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Kenwood FreeTalk FM UBZ-GR14 review:

Kenwood FreeTalk FM UBZ-GR14

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The Good Strong FRS and FM receiver; lightweight; 38 subchannels; good battery life.

The Bad No roger alerts; no battery meter; slightly expensive.

The Bottom Line An attractive radio with headphones included, the FreeTalk FM is a good buy if you can find it at a discount.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

6.0 Overall

The latest addition to Kenwood's FRS radio family is the FreeTalk FM, a midlevel radio featuring a built-in FM radio tuner, a 14-channel/38-subchannel receiver, headphones, and more. Available in metallic blue or silver, the FreeTalk FM is stylish and lightweight; however, it lacks some of the basic features we've seen on similarly priced radios. The latest addition to Kenwood's FRS radio family is the FreeTalk FM, a midlevel radio featuring a built-in FM radio tuner, a 14-channel/38-subchannel receiver, headphones, and more. Available in metallic blue or silver, the FreeTalk FM is stylish and lightweight; however, it lacks some of the basic features we've seen on similarly priced radios.

Hip style
The design of the FreeTalk FM is a welcomed departure from the boxy shape of many . It has rounder edges, comes in stylish colors, and is fairly compact (3.9 by 2.2 by 1.1 inches; 4.8 ounces) and ergonomically well constructed. The radio's backlit LCD screen is big and bright enough to read in even the worst lighting conditions, and the seven rubberized function buttons are well placed, making one-handed operation a breeze. The antenna is fixed and a bit bulky, but it is extremely flexible and more comfortable than the when worn on the waist with the included belt clip.

While the FreeTalk FM has many of the features we would expect to find in a radio of this class, we were concerned that it lacked some basics, such as a battery meter as well as call-confirmation and roger-alert tones. However, it did have a low-battery warning, and we were impressed with the channel-scanning capabilities, which can be used to scan for signals on both the 14 main and 38 subchannels as well as for scanning FM radio signals.

As the radio's name implies, the FreeTalk FM does have a built-in FM tuner, which worked extremely well, locking on to local radio stations throughout New York City. We used the included ear bud-style headset to listen to stereo music and radio transmissions. However, we were a little disappointed by the buds' sound quality, which is just average.

Fine-tuning
As noted, we tested the FreeTalk FM in New York, where tall buildings and other structures tend to limit the transmission range. We were surprised by the radio's range, which was better than average (just less than two miles) and certainly better than that of its sibling, the FreeTalk WX. We were even able to communicate clearly from inside an elevator, which normally blocks signals on FRS radios.

Powered by four AAA batteries (not included), the FreeTalk FM provided close to 35 hours of juice on a single charge. Unfortunately, there are no rechargeable battery options for this model. But considering the fact that we used the FM radio option for most of the 35 hours, its cell life is better than average.

The FreeTalk FM is sold in single units and has a hefty list price of $89.99, although we've seen them offered for as little as $57 on the Web. If you're looking for an FRS radio with a musical twist, the FreeTalk FM is a good bet.

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