For those who are wanting a working two-way radio with a military look, there are some options on the market. One of those options is the TRI (Triumph Instruments) AN/PRC 152 which is based on the Harris Falcon III AN/PRC 152 which is one of the radios used by the U.S. military.
While the TRI version is principally directed towards Milsim personnel, the look, feel and heft of the radio is close to its real and very expensive counterpart (p.s. you cannot purchase the Harris Falcon III, it is limited to government use only).
Now that some of the radio’s background has been established, let’s get into the review section of this blog post.
– FM: 87-108 MHz (Rx）
– VHF: 136-174.995 MHz ( Rx / Tx )
– UHF0: 350-390.995 MHz ( Rx )
– UHF1: 400-470.995 MHz ( Rx / Tx )
– UHF2: 480-520.995 MHz (Rx )
This radio works quite well in the UHF1 band (400-470.995 MHz), however, while it did work, the quality within the VHF band was not as good as UHF1. Like other dual-band radios on the market, you can monitor two different frequencies at once; this includes monitoring a frequency on the VHF band while using a frequency in the UHF1 band. The monstrous whip antenna on this radio (approximately 13″ of an antenna), combined with the radio’s output wattage definitely allows it to outreach smaller commercial radios like the Motorola RDU series.
Features can be selected and used (such as VOX, offset, repeater information, etc), however, it must all be done on the front keypad/display. A PC programming cable is not available.
This will definitely make your wallet feel the burn. The radio, brand new, runs around $250 (plus shipping from China) and an extra battery will run you another $60-65. While it’s not the most expensive radio that a consumer can get their hands on, considering some of the cons (listed below), it does seem overpriced.
- Price – $250 per radio.
- Lack of PC programming cable offered from TRI, you have to program it through the front keypad.
- You cannot use Harris batteries with the radio, only TRI batteries.
- You cannot use standard mil-spec communications equipment with this radio, you have to use modified accessories designed to work with the TRI U-299 connector.
- The English ‘translated’ manual is rough and somewhat convoluted. To quote “Beetlejuice”, “This book reads like stereo instructions”, only worse.
- Battery quality could be better.
- Almost ZERO communications from TRI.
If you really want a radio with a mil-sim/mil-spec look, then the TRI AN/PRC-152 may be up your alley. Personally, my opinion as a TRI 152 owner, either pick up some surplus Motorola or Kenwood radios off of eBay, save up some money and buy a decent radio from Motorola, Kenwood, ICOM, Black Box, or you can save some money and pick up a cheap Chinese radio from Amazon (like BaoFeng) that has many of the same features as the TRI 152.
Aside from the price, I have two major issues with this radio.
- Communication with TRI (Triumph Instruments) is pretty much non-existent as is the PC programming cable. TRI posted photos showing a PC programming cable on their social media page around a year or two now, yet the option to buy it is still not available. Repeated attempts to open a line of communication with TRI has failed and it basically leaves everything as a guessing game. We have no real clue on what hardware TRI is using in this radio and how to access some of the alleged features.
- The battery is seriously overpriced and underdesigned. The battery shell holds 4 unnamed 18650 batteries allegedly running 2200 mAh and a PCB that is supposed to ensure that charging/discharging is done safely and correctly. To be honest with you, the PCB and the batteries are pretty much junk.
After approximately four months, I noticed that I would only get around an hour to an hour and a half run time out of the TRI 152. This puzzled me since I was originally able to get around eight hours of runtime out of it, under moderate use. Also, instead of the battery pack taking several hours to charge, it would only charge for around 45 minutes before showing a ‘full charge’.
After disassembling the battery pack, I noticed a few things that I didn’t like. First, the 2S PCB had corrosion in multiple locations and one of the resistors looked damaged. I also noticed that the 18650 batteries were not balanced at all. Taking a voltage reading on the batteries showed 4.2v on two of the batteries and 3.2v on the other two telling me that it was not balanced and that I most likely had two dead cells.
In the end, this is not a huge issue for me. I ordered 4 Samsung 18650 cells and a 2S BMS protection board and will fix the ‘doorstop’ that I now have instead of buying a new battery for $70 (plus shipping). I also took the time to reverse engineer the battery housing and plan on 3D printing another one that will allow me to integrate a decent LiPo battery that will also give me double the runtime.
An additional write up and how to video will be made available once I receive all of the parts that I’ve ordered and start the repair process.
Throughout its use, I noticed that the radio did conform to some of TRI’s claims, but there are other areas that could use some improvement.
As far as TRI’s IPX7 claim, the 152 will survive the “1 meter for up to 30-minutes” requirement for the rating. What that means for the consumer is that it will survive rain and accidental submersion, but I would not rely on the sealing to keep out anything other than that (specifically, several hours of heavy rain would concern me, in the long run, due to a couple factors that will be covered soon).
With this radio, I did decide to open the case in an attempt to figure out a method to program it via PC since TRI will not release the cable yet. After I opened it up, I did notice the lack of conformal coating on the radio’s PCB. This is not a required process, however, I prefer to see products toting an IPx3+ rating to have a conformal coating on the electronics as additional protection. (For those who are unaware, Conformal Coating is a thin polymeric film that is applied to printed circuit boards. The coating acts as protection against dust, moisture/water, chemicals and certain temperatures.)
Note: I am not saying that every TRI 152 is lacking conformal coating, but the one that I have is. This could have also been addressed in later iterations of the 152 and/or with other TRI products.
The speaker that TRI uses is good, but not great. Even though the radio is analog, the speaker sounds a bit muddier than higher tier radios like Motorola. At first, I thought this was mainly due to the membrane used to try and keep water from entering the speaker portholes. However, even after a little experimentation, I realized that it was just due to the speaker itself.
Building Material/Drop Test
This is an unknown area for me. The body is some form of plastic (possibly ABS), but other than that I am basically clueless. As far as any impact performance is concerned, I can say that the radio did drop from approximately 3-3.5 feet onto a smooth concrete surface without any obvious damage. We do have access to vibration tables, drop test and impact test equipment, but I really don’t want to subject a $250 radio to any of that; especially when I plan on using it still.
Moral of the Story
While TRI produces some nice looking mil-sim style radios, the prices, lack of support and quality control issues steer me away from their products. My advice to you is to stay away from TRI unless they start correcting these problems.