Product Review - Radioddity GD-88 Dual VFO DMR Radio
On: April 1, 2023 By: Herbert W. Smith
This review discusses the Radioddity GD-88 DMR dual band HT. After a few weeks taking some time learning its features I will say this radio checks a lot of the boxes! The Radioddity GD-88 is a dual Band 2m and 70cm digital DMR and analog handheld transceiver that includes some great features and specifications and is a solid built ham HT.
• Powerful new DMR HT is an Enhanced OEM product that is a much enhanced and improved version of the generic base unit that ships from China. First, take a look at the shipping booklet, page 19 and notice that this radio was manufactured with a programmable memory reachable as Menu section #12 and referred to in the documentation as “User defined Mode”.
Radioddity, working with the OEM has so far implemented twenty-one (21) options and settings all unique to the Radioddity branded GD-88. Section #12 is totally custom written and is now referred to as “Channel Edit”.
The GD-88 continues to evolve, adding new features like Talker-Alias, Single Display VFO mode, analog DTMF added recently in the March 2023 firmware upgrade. The GD-88 is a current product that Radioddity continues to enhance and support
• In the box - Radioddity includes all the usual expected things
➯ GD-88 comes with a dual base charger that allows for the radio to be placed on charge while charging a second battery at the same time.
➯ VHF 136–174 MHz and UHF 400–480 MHz Digital and Analog means broad frequency flexibility in the field among hams local and international.
➯ User Manual in the box is a 56 page glossy well written book in clear English.
➯ Extended In-Depth Manual is a whopping 208 pages and is available for PDF download at the Radioddity site. The Extended Manual follows the Radioddity process of continually updating the Extended Manual as feature and firmware upgrades are released. As a guide book and somewhat of a text book, it is super packed with in-depth explanations of features and improvements and covers even more details then there was room for in the shipping manual. Not only is the Manual a most excellent Digital HT guide, it also has Quick Start sections and current technology examples like connecting the GD-88 to a popular hotspot. Inexpensive hotspots can be purchased for less than $40 and with the free Blue DV desktop software will allow the GD-88 to communicate with other Ham’s across the World Wide community. I can’t say enough good things about this book, I definitely would recommend getting the PDF download.
• Physical Layout Knobs and Buttons are professionally laid out with a front color LCD screen, programmable function buttons and a numeric keypad with the zero key in the right place.
➯ Top Knobs are channel changing knob and a combination on/off and volume control.
➯ Antenna connection is similar to more expensive radios and is an SMA female.
➯ Programmable buttons are very useful for allocating frequently used functions such as Zone change, Power levels etc. and to disconnect contacts when using digital hotspots.
➯ Speaker/Mic jack cover is a little rubber flap on the right side of the radio.
➯ Programming Cable plugs into same Speaker/Mic holes. The USB programming cable is the familiar K-style and is included with the GD-88.
➯ PF2, PTT and PF1 are three buttons on the left side of the radio in order top to bottom. PTT the larger dedicated button. PF2 and PF1 are programmable with Short and Long press.
➯ PF3 an Orange programmable button next to the Channel knob (Short, Long also).
➯ PF4 located on the front keypad just above the  key is programmable (Short, Long).
➯ Battery is a 3000 Milliamp power battery with built in battery saving feature and has the ability to turn off the second VFO when not needed. Full discharge time can be reduced if utilizing both of the VFO transceivers and/or with excessive talk time.
➯ Two VFOs for Dual Watch and Dual Monitor. The GD-88 has 2 separate transceivers both usable at same time, even on same band. Separate powerful dual transceivers switchable between High (7.1 watts Digital, 6.1 watts Analog) and Low (1.3 watts Digital and 2.6 watts Analog)
➯ GD-88 comes with a dual desktop charger allowing you to charge your radio while the charger also has a second slot to charge a spare battery at the same time. A second battery is often bundled with the GD-88 and in any case it’s usually only about $30. I couldn’t resist not using that second charge slot. I often use the GD-88 at home connected to my hotspot. Some days, the battery fully depletes and it is handy to just reach over and grab the spare fully charged.
➯ IP54 rating protects against limited amounts of dust and other particles and also protects from water sprays (but NOT submersible).
• Great Sights and sounds from the GD-88 beautiful colorful screen and clear digital sound.
➯ Large Display was bright and readable and I had no trouble seeing the display in bright daylight. The display squeezes in a lot of status icons but thankfully they are all mapped out and explained nicely in both manuals. Besides the operational items, the bright colorful display also shows the talker’s contact information. Using the CPS, 300K names can be loaded and stored in onboard memory, the GD-88 can reference by DMR number and Call Sign. Dual view shown.
