a pre-installed NMO mount I had been using for my HAM radio. To this NMO mount I installed a Browning BR-450 antenna tuned to around 460mhz.



In my case, the radio was installed overhead in a fabricated mount that allowed me to stack my CB and GMRS units in the same "airspace".



Everything powered up fine and I was able to confirm proper operation with a handheld GMRS unit standing a little ways from the van. One item to note is that the display can be flipped. I operated the radio upside down for a few days before I was informed of this. The procedure is outlined in one of the two included manuals.

The display is clear both day and night, and all functions work well. The buttons are a little small for fiddling with while driving, but it honestly doesn't require much fiddling. The unit has auto squelch so there is no need to mess with it like a CB. The scan feature is very fast, rowing thru all 15 channels in under 4 seconds.

In-vehicle usage is a significantly better experience than CB. Voice is clear and crisp regardless of microphone usage. The PTT button is a little sensitive at first, but it doesn't take long to get used to it. A number of times other members of the team accidentally continued transmitting with the microphone placed in their lap. One must pay attention to this, as the radio does get hot and will "time out" once the temperature threshold has been reached. This occurs with a "beep" from the radio and the screen errors until the unit cools down. GMRS is regulated to 5W transmission output from the FCC and this unit uses every bit of it.

Signal range is extremely good. From MXT100 to MXT100 we were able to easily get 2+ miles thru the mountains, thru trees, far out of sight. In some areas we picked up over 4 miles of range, but 2 miles could be relied upon. A few vehicles not equipped with an MXT100 used handheld 2 way GMRS units (similar to Midland GXT/LXT units) and even without external antennas they had no trouble communicating with a group of 6 rigs spread out across the better part of a mile.

It should be noted that all GMRS usage is regulated by the FCC and a lisence is required to use this radio along with all other 2 way radios transmitting on the following frequencies:

462.5625 (channel 1)
462.5875 (channel 2)
462.6125 (channel 3)
462.6375 (channel 4)
462.6625 (channel 5)
462.6875 (channel 6)
462.7125 (channel 7)

FRS frequencies ( 467.550 thru 467.725, Channels 15-22) do not require a license to use but are limited to 0.5W transmitting power).

A GMRS license does not require a test like a HAM license does. I believe the cost is around $65 for a 5 year certification. Fines for illegal use can exceed $10,000, so a $65.00 investment is a no-brainer, especially for the function that this unit provides.

The FCC ULS (Universal Licensing System) Link

I would say for 95% of trail and extended trip usage, this MXT100 will replace my HAM radio as the primary means of communication. I still keep a CB on board due to its use within my area by logging equipment operators, but if you have a MXT100 you won't use your CB much at all. I am very impressed with the build quality, communication quality and range of this unit and I highly recommend it to anybody looking to get away from the CB inadequacies without stepping into the world of HAM radio.

SG
 

msoverland

Mountain State Overland
Great writeup Spencer! I can confirm that these little units blew my mind. I wasn't expecting the range and clarity but the MXT100 delivered. Prior to our production in New England I knew I wanted to step away from the CBs but wasn't willing to put the time into testing for HAM and dumping a bunch of money on a unit.

For the price point and the ease of registering a GMRS unit, picking up a few MXT100s was a no brainer. Now having tested these, we made a wise investment and I'll be recommending these units on all of our group rides in the future. They are just too versatile not to have.
 

ExploringNH

Explorer
I too was really impressed with the Midland units. I've grown so sick of CB radios over the years that I only list them as backup communication for any runs or events that I lead. It seems like every single trip that 25% of the people end up with CB issues, usually due to improper installation or previous damage to a fiberglass antenna. I started using HAM and there is just too much of a barrier for most people due to the testing required for a license. For the past year or so, all my trips have been FRS/GMRS. Anyone can pick up an inexpensive handheld anywhere on the road and then participate. It's easy to keep spares in the truck to lend out as well, something not possible with CB or HAM. Handheld CB is ridiculously bad and I'm not going to lend out my HAM to someone without a license. Those with a GMRS license can use 5 watts on the shared FRS/GMRS channels to get more range. So far, I've been limited to handhelds since I didn't even know that a product like this Midland MXT100 existed. I'm very happy to have found it and get some time on it. The ability to add an external antenna is awesome and the hardmount ability with a handheld mic is way easier to operate than having a handheld FRS sitting in the cupholder.
 

spencyg

This Space For Rent
I don't look at GMRS as being direct competition with HAM. I think a proper amateur radio setup has far more capability but for those who do not want to go thru the process of technician level testing and certification required for HAM usage, this is a pretty decent alternative. I'm not sure I'd bother with repeaters even if it did have the capability, but that may be because I've got my Ham setup sitting right next to this one.

