Back in the early to mid-1990s, Motorola produced the MT2000 radio (along with the HT1000s) within their Jedi series. Targeted for the public safety market, flocks of police and fire departments put them into their day to day operations. At a price point of around $1,000.00 (*USD), departments, both here and abroad, used them well into the mid to late 2000s.
Why would we even think about doing a ‘review’ of a radio platform that is basically a dinosaur in this day and age? Because, if you are in need of a robust communication system that is hard to kill and you are on a strict budget, this may be an answer for you…allow me to explain.
After departments across the world started rotating their aging comm tech for better models, agency auctions managed to flood the market with radios that were still in good working condition, but they just lacked the newer features that companies like Motorola and Kenwood were pushing out. These radios are all over eBay and will only run you around $40-50 (*USD) for VHF or UHF.
(Note: Bypass the 800 MHz radios unless you are already licensed to operate in that band. The Jedi 800 MHz radios are cheap (as low as $15 (*USD), but unless you have something in place, you basically have a doorstop, paperweight or a movie prop.)
Keep in mind, this is typically the cost of the radio and antenna, battery and charger are often sold separately, but can also be found on the cheap.
Why these radios?
To be honest, this write up is focused on those who are wanting something that won’t break if you sneeze on it, something that will take a beating and still perform better than the cheap Chinese radios found on Amazon and eBay. It really isn’t a bad option for security companies that are starting out or even airsoft/MILSIM teams that want to be able to communicate with each other during a game.
Keep in mind, this is 1990s tech and unless you take advantage of private sellers who are able to do an initial programming for you, you will have to find yourself a DOS-based computer (386 or 486 machines (and so far, I have not found a DOS emulator or Virtual machine that will work)).
MTSX Lab is the Motorola software tool that is used to program zones, channels, buttons and the lot. It is easily found during a google search and is extremely lightweight (only a few megabytes). It may seem a little tricky or convoluted at first, but once you get the hang of it, everything moves much more smoothly. Unfortunately, I don’t want to make Motorola mad by posting their software without their permission so you won’t find it here.
You can also find the RIB-less RS232 programming cable for these series radios on eBay for pretty cheap (around $15 USD) and they do work without needing a Motorola RIB (radio interface box). Again, keep in mind, this is an RS232 D-sub connector, not a USB and to be honest, I haven’t attempted to use an RS232 to USB adapter.
Several years ago, I ended up purchasing an MT2000 (UHF) radio off of eBay to forgo using the cheap ‘community’ radios that the company, in which I was working for at the time, was using. I bought the MT2000 radio, a new charger, new battery, a Motorola RMN5089B Commander II remote speaker mic and the RIB-less programming cable for around $130 in total. After about 15 minutes of fumbling around the MTSX Lab software, I began to understand how everything was set up (yes, I actually still have an old 486 Packard Bell PC with DOS 3.1 on it). I programmed the frequencies that I needed, threw it on the charger and basically hoped that I programmed it to work with our repeater correctly when I went to work.
I was also worried that the battery wouldn’t hold up to an entire shift. When looking at the original white pages produced by Motorola, it looked like I might only get around 4 hours of use since it was a 4-watt radio. I understood the numbers when factoring usage rates, but I was still a bit worried; the radio traffic on that system was huge and I just wasn’t sure.
After a few weeks on the job with this radio, I understood why this was a good purchase for me. Not only was I not using the ‘community’ radios from the company, but the quality was so much better. On countless occasions, the radio took a tumble across the floor when we had to go “hands-on” with people and I will admit that it had also fallen around 15 feet onto a concrete floor (on a couple occasions before I got a radio holder); still, the radio performed as I expected it to and it didn’t break into pieces like a Baofeng would.
Now, many years later, while I am exploring the market for a replacement (with more features like Bluetooth), it is not because the radio died on me. Matter of fact, after years of abuse, they only issue that I really have is an LCD display that wants to freak out on me from time to time.
If you are starting out in security or you are one to play airsoft or MILSIM games, look into the MT2000 or HT1000 radios. Get one from a good seller and it will take a beating and then some. Yes, the cheap Chinese radios are cheaper and you can program most of them with CHIRP, but the quality of receiving/transmission and the quality of materials is just not there. You really don’t have to worry about the Jedi radios when it comes to rain, mud or snow either.