Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 5550 DMR Mobile Radio Review

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REVIEW DATE: January 6, 2014
REVIEWED BY: Don Trynor, VA3XFT

SUMMARY

The Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 5550 is one of the latest additions to Motorola’s MOTOTRBO line of Digital Mobile Radio (aka DMR) TDMA radios, featuring best in class audio, integrated GPS, a multicolour LCD display, plus much more. This is an excellent single band radio for ham radio use on either the 2m or 70cm bands, as it is feature rich, durable and likely to more than satisfy even the most demanding user. At the time of this review, pricing for a new XPR 5550 is about $650US.

EDITORS’ RATING
Excellent

THE GOOD

  • Audio Quality: The speaker audio is very full, with a good response to low frequencies, making it pleasing to listen to;
  • Audio Volume: The audio from this radio will get heard, even in the noisiest environments;
  • Rugged Construction: This radio is very well built, being MIL Spec, so it should keep going long after typical ham radio units call it quits;
  • Bluetooth Capability: Bluetooth is included with the radio, allowing wire free operation and programming;
  • Integrated GPS: The radio comes standard with integrated GPS location capability, allowing outdoor location tracking;
  • Multicolor LCD Display: Having a multicolor LCD display on the radio allows for easy use and programming while on the move.

THE BAD

  • 25 kHz FM Operation: To be able to use this radio with the standard 25 kHz channel width found on the ham radio bands, you will need a Entitlement ID from Motorola, which requires a valid MOTOTRBO CPS subscription

 

THE FULL REVIEW

Form Factor

The Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 5550 is a rugged mobile radio that is able to endure harsh environmental conditions, having been build to meet MIL Spec standards. The radio body is made of a both plastic and die cast aluminum, which acts as a heat sink, allowing it to dissipate heat efficiently. Included with the radio is a mobile mounting bracket, a basic microphone, mic hang-up clip and a power cable. The radio can be mounted in a vehicle using the included mounting bracket, or using the optional remote mount kit (refer to the Accessories section), allowing the display head of the radio to be mounted separately from the the main chassis.

Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 5550 -Top View

Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 5550 - Bottom View

 

Knobs, Buttons & Switches

There in a single knob on the XPR 5550, which is used to adjust the volume, or with a pressed click, can be used also to change the channel. This knob is mounted on the front of the radio and it provides a slight “click” when rotated as positive indication that either the volume has been increased or decreased.

The XPR 5550 comes equipped with nine buttons, four of which are used for navigation, one as a power switch and four programmable buttons that can be assigned in the MOTOTRBO CPS. These buttons are all back lit, which helps a great deal when using the radio at night or in dark environments.

Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 5550 & XPR 4550 Front Comparison

 

Audio

One of the best features of this radio is the quality of its speaker audio. Not only does the radio have loud, clear audio, but it also has a wide audio frequency response, providing good response to low audio frequencies. The internal speaker has a rated output of 3W, so the radio will be heard in noisy environments where many typical ham radio mobile will be inaudible or very distorted. The fullness of the audio is one of the best features of the radio, making it a very pleasing unit to listen to.

There is one small annoyance associated with the audio for this unit, which is its inability to operate at very low volume levels. In the CPS, the user can reduce the minimum volume to -30dB, however in a quiet environment, this can be too loud for comfort.

Multicolour LCD Display

The LCD display on the XPR 5550 is the other feature that makes this radio a pleasure to use. Sporting a bright 4-line multicolour LCD display, it makes the radio easy to use, especially when navigating through the menus or attempting to type a text message. The LCD display can be set to the user’s desired brightness, allowing it to dimmed when in dark operating environments or brightened when in bright areas. In addition, the user can also switch the display colours to correspond to a day mode or night mode, which alternates the display text to dark/light or vice versa.

Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 5550 - Display in Night Mode
Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 5550 – Display in Night Mode

 

Digital Modes

The XPR 5550 is Motorola’s flagship mobile in the MOTOTRBO line of Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) equipment and as such, it only supports DMR, which is TDMA based. In addition, the XPR 5550 will operate in either 12.5 or 25 kHz analog FM modes, however operation using 25 kHz channel width is only possible using an Entitlement ID from Motorola. These 25 kHz EIDs are provided for free from Motorola with any valid MOTOTRBO CPS subscription and will enable the XPR 5550 to operate using the standard 25 kHz channel width found on the ham radio 2m or 70cm bands.

RF Performance

The XPR 5550 comes with all the high quality RX and TX specifications that are typical of Motorola. One of the disappointing aspects of this radio is that there are two models with separate power levels – 1 to 25W and 25 to 45W (40W UHF). If you want to ability to operate the radio with a lower power output, be sure that you are purchasing the appropriate model number. In the MOTOTRBO CPS programming software, you can actually configure the TX output power settings as desired, within the power levels constraints of the specific radio model. The typical TX power settings for this radio are as follows:

BANDLOW POWERHIGH POWER
VHF1 - 25 watts25 - 45 watts
UHF1 - 25 watts25 - 40 watts

For the RX, Motorola states the following specifications:

BANDANALOG SENSITIVITY
(12 dB SINAD)
DIGITAL SENSITIVITY
(5% BER)
VHF/UHF0.3uV, 0.22uV (typical)0.25uV (0.19uV typical)

Programming

In order to fully realize the potential of this radio, one must have access to the MOTOTRBO CPS (Customer Programming Software) and optionally, a programming cable (PMKN4010B) to configure it to your particular requirements and usage preferences. If your Windows PC is Bluetooth capable, the MOTOTRBO CPS allows for Bluetooth programming. Many vendors will program your radio for you for a charge, or you can do it yourself. The MOTOTRBO CPS software allows many configuration options for the radio and almost every attribute of the radios operation can be controlled using it. Of course, with so many configuration options available, programming the radio can become very time consuming and difficult. Fortunately, the Help menus within the MOTOTRBO CPS help a great deal in explaining what the various options are used for. It is highly recommended that if you want to program one of these radios for ham radio use that you first consult with a professional who is familiar with the radio and the MOTOTRBO CPS programming software. For more information about programming this and other MOTOTRBO radios, check out some of the DMR-MARC website.

Accessories

For most users, the only accessories that will be needed is a DTMF microphone (RMN5127B), a programming cable (PMKN4010B) or the remote mount kit (PMLN6404A). The DTMF microphone can be very useful if you want to be able to use IRLP or EchoLink when using the radio in analog FM mode or want to control the radio through the microphone using it’s 4-way navigation button. The microphone feels very sturdy and is well built, but it does have one quirk – the keypad back light never turns off. Some may consider it a useful feature, however some may also find it annoying.

Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 5550 with DTMF Microphone

Motorola DTMF Microphone the standard microphone

 

Connectors

There are five connectors used on the XPR 5550 and these are outlined below.

Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 5550 - Rear View

CONNECTORTYPE
MICROPHONE10-pin Motorola connector - female
RFmini UHF - female
ACCESSORY26-pin connector - male
GPSSMA - female
POWERStandard Motorola power connector

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About Don Trynor, VA3XFT

Don Trynor, VA3XFT
Don is a 16-year veteran of the telecommunications industry and a licensed Canadian ham radio operator since 1988. He is passionate about VHF/UHF repeater communications, especially using digital modes and he has owned and operated a number of ham radio repeater installations over the years, including ones in both the provinces of Ontario (VE3/VA3) and New Brunswick (VE9). In addition to ham radio, Don enjoys traveling, hiking, kayaking, biking and astronomy.