RFinder B1 Exam 2021

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Dating back to April 2017 with the release of the M1, Bob Greenberg’s RFinder product line has been around for quite some time and has worked daily to create an “ease of use” DMR radio for amateur radio operators.

From M1 -> K1 and finally landing on their flagship “Dual Band”, the B1 is not only a solid radio with incredible audio quality, but contains a custom operating system that allows the use of internal GPS from radio to locate repeaters in the area, “click to select” and start transmitting.

For years, users of other digital modes have strongly criticized the DMR platform as being difficult for the average user. This is mainly because the user has to configure their codeplug (the model inside the radio) before they can use the digital aspects of the device.

With the RFinder B1, everything is changed; user simply opens the preinstalled RFinder app, pauses for a few seconds while the radio generates a list of local repeaters based on the device’s GPS position, selects the repeater to use, followed by the digital newsgroup , and starts transmitting. While traveling, you can talk through a local repeater a few seconds after launching the application without any knowledge of the area or local frequencies. One of my favorite features is the two-slot promiscuous mode option. When you activate this function, you can hear all radio traffic passing through the repeater (all newsgroups, on both time slots, with any color code).

Physically, the RFinder B1 device is solid in the hand. It has a nice weight and looks impressive to people when they observe it sitting on your dining room table. A sturdy belt clip makes it easy for people on the go. A common SMA connector allowed me to use an assortment of antennas I already had on the device to extend its RF range. Unlike some newer devices, the speaker is located on the front of the device (as opposed to the back) and can easily be heard in a loud crowd. The intuitive design contains both the main speaker and a small speaker near the top for phone calls when inserting a SIM card into the device. The B1 comes “cell unlocked” and is compatible with all major carriers and runs on 4G LTE. This allows one to receive their emails, send text messages, and make and receive phone calls from their two-way radio. With the Google Play Store preinstalled, users can download the app of their choice from the Play Store and use it on the RFin!
der device.

The battery life is above average. With the RF part of the radio on, I could get about 10 hours of almost continuous monitoring. When the RF was turned off and I limited my use to apps like Zello and DV-Switch, I was able to get almost 23 hours of continuous monitoring.
I talked earlier about the radio’s ability to easily “Pick, Click, Transmit” with repeaters nearby, but the radio can also be configured with “stored memories” which are organized by zones. With the factory unlocked frequency range of RX / TX 136-174 and 400-470, I was able to set up Marine VHF and FRS / GMRS channels in additional areas and start using them immediately without MARS / CAP changes. All internal memories can be exported to the cloud server and re-uploaded to your radio. This means that if you need to reformat your device for any reason, with just a few clicks, all of your stored memories are back to your radio within seconds. One problem that does exist is that although the radio can contain very many memories, there is no option to scan those memories. So you can only hear one channel at a time.

The RFinder team created a web interface to manage these memories and cloud zones. So if I want to add a long list of channels, I can do that through the web interface of my MacBook, PC or tablet and send them to my RFinder radio. To make life easier for the user, the RFinder team has included templates for common frequencies such as Marine, Business, FRS and GMRS channels which can be imported directly into your radio if desired with a few mouse clicks. I have to say that in my 25 years as an Amateur Radio Operator, the Memories Management web platform is the easiest I have ever used.

As with any digital mode, the backbone of its connection is the Internet. And with DMR, most users choose to have their own hotspot to use at home. This allows the operator to select the talkgroups he wants to use without depending on a local repeater. The RFinder B1 will work well with your local access point over DMR-MARC, Brandmeister, TGIF and any other connection you might make with your access point. Like Tesla, which adds amazing additional features to their existing products, RFinder recently released in public beta for all B1 users “DMR ROIP” (Radio Over IP). This revolutionary integration allows B1 users to open their RFinder app, click the ROIP button, and connect to any Brandmeister DMR newsgroup through the device’s network connection. In essence, if you don’t have a hotspot, it stops working, or you’re out of range of a DMR repeater, you can use the device’s network connection (wifi or cellular) to talk on the phone. one of 1,561 Brandmeister DMR newsgroups.

Talker Alias. One thing you love the most about DMR is who you talk to. Although the RFinder does not have an in-band conversation alias (the ability to decode callsign information from the data stream), it allows you to access the menu and select an option to download the latest information. radio identification on RadioID.net. Once this is done, when a person transmits on DMR, it will show you their full name, call sign and location of recording. I find this feature useful when talking to others in national or global newsgroups.

The RFinder B1 works well with other PTT applications like Zello, Peanut, TeamSpeak, DVSwitch, etc. Unlike the Motorola ION where you cannot use Push To Talk on the device apart from the RF part of the radio, the B1 has two Push To Talk buttons; one dedicated to the RFinder (radio) application and another that can be assigned to any Android radio application. I assigned the secondary button to Zello, and it works perfectly. One challenge I had was that the audio on Zello seemed to be slightly muffled when transmitting. It took several tests and modifications in the Zello app until I was comfortable with the results. This was not the case when transmitting over RF via the RFinder app. In fact, the DMR audio was as good as my Motorola Ion and my XPR7550e.

Updates. Love the updates. When the new iOS version goes into beta, I download beta 1 eager to see what has changed and use the new features despite the bugs. The RFinder publishes many updates. They are trying new things; exciting things, but sometimes those changes can get a bit ‘wobbly’. The RFinder team has made it clear which updates are beta updates and which are regular updates. I definitely wouldn’t put my 76-year-old dad on the beta update when RFinder releases it, but I’m pretty tech-savvy and I don’t mind rebooting every now and then.

One thing that continues to surprise me is the dedication of the support team. In particular, Bob Greenberg. I am convinced that he is not sleeping because he is easily reachable via Facebook Messenger almost at any time. Why is this important? By testing more recent equipment, with suppliers like Motorola, Hytera, Boxchip, there are going to be bugs. And normally if they are flagged, you might, if you’re extremely lucky, get an acknowledgment, but with Bob, I feel like it’s personal to him. I get the feeling he is determined to make sure everyone’s radio is working as it should. I have seen where someone posts a message online about a problem with their device and in a few hours they will report and say the problem has been fixed because Bob contacted. This level of customer service is found in almost no other radio product.

Final thoughts. The RFinder is a $ 1000 device. Someone can comfortably use it as a telephone and two-way radio (analog and digital). Its ease of use for programming is unbeatable. When using the beta platform things can get tricky, but running the beta software is your choice (you can stick with the stable version if you want). ROIP is an amazing addition when you are traveling and want to continue your conversations without worrying about losing repeater coverage, or during a disaster when the power may be out of your home and your hotspot is disconnected. A challenge for me is that I like to monitor many channels so not being able to scan to the radio has been a challenge. Overall, this is an amazing radio, with great sound, a long list of relevant features, and a stable Android platform. If I was doing a lot of trips, this would absolutely (without hesitation) be my daily transport.

Joseph N4KYS


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