➯ Single VFO, Single Display option can be selected on radio keypad.
Menu -> Local Set -> Display Mode -> Single Mode [--o] switch on.
A/B switching is only available in Dual Display mode.
➯ Good Sound from the large diameter 36mm built-in speaker that provides advanced voice processing technology to deliver clear sound even in noisy environments.
• Advanced Features – Cross Band Repeat (aka CBR), Same Frequency Repeat (aka SFR) and GPS with APRS are three advanced features that add a lot of really useful features.
➯ Cross Band Repeat (aka CBR), is a handy feature that lets the GD-88 act as a bridge between other radios. We travel quite a bit in the high mountains of Colorado where communication between two parties on different sides of a mountain doesn’t work well. Next summer I plan to setup a GD-88 for Cross Band and leave it with someone at the peak so we can test how practical it is to communicate over the mountain. It’s even better, because the GD-88 supports digital as well as analog, the GD-88 can Cross Band between radios using the same mode as well as between radios where the GD-88 uses its dual transceiver to both translate between digital and analog as well as transfer.
➯ Same Frequency Repeat (aka SFR) is supported because the GD-88 is able to repeat on the same frequency. This is another feature supported by the GD-88 dual transceiver ability. The way it works is you set the GD-88 in Digital mode using both Time Slot 1 and Time Slot 2. Either TS1 or TS2 can be used. Twin Time Slots is inherent with DMR and necessary to use repeaters. This ability to split the signal allows the GD-88 to listen in one time slot and then retransmit the received signal on the other time slot. Even when both radios are using the same frequency.
➯ GPS is built-in and useful to either show your location coordinates or for using the built-in APR feature. The GD-88 supports both digital APRS within and also supports analog APRS using 1200 bit AFSK.
• Dual Display Controls will normally have the VFO A and VFO B positioned with VFO A or top and B underneath.
➯ Changing CTRL band control position is accomplished by toggling the button with the right upper white dash key.
➯ Changing PTT band assignment is controlled with the lower right red dash key just below the CRTL white dash key.
➯ Zones List/Change is by pressing the lower left green hockey stick key to open the list of Zones and then use either the middle rocker switch or the middle channel knob to scroll the selections.
➯ Menu key uses the upper left white dash key that is the used to enter the [Menu]. While inside a menu, the upper right white dash become the [Back] key. These default key definitions can be reprogrammed for other functions in the CPS.
• Easy to Use Menu System is enhanced by a beautiful, bright display. The Menu system is icon driven and if it were only icons that could be confusing to a new user. Often it is un-avoidable because a different feature type may need a menu selection that drills down to a further menu. However, in my opinion, having the menu icons and descriptive title bars all help to get to the right area of the menu quickly.
• Self-teaching Menu Mapping is how I think of this brilliant menu design that makes learning menu structure very, very easy. As you move across icons, note that the box title changes to indicate the items contents. Pretty quick you will learn the icon meanings. Another nice menu feature is the thoughtfully placed menu locations that make it even easier to get to the most common selections. Quick example is [Menu], [down], [Select] opens channel settings making it quick and easy to locate the setting you want to view or change.
• Intuitive Keyboard Design makes changing VFO contacts, Power, APRS, Zones and Channels easy to be edited using the menu, radio keyboard or top side Selector knob. I think it took me only about a day or two until I found it easy, almost second nature, to just make my changes on the HT. Although each menu section may drill down to further menus, this is sometimes not avoidable due to the type of features available. However, in my opinion, having the menu icon helps to get to the right area of the menu quickly.
• Codeplug Programming Software (CPS) - To be clear DMR programming is complicated but it does get easier after you’ve done one before or it can be easier to follow especially if perhaps the GD-88 is not your first DMR HT. If you are a newbie like I was, take heart, my opinion is that the GD-88 is the best DMR to start with. For one thing, Radioddity’s Extended Manual is unmatched for its excellent guidance and instruction.
When it comes to picking a good Codeplug Programming Software, with the GD-88 you have your choice between two excellent and available for free sources:
➯ DMR CPS_DRS (version 9.2.16 released October 2022) is the OEM CPS application and it is available as a free CPS download directly from the Radioddity website.
➯ CPEditor by David MM7DBT (version 0.3.314.1 released March 2023) is the Codeplug Editor that is a User Community supported CPS application and it is available as a free CPS download directly from the author’s website based in Ireland (cpeditor.co.uk).
As with all the current crop of Digital radios, DMR programming shares most common terms but it can be frustrating when from one brand radio to another, terms can live in a different place on the Menu structure and sometimes a term may take a slightly different form for the same DMR setting. Both available CPS applications are complete and either will provide a good foundation for programming the GD-88.
