Most consumer-quality FRS (Family Radio Service) and GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radios claim optimal transmission ranges of 2 miles for FRS and up to 10 miles for GMRS, but their actual capabilities are significantly less. This is the case with Cobra's PR 4250 WX ($60 for the value pack), which boasts a range of up to 10 miles in GMRS mode but falls short in real-world environments.
With its dark metallic-green and black casing as well as its rubberized buttons, the PR 4250 WX looks the part of the outdoor companion. However, the device is slightly bulky, weighing approximately 9 ounces and measuring 7.5 by 2.5 by 1.25 inches, including the antenna. The Push To Talk (PTT) and backlight buttons are situated on the left of the unit, while the on/off/volume knob and the hands-free jack (the optional Vox accessory is available for $30) share space with the antenna on the top of the radio. The remaining buttons, including those for the compass, channel lock, calls, radio mode, channel up/down, and power, are all located on the Cobra's face, surrounding the backlit LCD, and they're well spaced for easy one-handed operation. Although the PR 4250 WX is not waterproof, it's water resistant to IP54 standards (in other words, it's splashproof).
In addition to 22 channels (7 FRS, 7 FRS/GMRS, and 8 GMRS only) and 38 subchannels for privacy, the PR 4250 WX has 10 NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) weather channels, as well as a digital compass, a stopwatch, a clock, and a timer alarm. Plus, the radio can store up to 10 channels in memory, and it includes the usual features, such as silent paging (VibrAlert), call alert, roger beep, channel scanning, and meters for battery life and signal strength. To conserve battery life, the unit goes into power-saving mode after 10 seconds of inactivity, and you can select high-, medium-, or low-power modes (maximum power is 3 watts), depending on your proximity to other callers when the Cobra is transmitting over GMRS channels. The $60 value pack includes four rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride batteries, a charger, a clip-on boom microphone with a PTT switch, a belt clip, and a wrist strap.
As with all FRS and GMRS radios, transmission range varies according to geographic position and other conditions, such as terrain, physical obstructions, and line of sight. We tested the PR 4250 WX in New York City and were limited to less than a half mile on the FRS channels and not quite a mile on GMRS channels. Out at the beach, the FRS channels fared much better, giving us close to 1.5 miles before communications became garbled, but the GMRS range was a disappointing 3 miles--far short of the advertised 10-mile claim. However, it's important to note that most consumer-grade GMRS radios, particularly those operating at less than 5 watts, will typically undershoot their optimal range.
The radio showed improved results in our battery-drain tests. With power-saving mode disabled and while continuously monitoring a weather channel, we managed an acceptable 5 hours of battery life before the radio shut down.