Sporting a 3,000mah battery (more on that in a minute), cross-band repeat modes, same frequency repeat, analog and digital APRS/GPS, IP54 water proofing, storage for 300,000 DMR contacts, and 4,000 channels (250 per zone), it sure sounds like a really great radio. Let’s dig into the details…
Starting with some of the basics, like IP54. In the IP scale the 2 numbers are on a scale out of a possible maximum of 6. So IP54, the 1st number being a 5, means the radio is relatively impervious to dust. Good! The second number, a 4 out of 6, means the radio will withstand splashing water from any direction, such as rain, or other similar scenario. It will not withstand direct jets or streams of water, or submersion. Still pretty good though. I would not hesitate to take this radio into the outdoors.
All the other features work as stated. If you wish to use the APRS/GPS it works a treat. It takes some time to learn the menus to configure all of these things, and I am not going to reinvent the wheel to show you how. There are a plethora of Youtube videos available that will walk you through the process. Other reviewers also confirm that transmit power is realistically near to stated power, which is great.
There is much to like about the radio part of this radio. It has a great hand feel when using it. The screen has all kinds of information, like zone and channel number, allows 11 characters for channel names (very nice). There are individual volume settings for each of the dual receivers. You can actually receive on both receivers simultaneously. The antenna is not the common Baofeng inverse SMA. This radio uses the female SMA connector on radio body. The included stock antenna, in my initial testing, actually works quite well on both bands.
There are multiple programmable buttons for you to set to your operating style or needs. The backlight is bright, although the information is smallish, but the color display makes it easier to pick out the information you need to see. The channel and volume knobs have a short profile on the top of the radio which I like. It seems, so far, to make for less opportunity for the knobs to be accidentally turned while in use. The channel knob can be locked out in software. The volume knob has a strange “lag” in the encoder when changing the volume. You turn the knob and then wait some number of milliseconds for the radio to respond causing you to almost always overshoot or undershoot your desired setting.
There is a lot to like here, and then there is the stuff to not like as much…
Beware the “affiliate links”.
Many reports on this new radio offer fairly glowing reports, point out all the neat things this radio can do, and let’s be fair, there are features aplenty. However, under the hood are some glaring issues that are a whisker away from making the radio unusable. For a $220 (US) radio in 2022, some of these transgressions are major head scratchers.
The programming software, or CPS, is the heart of any DMR radio. Without a code plug there is no radio. So far my experience with the out-of-the-box CPS is that there is quite nearly no radio. Starting with the Windows 98 era serial driver nonsense you will have to deal with. Remember the hoops you had to go through to program a $30 Baofeng? Well, they are back on this over $200 dollar, brand-new radio. The nightmares of getting a PL2303 clone chipset serial driver to work in Windows 10 or 11 are back. And you may have to do this multiple times if you accidentally plug the radio into another USB port on your computer.
The CPS software itself is nearly unusable. In making changes to a zone, I have found it can corrupt an adjacent zone. There are essentially no editing feature whatsoever. You cannot insert a channel, move a channel, copy a channel, etc. So if you create a zone with channels, and you want a subset of chosen channels in another zone, you cannot copy and past them. If you need to insert a new channel in an already created zone, you can only add at the end of the zone, and you cannot sort. You can also not even tab between fields to speed up data entry. You have to mouse click on every single field you need to touch. If you change or edit an existing zone it may corrupt an adjacent zone, thus destroying the zone forcing the data entry all over again. There is no “save as” capability to create versions. You have to remember to manually create a new file name otherwise it is fairly easy to overwrite the previous version. There is a workaround to some of this, in that you can create CSV files for your channels in excel, manage all your zones in csv files, and them import them into the CPS. This is really the only “safe” way to manage zones without messing everything up, or is really the only way to recover if zone corruption occurs.
All that said, forget that dumpster fire, and instead…
Try a 3rd party CPS for these radios from MM7DBT called CPEditor that is becoming more and more frequently mentioned on the GD-88 posts and forums. As always, if someone from user community solves a big problem like this, please remember to support their work with a few bucks to their donation link. You still have the issues with the serial drivers, but CPEditor makes the radio usable.
And finally, let’s talk about battery life. Unfortunately there is not much positive to say here. It’s poor. very poor. The included, alleged 3,000mah battery will not even make it 8 hours with the display on. My Anytone 878, with the display on the entire time, will go about a day and a 1/2 on a 2 year old 3,100mah battery. The GD-88 will just make it to 7 hours with the display on in 3 separate tests now. This is with APRS/GPS off, and literally just sitting on my desk – not even with transmitting. The 878 will take an entire day of comms at a scout camp with regular transmissions through the day. Either the power management of the GD-88 is that poor, or the battery specifications are disingenuous.