N9EWO Review :
VHF / UHF Dual Band Handheld Transceiver
TDXone TD-Q8A is a debugged and refined Baofeng/Pofung UV-5R
(but not entirely). Price is about double ($ 60. USD) and limited
availability in the USA. For the most part is a worthy
improvement over the UV-5R and it’s variants. But beware of the bad
batteries and included antenna we experienced in our testing (N9EWO Photo)
N9EWO’s Review of the TDXone TD-Q8A
Test Sample Serial Number (approx.): 2013Q8A011xx
Country of Origin (including all accessories): China
US Importer: Radio City MN
Tested Manufacture Computer Software: Version 3.0
The TDXone TD-Q8A is a low cost Chinese VHF/UHF handheld
transceiver. It’s remarkably a close clone to the Baofeng/Pofung UV-5R (and
it’s many variants, not tested), but not entirely. You will see reference in
this review to a very early version of the Wouxun KG-UVD1P we reviewed here.
In some areas it’s better then the Wouxun, alas in other
areas it’s a few steps backwards. But is at a much lower cost, however is about
double the price over the Baofeng/Pofung “dirt-cheap” models.
Generally Solid Cabinet / Female SMA Connector / Battery / AC Adapter
Transceiver is in a very compact package at 4 x 2 x 1.3
inches (including the battery). It easily fits in ones shirt pocket.
some of the UV-5R and variants, there were no off frequency or drift
LCD has very good contrast and even when not using the
backlight, is easy to view with its excellent light background with some
ambient lighting. The backlight can be set of one of 3 colors and can also be
programmed to come on with receiving signals or when transmitting. We left
these off to conserve battery life. There is still a separate square LED for
Receive (green) and Transmit (Red) and that was adequate for our use.
There is the usual top mounted LED flashlight as found on
many Chinese handheld transceivers. Is bright enough to be very useful. This
one also features a flashing mode. Is accessed my pressing the MONI button for
No knob/encoder to zip through the memory channels like on
the Wouxun. Up and Down buttons do the job here and work ok, but we missed a
“tuning knob”. The front panel “rubber like” buttons generally have a great
tactical feel and response. PTT is made of HARD plastic, which to was excellent
to our fingers. The exceptions are the 2 other rubber like side-mounted buttons
(FM and Moni), these press fairly hard to make happen.
Instead of the usual SMA MALE antenna connector found on
most of these low cost Chinese HT’s (including UV-5R), with the TDXone we have the more
standard for amateur radio operators, a SMA FEMALE connector. Was refreshing to
be able to use our other HT antennas without resorting to the use of silly adapters.
It’s DC-Q8A 1800 mah lithium-ion polymer battery seats weirdly to
the cabinet, but once one understands the scheme and the way around it’s
drawbacks, it’s not hard to remove or replace (more on this later).
Sadly there is NO REAL vinyl case available for this radio,
which was a disappointment. Some kind of after market one will have to be sought
by the owner? We were unable to locate any decent ones (that made us happy) in
our extensive search.
There is a VOX function available, but this was not tested.
The included manual was the usual Chinglish mess.
Good news is the US importer developed and includes a 12-page “Very Important
Stuff” quick reference manual that we found to be extremely helpful for
operation. Are 37 menu selections in the TD-Q8A and were not hard to deal with.
There are 11 shortcuts provided on the keypad to help with quick access including "low / hi" RF power output.
AC Adapter and charger operated
properly. We added 4 stick on polyurethane feet to the plastic bottom
of the charger to keep it from sliding around. The short cable on the
chargers adapter is painfully too short (only a few feet long). This
more and more typical of the Chinese these days to include short cables
out of AC Adapters. Adapter with our test sample was
of a linear transformer type, was not a switching type supply (AC output, NOT
DC). Oddly it was marked for use between 100 to 240 AC (now how can that be ?).
But again it worked just fine.
Sensitivity / Usual One Band at a Time Receiver / FM Very Usable
Receiver sensitivity in and out of the amateur radio bands
we considered slightly above average. The FT-1XDR we tested side by side was
better using the same antenna. But one needs to take note of the inadequate
included antenna (covered later), but did not seem to affect receive as much as
transmit. In any event it is highly recommended (more like required) to use a
different decent flexible antenna.
Just as with the Wouxun and other Chinese handhelds, this
transceiver receives “one” band at a time. 2 VFO’s mind you and if used in a
VFO state and both are active, it will just scan between them. Still useful and
expected at this price point.
