This more or less matches my experiences over the years.We recently performed a test with these units - amongst a handful of others and it should come as no surprise as the two most important criteria regardless of power:
Unobstructed line of sight
Good receiver front end
Direct-talk was first - 8 miles los was no problem although we *did* use the little pull-out antenna. I'm on top of a 6 story building, and the other end was free and clear about 3 stories up. Nothing between us. Units stationary, not mobile. Worked just fine, like he was standing next to me, although once in a blue moon, a little fec took place.
FRS - Moto T200's with stubby built-in antennas. RF made the trip just fine. The limiting factor was the weak receiver front end which made it nearly unusable.
Amateur - various amateur freq were tried, and with better front ends (using low power, and very small ducks to try and emulate the frs environment ) - no problem for the rf. Receivers were better, but still nothing like the go / no-go of digital.
CCR's - various rigs were tried on amateur freqs, and again, rf had no problem at half a watt. Being sdr in nature, the noise floor was better than an analog transceiver, but was still limited by not having much front-end in my dense rf environment. So similar to frs, but not quite as bad. CCR murs specific radio a bit quieter actually since VHF isn't as dense as UHF where I'm at.
The trick is to actually get to an unobstructed line of sight environment, and have a good receiver front end.
I agree here too. My wife and I have used i355 DT capable NEXTEL phones years ago and used the DT feature. That's when I first learned of the DTR series digital on-site business radios. I don't bother with any DT capable NEXTEL phones on the used market because I already moved on to the DTRs and DLRs. I have settled on using DTRs and DLRs as my digital replacement for GMRS/FRS and MURS for my local on-site simplex type use with family and friends. A coworker asked me why not use FRS? My answer was that I have already been doing that since FRS was created in 1996 and longer than that as a GMRS licensee since 1992. I want an all-digital solution that is higher quality and more professional than FRS. Being able to make them reasonably secure by using private groups and 1 to 1 calling and not having to worry about FCC licensing and frequency coordination are bonuses. They work amazingly well from my experiences with them.The crux of the issue between frs / direct talk is not just frequency and power. It is the *receiver* quality that is vitally important often overlooked.
Jasii - I know you miss direct-talk greatly. Attempts to shoe-horn an frs/gmrs/murs radio into a cellphone as a replacement just isn't going to fly - why? Unless a carrier actually designs in a good receiver, and consumers are willing to pay for that, then one is most likely looking at the incorporation of an inexpensive direct-conversion sdr, which at times is just as bad as a cheap analog frs radio. And when in the great outdoors, one often gets even closer to mountaintops in which repeater and other high powered rf live, crushing your weak front end.
Moral - if one wants to get serious about it, you'll need a serious radio to bring along with you. Budget attempts, no matter what band or power, will get budget results.