Motorola has been making radios for a long time, and that expertise shows with the Talkabout 800 and the Talkabout 801. It is a great two-way radio with a midrange price tag.
Walkie Talkies are a great way to keep in touch with other members of your party in both urban and wilderness spaces. Radios can even be more convenient than a cell phone. But there are so many out there that choosing which walkie talkies to get can be tricky.
I have been using radios to communicate both professionally and on my own for more than 20 years. So I’m pretty picky about them at this point.
However, as you’ll see in this hands-on Motorola Talkabout T800 review, this model passes my sniff test.
T800 vs T801
I will get this out of the way right at the start. I used both radio models side by side and couldn’t find any differences besides the colors. The T800 is black and blue, while the T801 is black and green.
I have read online that the T801 comes with a carrying case, but mine did not, so I am a little sad about that.
The T800 is more widely available amongst many retailers, while the T801 seems to have limited availability only at select retailers like REI.
Given that the radios work identically and the T800 is more widely available, I will refer to the T800 in this review. However, this is with the understanding that the T801 is identical in function and therefore can be reviewed in the same way.
Motorola Talkabout T800 Series at a Glance
The Motorola Talkabout T800 series walkie-talkie has extra features not found on other radios, like making and receiving text messages while off-grid. Not everyone will use those features, but they don’t get in the way. It is not fully waterproof but did handle heavy snow without issue.
The only other downside that I found was a subpar clip.
|MSRP: $110 for 2 pack||MSRP: $100 for 2 pack|
|License-free FRS frequencies||License-free FRS frequencies|
|7.5 ounces (measured on my scale)||7.5 ounces (measured on my scale)|
|IPX4 rating||IPX4 rating|
|Rechargeable with Micro USB Charger||Rechargeable with Micro USB Charger|
|Will also take 3 AA batteries||Will also take 3 AA batteries|
|Black with green highlights||Black with blue highlights|
|0.5-2 watt output||0.5-2 watt output|
- Looking for a great radio but don’t want to pay a premium
- Want/Need to text off grid
- Casual users
- Hard use (not the most durable radio out there)
- Someone looking for a waterproof radio
- You only buy the best/most expensive gear
COMPARE PRICE: Sportsman’s Warehouse
Are the Motorola Talkabout 801 and 800 Worth It?
The Motorola Talkabout 800 and 801 are great, mid-priced radios that worked well for me. While they held up to the abuse of multiple ski days while being clipped to the outside of my kid’s jackets, they are not the most bombproof radios out there.
I found the clip not to be as good as other radio clips. I was glad that I put leashes on the radios, or they would have fallen off the ski lift on more than one occasion, to never be seen again.
The inclusion of offline texting is a great addition, and while I did not use it myself, I can see it being useful while hunting when you want to communicate with your partner but don’t want to make any extra noise.
Should you buy the T800 or the T801?
Given that the T800 and T801 are essentially the same radio I would buy whichever radio you can find the best deal on.
- Great extra features for the price
- Not the most durable
- Not waterproof
- Subpar clip
What is the Range of the Motorola Talkabout T800?
The Motorola Talkabout T800 uses the FCC maximum of 2 watts to push out radio transmissions. Under optimal conditions, this gets you about 30 miles of direct line of site communications. However, under most conditions, you will get significantly less.
Motorola Talkabout T800 Range in Real Life
During my testing for the Motorola T800 review, I was happy to get anywhere from .5 to 2 miles of range depending on terrain, with heavy trees and ridges decreasing the range.
I was able to hear and talk to my kids anywhere on the front side of my local ski hill. However, I would immediately lose connection if anyone went to the back side.
In town, which in my case is pretty flat and treeless, the range was closer to 3 to 4 miles. I could get ahold of my wife from anywhere inside my neighborhood without any problems.
The Motorola Talkabout T800 Was Very Easy to Use
Let me clarify that statement just a bit. The base radio features were easy to use. I was able to program the radio and use the radio functions without using the owner’s manual or YouTube.
On the other hand, I had to dig into the provided owner’s manual a bit to use the extra features, and then I was good to go.
There are many buttons on the front and side of the Motorola Talkabout T800. With a little bit of experimentation, I was able to figure out what most of them did. For the remainder, a quick look at the owner’s manual was all I needed.
