Discovering DMR – 2
2) Choosing a way forward
Since I wasn't clear what I was getting into with DMR, initially the operative words for me when choosing my DMR hardware were "inexpensive" and as "easy to use" as possible.
2a) Choosing a DMR radio
Since I already had a nice D-STAR radio for all-around, multi-mode use, I decided to just barely stick my toe in the DMR soup to begin with. So initially to get up and running with DMR, I chose a cheap, single-mode radio, the CS580 UHF.
After I had explored DMR for a while, I decided I wanted a bit higher quality radio. I tried a couple different radios over the course of the next couple of years, the Connect Systems CS760 (a good concept, but ultimately a bust, soon discontinued), and the Hytera AR-685 (a quite nice radio, but unfortunately with a dead-end development path).
Then, I picked up an AnyTone AT-D878UV. It's a nice, solid unit with a good screen (a black screen like my Kenwood TH-D74A, which I prefer), a large memory capacity (it easily holds the entire worldwide CCS7 ID contact list), and extra capacity for future feature expansion. It also comes with a decent CPS software package. Most importantly, the AnyTone AT-D878UV, like the AT-D868UV before it, is designed to accommodate amateur radio use well (most DMR radios are designed primarily for commercial use). For me, this one's a keeper.
AnyTone is proving itself to be a leader in DMR radios for the amateur radio community. Their AT-D878UV catapulted them to the front of the pack. Their mobile unit, the AnyTone AT-D578UV, which they released late 2019, shows that they are taking the lead in both listening to hams and innovating; there's nothing else quite like it in the mobile space (especially with its cross-band and cross-mode flexibility).
Hint: A good source for AnyTone radios is Lets Get Ready, which has an online store on eBay and provides good, friendly support: Lets Get Ready.
More info about the 878/868
- AnyTone Firmware Update process
- There are some helpful downloads made available by Andy Taylor, MW0MWZ, on his Pi-Star site: AnyTone DMR Downloads. Includes the following full lists: DMR User, BrandMeister TalkGroup, DMR+ TalkGroup, TGIF TalkGroup, and UK Repeater. The files are generated when you download them, so they're always up to date. See also the Pi-Star note DMRGateway rewrite rules.
- Modifications, hints, tips and technical information for the AnyTone AT-D868UV and AnyTone AT-D878UV by Jason, VK7ZJA.
- AnyTone AT-D868UV/AT-D878UV DMR Users Group (Facebook)
- The PAPA System provides its members with excellent guides and tutorials related to digital radio including the best and most comprehensive guide for creating codeplugs for the Anytone 868 & 878 that I've seen: DMR CodePlug 101 AnyTone AT-D878UV by David Hull, KC6N, June 2018 (the PAPA System, which is a 501(c)(3) organization, and operates for the benefit of the amateur radio community, offers trial guest memberships).
- From what I've been told by people who know more than I do, the AnyTone radios work well with the Talker Alias feature. In that case, you actually don't need to load a contact list.
If you do want to load a contact list, a decent download tool you can use is made available by the DMR Team: DMR Database. Another source is the ContactLists Telegram group: https://t.me/contactlists
- Hint: If you ever need to pick up another USB cable for your 878/868 (or a TYT MD-380, Retevis RT3, or Radioddity GD-77), you can use a "dumb" cable, as all of these radios have the UART built into them. Thanks to Jeff, N4CLR, for this info.
Some helpful info about the 578
Some good videos about the 878/868
The AnyTone approach to its CPS software is a bit different than others I've tried. Here are some good videos that provide an overview of how all the pieces fit together; while there is some overlap, I learned different things from each of them:
- Anytone D868 Tutorial by WoodburyMan.
- Anytone 868 from New to First DMR Contact by Chris, 2E0UKH.
- AnyTone D868 D878 New User StartupVideo by Duane, N6DMR.
A good video about the digital monitor feature: Anytone 868 878 dig monitor features by Chris, 2E0UKH.
2b) Choosing a hotspot
Over the past few years I've used a bunch of different hotspots, each of which has its own strengths, and new ones are released regularly.
This is such a big topic that I've spun off an entire article describing how hotspots work and discussing various available choices: Hanging out with hotspots.
Have fun choosing!