The Motorola XT185 is the direct replacement for the XT180, which was a license-free radio designed specifically for business users. But rather than just making a few superficial changes and slapping a new number on it, Motorola have gone back to the drawing board for the XT185. Does it live up to its predecessor? Let's take a look!
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Design & build
Motorola have made some quite significant updates to the XT185, to bring them more into line with their TALKABOUT series of consumer radios. The most obvious difference between this and the XT180 is the size. While the XT180 was quite a bulky unit, the XT185 is a lot smaller and more streamlined. That makes it something you could more easily fit into your pocket, or clip on with the included belt clips, and not feel weighed down.
Another big difference is that the controls on the front have been pared back to just three buttons here, which we'll talk about in a bit more detail below. There's also an integrated screen on the front as well.
Although the radios are only small, they're still very loud when you turn them all the way up. We only had them at a lower volume for much of our testing, and this was plenty loud enough for casual use. If you wanted to use the radios in a noisy environment, though, then the higher volumes should be loud enough.
As for range, all license-free radios are limited to a 0.5W transmission output. That means they aren't as powerful as licensed models (although these are all much more expensive). In practise, it also means that the actual range you get isn't going to be anywhere near what's stated by the manufacturer, unless you're transmitting from one mountaintop to another.
Motorola claim that the XT185 has a maximum range of up to 8km. When testing them in a built-up area, we managed to achieve just under 1km. Although that sounds like a big drop, it's still really good for small radios like these. If you're using them somewhere like a warehouse or a school, then you should find that they stretch as far as you need them to. If you're taking them out into the countryside, then you'll be able to get a bit further- probably about 2-3km, which again should be fine for most business users.
Ease of use
The XT185 is really easy to use. It comes with a PTT, or push-to-talk button, located on the side. This is nice and large and intuitive to press so you're not going to be left looking for it when you want to talk. It's also got a VOX mode for hands-free use. When this is switched on, the radio is always listening out. When it hears the sound of your voice, it starts transmitting, and then when you stop talking it cuts off again. In practise, we found this worked really well. We've found with some radios that they tend to be a bit hit or miss with picking up the sound of your voice. Some can also be a bit strict if you pause in the middle of a sentence, so they end up cutting out some of what you're saying. However, that wasn't the case with the XT185- everything is picked up nice and clearly.
The Motorola XT185 comes with 16 different channels that you can broadcast on, along with 121 subcodes for a bit of extra privacy. We'd advise that you change the channel when you first use the radios. Since all license-free radios broadcast on the same frequencies, you can find that there's a bit of interference from other users on the default channel, 1-0. Luckily, though, there's an easy sync pairing button on the side. You just need to change the channel and subcode on one radio, and then you can pair up all the additional radios that you've got nice and easily and they can all communicate with each other.
And if you want to use the XT185 with other models of license-free radio, there's also a channel scan function which will flick through all available frequencies until it finds one that's being broadcast on, too.
Because of the way the screen is, there's not really a menu system to speak of here. You just press this central button, and the various different menu options will light up one by one on the screen. We found ourselves having to refer to them menu to see what some of these meant. To be fair, though most of them are only going to be used the first time you set up the radio, and the ones that you will be using day-to-day like VOX are nice and clear.
The Motorola XT185 comes with an IP54 rating, which makes it weatherproof. It's not fully waterproof like the Motorola T92, but it adds enough protection that it's not going to get damaged by the odd splash of rain, so they're suitable for being used outdoors as well.
They offer up to 24 hours' battery life, which is really good for small two-way radios, and a big improvement on the XT180 which only offered up to 14 hours' battery life. The battery cover is just kept on with a little switch, as you can see here. So there's no need for a screwdriver to take them off. In practise, that means you could get some additional battery packs for these and easily swap them over while they're in use.
When it's time to recharge, the radios come with this dual-headed micro-USB charger. This can either be plugged in straight to the radios themselves, under this little plastic flap, or as you can see, they come with individual charging cradles. I really like the design of these cradles, and they'd be really useful to just have sat out so you can always power the radios back up nice and easily. And they're also slightly magnetised when a current is running through them, so even if the radios get wobbled about a little bit, they'll still hold the connection.
Finally, each XT185 comes with its own detachable belt clip. These are really easy to put on and take off, and obviously let you clip the radios on to your clothing if you want to use them hands-free. We also found it made holding the radio a bit more comfortable with that on as well. They also come with earpieces included. These are okay, but if you've got existing ones you want to use or fancy an upgrade, they'll work with any 2.5mm headset.
Motorola XT185: The Verdict
So there we have it, the Motorola XT185, a solid set of two-way radios that are suitable for all manner of business users. We think they more than live up to their predecessor, and their size makes them highly versatile little units.