After suffering bone jarring corrugations over many trips into the outback my UHF whip antenna finally suffered a fatal injury leaving me with a decision, replace or upgrade. As it turned out I made it really easy on myself and simply decided to upgrade to the GME XRS 370c UHF radio and a pair of radome antennas.
When I first picked up my 150 series Prado a while back, I fitted a GME TX3350 radio to it (read about it here) and, as expected, it has been ultra-reliable and has provided excellent comms over the past few years. Technology waits for no one however and GME has now produced the new XRS range of digital radios pumped full of features.
I’ve been right behind GME for over 10 years using their radios exclusively in my former role as a Ranger in the Northern Territory and also in my personal vehicles. It was a no brainer that I would continue to support an Australian made product and brand that I trusted with both my life and others on several occasions.
So, what’s so great about the XRS range? It’s quite simple really, it’s a new generation of UHF radio that’s not only smart but adaptable and ruggedised to suit Australian conditions.
It even has Bluetooth and via a couple of apps controls new features that enable the creating and sharing of scan lists and instant access to the entire Australian and New Zealand registered analogue frequency database.
It is software upgradeable and enables users to keep up to date with all the latest features and technology available.
- Bluetooth® Wireless Technology
- 2 Watt Speaker Microphone
- User-Customisable Buttons
- Value Pack Options
- Anti-Glare OLED Display
- User-Upgradeable Firmware
- 25% Faster Scan Speed
- 5 Year Warranty + 1
For more info on these features you can read about them here.
XRS Connect Location Services
Users can send, receive and display their GPS location with each transmission and can also download and store detailed maps in areas with no mobile coverage. You can also log and save points of interest with the XRS Connect Location Services app, especially important for saving your own secret squirrel spots.
For more info on the XRS system please look here.
One feature I especially like is the dual-watch function. Using this feature you can scan two channels at a time, perhaps a group channel and a designated channel like used in some areas, eg Channel 10 in the Simpson Desert.
This enables you to carry on chatting without clogging up the designated channel, something that I find quite annoying at times.
If you’re one to connect up to power directly, ie not through your accessory power, you can also set an auto power down function of between 30-180 minutes of inactivity thereby saving power.
If you’ve used radios for a while it can sometimes be frustrating not knowing when someone has released the transmit button. The roger beep does just this, when the push to talk button is released a beep signifies this letting the other end know that the transmission is complete.
This time round I decided to fit the radome style antenna instead of the whip. I’ve had many of the whip style over the years but find they wobble so much on corrugations due to the mounting of modern bullbars that I decided to try something else.
I went for the AE4705WBTP Heavy Duty All Terrain Pack which includes both the 2.1 & 6.6DBI gain antennas in white and black.
The 2.1dbi antenna should suit the hills and more mountainous terrain and the 6.6dbi should suit the outback just right.
Form and function
When I fitted the GME XRS 370c UHF radio I decided to hide it away from sight and ended up installing it on the pillar just above the passenger side footwell. I had originally thought I might put it under the driver’s seat but ultimately didn’t want to lose that space for other things.
If you’re interested, you can see where I installed it in the video.
Apart from a recent trip up to Alice Springs I haven’t used the radio much yet. On this recent trip I had the radio monitoring the truckie channel, channel 40, and not much else.
Over time I’ll learn how to use the other functions and I’ll get back to you with what I think is really useful for most users.
UHF radios should not be relied upon as your sole mode of communication. They have a relatively short range unless they can hook into the various repeater stations dotted around regional Australia.
That being said there are other bits of gear you might find useful. Many people still use HF or high frequency radio and others use satellite phones for instances requiring direct communication.
There are also other devices like the Garmin InReach and the Zoleo satellite communicators which use a subscription plan that have many features you might find useful.
Whatever you use though make sure it suits your style of travel because you never know when you might need it.
Still unsure as to what is the best setup for you? GME have some info that might help you decide here.
There are many different brands of UHF radios on the market some tried and true but importantly, in my mind at least, GME radios are Australian made and GME has been serving Australians for over 50 years.
NB: Travel Outback Australia originally approached GME for pricing on the XRS 370c but they offered to replace my old radio setup. So while I’ll add this disclaimer I would have bought it anyway based solely on my personal experience over the years.