Alfonso Faustino: Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater

UPDATE: 9-January-2021, at 1900 Hours PST: I dig the Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater, so much, I purchase another one: Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater: GMRS version. I will do a write-up to see if any performance differences take place between the GMRS version and the HAM version. I should be getting it next week.

BLUF: The Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater is an affordable way to have repeater coverage for your home and travels.

Rating: 5-stars — Buy it if this is something you’re looking for to fill your specific needs (i.e., you don’t wanna repeater rack in your paddock; you don’t want the cost and maintenance associated with owning a real repeater (e.g., utility bills) and, you want a repeater that covers just a certain area of your operating parameters (e.g., HAM events, neighborhood comms., camping, hiking, travel with friends, and etc.)). Yes, the Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater has two big Cons, but the benefits out-weigh the cons, AND the cons do not impede the performance of the Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater in any way — these cons can be worked around. For these reasons, I rate the Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater 5-stars.

Pros:

  • Easy to install: plug-n-play
  • Accurate tunable notch duplexer
  • Narrow or Wide Band
  • High Power (10 watts) or Low Power (5 watts)
  • Option to have 5 MHz or 10 MHz offset
  • CTCSS Tone and digital tone options
  • 16 additional frequency pairs that operate within the notch-tuned duplexer ~120 kHz span from base frequency pair
  • Transceiver board — not two walkie-talkies
  • Solid all-weather water resistant shock resistant aluminum housing
  • User-tunable duplexer
  • User-programmable frequency pair
  • Arrives pre-tuned and ready to use
  • Real 10-watts out and 5-watts out
  • Portable or home-base
  • Excellent performance at home and in the car
  • Comes with car-charger power cable, programming cable, free programming software, and wall out-let power cable for home-base use
  • Comes in GMRS, UHF R-1, and VHF — each separate units, and
  • EXCELLENT customer service and QUICK delivery

Cons:

  • No controller ID (I just verbally ID the repeater when I’m on it — though, I’m looking at the schematics to see if I can solder a controller into the board.)
  • No remote power-on nor power-off

I’ve spoken to Angela, at Retevis, to add these two items for future feature enhancements.

NOTE: My frequency pair has been submitted to NARCC for coordination approval. Please read up on the coordinated frequency pair and decide on your own. Even though my Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater is not covering a lot of real-estate and is mainly used as a private repeater for my HAM circle, I still prefer going through the coordination process.

DICTA

I always wanted a repeater; and, I’ve offered my crib to several repeater owners; but, none of them took my offer — I understand — they already have a location.

Anyway, I had one of those sleepless nights, and I was surfing YouTube. I came across a product that I found really cool. It was a small portable repeater: Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater.

I was intrigued by this product; because, it is portable. As you know, based upon my past BLOGs, I don’t like permanence — I’m a mobile guy — I prefer hand-held transceivers over mobile and home-base transceivers because of my active lifestyle as an actor, athlete, and an auxiliary comms volunteer to various first-responder agencies.

I am always on the go — even when I’m home; I’m never just sitting around at one spot — if I do sit and chat on the transceiver in one spot, it’s no longer than five minutes — for the most part I’m always moving in and out of my crib.

The picture, below, is my paddock, which contains my temporary comms center, and my firearms shooting range. The safe-room, also in my paddock, is being built and will be my permanent comms center.

A portable repeater? Really?

Yes! It’s perfect; so, I immediately ordered the Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater on Amazon.

Angela, at Retevis, is awesome! English, of course, is her second language; however, her English is quite good; hence, I didn’t experience a language barrier, and she provided me with excellent customer support and services.

She responded to my emails within an hour, and she resolved any issues or concerns on the first email response — she is amazing and puts a lot of American customer support personnel to shame.

I gave Angela my frequency pair for my Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater; she programmed the transceivers and duplexer within a week with my frequency pair. After the Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater got programmed, it was shipped out via DHL, and I got the Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater within three days — quick delivery from China!

After testing the Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater, I found my frequency pair was interfering with another repeater; so, I changed the frequency pair to a pair that did not interfere with any repeaters. I filled out the coordination paperwork, and I programmed my Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater with the new frequency pair.

My buddy, Bob,offered to teach me to tune the RT97 Portable Repeater’s duplexer; so, I went to his crib, and he taught me, and I tuned a duplexer for the very first time — it was a great sense of achievement.

After I tuned it, Bob and I tested the limits of this little 10W repeater. The results were amazing!

He told me I was 5×9, based on his meter, while I traveled away from his crib in Hayward, CA, all the way to my crib in San Francisco, CA.

So, today, 3-January-2021, my other HAM buddy, Mark, tested my Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater, and the results were, again, amazing.

Testing Facts:

Date and Time: 3-January-2021, at 1215 Hours PST:

  • Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater UHF R1
  • TX transceiver: Motorola XPR 7550e UHF
  • RX transceiver: Motorola XTS 5000R UHF R1
  • TX Location: San Bruno, CA
  • Distance between San Bruno, CA and Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater: ~9 miles North/South
  • Elevation of TX Location: ~900 FT ASL
  • Weather Conditions of TX Location: Foggy: >~1-mile visibility at all four points of the compass
    Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater’s Antenna & Height: Diamond X50 at ~480 FT ASL
  • Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater’s Weather Conditions: Overcast but visibility unlimited from N, E, and South

Test Results: Success: 5×9 TX from Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater to operator, KK6ZNS, in San Bruno, CA.

The Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater makes a perfect home-base repeater, providing me with a 3-10 ground-mile radius of coverage in whatever city I’m in. I can also use this the Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater for my auxiliary comms training exercises with SFFD, Sheriff’s Office, and USCG AUX. The Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater is also perfect for my family and neighbors as an emergency comms tool in the event we experience a tragedy, such as, but not limited to, an earthquake.

The Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater is perfect for my on-the-go lifestyle. I can take it with me snow-skiing/snowboarding, fly-fishing, hiking, long drives, and etc., and my HAM circle and I can stay in constant contact! Very cool!

The marketing on the Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater is accurate: 10 watts = 10 watts, and 5 Watts = 5 watts per Bob’s test results.

Of course, after hooking it up to my LMR 400, which is 114 ft in length, I ain’t getting 10 watts out — probably ~7 watts out — that’s fine — I’m only using it for my immediate neighborhood and when I travel. Still, 7 watts out still get me a good 9 miles of coverage based upon my testing results, which factors in LOS, valleys, elevation, and so on. Realistically, in San Francisco, CA, I can do ~3.5 miles within the city — being in the valley of buildings and houses are challenging.

The little oriental duplexer in the Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater is surprisingly accurate, as well; and, the duplexer does not walk, per Bob’s test results.

Good job, Angela and the Retevis team on this little, but, oh-so effective, repeater: Retevis RT97 Portable Repeater.

Check 6!

/s/ Alfonso Faustino (K6ASF)