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REVIEW: AN/PRC-148 MBITR, working replica by United-Star

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Old November 30th, 2010, 09:50   #1
Conker
 
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REVIEW: AN/PRC-148 MBITR, working replica by United-Star

United Star AN/PRC-148 MBITR



There currently two offerings: the Spartan and Tactical Workshop working MBITR repros. I personally have no experience with them. There's also a few dummies, the Spartan being usually considered as the only one worthy. But... what about this new contender? A complete set with working military connectors, antennas and competitive functionnality for under 300$... Mmm...
For your pleasure, me and my teammate Yannos ordered two of these : to complete our setups (reenacting), have a good radio and be the early adopters to test them for you!

They are available from several retailers. A group order will also be made here on ASC to save you some money and cross-border trouble

Basic Information
The testing units are 2nd batch (November 2010), recognized by the "CCI" sticker on top. For those who saw Jimmy Sjogren's review (here) might notice that his review unit does not have this sticker which probably explains the differences with ours. "Real Deal" information: Wikipedia, Thales (Official manufacturer's website)

Technical specs
  1. Adjustable stepping (5kHz/6.25kHz/10kHz/12.5kHz/25kHz/50kHz)
  2. Adjustable transmitting power (0.5W/1W/2W/3W/4W/5W)
  3. 100 Memory frequencies
  4. Editable channel name
  5. Voce emission feature (VOX)
  6. Battery indicator
  7. Cable replication
  8. Adjustable backlight brightness
  9. Lockable channel mode
  10. 2000 mAh lithium battery
  11. Headset compatibility: U283/U (electret microphones, or condenser with specific PTT) and Kenwood 2-pins.
  12. Antenna compatibility: TNC

Packaging
  1. 2000 mAh lithium battery pack
  2. 0.34m (13.5po) short antenna
  3. 1.2m (4ft) blade antenna
  4. 1.1m (45po) antenna relocation cable + MOLLE clamp
  5. Power adapter (battery charger)
  6. Programming cable (serial plug... some people might need a USB adapter)
  7. Programming software (see post #2)
  8. User's manual (relatively good english, modern chinese, traditional chinese)
  9. Wrist lanyard
  10. Radio procedures sticker (Medevac/air support/deliberate attack considerations)


Review
Pictures (from the web, I'll take some myself later)



As you can see, the kit is complete. Comes with all you need to use it right away including -something I especially appreciate- United-Star's own version of the Antenna Relocation kit, which allows to install the large antenna on the back of a plate carrier if needed. Unfortunately, the included programming cable uses serial plugs which are getting phased out of most modern computers... You will need either a USB adapter (which might be tricky and cause drivers issues) or, my personal choice, just buy a USB programming cable. Being compatible with Kenwood cables (Kenwood, Puxing, Wouxun, etc... most midrange chinese 4/5W radios) makes it relatively easy to find.



Only thing that seems a bit less professional are the software miniCDs which are blank (not United-Star branded) and... don't always work. Mine did, but I had to send the software to my teammate as his wasn't working for some reason.



Other than this issue, the radio is beautiful; even if it has a plastic outer casing, it has a nice weight, and doesn't have any play anywhere. It feels sturdy, and the plastic is hard (won't get scratched too easily). The U283 comes with a plastic cover, attached with a small lanyard. The channel selection knob clicks nicely in place and the rubber buttons feel great. The LCD is also easy to use.

It is not waterproof, but it is waterresistant. So... if it rains, you shouldn't have any issues. But it's not designed to be submerged, so I would be careful if I have to cross a river or similar situations.

Only complaint I have as far as the exterior goes is the volume knob; it turns too easily, I can definitely see it getting turned all the way up/down ingame, eventually causing communications issues. We'll see later if there's anything to be done about this. If you're using the Kenwood-type plug (or need to program the radio), just remove the two small screws on the "gold" panel at the right of the radio, and make sure you don't loose them!

EDIT: Now that I've gamed it, it is indeed easy to turn the volume button by accident... I personally just set it then added a small piece of ducktape to keep it in place, but I'll check if there's anything else I can do that's less ghetto.

A little realism thing...not huge, but still: the MAST (antenna relocation cable) ends aren't covered, so they are visibly shiny silver. Not a huge issue, but I would've liked if they were either rubber covered or anodized. This should be easy to change with a small piece of heat shrink of the proper diameter.