Because the standards and common practices around implementing DMR are mature, you will find enough similarities between the two applications that switching between them is not difficult. Which one to choose? Based on my personal experience and what I’ve seen mentioned in comments by other GD-88 owners, it appears that the user supported application CPEditor is more popular and perhaps a little more polished. CPEditor has additional features that make programming the GD-88 more pleasurable.
• GD-88 Radio Menu settings are all organized into logical tabs (Both) ‘DMR CPS_DRS’ and ‘CPEditor’ however, the edge goes to CPEditor whose screens are more concise and the groupings seem more logical.
• In App Sorting for Contacts, Zones and Channels (CPEditor only) is community supported and author David MM7DBT has been quicker to implement users requested features like the ability to sort Contacts, Zones and Channels.
I think I’m like a lot of users with a new radio. I spent time building my codeplug to include my collections of contacts, repeaters and talk groups. I travel, so I wanted to have groupings that represent items I will use in certain areas. So there I was adding a contact here or a talk group there basically grabbing a bunch on the fly. Then you get to that point where it’s all working like you want it but now you want to organize the lists in a different order, perhaps to control having favorites show first on the radio’s pick list.
In DMR CPS_DRS you can’t insert lines or sort, basically, you have to delete the rows and then add them back in the order you want. CPEditor screens have built-in function to take a contact or talk group etc. and MOVE them up or down the list. Super! If I’m wanting to work with a big list like for instance my entire codeplug, CPEditor lets me export the entire codeplug to CSV format text file and I can then use a text editor or MS Excel to manipulate the list and IMPORT it back into the plug. DMR CPS_DRS also has IMPORT and EXPORT but not as many as CPEditor does.
• CPS Application Terms, Options and Settings Extended Help – the two CPS applications diverge in their approach to providing extended help available while you are actually using the app.
➯ DMR CPS_DRS (v9.2.16) provides in-app extended help by providing a dynamic changing text box for extended information. As an example, when you click on an input field, whether is a free text fields input field or a drop down selectable list, DMR CPS changes the visible text in the explanation box located at the lower section of the input window.
On each screen of input collections (i.e. ‘Input Buttons’) Mouse clicking on a field will cause the explanation box on that screen to dynamically change and display additional information relevant to the field being changed or examined. The large text box at the bottom may go into detail explaining what the Defaults are and in some case what each setting is used for. If the box contains more info than is visible right away, just grab the box border and drag it to expand the box and see more. The quality of the descriptions is a mixed bag. A lot of them really don’t say much other than restating the term, however, especially on the more complicated fields, the explanations do a good job.
This OEM version was written and designed to be translated to a broad mix of languages and as can be expected, occasional translations and characters don’t print well. Getting those fixed and adding new ones when firmware updates are pushed out, may take a while for the changes to appear in the app. But for the most part it is still a good CPS.
➯ Codeplug Editor by David MM7DBT (v 0.3.314.1) provides a subject linked WiKi reachable thru links in the menu bar’s Help item. The Wiki is populated with detailed extended help and is the most current based upon its User Community support. Since the introduction of the GD-88 in late 2022, as part of their focus on providing best in class customer support, Radioddity has provided users with a responsive and frequent firmware update program.
CPEditor administers and manages the CPEditor website as a forum for user input and discussion and has positioned itself as a central source for users of the GD-88 by providing:
- Download Source for the CPEditor application
- GD-88 Submission Site for Issues and Feature Requests
- User Maintained Wiki Library for CPEditor’s always current extended help
• Easy CSV Export and Import helps with managing the programming requirements for DMR. As other DMR radios do, the GD-88 is pretty normal handling such things as RX Group lists and Zones. It is a little tricky having to program each channel within each Zone. Both CPS apps provide EXPORT and IMPORT functions for data management.
➯ DMR CPS_DRS (v9.2.16) CSV Import/Export creates two types of CSV. The Contacts CSV contains all Contacts in the Contacts List. Channels are exported in a single zone file at a time. Within both Contacts and Zones/Channels the [Save] button is used to export a CSV.
➯ CPEditor by David MM7DBT (v 0.3.314.1) CSV Import/Export provides CSV file Import/Export as a main menu function. All Import and Export functions use File Explorer to enable user to select desired CSV file and/or save location.
- Export Contacts CSV file includes All Contact records. CPE also adds an additional field for ‘RX Group’ listing every RX Group that a Contact is a member of.
- Export Channels CSV is a single file that includes All Channel records listed and sorted by Zone.
- Import from Existing Codeplug’ is useful for combining for updating codeplugs
- Import from Anytone CSV is able to crosswalk the Anytone values to their relevant GD-88 option or setting.
