The Midland Radio GXT1000 and GXT1050 are some of the best GMRS/FRS handheld radios for the money. These radios are what I would simply call “usable”. That might sound a little obvious, but every once in a while something will come along that you find you use it a lot more than you had originally expected. These radios fit that bill; they are convenient, simple to operate, and they work! I can hand my wife one of these radios and be confident she will be able to operate it without a problem! The radios are GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) and FRS (Family Radio Service) capable. They also provide access to NOAA Weather Radio channels and the severe weather alert system. I initially decided to pick these up as a cheap weather alert radio for camping and other activities, because I would get 2 for not much more than a standard base weather radio, and I would have the walkie-talkie function as a bonus. The radio has the following features:
- 50 GMRS/FRS Channel (22 actual frequencies, 28 channels with pre-programmed CTCSS/DCS codes)
- 142 Privacy Codes (38 CTCSS / 104 DCS)
- Waterproof JIS4 Standard
- Direct Call
- VOX (Voice operated switch transmit)
- Selectable Call Alert (additional Animal Sound on GXT1050)
- NOAA Weather Radio
- NOAA Weather Alert
- NOAA Weather Scan
- Dual Watch
- VIBRATE ALERT
- Monitor Function
- Roger Beep Tone
- Silent Operation
- Keypad Lock
- Whisper Function
- SOS Siren
- Power HI/MED/LO Settings
- Speaker / Microphone Jacks
- Battery Meter / Battery Low Indicator
To begin, the GXT1050 is the same as the GXT1000 with the exception of the Mossy Oak case. While this is not major, it is a nice touch if you will ever use the radios while hunting or in the woods. Midland did an excellent job of providing great functionality out of the box. The radios come with:
- Cradle charger base
- AC adaptor for house charging
- DC adapter for 12V charging
- Rechargeable NiMH battery for each radio
- Detachable headset for each radio with mic and earpiece
- Detachable belt clip for each radio
The headset port features separate speaker and mic connections so most aftermarket speaker mic’s will work with the unit.
The ports are also protected when not in use by a dust cover that helps maintain the JIS4 waterproof rating (using an accessory disqualifies the radio from the JIS4 rating). A nice feature when using the headset (I don’t recommend it when not using a headset!) is the VOX function. VOX stands for voice operated switch, and basically means the radio will monitor the mic and whenever a sound is picked up it will switch on the transmitter. The sensitivity is adjustable (9 settings) for your situation. Just remember when it is on, it will transmit anything you say!
The belt clip detaches to allow access to the battery compartment, or to allow for a smaller form factor if the GXT1050 won’t be clipped to a belt/strap/pocket, etc. The clip is spring loaded and is actually of higher quality than you would expect.
The battery compartment is sealed with a rubber o-ring, another measure that gives this radio the splash-proof rating.
Midland provides a 6V 700mAh battery pack that can be inserted in the battery compartment, but it is also capable of being used with standard AA batteries. This is an important feature to consider. The NiMH battery pack allows for economical daily operation when you have access to a charger, and the AA battery option allows you to use standard alkaline batteries if you aren’t able to charge the battery pack. I suppose you could also use 4 AA NiMH rechargeable batteries with a larger capacity than the factory pack, but I would advise on using a separate charger at that point rather than the factory charging cradle.
This picture shows the battery cover back on and the belt clip back in place. Even with the belt clip the radio is comfortable in your hand and easy to hold and operate.
It was rather difficult to get a clean shot showing the power up display, but this shows you what all indicators are on the radio, as well as the color of the backlight. The manual is very well written and identifies all the icons and functions on the display.
Programming the radios for operation is very straight forward. There is a detailed menu flow chart in the manual, and after spending a few minutes looking and playing with the radio I was able to set it up. An important thing to remember with the GXT1000 and GXT1050 is they operate on the FRS and GMRS bands. FRS is channel 1-14 with an output of 500mW only. Without a GMRS license you can’t legally operate the radio on channels 1-7 above 500mW, or 15-22 period. A GMRS license is only $85 for 5 years, and allows you to use up to 5W on channels 1-7, and 15-22 which will greatly increase your range in all terrain. The radios are advertised as 50 channel radios, channel 23-50 operate on teh frequencies below, but also have default CTCSS/DCS codes built in. This is only useful if you will be using only GXT1000 or GXT1050 radios or other radios programmed similarly. Below is a channel list for the FRS/GMRS channels.
