At first glance, the Cobra MicroTalk FRS 315WX looks identical to its sibling, the FRS 305. The only noticeable difference is the color, a washed-out Platinum Mist. Don't expect to be overwhelmed by the FRS 315WX's looks, though outdoor enthusiasts will be attracted to its additional features.
Like the FRS 305, the FRS 315WX suffers from design flaws. We found the function buttons to be poorly placed. As a result, we constantly changed channels by mistake. To avoid this, you'll have to use the channel lock button. You'll also have to shell out an extra $49.95 for the earphone/microphone option to utilize the Vox capabilities.
On the upside, the FRS 315WX boasts in the same rugged shell as the FRS 305 and features a retractable antenna, rubberized grips, and removable belt holster. It also includes the same 14-channel/38-subchannel receiver, complete with VibrAlert silent paging, dual-watch channel scanning, ten programmable memory modes, and a battery indicator, all of which are displayed on the backlit LCD.
The Weather Alert mode, when activated, will sound a tone alarm when the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) issues an emergency weather notification. The Private Call voice-scrambling option, which ensures that only people on other Cobra FRS 310 and 315 models can listen to your conversation, worked like a charm. While we were impressed with the above-average outdoors transmission range, the 24-hour battery life left us a little disappointed (also, batteries were not included). Most two-way radios last for about 30 hours before running out of juice.
In our tests, the FRS 315WX performed up to its expectations, providing a clear signal under ideal conditions (few or no obstructions) within the two-mile range, with a slight degradation in signal strength when we took it for a drive. The ten-channel weather band worked as expected too, locking in to the NOAA station in our area, which provided continuous local weather and tidal information, as well as a seven-day forecast for our region.
Basically, Cobra has taken the MicroTalk FRS 305 ($69.95), added the Private Call and Weather Alert features, and packaged it as the MicroTalk FRS 315WX ($79.95). If you spend a lot of time outdoors skiing, camping, or hiking, consider spending the extra 10 bucks on this reliable, weather-enabled FRS radio.