With the popularity of DMR growing and growing amongst radio amateurs and with my digital background I decided to try DMR for myself.
So I went looking for a cheap DMR handheld radio, which I found in chine in the Luiton BF-TD501. I ordered my Luiton BF-TD501 radio at Bond Telecommnuications Co., Ltd in China. The radio is in fact manufactured by BFDX which also sells this radio under it's own brand with the same model number. This radio is a single band radio and is offered in three different plans/models (136Mhz-174Mhz OR 350Mhz-390Mhz OR 400Mhz-470Mhz).
I ordered the radio to fiddle around with DMR only, so the analog FM feature set was not important to me. One of the biggest drawbacks of the analog FM part is the absence of a CTCSS/DCS tone. This makes tha radio almost unusable with FM repeaters.
Buying a fairly uncommon DMR radio makes everything a lot harder. Finding support in the community is quite hard, and as most of the chinese products the lack of good documentation makes you trial and error around the radio to figure out all possibilities. For the common brands there a lot of codeplugs available witch contain the configuration of the radio so adding everything yourself isn't nessesary. These are not available for the BF-TD501, so you have to do it yourself.
Even the contact list is something you have to add by hand in the radio or in de software. The software does not support any copy-paste or import function so everything has to be typed in by hand.
When I unpacked the radio all menu's and messages on the display were in chinese, and I was unable to figure out how to switch the radio to English from the radio itself, to do this I had to program the radio with the computer.
The channel settings cannot be edited from the radio itself so therefore you need the optional USB programming cable, which in my case came out handy to switch the language to english.
While making a codeplug with all Repeaters and Contacts for the Netherlands I found out that the device only supports 256 contacts, this is including the defined Talkgroups. With at this moment over 300 ID's active in The Netherlands it is not possible to have all Dutch contacts stored in the radio.
Keeping the radio up to date in the current fast growing DMR network is very time consuming and with only 160 presets available, which are divided in 10 Zones with 16-preset/channel memories, so the rotary channel knob on top only selects which channel in a Zone. The zone must be selected from the menu.
- Solid Build
- Good audio quality on DMR RX/TX
- Only 256 contact memories
- No CTCSS/DCS available in Analog FM mode
- Editing must be done by hand no community based codeplugs available
- DMR Roaming not supported
- Bad manual, software not included in the manual
- No accesories available in the local market
- Software only works on 32bit windows computer
- I doubt if any software/firmware update will come available
The BF-TD501 is a radio to try out if DMR is somethign for you, if you decide to do something more with DMR you should go with one of the major brands which are widely available. This is a very limited radio, and all repeater/contact updates must be done by hand.
Spendign some more money on a decent radio really pays of.
Reink van Dijk / PA3RD