TYT MD-UV380 Review

TYT MD-UV380, MD-380, MD-2017
The TYT MD-UV380 dual band DMR radio, subtended by the TYT MD-380 (left) and the TYT MD-2017 (right).

The TYT MD-UV380 is the latest dual band portable DMR radio from TYT, a Chinese manufactuter of value priced DMR equipment. The MD-UV380 is physically identical to the popular TYT MD-380 monoband portable DMR radio, however operates as a dual band radio, similar to the TYT MD-2017 dual band portable DMR radio. This unit packs many features, including, dual band VHF (136 – 174 MHz) and UHF (400 – 480 MHz) operation, superb audio, a multi-coloured LCD display, front panel programmability, tough construction, plus much more. This is a great radio for anyone looking for a small, tough and affordable dual band portable DMR radio. At the time of this review, the selling price for a new the MD-UV380 without GPS capability was $135 USD.

Author's Rating

Price

$135 USD

The Good

  • Dual Band Operation: Having the ability to operate simultaneously on both VHF (136 – 174 MHz) and UHF (400 – 480 MHz) DMR systems offers great flexibility;
  • 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;
  • Tough Construction: This radio is very well-built, so it should keep going long after typical ham radio units call it quits;
  • Multi-coloured LCD Display: Having a bright 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 changes without the need a PC;
  • Antenna Connector: The antenna connector for this radio uses a female SMA connection, allowing it to easily be connected to an external antenna;
  • Multiple DMR IDs: This radio supports multiple DMR radio IDs, allowing a great deal of flexibility for hams that need the ability to use multiple DMR IDs;
  • 100,000 Contacts: The radio can store up to 100,000 DMR contacts, allowing hams to see user information during recevied signals;
  • 3,000 Channels: Having the capacity to store 3,000 channels, users will have the capacity to store channels for use at home and while travelling;
  • Price: At $135 USD, this radio is a very attractive option for anyone looking for an affordable dual band DMR portable radio.

The Bad

  • Programming Software: The programming software is a little compliated to use, especially for novices;
  • User Experience: The user experience within the radio’s menu could be improved to make it more user-friendly;
  • User Manual: The included user manual could be significantly improved to provide better explainations regarding programming and use of the radio;
  • 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 bright green “finished” LED indicator does not turn off, even when the radio is removed from the charger.

The Full Review

Since the MD-UV380 is physically identical to the MD-380 and employs similar features to the MD-2017, this review will focus primarily on how the MD-UV380 differs from these two radios.

The Package

The MD-UV380 radio comes standard with the following items out of the box:

  • Dual band whip antenna
  • USB programming cable
  • Desktop charging cradle
  • 120/240V desktop charger power supply
  • 7.4V, 2,000 mAh Li-ion battery
  • Belt clip
  • User manual

Form Factor

The MD-UV380 is a hybrid of the popular MD-380 monoband DMR radio and the MD-2017 dual band DMR radio. The form factor of the MD-UV380 is identical to the MD-380, while its supported bands and user experience is identical to that of the MD-2017. Users that are looking for a smaller form factor and perfer the traditional keypard of the MD-380 as compared to the slightly larger MD-2017 with its trackball navigation, are likely to be pleased with the MD-UV380.

From the left, the TYT MD-380, the TYT MD-UV380 and the TYT MD-2017.

Antenna

The MD-UV380 comes standard with a dual band whip antenna. Unlike the antenna that is included with the MD-2017, the antenna for the MD-UV380 does not include the bulky GPS module at the base of the antenna, which will likely make it less prone to damaging the antenna connector of the radio through excessive stress. The antenna connector used with the MD-UV380 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-UV380 comes standard with a 7.4V 2,000 mAh Li-ion battery, which has a slightly higher capacity that the 7.2V, 2000 mAh battery Li-ion included with the  MD-380, however is slightly lower capacity than the 7.4V 2,200 mAh battery included with the MD-2017. In addition, the MD-UV380 includes the same accessories as the MD-380, including a 120/240V desktop charger, a USB programming cable, a belt clip, an dual band whip antenna and a user manual. Additional batteries and accessories, such as a speaker microphone, can be purchased directly from one of the TYT authorized dealers.

Programming

CPS Programming Software

The MD-UV380 is programmed using the free programming software (or CPS) and a USB programming cable. It should be noted that this is not the same software that is used for the MD-380 or the MD-2017. Users can download this CPS from the TYT website. The programming cable, however, is the same as the one used with the MD-380. Also, users can update the firmware of their MD-UV380 using firmware files available for download from the TYT website. These firmware updates typically add new fearures and address known software defects.

Similar to the MD-2017, the MD-UV380 supports up to 3,000 channels, 250 zones, plus 100,000 contacts, plus it also supports the use of multiple DMR radio IDs and will record transmissions for playback. In addition, the MD-UV380 supports both basic and enhanced encryption, which would only be applicable to commercial users.

In our opinion, the CPS could use some usability improvements that would make it easier to use, especially for novices to DMR. In addition, there is no help section or documentation for the CPS, so users are left to figure it out on their own.

Front Panel Programming

Like the MD-2017, the MD-UV380 comes standard with the ability to be programmed via the keypad, including for both DMR and analog FM operation. While it technically supports this functionality, it is somewhat complicated to use versus programming it using the provided programming software with a PC. Given this, many users will likely find that programming it without a PC is really only good for fixing errors in programming or accomplishing simple changes, as adding new DMR repeaters, talkgroups, zones and contacts is a very slow and painstaking task. As a result, it is recommended that users will want to keep their laptops nearby, as it will save a great deal of time when it comes time to load their favourite DMR repeaters into the radio.

Conclusion

The MD-UV380 is a small, tough portable DMR radio that has lots of great features that ham radio users will appreciate, such as lots of capacity for contacts and channels, keypad programmability, plus the ability to support multiple DMR IDs. Overall, we feel that the MD-UV380 is a great value priced dual band DMR radio that is likely to please the most demanding ham radio user.

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About VA3XFT

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.