TYT MD-380 70cm DMR Handheld Radio Review

TYT MD-380

The TYT MD-380 is probably the most famous DMR radio out there as just about everyone I know of started DMR with this radio. Is it worth its reputation? Read on and find out!

Around the end of the 2016 year, the TYT MD-380 was released quietly to radio enthusiasts. Trying to find a DMR radio without costing an arm and a leg was difficult back in those days, particularly one that was worth a flip.

For around $100 the TYT MD-380 showed a color screen, 70cm analog and DMR digital, a 2,000mAh battery, and more, which was very impressive.

As soon as you open the box and grab the TYT MD-380 you know this is not just a copy of an existing radio made super cheap. It is thicker than most of the cheaper radios and weighs more. It also has a much tougher feel. Very few radios in this price range feel this solid and substantial.

My only real complaint with the build quality on the TYT MD-380 is the belt clip which appears to be thinner than I would like. I want to point out that even though it looks thin like it might break it has never given me any problems and is nice and tight as it should be.

Turning the TYT MD-380 on shows you the next great feature, the full-color screen. For its day, it was one of the nicest screens on a radio for any price. Even today, years later, the screen is bright, colorful, and easy to read. My only complaint is that like most radios the screen’s backlight shuts off after a few seconds to save battery life, but unlike many other radios, the screen is completely unreadable when the TYT MD-380’s backlight is off. This isn’t unheard of with color screens, but it also isn’t mandatory either.

All of the controls on the TYT MD-380 feel and work well. If anything, the keys may have a tiny bit too much resistance to them but I like it as it keeps me from accidentally pressing something unintentionally. Both knobs on the top are smooth and firm with no issues.

Programming the TYT radio, like virtually all DMR radios, requires the use of proprietary TYT MD-380 software to program virtually anything with the radio. TYT MD-380 manual programming from the keypad is possible for most analog functions but not at all practical for anything more than a repeater or two.

Transmitted audio from the TYT MD-380 is, like a lot of DMR radios, a little on the weak side. It is however very clear which helps tremendously. I personally would rather have the clear but weak audio of this radio than some of the cheap Chinese radios that have very strong and overmodulated signals which seem all too prevalent today as loud and garbled doesn’t do me much good.

A lot of the inexpensive radios seem to have a battery that just seems far too small and light for the mAh they claim, that is not the case with the TYT MD-380. It comes with a 2,000mAh rated battery that feels substantial and seems to last plenty long enough for its rating. Given that most of this radio’s time in use has been on low power talking to my hotspot, it lasts longer than I do.

Overall I would have to say that these TYT MD-380s absolutely deserve their reputation and are hard to beat for the price, except for when compared to the newer TYT MD-UV380 dual-band versions.

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Photos

TYT MD-380 Test Results:

Screen readability Very Good
In-hand feel Very Good
Included antenna Good
Construction quality Very Good
Belt clip Good
Programmability Good
Transmit audio CLICK TO LISTEN
Maximum power output (2m/70cm) N/A / 1.9 watts
Size 207 * 61 * 53 mm
Actual weight 10.2 oz
TYT MD-380 manual CLICK TO DOWNLOAD
Programming software CLICK TO DOWNLOAD
TYT MD-380 Overall score
TYT MD-380 VNA Antenna Test
TYT MD-380 VNA Antenna Test
TYT MD-380 SRD spectrum analysis
TYT MD-380 SRD spectrum analysis
If you are interested, click here for an article on how I test radios.

 

FEATURES:
  • Frequency Range: 400-470 MHz
  • Free USB Programming Cable and Windows software
  • 2 Antennas, AC Charger, 2000 mAh Battery, Belt Clip, English Manual, USB Programming Cable
  • Compatible with Motorola TRBO Tier I & II radios
  • Supports up to 1000 channels
  • Enhanced encryption function
  • Priority Scan Voice Prompt Complying with digital protocol ETSI TS102 361-1.-2.-3
  • Power-on protection
  • Compatible with MotoTRBO Tier I&II
  • Color LCD display
  • DTMF decoding and encoding
  • Text messages in digital mode
  • Programming multifunction key Private call, group call, and all call
  • Built-in CTCSS/DCS
PROS:
CONS:
  • Well built
  • Quality transmit audio
  • A very nice little screen
  • The TYT MD-UV380 dual-band version is about the same price

Conclusions

If you are looking for a nice little radio that you are going to use primarily for DMR that won’t break the bank, the TYT MD-380 might just be your perfect little handheld. You could also go with the TYT MD-UV380 dual-band version if having 2m and 70cm bands appeals to you.
You might could find a TYT MD-380 used from someone who was upgrading to a dual-band radio in which case you could get a real deal on a great little radio.
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I hope you enjoyed my TYT MD-380 review!

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