Channel followed by frequency in mhz
The weather function of the radio works exactly as you would expect. You can monitor and change the weather frequencies to find the channel with the best reception. Once you find this you can turn on the weather alert function. The weather alert function monitors the last weather channel you were on continuously in the background to listen for severe weather alerts, meaning when you have the alert function turned on, you can use the radio on the FRS/GMRS frequencies as you would expect, and still get notified during a severe weather event. When an alert is issued, a warning tone is emitted from the radio followed by the weather alert broadcast from your local NOAA office. Your local NOAA office usually runs tests mid-day on Wednesday. You should set up your radio prior to a test to ensure the alert function is properly programmed and working in the radio. The weather alert is another function of the radio that makes this radio essentially useful. Even if I don’t really need the 2-way communication aspect of the radio I take it along so I am forewarned of severe weather. There are 7 NOAA frequencies (1-7) and 3 recognized Canadian Marine Frequencies programmed in the radio (in MHz).
CTCSS and DCS Privacy Codes are available for use with the GXT1050 and GXT1000 radios. If you are not familiar with these codes, they offer you the capability to program your radio to only receive incoming signals that were transmitted using these tones. Basically, it will help eliminate stray signals from interrupting your desired communication. Before you go out to use the radios, decide on a code, and program it using the manual into all the radios. This way only the people who have programmed the same code into their radio will get through to your receiver. This DOES NOT mean that other people outside your party can’t hear your transmissions, so as a courteous user it’s always best to check the frequency you are going to be operating on to make sure you won’t cause interference to other users. This is easily done on the GXT1000 and GXT1050 by pressing and holding the MON/SCAN button until the receiver is opened and you hear static. The manual does contain a CTCSS and DCS code chart so if you will be using the radio with radios by other manufacturers you have a reference point to set up the privacy codes. A quick tip, the radio will show a number (1-38 for CTCSS codes, 1-104 for DCS codes) when you are programming the codes in. This number is not the actual standardized code, it is Midland’s number for the standardized code. For instance, CTCSS code 1 on the radio, corresponds to a tone of 67.0 Hz. The DCS example is code 1 on the radio, corresponds to DCS code 023. I find it easiest if programming multiple radios to decide on a standardized code (example 67.0 Hz for CTCSS or 023 for DCS) and then translate that using the chart in the manual to the proper code in the radio. If you are not using different radios, it is not an issue, just plug in the same code channel on each radio and you are good to do.
There are many other advanced features listed above we aren’t going to go into today as they go beyond the scope of most users. In wrapping it up, I’d like to offer a quick start guide to get you up and running smoothly and effectively with these radios that I feel will be sufficient for most users.
· Install battery pack or AA batteries
· Power on radio
· Decide and program the channel into the radio (remember to keep it legal if you are operating on FRS only without a GMRS license)
· Decide and program a privacy code, CTCSS or DCS
· Turn on/off beeps for button presses, roger beep (the tone emitted when you release the transmit button, letting others know you are done transmitting), vibrate, etc
· Scan the weather channels for the strongest signal (keep in mind this WILL change if you go to a different area, so anytime you are in a new area you will want to do this!)
· Turn on the weather alert
· Set up all other radios using this process
· Test the receive and transmit capability of each radio, make sure everybody can hear everybody
· LOCK THE RADIO – possibly the most important step! Once you have the radio set up and tested working, press and hold the button with the picture of the lock on it until the lock icon shows up on the screen. This will prevent you and anyone else from inadvertently changing the settings.
· Charge the radios for at least 12 hours from a low battery. If the radio will provide critical communications, take several sets of spare batteries and maintain regular communication to make sure you stay in range. Set “check in” intervals and keep a checklist to make sure everyone in your group checks in regularly.
The Midland GXT1000 and GXT1050 GMRS/FRS radios are a great addition to family outings, camping, hunting, caravans, farms and anyone who wants to keep in touch over short distances. I have found I use them even in areas when I could use a cell phone because the communication is simpler (no dialing), and quicker, there is no waiting to connect or ringing involved. If you decide to pick up a set, you’ll see what I mean, you’ll keep finding new ways to use them to stay in touch!