N9EWO Review :
TDXone TD-Q8A
VHF / UHF Dual Band Handheld Transceiver


The 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.
 
Unlike some of the UV-5R and variants, there were no off frequency or drift issues.  
 
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 a second.
 
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 has become more and more typical of the Chinese these days to include short cables coming 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 out.
 
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, then it’s 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 transceivers.     
 
Changing RF Power on the Fly / Tested RF Power Out / Frequency Coverage 
 
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 Charged Battery
(Yaesu YS-500 meter while connected to a dummy load)

Freq.         LOW         HIGH
146.520    850 mw     4.2 Watts
446.000    900 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 VHF).
 
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 !


TD-Q8A's recessed 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 recharge it.
 
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.
 
Battery Blues
 
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.
 
Battery    Charge Time     Capacity (approx)
                 Hrs/Mins
1                   5:20               100 %
2                   3:30                 60 %
3                   5:30               100 %
4                   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).


Even 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. (N9EWO Photo)
 
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 times taking note of the charge time).

Dave N9EWO
c N9EWO, all rights reserved
ver. 2.0


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


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