Unlike the Wouxun’s nearly useless "fuzzy" FM broadcast band
receiver coverage, the TDXone does quite well in this area. Sensitivity is
decent too. As with the Wouxun there are special memories for this band and
store and access the same weird way. One cannot use the computer software to
program the 10 FM memories. Must be done manually, but was not hard to figure
Transmit / Receive Audio
The TDXone’s transmit audio is very clean using it’s
internal microphone. However it’s level is on the LOW side. So one will need to
near eat this microphone (up very close) and don’t talk weak. When we used it’s
accessory optional hand mic, it was at a much better level (not weak anymore),
however it was on the bassy side.
Receive audio through it’s internal speaker is loud and
proper for most outdoor conditions (a bit above average). No excessive bass and
that of course is a big “no no” for any handheld transceiver. Speaker on the
optional hand mic was equally decent.
Memory Channels / Scan Speed Slow Going / Computer Software
There are 128 memory channels that can store all perimeters
including alpha tags. However memory channel lockouts are only accessible using
the computer software, called “Scan Add” (just like with the Wouxun). It cannot
be done on the fly, at least we could not find away to do it.
Scan speed is VERY SLOW going. If you
only have say 5 to 10
channels to scan, that will not be too bad. However if you have more,
going to be a slow and painful operation.
When entering to access a memory channel direct (in CH mode), one must
type in the leading zero(s). To access menu channel 2 you must type in
002, and to go to 19 you type in 019 and so on.
Computer programming software is available (downloadable)
from the manufacture or from the US importer and other US distributors of this
transceiver. In our testing it installed and worked good using Windows XP PRO
and Windows 7 (32 and 64 Bit). Was NOT tested with other Windows versions.
Of course do not forget to install the USB driver BEFORE the
USB programming cable is connected. NOTE: Once in great while the Program did
glitch and needed to be restarted (but not too often). Of course be sure of the
proper USB port is selected. One should first always download a blank template
from the radio BEFORE any data entry is attempted. Enter the data and then save
the file after it’s uploaded to the radio.
We did NOT attempt to program memory
Channels manually by
hand, but appears to be possible and that is not always the case with
these low cost Chinese handheld
Changing RF Power on the Fly / Tested RF Power Out /
Memory channel data does store the RF Output power setting
(low and high). However there is a keyboard shortcut that puts you right at the
RF Power setting to change that easily on the fly. That is MENU followed by the
7 key while locked onto a channel (or in a VFO).
Actual Measured RF Power Measurements - Freshly Fully
(Yaesu YS-500 meter while connected to a dummy load)
mw 4.2 Watts
mw 4.0 Watts
Transmit range is ONLY within the US Amateur Bands (144~174
and 430~450 MHz). Extended transmit out side this range is NOT available out of
the box (unlike the variant models).
Receive coverage is 136~174 MHz and 400~520 MHz (FM mode
only). Sorry no aircraft coverage is offered.
Included Plastic Antenna a Total BUST
The transceiver includes what LOOKS to be very nice flexible
rubber antenna. It’s has the more amateur standard MALE SMA connector of
course. However we had to carefully shave off some of the rubbery plastic at
its base in order for it to fit down into its recessed antenna socket of the
transceiver without using some force if I were not to have done this.
In reality it has to be the worst “rubber duck” we have EVER
encountered with a handheld transceiver (on 2 meters anyway) and if used could
very well destroy the transmitters PA amplifier in short time? We could find NO
resonant point on 2 Meters using a MFJ antenna analyzer and equally in testing
“transmit” range was downright extremely poor. Appeared to receive well enough.
(NOTE: As usual could it be our test sample came with just a dud and that is
certainly possible, but take this as a very possible warning!). UHF band was
not tested with this antenna (we stopped after the unacceptable findings on
We used another slightly longer 8.5 inch Chinese antenna and it
brought the TRANSMIT performance up by leaps and bounds. So count on using a
different antenna out of the box !!
PLEASE NOTE :
The TD-Q8A has a pretty good recessed cavity "skirt" around it's FEMALE
SMA antenna connector. Some alternative antennas will also require some
filing and trimming of it's PLASTIC in order to fit (just as with it's
own included antenna, which again we do not recommend to use). Picture
below shows our favorite 8.5 inch "5-003SM-UV" Chinese MALE SMA antenna (do your own search)
as filed down in order to fit. Cleaning up the spittle and filing dust
COMPLETELY is extremely important doing anything like this.
