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Product Review
TYT  MD-380
DMR Handheld
TDMA Tier I and Tier II

August 2016

DMR (General Info)
It is important to recognize that there are several digital modes used in ham radio, and they are not compatible. There is DMR, widely used by Motorola (MotoTRBO), D-Star (developed by Icom), and C4FM Fusion (developed by Yaesu).  Other standards include P25, dPMR, NXDN, etc.

Even though these radios are all 'digital', they will not talk to each other. Before purchasing this radio, be sure to confirm the digital standard you need is DMR.

The TYT MD-380 is a single band (UHF or VHF) handheld with dual mode capability that can be used as an FM transceiver when not in the DMR operating mode. There are no dual band radios available at this time as these were originally designed for commercial use, where dual band is not a requirement for business operation.
Although the greater majority of repeaters are UHF, I purchased the VHF model as the closest repeaters to my home are 30-35 miles away and all three are VHF. 
In the Box

Included with the radio are the:
-  2000mAh Li-Ion Battery
-  81 page User Guide – English  (Download)
-  Charger base & AC adapter
-  Belt clip
-  Antenna (1) – 6 3/4" (17cm) 
-  Antenna (2) – 3 3/4" (10cm)
-  Driver and Software CD
-  Programming Cable
     This is not always included with the radio.
     You must confirm when ordering.
General Description
-  VHF or UHF
-  DMR / FM
-  1W / 5W transmit
-  1000 channel
FCC Part 90 Certified
The MD-380 is FCC Part 90 Certified and compliant with U.S. FCC Commercial specifications.
- FCC ID: POD-MD380 and POD-MD-380V

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The MD-380 case has a solid feel, weight, and durability that gives the impression that if the radio is dropped, the concrete would crack before the case would.  It weighs in at 9.4 oz (266g) with the battery attached.
The frequency range is VHF 136-174 or UHF 400-480 MHz. Along with DMR, the radio also supports FM, both Wide and Narrowband.
OTA audio reports are excellent and power levels were right where the should be.
MD-380 146 MHz
High 5.2
Low 1.1
The receiver sensitivity is excellent, and the audio quality is clear, loud, and undistorted. There is no Squelch Tail with digital. When a transmission is completed, the radio goes silent, sometimes leaving you to wonder if it's your turn. Fortunately, there is a tone option that will Beep to let you know the signal has dropped.
The audio is full and loud with excellent frequency response.  The major advantage of DMR is the audio quality. Noisy signals no longer exist. If a signal has enough strength to be heard by the receiver, it is digitally processed where all noise is eliminated and what would be a noisy signal on FM now sounds as though the person is standing right next to you. There is no Robotic sound found in some other digital radios.
This option to scan channels can be selected by either Menu selection, or by using one of the programmable side keys. A nice additional feature of the MD-380 is the ability to add / delete channels from the scanning list using the keypad.

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There were two VHF antennas included with the radio.
-  Antenna (1) – 6 3/4" (17cm) which is a fairly common size for a handheld.
-  Antenna (2) – 3 3/4" (10cm), slightly shorter, but still a very good antenna.
I did find the longer antenna to perform better for the long haul, but for local coverage, the shorter antenna actually didn't do too bad.
If an upgrade is desired, note that the antenna termination must be an SMA Male connector. This is not the same connector that is used on many ham transceivers.
The radio has a multicolor display. The main background is a sky blue with multicolor icons. The screen size is 1.1" x 1.4" with excellent resolution.

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If you are entering the world of DMR for the first time, be aware that programming a digital radio is a bit different from a standard FM transceiver. Although the FM side is similar, the digital side requires a bit more in depth knowledge. I recommend that you find someone in your area that can help by supplying an initial template to start you on the right path.
You will learn to be familiar with the word 'Codeplug'. This is the software data image that contains the information necessary to access you local DMR repeater, and connect you to the worldwide network.
The factory software is fairly straight forward, but again, contains terminology that may require a bit of research. A little intimidating at first, but call it a basic learning experience.
The MD-380 was introduced in May 2015, however the firmware is upgradable. When changes and upgrades are available, the firmware can be upgraded with a standard Windows PC. You will always have availability to the latest version.
Programming Cable
The programming cable resembles the cable used on many ham transceivers, but that's where the similarity ends. The programming UART chip is in the radio, not the cable. Although the cables looks the same and used the same connectors, you must use the cables provided with the radio.
Battery and Charger
I can easily get a full day out of the radio if it's fully charged. Charge time is a bit longer than some of my other chargers. An exhausted battery could take as long as 10 hours to reach full charge.  The bright LED bar on the front of the charger is unmistakable.  Bright Red when charging, and Bright Green when either fully charged or no radio in the cradle. It's bright enough to be used as a night light.
Although the programming cable above is not compatible, accessories such as Spkr/Micr are. I use a QHM-22 and the reports were excellent.  Accessories such as car chargers are also available.
Audio Concern
The transmit audio on the MD-380 tends to run a bit on the hot side. The radio does not have an audio adjustment, so please remember, loud audio does not equate to good sounding audio.
When I speak directly into the microphone with the radio resting on my cheek, the audio tends to muffle. Holding the radio approximately an inch (2.5cm) away produces full, clear, and undistorted audio.
A 'Parrot' test is one way to monitor audio, as well as an over-the-air contact.
Another way is listening to your audio using Hoseline. This is a Brandmeister PC DMR scanning program that allows you to listen to your signal live.  There is an audio and spectrum indicator on the display. If your audio exceeds 4 on the VU meter, or bouncing into the caution zone of the spectrum indicator, you may need too back away just a bit.
The MD-380 is a solidly built transceiver, with plenty of options.  It is not fair to compare it to the high end commercial types. This is a solid, good performing DMR transceiver which doubles as an FM transceiver on the same band.  For the price, it's a great way to get started in the world of DMR digital.
Available from:  MTC Radio, Grapevine, Amazon
Also available in a GPS model MD-390   Amazon

TYT  MD-380
Single Band  DMR

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