Vertex Standard eVerge EVX-539 DMR Portable Radio Review

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The Vertex Standard eVerge EVX-539 portable radio.

REVIEW DATE: October 13, 2013
REVIEWED BY: Don Trynor, VA3XFT

SUMMARY

The Vertex Standard EVX-539 portable radio is one of the latest additions to Vertex Standard’s eVerge line of Digital Mobile Radio (aka DMR) TDMA radios, a value line of DMR radios. Overall, this is a good basic single band DMR radio for amateur radio use on either the 2m and 70cm bands. At the time of this review, the pricing for a new EVX-539 was $400US, which includes a 3-year warranty.

EDITORS’ RATING
Good


THE GOOD

  • Price: The price of this radio makes it quite an attractive value option for anyone looking to get started with DMR;
  • 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;
  • Software Updates: By registering for an account with Vertex Standard Online, users can get free access to the latest firmware and programming software updates.

THE BAD

  • Programming Software: The supplied programming software is difficult to use and the help information is poorly documented;
  • Audio Quality: The speaker audio when using FM seems excessively skewed toward the lower frequencies and somewhat distorted;
  • LCD Display: The 8-character LCD display is very limiting for adding repeater call signs and talkgroups;
  • Accessory Connector: The accessory connector requires a screw driver to remove the cover, making it difficult to use when on the go.

THE FULL REVIEW

Form Factor

The EVX-5390 is a compact portable radio that fits nicely in the hand and is light weight, making it easy to carry. Even with the extra high capacity batter, it is still a pleasure to hold. In addition to it’s great ergonomic design, the radio is a very rugged, able to ensure harsh environmental conditions, including being water resistant and able to survive in up to one metre of water for up to 30 minutes, meeting the requirements of International Protection Rating IP57.

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Pictured from the left, the Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 6550, the Vertex Standard eVerge EVX-539 and the Motorola MOTOTRBO XPR 7550.

When comparing both the EVX-539 and the EVX-534, the only difference is that the EVX-534 does not include DTMF keyboard that is found on the EVX-539. While this would be fine in digital mode for DMR operation, it could be very restrictive when using the radio in analog mode using FM.

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The Vertex Standard eVerge EVX-534 (left) and the EVX-539 (right).

Knobs, Buttons & Switches

There are two knobs on the EVX-539 – one is the power switch/volume knob and the other is to select the desired operating channel. Both of these knobs are easily accessed on the radio and they provide a slight “click” as positive indication that either the radio is turned on/of or that the channel is changed. One nice feature of the channel change knob is that it can continuously rotate and not limited to the standard 16 positions.

The EVX-539 comes equipped with two programmable side buttons and one programmable top button. The function of each of these can be set in the programming software to perform the desired task. Also, the EVX-539 comes equipped with a 16-button keyboard, including the DTMF keys “A”, “B”, “C” and “D”, which are sometimes used in ham radio applications. The keypad is also backlit, which helps a great deal when using the radio at night or in dark environments.

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The Vertex Standard eVerge EVX-539 keyboard and display.
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The top of the Vertex Standard eVerge EVX-539, showing the male SMA antenna connector, plus the two switches and the programmable top button.
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The side of the Vertex Standard eVerge EVX-539, showing the PTT button, plus the two programmable side buttons.

Antenna

The EVX-539 comes standard with either a whip antenna for UHF or a helical antenna for VHF. For the best performance, be sure to specify an antenna that covers the ham band. In addition the standard antennas, the EVX-539 can also be fitted with stubby antenna versions, which can be very useful for minimizing the radio’s profile in areas where maximum coverage is not a necessity. The antenna connector used with the EVX-539 is a standard SMA male connector, making it easy and inexpensive to connect it with an external antenna with the purchase of a SMA female adapter.

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The Vertex Standard ATU-16D UHF whip antenna.

Audio

One of the items that appears to be lacking with the EVX-539 is the quality of it’s speaker audio. While the speaker audio is loud with 500mW of output, the audio at all volume levels seems distorted when using the 25 kHz wideband FM mode. In addition, the audio response when in FM mode seemed excessively skewed toward the lower frequencies. When using the radio in digital mode, the audio seemed to sound fine, so the issue seems isolated to FM operation only. The firmware version that this was experienced with was v03.12/03.08 and it is quite possible that with a subsequent firmware update, these issues will be resolved.

LCD Display

The LCD display on the EVX-539 is an orange illuminated LCD display that uses an eight segments to display channel information. While this is useful, it is very limiting to display the repeater and talkgroup information common to DMR operation.

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The Vertex Standard eVerge EVX-539 LCD display.

Modes of Operation

The EVX-539 is a dual mode radio, allowing it to operate either in digital mode using DMR or in analog mode using FM. When in analog FM mode, the radio will support either12.5 or 25 kHz channel operation.

RF Performance

The RF performance of the EVX-539 compares well to other DMR radios available in the market, such as the Motorola XPR 7550. In the programming software, you can actually configure the TX output power settings as desired, which includes 5, 2.5, 1.0 and 0.25 W. For the RX, Vertex Standard states the following specifications:

Band

Analog Sensitivity

(12 dB SINAD)

Digital Sensitivity

(1% BER)

VHF/UHF

0.25 µV

0.28 µV

Batteries & Charger

There are essentially two lithium ion battery options for the EVX-539 – standard capacity and high capacity. What’s the difference? See the chart below for the comparison:

Specification

Standard Capacity

High Capacity

Capacity (mAH)

1,380 mAH

2,300 mAH

Weight (g/oz)

280.5/9.9

325.5/11.5

For normal use, the standard capacity battery will last for about 9 hours, however the high capacity battery will last around 15 hours.

As for the charger used with the EVX-539, there is a single unit charger that comes standard with the unit (VAC-UNI).

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The Vertex Standard VAC-UNI battery charger

Programming

In order to program this radio, one will need both the Vertex Standard programming software (i.e. CE-142), a Windows-based PC and a programming cable. To obtain the programming software and the firmware updates for free, radio owners can register for a Vertex Standard Online account, which is also free and can be activated in a single day. Programming cables for the EVX-539 can be purchased for about $20US on eBay.

When it comes to programming the radio, the software is rather complicated to use and not very intuitive, especially for the first time user. Whether it is configuring the USB programming cable to function in the software as a COM port, to entering channels and enabling fetures, the programming can be very challenging to use. To make the the programming process easier, it is highly recommended to get a working code plug file configured for ham radio DMR and FM repeater and use it as a reference for the desired changes.

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 programming software. For more information about programming this and other DMR radios, check out some of the DMR-MARC website.

Accessories

Since the EVX-539 uses the same accessory port as many other Vertex Standard radios, it is likely that these accessories will also work with the EVX-539. One of the disadvantages of the accessory connector found on the EVX-539 is that it requires a screw driver to remove the cap that protect it. This could make adding accessories on the go ,such as a speaker mic, very cumbersome while on the go.

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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.