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Retevis RB17 FRS radio

n1das

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Feb 17, 2003
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Nashua, NH

Anybody familiar with the Retevis RB17 FRS radio? It caught my attention for a number of reasons.
  • The radio appears to be legit as an FRS radio and appears to leverage a commercial design instead of something designed from the ground up to be another FRS bubble pack.
  • The radio has a 4400mAh battery pack for very long operating time. Retevis claims up to 300 hours of standby time on a charge (I assume no transmitting) and up to 44 hours of talk time (I assume a 5/5/90 duty cycle). The battery pack has terminals for a drop in charger and a USB-C port for charging.
  • There is no display or keypad or buttons to change settings. It appears to be a just a simple, no-frills 2W commercial radio that has been FRS'd.
  • Changing settings and CTCSS tones / DCS codes requires PC programming. It is "program before use" like commercial radios but the default programming has it set up on FRS right out of the box.
  • The documentation suggests that it is also default programmed and sold as a PMR446 radio in Europe.
  • Given that the frequencies and other settings are programmable via PC software and the radio appears to leverage a commercial design, I'm curious about what all of its capabilities are as a commercial radio.
  • Given that business use of FRS is legal, this might be a good jobsite radio for construction workers, contractors, etc.
 
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n1das

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I saw that earlier about not covering all of the FRS frequencies. A radio need not cover all FRS frequencies to qualify as FRS and be FCC certified as an FRS radio.

462.625MHz is in the channel list but not in the usual order. I had to look for it too and then found it. 625 is on channel 6 and 725 is in there twice.

I stay away from the 467MHz FRS channels because of them being 12.5kHz away from the GMRS repeater inputs which normally are wide bandwidth (5 kHz deviation, 16k0f3e and 20k0f3e used). I had a Kenwood TKR-850 on GMRS years ago and it would occasionally get hit by FRS traffic local to the repeater on one of the 467MHz FRS channels 12.5kHz adjacent to the repeater input. The repeater would get keyed up and you would hear scraps of talk from FRS traffic using a CTCSS tone matching one of the tones in the repeater. I've also been hit by adjacent channel splatter from FRS traffic local to me on the 462MHz FRS channels 12.5kHz adjacent to the 462MHz GMRS primary channel I'm on. People argue that wide bandwidth (5kHz deviation) is better for GMRS and I'll agree with that if your definition of better includes while getting totally hammered by local adjacent channel splatter 12.5kHz away. FRS is already narrow only and GMRS has the option of wide or narrow operation. Since I use modern (not ancient) commercial gear on GMRS, I went with the flow of Part 90 narrowbanding and use narrow bandwidth (2.5kHz dev, 11k0f3e or 11k2f3e) on all GMRS channels. The receiver is also tightened up in narrow mode, not just the tx deviation being narrowed. ALL of my adjacent channel splatter problems went away completely when I switched the repeater and my Part 90/95 commercial radios from wide to narrow in the programming. I am all for going with the flow of Part 90 and narrowbanding GMRS. It would solve adjacent channel interference problems and encourage manufacturers to offer more Part 90/95 dual certified radios but that's a topic for another thread.

The RB17 appears to leverage a commercial design and only had 16 channels available to work with. I understand that and I'm OK with it because I would prefer an FRS radio based on a commercial design instead of something designed to be another FRS consumer bubble pack. The RB17 appears to be a commercial radio that was FRS'd. The super long battery life with the 4400mAh battery and USB-C charging is attractive. The battery capacity is roughly 2x the capacity of other commercial radios.

I ordered a few of these to play with and should get them next week. I plan to rearrange the channels with CPS. It makes me also want to explore what other undocumented features the radio has as a commercial radio.
 
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n1das

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My RB17 order on Amazon has shipped. I should get them next week.

I played around with the CPS for these and found the frequencies in the channels cannot be changed. The freqs on each channel are locked down in the CPS but CTCSS/DCS settings and a few other settings on each channel can be changed. The freqs on each channel might be changeable using CHIRP if they haven't been locked down in the firmware. It isn't a big deal because all I want to do is set CTCSS to what I use (156.7) and reorder the channels to my liking as an FRS radio. I'm also curious what undocumented capabilities the radio might have as a commercial radio design that has been FRS'd.
 

n1das

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Feb 17, 2003
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Nashua, NH
After getting some RB17 radios and playing with them for a while, I have some first impressions to share about them. The short summary is I like them, a lot. The RB17 is a rugged and simple no-frills FRS radio with super long operating time on a charge.

Transmit and receive audio on them is EXCELLENT and sounds like a Part 90 commercial radio. Receiver performance appears to be like what you would expect from a good Part 90 radio. I haven't had a chance to use them in an RF-soup environment yet. The permanently attached antenna appears to be pretty good.

My one big complaint about them is the orange button on top of the radio triggers a yelp siren alarm that's totally useless. The feature cannot be disabled or the button reassigned to something else with the CPS. The alarm volume is adjusted by the radio's volume control. Fortunately the alarm doesn't get transmitted over the air but it persists until cancelled. Pressing the orange button again or pressing PTT or power cycling the radio cancels the alarm. Bells and whistles, literally. It is a totally useless feature.

The 4400mAh high capacity battery translates to super long operating time. I am running mine with the battery save feature disabled and still get a couple of days of use out of them and that's with some transmitting. Retevis claims up to 300 hours of standby time and I assume that's with the battery save feature enabled. Transmit time is spec'd at up to 44 hours and I assume that's according to a 5/5/90 duty cycle and with battery save enabled during standby. Anyhow, they go a very LONG time on a charge and longer than many good Part 90 commercial radios. The operating time is plenty long enough for most uses.

The battery pack is USB-C chargeable with the USB-C jack on the battery pack and with a charge status LED beside the jack. You can charge a battery on or off the radio via USB-C. The battery pack also has terminals for a drop-in charger. The RB17 is the first FRS radio I've seen with USB-C charging capability.

The RB17 doesn't have a keypad or display for changing settings. It requires the CPS (free download on Retevis' site) to change CTCSS/DCS settings and a couple of other settings. Using the CPS is straightforward. A "China standard" aka Baofeng 2-pin programming cable is required. China appears to have adopted Kenwood's 2-pin speakermic connections as a China standard for the CCRs. A Kenwood 2-pin programming cable is known to work with the Baofengs and other CCRs and should work with the RB17.

All indications so far are that the RB17 is based on a 2W 16 channel UHF commercial design instead of something designed to be another consumer grade FRS bubble pack. The RB17 appears to be a commercial radio that was FRS'd. The RB17 is also sold in Europe as an RB617 PMR446 radio.

The RB17 is a rugged and very simple no-frills FRS radio. The super long operating time with USB-C charging capability comes as a bonus. :)
 

p1879

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Mar 15, 2004
Messages
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Looks very much like the radiooddity R2 and GA-2s series. The R2 is very robust for a cheap radio. The GA-2s also has the usb-c charging. The bigger battery is a plus in some situations, but the humble R2 will RX for 6 days 24/7 before it discharges.
 
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