As far as antennas goes, it's using the TNC plug - same as the real antennas, which can be found on eBay! For those who would prefer more low-profile antennas, it's easy to find SMA adapters to use Puxing/Wouxun/etc antennas. The whip antenna looks good. The blade antenna also looks good; it stays straight in the air if let loose, but also folds down easily without excessive torsion (which could lead to cracks on the joints) if needed. Note that the whip only has the gooseneck part that's working - what's left (the blade itself) is just a dummy for the looks which screws and the tip of the gooseneck.

Don't forget that you need to put some force down, and keep it while screwing on.



The battery pack is detachable and the mecanism is firm, no play at all. Unfortunately, as of feb 26th, none is available separately. I asked the distributor who told be it's not currently planned, but will see what can be done...

So far I used it for two game days (8h) without having to recharge it, so it should be good enough for most people during milsims under 48h (unless you're a designated radio operator and are constantly emitting).

As a base of comparison, a Puxing PX777 has a 1200 mAh battery... and I used had mine for 5 days in -25 weather on hike and it died on the 5th day. At 2000 mAh for the MBITR, it should definitely last long enough.

It comes with a "pin charger" (2,47mm diameter, 12V output, pending confirmation) which you just plug directly into the battery pack (see the small hole, on the battery below). Mine was North-American plug, which is correct for me. I do not know if there is an EU (or other standard) version.




Manual is bilingual (english/chinese). Not perfect, but totally understandable. That being said it's missing a section on software use (no manual on the CD, nothing in the booklet) and the section on programming directly on the radio is very basic, so you'll probably have to play around a bit. Anyone familiar with other radios shouldn't have a problem but newcomers to programmable radios will probably get lost in the options...

I will try to write a basic guide, but anyone willing to help is very welcome!



Many have been asking questions about the U283 plug... well first of all, it is fully working. However, the impedence it has been designed with means that you cannot use condenser mics out of the box.

It will work with, assuming you have the proper plug:
  • Davie's TASC1 (real)
  • Bowman (real)
  • Peltor COMTACI/II (real) with Element/Z-Tactical microphone (it's plug & play without modification)
  • Any repro (Element/Z-Tactical) headset rewired with a U283
  • Peltor COMTAC & MSA Sordins with impedence matching box/mpedence matching PTT
  • H250 (real)
As you can see, given you have the right PTT, it can work with any headset. Otherwise, if it doesn't have the correct impedence, you won't be able to emit properly (reception will work perfectly).

The Kenwood plug will work with all the usual suspects (Z-Tactical/Element, Cavalvy, etc...)



--------------------------

Q&A

Does it work on PMR frequencies?
Yes, it is adjustable within the software. I don't have any PMR radios (here in North-America, we're using FRS/GMRS frequencies) so I can't confirm, but based on the programming capabilities, it is. Emitting strenght is also programmable.

Is it compatible with FRS/GMRS?
Yes (well, 400-470), and yes, programmable either on the radio itself or on the software

--------------------------
(This is my personal radio, which I've "dirtied" a bit with some light paint)

--------------------------

NOTE TO ANYONE LOOKING TO BUY IT
For both FRS/GMRS and PMR frequencies, you should get the UHF 400-470mHz version.

--------------------------

Bottomline: being someone who's striving for realism, I'm glad I bought it. Even with the little issues, which can all be solved somehow,

--------------------------

Feel free to ask any other questions you might have! I will answer these to the best of my knowledge. Please post them in the topic (not by PM) so it can benefit other members... it also allows other people to answer, which can be done much faster than just me. Thanks!

I hope you enjoyed this review and that it will help you make a good and informed decision!


See following post for downloads and other utilities.

Last edited by Conker; March 18th, 2011 at 12:47..
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Old November 30th, 2010, 16:22   #2
Conker
 
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Software

Latest update (as of 2011-01-16)
I have modified to work on Seven.
-> Download here <-

I modified the setup.ini to install it on Vista and Seven.

In both cases, just unzip and run setup.exe

If you want to do the modification yourself ton install on Vista/Seven, you will need to copy the CD's contents on your computer, edit "Setup.ini" with Notepad and add this before the "Language" section:

Code:
[Win7]
MajorVer=6
MinorVer=1
MinorVerMax=2
BuildNo=7000
PlatformId=2
Then you will be able to run Setup.exe and install it normally from your computer.