Price point is maybe a little high, especially when you factor in the license cost. Still, for anybody wanting crystal clear communication on the trail with a compact well built package, sub-$150 shouldn't be a barrier to entry.

SG
 

Frdmskr

Adventurer
I don't look at GMRS as being direct competition with HAM. I think a proper amateur radio setup has far more capability but for those who do not want to go thru the process of technician level testing and certification required for HAM usage, this is a pretty decent alternative. I'm not sure I'd bother with repeaters even if it did have the capability, but that may be because I've got my Ham setup sitting right next to this one.

Price point is maybe a little high, especially when you factor in the license cost. Still, for anybody wanting crystal clear communication on the trail with a compact well built package, sub-$150 shouldn't be a barrier to entry.

SG
I agree with all the above, BUT! You have to pick the tool for the job. If you are doing trails with your local group of friends or a club, use what the consensus is (often CB or GMRS.) The other half of the equation is looking at where you are. If you are in rugged area in the middle of no where then a cell phone won't get you much help when you get in trouble. You might want that CB or long haul of HF or VHF ham radio (depending how remote you are) to get out of trouble. If you are in an area with cell coverage or there is someone else with a sat phone or a ham radio, however, sure GMRS works.

One trip I was on, the trail boss had two radios running: CB for club members and GMRS for a few others from another club. It got interesting with him bouncing between them both.

For me, right now all I have is Ham because it will work most anywhere I go. I do see an argument for having a GMRS or CB in the truck in a box, but not fulltime deployed. So I will probably get one each and stow them for use someday.
 

Gizzard Stone

Overlander
I like the idea of GMRS. Does that unit have the ability to power down for use with a FRS frequency?

My crew and I use CB and FRS. I'm the only one who has both. I also have a HAM, but the only one.

CB is basically useless. It's like they are talking through a pillow. Was in traffic on I80 yesterday and nobody was on either channel 19 or 4 so it's not useful for that anymore either.

I did a Land Ops (geocache/SAR/HAM) event last weekend and everyone was using mobile 2m and handle-talkies. That worked REALLY well.

-M

-M
 

aearles

Observer
Unfortunately the FCC requires a non-detachable antenna for FRS, so just turning the tx power down to .5W wouldn't be sufficient.
 

Jamooche

Adventurer
Thanks for the great writeup Spencer. After discussing the radios this past weekend I am totally sold on switching to GMRS. Thanks again!
 
Bought both the base unit and the 2-radio handheld pack on Amazon. Took all of five mins to be talking on them and range and clarity from BU to HH is already hugely better than CB. Took 5 mins to get the lic online as well. Also, given that the base unit comes with the 12 volt cig lighter plug, I'm going to just move it from truck to truck as needed. No need for hard install. I think this will be the new norm in simplex radio communication. Thx for enlightening us to these, Spencer!
 

whitenoise

Adventurer
Met with the Mountain State Overland guys at Expo East last weekend and got to check out the MXT100 first hand. It seems like a really good value at $150, considering my really "inexpensive" CB system cost the same ballpark ($120) and took forever to research and put together. Not to mention time spent dialing in the SWR etc. For $30 extra, and a $13/year license fee, this seems like a no-hassle alternative, as long as you convince the others you wheel with to get the same setup......
 
Met with the Mountain State Overland guys at Expo East last weekend and got to check out the MXT100 first hand. It seems like a really good value at $150, considering my really "inexpensive" CB system cost the same ballpark ($120) and took forever to research and put together. Not to mention time spent dialing in the SWR etc. For $30 extra, and a $13/year license fee, this seems like a no-hassle alternative, as long as you convince the others you wheel with to get the same setup......
Get the handhelds too and you can always give out a handheld to anyone who doesn't have a GMRS and it will still work better than their CB.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
this seems like a no-hassle alternative, as long as you convince the others you wheel with to get the same setup......
I think GMRS would have been a much better way to go with most of the overland/4WD/whatever movement instead of ham. I was and would continue to be a ham but I think it's been more trouble than it needed to be and I bet there would have been almost zero reluctance to abandon CB with GMRS, particularly because of the interoperability with FRS. Maybe it still will be but I think a lot of people don't want to buy another VHF radio at this point.
 
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