Motorola Talkabout TA200
Motorola Talkabout TA200 (PMR446 version) review.
Actually, this is a retro-review. The thing you most need to know about these sets is that you can't buy them any more... unless, of course, you know differently (in which case, let me know). But officially, they are discontinued.
They were current models until about two years ago, and then were superceded by the T6222.
So, what's the point of a review? Well, they sold in fairly large numbers and they do come up second hand in places like Ebay. When they do, they go for amazingly stiff prices. 60 to 80 UKP for a pair is not unusual, even though you can currently buy the rather good Oregon Scientific TP326 for about 30 UKP a pair.
The TA200 started the three colours choice which Motorola continued to favour for subsequent models - they came in black, blue, or eye-wrenching yellow. I would have liked one of the latter, but mine is blue. There are various options for attaching it to yourself - a lanyard to hang it around your neck, a very strong belt clip which can be clipped onto the radio - these came with the radio as standard, there were also optional holsters for mounting on your arm and on your belt. As usual for Motorola gear, there were various mike options such as headset/boom mikes and so on.
If you're looking for a feature packed radio with scan, CTCSS tone decode-and-show and an S-Meter, all the kind of features that a radio enthusiast type user would want (and which the later T6222 has) then I'm afraid you've come to the wrong place. These aren't the droids you're looking for. Move along.
If you're looking for a nearly indestructable idiot proof, completely basic unit which works really well and looks good, then there could be something here for you after all.
Menu Features (in order) - a very short list!
Microphone Sensitivity high/low
Lock button is separate, hold for two seconds to lock/unlock channel and tone setting. A good feature if the radio is to be used by kids or incurable button fumblers.
The well designed case feels really solid and strong, as though it could be dropped from waist height onto concrete without suffering any significant damage. The battery cover is very tough and secure and does not rely on a small catch to secure a big lid. These units originally cost about 65 UKP each and when you've got one in your hand with batteries in it, it pretty much feels as though it's worth that much, almost as though it's made from coated metal.
I often see comments saying that such and such a set is well built, but in terms of near perfect size, build quality, weight, balance and tactile feel, this set blows away every other 'hobby' class PMR446 set that I have personally handled - whoever designed it probably took time off from his day job designing samurai swords. It really does feel that nice. You'd probably have to go for a professional style set costing about 150 UKP in order to get a radio which felt better in your hand. The only thing that spoils it is the quirky centre PTT button, which, as everyone knows, should be on the side.
These radios were my introduction to PMR446 - the place I worked at had a pair for onsite communications between engineers and I borrowed them for a weekend outing. Even though I was used to operating on 70cms (430-440Mhz) as a radio amateur, I was still really impressed by how well they worked, and although I've subsequently found that many other (much cheaper) sets work just as well, I still have a very soft spot for these radios because they were built to a level of physical quality which couldn't be sustained after the prices of other PMR446 equipment fell - so although today's modern cheap sets perform as well as the TA200 and almost always have far more features, they just don't have the lovely chunky, solid feel of the TA200. The TA200 is to the modern PMR446 set what the wooden valve radio of yesteryear is to your modern radio tuner - simpler and nowhere near as feature packed, but reassuringly big and solid and it essentially does the same job.
-Motorola's trademark front PTT button
-CTCSS can't be turned off although the squelch can be defeated with the 'mon' button.
-Battery consumption on TX is comparatively heavy, estimated at 3 hours on alkalines as opposed to 8 hours for its successor the T6222.
-Squelch is not user variable either via a digital menu or an analogue front panel control.
-Doesn't seem to be possible to switch off the key beep
-Motorola didn't put the works of the T6222 into this case (tragic)
-decent RX sensitivity, nice audio in and out.
-analogue rotary volume control, fairly stiff so it can't be turned down accidentally.
Very strongly built, simple and devoid of any features not required for basic communication, so if all you want to do is talk to a known person or group without becoming mired in level after level of menus, these are great radios. They are particularly suitable as kid radios if you can bear to let something so beautiful and expensive out of your sight and beyond your control. These -are- nice looking radios, the nicest of all the recent Motorola models with their characteristic 'lifestyle' styling, even if that does always seem to have to include a centre PTT button.
I wouldn't advise anyone to pay more than about 25 UKP for one, but if you happen to come across one or a pair that the owner doesn't seem to value much then they are -well- worth making an offer for. The relatively low overall rating necessarily reflects their minimal range of features, but is not intended to imply any lack of quality.
Added: Wednesday, June 25, 2003