At first glance, Motorola's tiny Talkabout T4500 radios look like mere props, rather than walkie-talkies with a two-mile-range. Combine its ultradurable plastic casing with the T4500's compact weight (5 ounces) and low price tag ($25 for the pair), and you have the perfect toy for the kiddies on the playground.
Each Motorola Talkabout T4500 radio measures just four inches from the bottom of the device to the top of the antennas and two inches from one side to the other, which means a unit will fit perfectly in a pocket or a child's hand. The radio's blue-plastic body has a textured look, with slightly indented ridges along the sides and a constellation of speaker holes on the front. Above the speaker, you'll find four control keys: two that adjust the volume or the channel, a power button that also toggles between functions, and one that "calls" its mate with a high-pitched ring. The Push To Talk button sits along one edge within easy pressing distance of a thumb (for lefties) or a forefinger (for righties). The radio also has a minuscule screen that's just big enough to display the channel or the volume.
The T4500's most notable attribute is its ability to withstand abuse, though Motorola sacrifices an easily removable battery cover to achieve this end. (You'll need a coin or similar tool to replace the three AAAs.) However, this minor irritant is soon forgotten when you realize how durable these units are; we were able to drop the T4500 on a hard surface several times without affecting the device. Other features occupy the low end of the spectrum; for example, you get a low-battery alert and the ability to scan for clear frequencies over 22 channels, though the T4500 lacks subchannels and privacy settings. Motorola also asserts that this Talkabout is weather resistant, but we were unable to test the claim.
We tested a pair of T4500s in the urban jungle of San Francisco. We immediately noticed its poor speaker performance; while in a crowd of people, we could barely hear when someone was attempting to call. This problem could be averted if the radios had a vibrating call function.
The walkie-talkies also demonstrated less than inspiring range. We hadn't wandered a half mile apart before the signal broke up considerably. However, as children shouldn't be wandering that far from their playmates, the T4500 should work fine for them.
On the plus side, the T4500's battery life is great. Motorola gives a rated time of 25 hours of 5/5/90 (5 percent transmitting, 5 percent receiving, and 90 percent standby) use; we were able to get about 35 hours out of the radios.