• Automated DMR and Contact Database Download are supported in both CPS to provide a way to easily manage those large DMR databases. With the GD-88, instead of one channel section where you move pre-built channels into multiple zones, the GD-88 supports up to 300,000 ham contacts. World Wide DMR ID databases can be downloaded as a CSV file direct from the authority radioID.network website. It may be necessary to move some CSV columns in a supported editor before you can import the file. Some users find it simpler to keep their contact database smaller and just grow their own as they make QSO’s and contacts. Radioddity includes example import files or look in the extended manual for the CSV header format. Once imported, you can choose to have the call sign and their location shown, or just their call sign.
• Dynamic Pictures and Drawings are provided to make it easier to learn and work with the GD-88. Take a look at the example to the right showing an easy to use design for setting programmable buttons using thorough drop down lists. When laying out the options for the GD-88’s programmable buttons, both use dynamically displayed photos of the actual GD-88 with visual indications as to which button a particular option belongs to.
Note that when the relevant button is touched, the graphic below changes to show a picture of the buttons location on the actual radio. In the example, [PF3] is shown as the orange color button on top.
• Digital Hotspot Support while not unique to the GD-88, the implementation does enhance the user experience. I use the free software ‘Blue DV’ with the cheapest tethered hotspot I could find (Simplex pi-less MMDVM, roughly $40). Following along in the Extended Manual ‘Hot Spot Guide’ I was able to get setup in about 30 minutes.
For PC setup, Blue DV uses a virtual comport so run the free driver install for ‘CH340SER’ and after that when the hotspot is plugged into the PC’s USB port it will find the driver (see top corner of left graphic below). Next, install ‘Blue DV’ and use setup menu (Top Graphic) to enter 5 things (marked below with red-boxes). When active, your PC displays the lime green screen in the bottom graphic, slide the switch for ‘Serial’ and click PTT to start a session.
- DMR ID (obtained from RadioID.net)
- Call Sign (obtained when you get your FCC Amateur license)
- Frequency you want the hotspot to use (i.e. 446.250)
- BM Master (i.e. 3104)
- BM login (from the Brandmeister website)
• Getting on Air with Your DMR Radio -- As a newbie to DMR, I reached out to Radioddity from time to time asking DMR questions. Michael on the support team suggested that I take a look at the DMR guide that Radioddity engineers put together just before the GD-88 was released. The guide is a 43-page free download titled “Getting on Air with Your DMR Radio v2.0” that starts with the very basics, such as how to apply for a DMR ID and continues with chapters on gathering information about DMR station(s) to the point where it guides you on how to create a working codeplug file that has all the settings for your DMR radio.
The current release of the Radioddity DMR Guide includes sample codeplugs for several radios including lastly the GD-88’s mobile twin the DB-25D. Since the GD-88 shares much of the common operating system and code structures and terms you can just use the DB-25D examples when working with the GD-88. Grab the download when you pull down the Extended Manual. I found it useful and believer you will too. Here’s a short Table of Contents reproduced from the guide.
Radioddity: Getting on Air with Your DMR Radio v2.0 - (Updated: 2022 Jan) 43 Pages
1. Intention of this document and what can you learn from it.
2. Make yourself familiar with DMR
3. Apply for and receive your DMR ID
4. Gather information about a DMR station or repeater
5. Install any USB-driver and CPS application required for your DMR-capable radio
6. General process of creating a DMR code plug from scratch
7. Sample codeplugs
• Frequent Easy to Apply Firmware Updates are downloadable directly from the Radioddity website where you can download the Firmware Updater software, current and past firmware upgrades and detailed release notes. As of the March 2023 release, Radioddity has released three updates since the GD-88 2022 introduction. As they have for all firmware updates, Radioddity publishes the release notes listing feature and function upgrades as well as bug fixes. Reading the notes, it is obvious that they have carefully considered their customers’ requests for new features as well as worked to resolve issues that were brought to their attention. Using the Radioddity GD-88 dual band analog and DMR handheld radio is already a very nice experience that continues to get better as time goes on.
• Radioddity Support – Today’s technologies change rapidly and in spite of careful engineering, un-foreseen technical problems can arise with any complex product. Typically, if I needed help, just send Radioddity support an email and wait. What I experienced was they got back to me in 24 hours and even when I wasn’t in a hurry, they still got back to me no later than a couple of days. What I look for is a company with excellent follow through and one that has the resources to act as quickly as may be required. For me Radioddity has met all my requirements with the GD-88. I find it difficult to be critical when dealing with a company like Radioddity and their superior support team. How nice it is to be able to get what I’m looking for easily and with good instructions and support.
Herbert W. Smith