Review of the Tytera TYT MD-390 DMR portable radio

TYT Tytera MD-390 UHF portable radio walkie talkie ham radio VA3XPR
The Tytera TYT MD-390 UHF DMR portable radio.

The Tytera TYT MD-390 is the latest DMR radio from Tytera or TYT that is the ruggedized twin to the Tytera TYT MD-380. This unit packs many features, including, superb audio, a multicolored LCD display, front panel programmability, rugged IP67 compliant construction, plus much more. This is a great radio for anyone looking for a durable DMR radio on the cheap for ham radio or commercial use. At the time of this review, the selling price for a new the MD-390 was $170 USD.

Author's Rating

Price

$170 USD

The Good

  • Audio Volume and Quality: The audio from this radio is full, with a good response to low frequencies, making it pleasing to listen to and it will get heard, even in the noisiest environments;
  • Rugged Construction: This radio is supposed to be IP67 compliant and thus waterproof for 30 min. submerged in up to 1m of water;
  • Multicolored LCD Display: Having a multicolored LCD display on the radio allows for easy use and programming while on the move;
  • Front Panel Programming: This radio is capable of being programmed via the keypad, allowing users to make limited changes without the need for the PC;
  • Antenna Connector: The antenna connector for this radio uses a SMA connection, allowing it to easily be connected to an external antenna;
  • Price: At $170 USD, this radio is a very attractive option for anyone looking for a rugged DMR radio.

The Bad

  • Software Polish: There are a number of oddities within the firmware of the radio that impacts its overall user experience;
  • Bluetooth Capability: This radio is not Bluetooth capable, so the use of wireless audio accessories is not possible;
  • Desktop Charger: The desktop charger takes hours to charge the radio, plus the green “finished” LED indicator does not turn off, even when the radio is removed from the charger.

The Full Review

Since the Tytera TYT MD-390 is largely identical to the Tytera TYT MD-380, we will focus on the differences between these two radios.

The Package

The Tytera TYT MD-390 radio comes standard with the following items out of the box:

  • MD-390 radio operating on either the 400 – 480 MHz (UHF) or 136 – 174 MHz (VHF) bands;
  • Stubby antenna (UHF model);
  • Extended whip antenna (UHF model);
  • USB Programming cable;
  • Desktop charger cradle;
  • 120/240V desktop charger power supply;
  • 7.4V, 2,200 mAH Li-ion battery;
  • Earphone with PTT button;
  • Belt clip;
  • User manual.

Form Factor

The most notable differences between the MD-390 and the MD-380 is that the MD-390 is slightly taller and wider than the MD-380. In addition, the keyboard uses larger buttons and the knobs on the top are larger and slightly raised above the radio body, making them easier to adjust. These make for a radio that is easier to hold and use for extended periods of time – at least for those with larger hands.

IMG_3501

Another notable difference between the MD-390 and the MD-380 is that the MD-390 now includes a waterproof cover for the accessory connector. To remove this over, the user will require a screw driver or coin or unscrew it, which is an improvement over the flap over used with the MD-380, which could be prone to being torn off or no longer working due to frequent use. Finally, the push to talk (PTT) button on the MD-390 has been replaced with a plastic button, whereas the MD-380 used a tactile rubber button, which feels like a step down in quality. Hopefully Tytera / TYT will consider reverting back to the original PTT button with future builds of this radio, as it was much better than the new one.

So how waterproof is the MD-390 anyway? Well, we wanted to find out so we took our new out of the box MD-390 for a swim and to our surprise, it survived! Of course, we don’t advise that anyone else does this to their own MD-390 unless they are feeling very brave!

Antenna

The UHF version of the MD-390 comes standard with two antennas – a stubby antenna and a wideband extended whip antenna. The wideband extended whip antenna is 36 cm (14 in) long and should provide better performance than the shorter stubby antenna, which is 12 cm (4.75 in) in length, however at the tradeoff of making the radio much less portable. The antenna connector used with the MD-390 is a standard SMA female connector, making it easy and inexpensive to connect it with an external antenna with the purchase of a SMA male adapter.

Accessories

The MD-390 comes standard with a 7.2V 2,200 mAh Li-ion battery, which has a slightly higher capacity than the 2,000 mAh battery included with the MD-380. In addition, the MD-390 includes a 120/240V desktop charger, a USB programming cable, an earphone with a PTT switch, a belt clip, a stubby antenna, an extended whip antenna (UHF) and a user manual. Additional batteries and accessories, such as a speaker microphone and programming cable, can be purchased directly from one of the TYT authorized dealers.

Programming

CPS Programming Software

The MD-390 is programmed using the free programming software (or CPS) and a USB programming cable. Since the MD-390 uses the same programming software as the MD-380, users can use all the same utilities and existing codeplugs created for the MD-380. For a sample MD-390 codeplug, we have created one for all of Canada that is available for download in the DMR Codeplug Files section of this website.

Conclusion

The Tytera TYT MD-390 is a great low-cost option for anyone looking for a rugged DMR radio that doesn’t break the bank – both for the ham radio or the commercial user. This radio is well-built and has been tested to some degree, to be waterproof. While the radio has some minor usability issues, they are unlikely to adversely impact the functionality of the radio for most users. Overall, we feel that the MD-390 is a great value priced DMR radio is likely to please the demanding ham radio or light commercial user who needs a radio that can withstand the elements. If you have additional questions about this radio, please join the DMR Facebook discussion group for more details.

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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.