REVIEW: Motorola MOTOTRBO SL 7550 DMR portable radio

Motorola MOTOTRBO SL 7550 UHF portable radio VA3XPR digital mobile ham DMR
The Motorola MOTOTRBO SL 7550 DMR portable radio.

The Motorola MOTOTRBO SL 7550 or is the most compact addition to Motorola’s MOTOTRBO line of DMR radios. This unit is slim and lightweight, making it ultraportable and a great shirt pocket radio for the ham that only needs low power operation. At the time of this review, the ham friendly pricing for a new SL 7550 from an authorized Motorola dealer was $700 USD.

Author’s Rating: 3/5

The Good

The Bad

  • Slim & lightweight design

  • Bluetooth capability

  • Solid construction

  • Colour LCD display

  • Uses a micro USB programming cable

  • 2-year manufacturers warranty
  • Speaker audio quality and volume

  • Lacks an external antenna connection

  • Fixed 2W RF power output

  • Lacks analog FM capability

  • Price
  • The Motorola SL 7750 comes standard with the following items out of the box:

    • Carry holder;
    • Micro USB wall charger;
    • 3.7V, 2,300 mAH (1,800 mAH with older units) Li-ion battery;
    • 2-year manufacturers warranty.

    The Full Review

    The Motorola MOTOTRBO SL 7550 is the most compact addition to Motorola’s MOTOTRBO line of DMR radios. This unit is slim and lightweight, making it ultraportable and a great shirt pocket radio for the ham that only needs low power operation. The SL7550 is available in two UHF models (403-470 MHz and 450-512 MHz) and packs features that many hams will find valuable, including a colour LCD display, solid construction and 1,000 channels – all in a very lightweight package. This radio is also available in Europe as the SL4000 and in Asia as the SL1K.

    DON’T MISS: Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 7550 DMR Portable Radio Review

    The SL 7550 is a great radio for urban use or in areas where low RF output power will suffice. This radio is designed to look very much like a cellphone and not at all like a portable radio, making it great for discreet usage by hams in the office or other places where other DMR radios might stand out too much or attract attention. In some cases, hams may either live close by to a DMR repeater or even have one set-up at their home, so the SL 7550 would work very well in these types of situations. It should be noted that the SL 7550 only operates using a single RF output power setting at 2W and is not adjustable, so users cannot even lower their power to preserve their battery power. Also, the SL 7550 can only be used with the built-in UHF antenna, so any users wishing to use the radio with an external antenna will be out of luck.

    The SL 7550 is programmed via Motorola MOTOTRBO CPS (customer programming software) using a standard micro USB programming cable, which are common and much cheaper than the typical Motorola programming cables, which can cost around $75 USD. The SL 7550 has the same menu structure as other Motorola MOTOTRBO units, so anyone familiar with the operation of any of these units will find the SL 7550 a snap to set-up and start using. For anyone looking to obtain the Motorola MOTOTRBO CPS, it can be purchased either from an authorized Motorola dealer or directly from Motorola for about $300 USD, which provides a 3-year subscription, allowing the user to access MOTOTRBO CPS and firmware updates via Motorola Online. Users should note that MOTOTRBO CPS purchased for North American Motorola MOTOTRBO radios will not work with MOTOTRBO radios sold in other regions, such as Europe & Asian and vice versa.

    One feature that many hams will appreciate about the SL 7550 is that is has a colour LCD display, which makes operating the radio a treat, as the screen can accommodate the required call sign, talkgroup or other details quite nicely. In addition, the SL 7550 allows the user to switch between day and night modes, which makes the screen much easier to read during bright or low light conditions. Users should note that since the SL 7550 has a small battery, they should try to keep the screen brightness of the radio as low as possible to conserve battery power.

    Motorola MOTOTRBO SL 7550 DMR radio digital mobile ham VA3XPR
    The front view of the Motorola MOTOTRBO SL 7550 DMR portable radio.

    One of the disappointing aspects of the SL 7550 is its speaker audio volume and quality. Being smaller than many other DMR radios, users will find that the speaker volume is much lower than other DMR portables, plus the quality of the audio is very raspy. By turning the volume down, users will likely find that the audio quality improves, but at high volume levels, it is tinny and unpleasant to listen to. For anyone that appreciates loud, clear audio from your radio, this is unlikely to be the radio for you. In addition, any users that want to operate on both digital DMR and analog FM frequencies, you’ll be disappointed to find out that this radio only operates using DMR.

    On a positive note, Motorola did a great job of constructing such a durable little DMR unit, as it is very small and you can easily carry it in your shirt pocket. Also, the SL 7550 features a solid construction and meets mil-spec rating MIL-STD-810 and the water and dust intrusion rating IP54, so this radio is likely to keep on ticking long after most ham portables call it quits. In addition, for anyone looking to use the SL 7550 while driving in areas where hands-free operation is required by law, the radio supports native Bluetooth capability for use with wireless audio accessories, plus the radio can even be programmed via Bluetooth. Finally, while the radio comes standard with a wall charger, users can upgrade to a stand-up charging cradle (PMLN6701A) for $60 USD, which will also charge wireless audio accessories.

    Conclusion

    The Motorola MOTOTRBO SL 7550 is a good choice for anyone looking for a slim and lightweight DMR radio that is ultraportable for use in areas where low RF power output will suffice. This radio packs some nice to have features, however it would be considered as an expensive choice given its limitations.

    Disclosure: The author also owns a number of other Motorola MOTOTRBO radios, including the Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 7550 portable radio, Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 7550 I.S. portable radio, and the Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 5550 mobile radio.

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    About Don Trynor, VA3XFT

    Don Trynor, VA3XFT
    Don Trynor 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). Currently, he maintains three UHF DMR repeaters - two in Toronto, ON (VA3XPR-1 & VE3YYZ DMR) and one in Niagara Falls, ON (VA3XPR-2), plus one Yaesu System Fusion repeater in Toronto, ON (VA3XPS) that operates in digital-only mode. In addition to ham radio, Don enjoys traveling, hiking, kayaking, biking and astronomy.