One month with the OBLTR-8R

14 May 2015

One month ago I received this OBLTR-8R with the hope of a definitive answer as to how it stacks up against other radios such as Yaesu, Baofeng and others, as perceived good and bad quality radios. I ran some less than official tests with a local elmer who I know has good radios, coax, and equipment to give quality signal reports. Why am I just now posting a more in depth review when so many others did so after a few days or a week? I am one that I will not just rush out a review within a few days of receiving something and give it amazing reviews, as we all know any mass-manufactured product can work great for a few days or weeks and then fall apart later on. This is why I gave this OBLTR-8R a full month of use and testing.
For the testing, I borrowed a working good condition Yaesu FT-60, and tested against my Baofeng BF-F8HP, and the OBLTR-8R. I had a 6 month old UV-5R as well but didn't get around to testing it in the mix. For testing, I stood in a parking lot I knew had decent signals in most directions, more precisely in the direction of the elmers QTH which was close to 12 miles WSW of this location, with antennas up 50-60ft. One key issue in my area of the Florida panhandle, and anyone that has been here knows what I mean, this is a fairly heavily forested area with primarily 50-100ft pine trees which are well known RF leeches. It is somewhat level land with very small elevation differences, this means any signal close to ground level will have to go through thousands of pines trees to get anywhere. Even with me at 6'5" (1.956m), this doesn't help much with the much taller and thicker tree cover.
The radio setups: For my Baofeng BF-F8HP, I tested it as I have it, which is with the Nagoya NA-701 antenna and 3800mAH battery pack, and for the test, I did test transmissions at both 5W and 8W. The other 2 radios, the Yaesu FT-60 and OBLTR-8R are both stock, as they can be bought new, no antenna or battery changes/upgrades. All radios were fully charged.
For the transmit aspect, I would say "K4ISR testing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 testing." Then he would give me his signal and audio report. We tested using the common 146.520 and 446.000 simplex frequencies. At no point did I say which radio I was testing, only the "K4ISR testing" count down, and he would give signal report and audio clarity on his end. This would help prevent any potential bias he (or others listening) may have for specific radio brands. Some people know what I mean by this, they would give a good signal report and audio, but as soon as you say it is a Yaesu or Baofeng radio, suddenly the reported quality goes up or down based on their bias, not the actual proper report (which I understand is subjective based on their receiver, volume and hearing capability).

Radio Pwr Band Signal Audio (1 to 10 scale, 10 is S9 and great audio)
BF-F8HP 5W VHF S2 2 - scratchy, broken up
BF-F8HP 8W VHF S4 6 - a little background noise but perfect copy
OBLTR-8R 5W VHF S3 5 - a little background noise but perfect copy
FT-60 5W VHF S3 4 - scratchy, some background noise but perfect copy
BF-F8HP 5W UHF S2 3 - some background noise but perfect copy
BF-F8HP 8W UHF S5 6 - a little background noise but perfect copy
OBLTR-8R 5W UHF S4 5 - a little background noise but perfect copy
FT-60 5W UHF S3 5 - some background noise but perfect copy

NOTE: As of April 2015, these models have been removed from commercial sales due to revocation of their Part 95 approval. For more information, see my blog post: TERMN-8R pulled due to complaints. Now for those who still own them, like myself, they are still legal for use with amateur radio, but the GMRS aspect is illegal to use since the Part 95 was revoked from these 2 models.

So as we see here, the extra 3W of the BF-F8HP allows for a slightly stronger signal getting out, even if the audio is not improved much, versus the perceived "better quality" units with the Anytone and Yaesu show slightly better audio reports with a weaker signal. I suspect they could both benefit from using the slightly better NA-701 antenna as well. A while back I had done a preliminary test from a nearby area with the radios and antennas I had at the time, that review can be found here: Initial Baofeng Review.
For regular every day normal use, I have found the OBLTR-8R to be a much more solid radio, both in the feeling of it and actual use when compared to the Baofeng radios. I have dropped one of my UV-5Rs and my BF-F8HP a few times each, and outside of very minor scratches, they still work 100%. This OBLTR-8R has been banged around inside my SUV a few times as I needed to slam on my brakes or swerve due these crazy Florida drivers, and a few times bouncing along a sandy road as the radio bumps around inside my cup holder and one time bounced right out onto my floorboard. It has even seen a few raindrops as a storm flared up and had to rush inside with the radio on my belt line. The radio still looks and works like the day I got it. Typical audio reports from others on the local repeaters have always been good, but I am also realistic, I don't just call out expecting to get 30+ miles through this thick forest and get perfect S9 report and perfect audio. When there are several of us using HTs such as an outdoor get together, they're surprised at how clear the signal and audio is from a $100 radio when they typically spent $200-300 to get that level of quality. I believe I have convinced a few to pick up some of these new Anytones.
As expected, moving between radios of different brands means it takes a little while to learn the little quirks and how to do various things with the specific radios. Luckily going from a Baofeng to this Anytone was a matter of remembering whether I had to swipe the knob at top center or use the up/down arrow keys, the rest are close enough that it is a fairly easy transition. The Anytone is not that far off from setting up and using the Yaesu either, so it is a happy medium between the 2, although I would say it has a little more in common with using the Baofeng than it does the Yaesu. I have not used enough Kenwood, Icom or other brands to really know how it would stack up with them. If I had to have any complaints about it, I would have to say putting it in the charger is a bit picky as it is a tight fit and need to tilt and move it around some to get it to seat properly for charging. It is not like the Baofeng/Pofung chargers where it is a loose drop in, plus on the Pofung chargers, the radio can be set towards the front of the "hole" as a more stable base holder without needing to charge it, versus the Anytone chargers are a much tighter fit and not designed to allow it to just sit there as a non-charging stable base. Still, the Anytone can sit in the charging base getting bumped around and it is a tight enough fit that it takes a little pressure to put it in or take it out. Quite the opposite of the loose Pofung charging bases where one of my cats walking by can knock it out with their tail.
Overall I am very happy with this radios and would recommend it to everyone, regardless if you're used to Baofengs or Yaesus or any other brand. Granted it doesn't do Fusion or DMR or the digital modes, but those are much more specialized systems needing much higher priced radios anyways. Hopefully this helps and feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments. 73 de K4ISR