Review Connect Systems CS700 DMR Handheld

Let me start with a confession: personally I don’t care much about digital modes. That doesn’t mean that I don’t keep track of the latest technologies, and (hopefully) this short review is proof of that.

DMR-logoI’m not going to explain in detail what DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) is, as there are many sources on the Internet that will do a much better job than I could.

For your convenience I uploaded a DMR primer, the link can be found at the end of this article. What I would like to do here is give you a basic idea of what you can expect, and – just as important – what not.
What you can expect

    Talk around the world by using repeaters. The functionality isn’t much different from D-Star.
    Optimal use of frequency space (time slots). DMR uses 2 time slots, which makes it possible to have one frequency harbor two QSO’s at the same time without interference.
    Extensive encryption options to prevent eavesdropping (illegal for ham use). Unless you know one key (basic privacy) or two keys (extended privacy) other people can’t listen in.
    On-screen call sign recognition. In order for this to work you need to update the subscriber ID list regularly. This will also open up the option to use ‘call routing’ (calling a specific station regardless of his/her location in the world). You can get your own subscriber ID here.
    Sending and receiving text messages. Think of it as SMS on a cell phone. You can compose messages on the fly, or program a number of preset messages.

What you shouldn’t expect

    A technology tailored to ham radio use. It’s not. DMR was conceived with commercial purposes in mind. You won’t find any dual-band radios, for example. If you want to have a mature, ham oriented digital system, go for D-Star instead.
    Great audio quality. Seven out of ten times I wasn’t able to recognize familiar voices, not even from people I talk to on a daily basis. Most people sounded like they just had a root canal, with a truckload of anesthetics preventing them from forming words properly. It’s a bit less poor than D-Star, but opinions vary wildly.
    100% compatibility between various brands. There are some minor differences between Vertex/Motorola, Hytera and this CS700, but making QSO’s will always work.
    Plug & Play out of the box experience. If you open the box the radio is nothing more than a clumsy paperweight. You need to program it.
    Using these things to the max without some basic computer knowledge. If you hate computers, DMR is not for you. The number of screens to-be-filled-in in order to make a so-called ‘code plug’ will initially make your head spin. Fortunately you can almost always download a ready-to-use code plug made by someone else.

CS700Making a splash
If Connect Systems did one thing, it’s making a splash. At €249 (Europe) the CS700 is by far the most affordable DMR Tier 2 transceiver available. Please note that the European price includes all taxes, transport from the USA to Europe, parcel insurance and the seller’s margin, while USA prices (as low as $180) might not.

Contrary to earlier reports this radio is designed and manufactured in China, but it doesn’t breathe the poor workmanship you sometimes see in the world of Baofengs. This is a high quality, sturdy radio.

In the box
– radio
– battery
– charger
– power supply
– manual

Optional: programming cable. This might look silly because the radio is worthless without one, but it does prevent you from paying for cables over and over again if you buy more than one radio. Drivers, programming manuals and programming software can be downloaded for free at Connect Systems. New firmware releases will be posted there also.

First impressions
I only programmed 2 zones of 16 channels each, because that was all I needed for this review. The maximum number of zones is 250, but I doubt that you will ever need that many channels and zones.

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