Midland X-Talker 36 Review
Cons: More expensive, poor battery life, questionable quality control
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Midland X-Talker 36
|Price||$70 List||$189.96 at Amazon||$90.79 at Amazon|
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|$70 List||$29.95 at REI|
|Pros||Small size, solid range, water resistant||Easy to use, great range, great battery life, good weather resistance||Waterproof and floats, good range when there are not obstructions||Excellent range, has an extraordinary amount of features/settings, good battery life||Inexpensive, small and light, water resistant, has privacy codes|
|Cons||More expensive, poor battery life, questionable quality control||Large and heavy, very expensive||Expensive, bulky, challenging menu navigation||Difficult to set up and learn to use, has the capability to get you in trouble with the FCC||Poor range, inaccurate battery indicator|
|Bottom Line||Battery life and the price are the two weakest points of the X-Talker 36 that otherwise has solid range, small size, and water resistance||Aside from its larger size, this radio performed with excellence all around, especially in ease of use||This radio is made to live around the water, but is a poor value if that is not important to you||Licensed ham radio operators will appreciate the amazing range and tons of features||While it has poor range, this inexpensive radio is our top recommendation in its price range|
|Rating Categories||Midland X-Talker 36||BC Link 2.0||Motorola T600||BaoFeng BF-F8HP||Midland X-Talker T10|
|Range And Clarity (30%)|
|Ease Of Use (25%)|
|Weather Resistance And Durability (15%)|
|Battery Life (15%)|
|Weight And Size (15%)|
|Specs||Midland X-Talker 36||BC Link 2.0||Motorola T600||BaoFeng BF-F8HP||Midland X-Talker T10|
|Measured Weight (Single Radio, with Batteries)||5.0 oz||11.0 oz||8.4 oz||7.8 oz||3.9 oz|
|Battery Capacity||700mAh||2,300 mAh||800 mAh||2,000 mAh||1,000 mAh|
|Battery Type||NiHM, Alkaline AAA||Lithium Ion||NiMH, Alkaline AA||Lithium Ion||AAA|
|Rechargeable?||Yes, or normal AAA||Yes||Yes, also can use normal AA batteries||Yes||No|
|Charge Via USB?||Yes||Yes||Not with supplied cable, yes with a different micro USB cable||No||n/a|
|Battery Life Test Results (hr:min)||11:40||22:45||11:00||17:40||21:20|
|Frequency Range||462.5625 to 467.7125 MHz||462.55 to 467.71 MHz||462.55 to 467.71 MHz||65-108MHz (FM Receive only) 136-174MHz and 400-520MHz (TX/RX)||462.55 to 467.71 MHz|
|Dimensions (in) Body Only||1.30 x 2.20 x 6.10"||3.9 x 2.4 x 2" Body;
3.15 x 2.2 x 1" Mic
|2.4 x 1.5 x 4.9"||2 x 1.2 x 3.7"||2 x 1 x 3.5"|
|Privacy Codes?||121 available||Yes||Yes, 121 available||Yes||Yes, 38 available|
|NOAA Weather Alerts?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Clips to Pack?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No (mounts sold separately)||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
With a range of 2.6 miles in a straight line, the X-Talker 36 was only beat by larger and more expensive radios making transmissions at a distance. It is water-resistant and had decent ease of use and features. We were disappointed by its battery life (less than 12 hours) and the microphone jack not working.
Range and Clarity
For being one of the smaller sized radios we tested, the Midland X-Talker 36 has great range compared to its minimally-sized peers. It even is close to matching range performance with some significantly larger models we tested. In our unobstructed straight-line test, it made calls up to 2.6 miles away. In our test with hills and trees, it performed better or equal to all but our few longest talkers.
In addition to having solid range numbers, the call clarity was notably clear and crisp compared to other radios we tested.
Ease of Use
The X-Talker 36 scores just slightly above average for ease of use. It has a button array that we have come to expect from most comparable radios. Navigating the menu is intuitive as long as you have some familiarity with the symbols outlined in the user manual. The backlit display is large enough to read, and not cluttered with too many symbols.
We really like having the volume knob to make adjustments on the fly without looking at the buttons and for volume adjustments with gloved hands. We find the buttons large enough to use with smaller gloves but hard to pinpoint with a larger, more insulated glove.
These Midlands come with a nice charging dock that fits both radios. If you don't want to carry the dock, you can also charge them with a micro USB port on the side of the radio. We like that you can replace the rechargeable battery pack with ordinary alkaline batteries if you need more power and don't have a place to charge.
Weather Resistance and Durability
These little Midlands have a pretty solid outer casing and no small breakable parts that we had any issues with. Throughout their hours in backpacks and on waist straps, they held strong and showed minimal signs of wear. If you did have a major issue, these come with a 1-year warranty from Midland.
While the Midland X-Talker 36 is generally quite solid, we are not as impressed with the quality of the headphone jack/external microphone that it came with as an accessory. First of all, the headphone port on the radio never functioned for us. Trying multiple different headphone options (to rule out the headphones being the problem) we were never able to get the sounds to play in the headphones, or make a transmission through the external microphone. We were surprised to have this feature not work, because the X-Talker 36 had few reviews online that complained of malfunctioning features. Additionally, the supplied headphone/microphone felt cheap and breakable. The foam cover for the earpiece tore easily on its first use, and the earpiece did not fit well in our ears. The supplied headphone/microphone did work when we tried it with other devices, but it would not be our top pick to use consistently with any radio.
One feature we like is that they are relatively water-resistant. Midland claims water resistance but does not offer a formal IP (Ingress Protection) rating, as some other radios do. We subjected this radio to showers of water, and it spent some testing days in damp conditions. It performed well. It did end up with some condensation inside the screen after a wet day, but it was not enough to make it hard to read the display. It has nice rubber covers over all of the electronic ports, which kept water out in all our tests.
This radio is in the lower end of the field when it comes to battery life. It lasted 11:40 while making a transmission every 5 minutes in our standardized test, which was a few hours better than our worst radios, but less than half the time of our best radios.
The battery indicator on the screen seemed to deplete relatively linearly, which was nice. We didn't get any warning beeps or signals when it was about to die. This lack of beeps could be nice if excessive sounds get annoying for you or could lead you to have the radio die without you knowing if you aren't paying attention to the indicator on the screen.
Weight and Size
This radio packs a lot of features and power for its small size. It is only about 2 oz heavier than our smallest radio we tested, but it generally has better performance than those that are only slightly lighter. The highest-powered and most fully-featured radios we tested were significantly larger and weighed as much as two times more. Its small dimensions and short antenna make it easy to throw into a backpack or even a handbag without taking up much room.
The X-Talker 36 slides into the middle of the pack in many metrics, and that includes price. It is about double the price of the cheapest options, but it comes with many more features, better usability, weather resistance, and better range than those cheaper options. It is also significantly less expensive than our most expensive radios that have formal weather resistance ratings, longer range, and longer battery life. The general trend that you get what you pay for in radios applies here, so you get mid-range performance for a mid-range price.
The Midland X-Talker 36 does a great job splitting the difference between the more expensive and capable models and the least expensive and basic options. Its range is impressive for its size, but the battery life and quality control is not as good as other radios.
— Gray Grandy