Small is beautiful?
If you were to take a regular sized matchbox, put it on it's side edge on a table and put another one on top of it you'll be able to see how big the £59.99 (RRP) Eurowave is.
Entel claim this to be the "smallest and lightest PMR446 radio in Europe" and I have no doubt whatsoever about the validity of that statement!
The Eurowave is made of a "...polycarbonate plastic with a unique rubber coating". It actually feels to me a little like a product which used to be called "vulcanised rubber" and if you've ever held an oboe or clarinet you'll know exactly what I mean. I like the stuff. It feels very solid, professional and I imagine it could probably be dropped a few times without serious problems.
The whole radio has a "splash-proof" feel to it, although I could see no mention of this in the manual. One of the main lines of business for Entel is in Marine Radio (just above the 2m band) so it doesn't surprise me. I suspect a lot of their experience in Marine Radio products has gone into this PMR446 set.
I like it physically, and I don't mind the small size. Some, especially those with very large hands, may find using it a little tricky. I'm right-handed and I noticed while reviewing this radio that I normally hold a radio in my left-hand with my thumb operating the PTT. With this radio, I started to naturally pick it up with my right-hand, but still using my thumb to control PTT (as opposed to forefinger and index finger which is what I naturally do if using a larger radio right-handed). This, actually, is a really good way to hold a handheld as the inclination is to talk across the microphone rather than directly at it which results in a cleaner, less distorted, audio signal. This doesn't work on a larger radio as holding one like this usually means you end up covering the speaker or microphone with your palm.
The two piece body is made using some very high quality moulds and tooling and this radio has, overall, a professional feel to it. Out of interest it's also made in the UK.
This is what Entel have to say about it:-
- channel capacity 8 (fixed for PMR446 service)
- battery life (@5-5-90 cycle) alkaline/Ni-MH 14hr/9hr
- dimensions (mm) 80(h) mm x 50(w) mm x 22(d) mm
- weight (with battery) 120g (4.23 oz)
- battery voltage Alkaline/Ni-MH 4.5/3.6v
- CTCSS (38 sub-tones) and DCS (83 digital sub-tones)
- keypad lock - 3 priority scan channels (dual watch)
- available in three colours - blue (pictured), yellow and black.
You also have the choice of using 3 AAA cells or the optional Ni-MH battery pack available from Entel.
All of the Eurowaves functions are accessed one at a time via a single button, except volume which is controlled using the up/down buttons without having to go through the menu items. Output volume goes up to a very decent level - good for use in environments where you have a high level of background noise.Pressing the function button takes you in turn through channel, CTCSS/DCS selection, scan, priority scan, keypad lock and call tones setting.
Squelch is factory preset and non-adjustable.
Standard scan mode is started by hitting the function button 3 times so that "scan" is flashing in the LCD display (which is again very high quality) and pressing either the up or down button depending on which direction you want to start off in. The radio then scans through all 8 channels and stops on receiving a signal. Each of the 8 channels are scanned complete with your preset CTCSS or DCS sub-tone, so it is not possible with this radio to have it decode the CTCSS/DCS of the received signal and lock to it which is a little dissappointing.
If you press on the function button once more you get taken into the priority scan menu which enables you to setup 3 channels which will be monitored during normal use ands while on your main channel of choice. This is interesting and not something that I've seen before. So, for example, if I'm talking to someone on channel 7 and I have set channel 5 to be priority watched, I will receive incoming signals on both channel 5 and channel 7 (albeit only one at a time of course).
This is very like semi-duplex and if only RA357, the legislation covering PMR446, allowed use of simple repeaters, this would be the ideal radio as you could, theoretically, listen to an output on channel 5 and transmit to an input on channel 7 without having to manually change channels.
It takes between 1/2 and 3/4 of a second to lock to an incoming signal in this mode, so what in effect is happening is the radio is permanently in scan mode with only these 3 channels and your main channel being scanned. When you hit PTT it of course goes into transmit mode and when you release, it goes back to scanning. Interesting, and it works very well.
Rounding off the front panel is a monitor button which, if pressed momentarily, briefly opens the squelch and if held down for 3 seconds permanently opens the squelch until you next press PTT.
Being in the middle-ground market covering both high end hobby and professional users I was expecting good performance from this little radio and I wasn't dissappointed. It's very sensitive and almost, but not quite, on a par with the more expensive XTN446 that I reviewed at the same time.
Modulation is set ever so slightly on the low side, but not so much that you'd be tempted to open the radio up and adjust it, thereby voiding both your warranty and the PMR446 type approval.
Again, like the XTN446, my initial scepticism about preset squelch was proved to be unfounded. In fact, I noticed on a couple of occasions static interference just breaking through, so this has been factory set at a decent level and as low as I would probably set it if I had the manual option. I have no problem with factory preset squelch on radios when they're setup at the factory this carefully!
There's very little in my experience between PMR446 radios in terms of RF range on transmit. They all do their best to put out 500mw ERP and that's the limiting factor. What you do notice between high end and low end radios is the sensitivity of the receiver and the quality of audio components (including the mic and speaker). Some radios are more useable at range than others, and this one is right up there among the best of them in that regard.
Entel take their radios very seriously. And so should you. This is a really well-built high quality radio and, for £59, you can't fault it for value for money.
I'm giving it 9/10. It loses one point for not having a CTCSS/DCS detect on scan mode.
Also, go take a look at Entel's website. What you will find is no less than 15 available accessories for the Eurowave including noise cancelling and submersible(!) external mics, ear-mounted and head mounted headsets, dedicated motorcycle headsets, multi-unit chargers and carry cases (including a waterproof one). Now that's what I call product backup...
Many thanks to Entel for the loan for review.
PS If you're a boat owner and PMR446 fan you'll be interested to hear that Entel have hinted to me that a waterproof (submersible) PMR446 radio is in the wings. Hope to be able to tell you more about that shortly.