I had no problems changing channels or functions in my testing for the Motorola Talkabout T800 review. There is also a lock function in case you need it.
There are actually two push-to-talk buttons. The first uses a total of 2 watts of power, while the second only uses .5 watts. This saves battery life but reduces range.
I actually found having 2 buttons cumbersome as I never knew which one I was pressing, especially while wearing gloves. If I really wanted to see it, I had to look each time.
This is the one feature of the radio that I was disappointed in. The clip is plastic and feels cheap. While I didn’t break the clip, I always felt like I was about to.
It also lacks a spring, so it just has to slide over the belt or strap. I prefer a spring, like the one found on the BC Link radio by BCA. In fact, I had the radio slip off several times and was happy to have the radio on a leash.
The T800 has a nice and easy-to-read digital display that will turn off in about 10 seconds after use to save battery life. The display has all the relevant information I wanted to see at a glance.
It’s Not as Tough as I Wanted it to Be, and Please Don’t Throw it in a Lake
The Motorola T800 has a rating of IPX4. This means that it is tested to withstand water splashed on it and does not have a dust rating like other radios. This is a lower standard than more premium radios like the Rocky Talkie.
In real life, my kids wore this radio all winter on the outside of their jackets while skiing without any issues. The radio still works and looks brand new, but I wouldn’t have it out in anything more than a moderate rainstorm, and please don’t throw it in the lake.
How Long Does the Battery Last?
The Motorola T800 comes with a 3.6-volt NiMH battery. It is rechargeable using a Micro USB cable or an optional desk charger. Its stated battery life is 14 hours, and in my testing for the Motorola Talkabout T800 review, I was easily able to get two days of skiing with limited use. If you plan to be a heavy user, you should charge it after every use.
It takes several hours to fully charge, so plan ahead to have it ready to go. If you procrastinate like me, however, the T800 can also use three AA batteries.
The AA batteries also extend the battery life to 25 hours of standby time. I never used the radio like this, so I can’t speak to how well they work, but I appreciate the option.
Does it Have Good Extra Features or Just Gimmicks?
Motorola decided to double down on extra features with the Talkabout 800 series. I find some of them kind of gimmicky, but your mileage will vary, and something that I find gimmicky could be the exact function you are looking for.
Fortunately, the Talkabout T800 stands on its own as a great radio and the extra features don’t get in the way, so I guess we both win.
The free app allows for a multitude of different features. I downloaded the app, and it initially worked but when I tried to open it back up to write the Talkabout T800 review, I couldn’t get it to load. I didn’t spend much time on the app, so here is a list of its features.
- Offline maps, just remember to download them before leaving home
- Activity tracking
- Track other users
- This is, unfortunately, not in real-time. Other users have to send you a notification so you can see where they are.
- The FCC does not allow real-time tracking on FRS radios
- Offline text messaging
- This is the most interesting “extra” to me and I can see it being useful during hunting or other activities when you want to communicate but don’t want to make a lot of noise.
- Allows you to send text messages to an individual or group over the walkie-talkie frequency (without cellular service).
- Just know that you get less range with texts than with the radio.
- Using this feature isn’t very intuitive.
It is always a bit of a hassle to connect via Bluetooth and set the app all up, so my guess is that most people won’t take advantage of this feature.
There is a small flashlight on the top of the radio. It is not super bright but can be turned on when the radio is off. I like this feature and see how it could come in handy in many different situations.
Vox is a voice-activated system and while it’s easy to think of it as an open mic, that’s not exactly how it works. It opens the mic when it hears you start to talk instead of just being open like a phone. You can also adjust the volume or sensitivity so that only loud noises open the mic versus just a whisper.
My biggest problem was that the system would not activate until I was halfway through my first word so it always got cut off.
The Motorola T800 has 11 weather channels, including 7 from NOAA. You can also set the radio up to receive weather alerts.
You can send distress signals to other radios in the area.
The Motorola T800 does not come with a leash, but there is a place to attach one. It is burly and big enough to attach a good size leash. This feature was useful for me, and I am glad it had the space.
Do You Need a License to Use the Motorola T800 Series?
No. The Motorola T800 series works off the FRS radio frequencies and they do not require a license in the United States.