I will NOT be held responsible for any info that is listed here
ALL DONE AT YOUR OWN RISK !
cavity "skirt" around it's FEMALE SMA antenna connector. Some
alternative antennas will require some filing and trimming of it's
PLASTIC in order to fit (just as with it's own
included antenna, which again we do not recommend to use). Picture
above shows our favorite 8.5 inch "5-003SM-UV" Chinese MALE SMA antenna as filed down in order to fit. Cleaning up the spittle and filing dust
COMPLETELY is extremely important doing anything like this. (N9EWO Photo)
Battery Indicator and “Please Charge The Battery” Voice Prompt
The transceiver does indeed have a TINY battery indicator in
the upper right hand comer of the LCD. If one has decreased vision, it’s going
to be hard to see it. It’s actually in 5 steps. 3 bars inside the little
battery icon that decrease with use, then it goes blank on the forth. On the
5th and final indication, the male voice will irk out “Please Charge The
Battery” over and over again, along with the TX-RX indicator flashing RED.
Keep in mind if one has the voice turned off, you will not hear this battery
warning, will ONLY get the flashing TX-RX indicator on low battery. So is best
to keep the voice prompts on. However sometimes this voice prompt “battery low
indication” did NOT happen (depending on the battery and transmit use). Instead
in this situation, the radio turned off for a second and the power on 3-beep
power up tones sounded. Here of course it’s time to turn it off NOW and
IMPORTANT NOTE: Is important to STOP operation (completely
shut it OFF) at this point, as there is no low cell cut off circuit as with
other HT’s that use lithium ion batteries. So one can very easily over
discharge the cells and severely decrease battery life.
We found the battery indicator (even as small as it is) to
be useful and generally accurate.
In transmit the receive indicator does tell you if you are
in the LOW power (about 1 watt) or HIGH power (about 4 watts) setting. Again
it’s a very tiny icon and for some this will near impossible to see.
We tested FOUR of its so marked 1800mah DC-Q8A lithium-ion
polymer batteries and came up with a 50% dud rate. One battery included with
the transceiver and 3 extras. After 3 cycles (to be sure of full capacity), 2
were proper (100%) capacity; one was around 60% capacity and one was at around
a dismal 15% (near a total dud). This certainly is not very good quality
control here, more like NONE.
Time Capacity (approx)
5:20 100 %
3:30 60 %
5:30 100 %
1:00 15 %
One last battery bug was the fact that none of them never
totally seated properly to the transceiver. A small but disconcerting gap
exists near the top of the pack and the radios body. To PROPERLY attach the
battery pack: After inserting the 2 tabs
on the bottom, on the top take the index finger on the push down latch and the
thumb on the bottom of the transceiver and press down the latch to attach into
it’s groove (reverse to remove). Do not just “squeeze” it into place, as this
will break the latching pin in time. When after inserting a battery we THEN had
to squeeze the battery and the case ever so slightly when on the radio for it
to seat well enough for proper battery contact (and for it not to fish around).
There was still a gap even after doing this (see photo below).
after PROPERLY seating the battery to the transceiver (see text),
there is this disconcerting gap. Valid with all 4 battery test samples.
But this does not appear to affect performance or creates other issues.
Good Chinese Handheld Overall
The TDXone TD-Q8A worked properly and generally
pleasant. We were impressed with its tiny size and full 4 watts power output.
Just be sure and DON’T count on using the included plastic antenna. But being
it uses more traditional FEMALE SMA connector; one can use the more standard
Ham HT antennas that many already have extra’s on hand.
The bad batteries we experienced were a huge
blow to its overall merit. We have tested other low cost Chinese handheld
transceivers in the past and this is the first time the batteries had problems
like this. Radio’s transmit audio (using the internal microphone) could have
been a bit louder but is not a serious drawback provided one does not back away
from it (eat it).
Good news is that at least 2 of the
US radio radio dealers (see below) who sell this
HT are responsive to issues like the battery failures out of the box,
so this is not to worry. However for any new owners it would be
strongly advised to
check this immediately (just be sure and cycle the battery at least 3
taking note of the charge time).
c N9EWO, all rights reserved
Links (subject to change without notice) :
Universal Radio TDXone TD-Q8A Page
Radio City (US Importer) TDXone TD-Q8A Page
Eham Review(s) on TD-Q8A