The serial number for the software is: 112-20100130


Mini programming guide
  1. Make the sure battery is charged
  2. Open the software (RDA1846) as administrator
  3. Plug the radio & turn it on*
  4. Do whatever you gotta do:
    I highly recommend starting with one of the files I provided and modify it to suit your needs.

    You can:
    - Insert your frequencies in the table (to use the wizard, click on the ">>" button on the right of the row). Even if you get an error, click "OK" and continue.

    - Edit preferences in the "Edit" -> "Optional Features" menu

    "Greet" input field is a message that will be shown when powering up the radio. I recommend your callsign or ID (for me, "Conker" or "EF06") but you can put whatever you fancy.

    - Load pre-made file with "Open" button or with "File" -> "Open"
  5. Click on "Write to radio" button (CTRL+R, or menue "Program" -> "Write to radio")
    It should show a progress bar and if it worked, it will end with a popup "100% completed".
    If it shows "Data Fail", it might have actually worked anyway... The software is bugged. See next step to make sure everything worked.
  6. Turn off radio. Turn it on again. Did it show your custom greetings message? If it did, that's because it worked! If the radio is locked, press and keep down "ESC" button until the lock, top left of the screen, disappears. You can check your presets by pressing "GR" button which will toggle the manual/preset mode, and then cycle thru them with either the arrows or the channel knob (top of radio, center).

*Some computers, usually older ones, might need COM devices to be plugged in at startup to be recognized by the BIOS. If nothing works, you can try rebooting the computer while having the radio plugged-in and turned on.


Downloads
Right-click, save as.

FRS/GMRS at 5W (This is the one for Canadians) frequencies preset file:
Download here

PMR (Europe) frequencies preset file. Thanks to Viking_Dane for his help!:
Download here

Wiring Guide
For those interested by these technicalities, each terminal is identified by a letter.

Letter ... Wire color ... Function
A .......... N/A ............. Power, Negative (Not wired)
B .......... Green ......... Headphone audio (single channel)
C .......... Yellow ........ PTT key
D .......... Red ............ Microphone audio
E .......... Blue ........... Speaker
F .......... N/A ............. Power, Positive (Not wired)

Note that A and F are useful only when using accessories powered with the radio's battery, so they are pretty much optional. The wire color is for the United Star replica, I have no idea if that's the same on real radios.

Last edited by Conker; January 4th, 2013 at 19:46..
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Old December 3rd, 2010, 08:47   #3
EagleDriver
 
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Thank you for the review.

The questions I have are:

1) Spare batteries (I see you have already thought about that, but wanted to let you know others were too!)
2) Charger - is it a standard cord (DC, 9, 12, etc. volts) or would spare chargers have to be made available from the manufacturer?

3) Software - what is the file type and does it appear to be different from the Puxing and Wouxun programming software?
4) Software - Can you program anything from the keyboard, like CTSS or DTMF codes?
5) Software - Can you get a version that can only be programmed (frequencies) from the software? If so, this would have a chance--albeit slim--of being FCC approved here in the US.

5) Band - Do you know if they do or will make a UHF/VHF dual band version?

6) Is the data connection pad on the right side of the radio just a dummy? It looks like it is just a cover for the Kenwood two pin plug jack.
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Old December 6th, 2010, 17:33   #4
jurgen975
 
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so did you have a change to test the radio?
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Old December 7th, 2010, 04:44   #5
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A lot of people are waiting to hear about if it works with real steal headsets.
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Old December 8th, 2010, 14:01   #6
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To make it short ... No!
I got one of the very first Radios 6 weeks back with the help from a friend in china! But when testing with my Msa Sordins and 3 Nexus Pttīs it does not work!

The connector on the radio needet to be modified to accept the 3 pttīs (the 3 lugs on the radio werenīt deep enough to accept the pttīs) and after finaly make em work the radio did nothing! Like i never connected anything!

When i opened the radio i saw the connector was soldered onto the board inside of the radio but it seems it serves no function ... Or atleast not on my radio/lemon i got!

Did send the radio to a friend (www.jimmysjogren.se ) but not even he could make it work!

Sorry guyīs .....
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Old December 8th, 2010, 14:04   #7
Conker
 
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Those I received are supposed to be a 2nd batch with this corrected. I say supposed, so we'll see...
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Old December 8th, 2010, 14:32   #8
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Hope you can test it soon so we all know .... An other way would be the new Toysoldier Mbitrīs with the 5pin plug ... can confirm that they work w/o problems ... tested with real Tci Ptt and Real comtac 2
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Old December 8th, 2010, 15:12   #9
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Thanks Lucky, that's good info on the TS MBITR. Too bad the TS MBITR is not as good a radio. (no programming, only standard channels)

Conker, just waiting on your word about real steal compatibility with the 2nd batch.

Thanks again.
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Old December 8th, 2010, 15:39   #10
Yannos
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Balnk View Post
Thanks Lucky, that's good info on the TS MBITR. Too bad the TS MBITR is not as good a radio. (no programming, only standard channels)

Conker, just waiting on your word about real steal compatibility with the 2nd batch.

Thanks again.
I am testing the RS headset, I should have my Radio tomorrow if CP isn't delaying. As soon as I test I will be putting my quick review here too for the RS headsets.
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Old December 8th, 2010, 17:06   #11
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Please note when it is available for sale..price and link that would be great !....from my research most website is "out of stock" or ' Pre-order" at this time..
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Old December 8th, 2010, 18:20   #12
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Ebaybanned has the new gen.2 "In stock" ... but somehow i cannot access the page with IE, Chrome or firefox so sry no link .....
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Old December 8th, 2010, 22:41   #13
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I'll take better pics after I've finished studying tomorrow, we're in the finals this week and next.

EDIT: Well my backup batteries for the camera have leaked and I can't find the charger for my rechargables, so I might have to do with the basic point and shoot... but I'll manage something.

Last edited by Conker; December 8th, 2010 at 23:03..
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Old December 9th, 2010, 17:42   #14
Yannos
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Long post!

I received my United Star PRC-148 today!
Lets start on the review!

Packaging

The box is quite bigger then I though it would be. The box is appealing and has a lot of info on it.




The padding inside the box is nothing spectacular. Just a plastic mold that is pretty flimsy. But it appears to hold everything in place as it should.
Everything is well packed and sealed in plastic bags.



What is included with the Radio?
-PRC-148


-Antenna, Whip Antenna, Antenna Adaptor


-Stickers, Antenna extension cord, Programing cable


-MOLLE antenna adapter (don't know how its actually called lol), Charger


-CD, Manual (very small)











First Impression[/


Wow that things looks AMAZING. <--Those are the first words that came in my mind.
Everything looks very well built and detailed. The buttons works great and the knobs also works great.




The radio is pretty straight forward. there is 7 buttons and 2 knobs
-Menu/mode
-Scan/GR
-Lock/escape (keep the lock button pressed until it locks, do the same to unlock.)
- Down arrow
-Up Arrow
- Enter/lamp
-ALT
-PTT
-Dual watch operation
-Emergency alarm
- Power on/Volume knob
-Channel/Menu knob


One of the first thing I've done tho is to take a closer look at the U283 plug.
The plug looks to be real and it IS FUNCTIONING BUT there is an Impedance problem with Mil Headset. I had NO trouble receiving and the PTT. Only to send which is normal.













Construction
This thing feels really solid. It is made out of High Grade plastic and the buttons seems to be made out of real good rubber. The U283 is made out of metal of course and the antenna plug is also made out of metal. the knobs clicks good and turns great. The only weird thing I think with he buttons is the PTT. You don't really feel when you press it.
It really feels like a brick.










Programming

First thing first, Its a real pain in the ass to make it work haha.
the Software didn't want to install on my PC. Got it to work with Conker, a file will be released for people who are experiencing the same problems as I did. plug the radio and open it up (apparently you can let it closed but I didn't test it) and fire up the software. Press read data (mine doesn't even work! maybe its a bug somewhere) then do what ever you want and once its done press Write (mine works .. weird because read doesn't)

The software is REALLY basic and a bit of a pain to use (buggy). That has
always been a problem with radios I think anyways.










testing

I only did some light test as I don't have anybody to try it with. But so far the radio works VERY GOOD. transmit and receives really good.
I will try tot est it more later if I can have someone with me to test it.










Pros and Cons


Pros:
Well built
Feels solid
Works great
Looks stupidly awesome
Functions
functioning U283 plug

Cons:
Price
Impedance issues with RS headset
Software

Overall a GREAT PRC-148. From the things I've heard on other PRC-148 (DH and stuff like that) this one wins all the way!


Other pics:









A small retarded video :
YouTube - United Star PRC-148 Overview
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Last edited by Yannos; December 9th, 2010 at 18:51..
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Old December 9th, 2010, 20:08   #15
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hey yannos check inside if you don't have jumper pin! like the picture
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