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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Useful basic features
Small and pocketable
Poor sound quality
The Midland LXT500VP3 offers poor reception and audio quality for a premium price, making these difficult walkie-talkies to recommend.
The Midland LXT500VP3 appears to occupy an ideal middle-of-the-road position compared to other two-way radios. Usually, the best balance of price to performance is found in this middle ground between the diminishing returns of top-of-the-line products and the sacrifices that are inherent in cheaper options.
With walkie-talkies, the scale of price, features, and quality seems clear. However, as we found with the LXT500VP3, a mid-range price can still product budget-range performance.
The Midland LXT500VP3 is available in three different colors: Black, Black/Blue, and Black/Mossy Oak Camo. We tested the classic Black style.
A lot of corners were cut to make this radio, and this was apparent as soon as we opened the box. The buttons were particularly disappointing, as they were so lacking in tactile feedback that it was difficult to tell if we were actually pressing them—this was most evident on the PTT (Push To Talk) button.
Additional indicators of low-quality construction are the basic plastic belt clip and the battery compartment, which was difficult to open and close and bulged outwards because it wasn’t large enough to hold the required batteries. Any claim of weatherproofing was severely compromised by the gap this created.
A lot of corners were cut to make this radio.
In terms of durability, the screen is made of plastic and will pick up scratches easily. The audio in/out ports are covered by a sealing rubber hatch that seems to do an adequate job of keeping out the elements, but it doesn’t feel durable, and we do not expect it to stand up to years of frequent use. Also, it is important to note that a headset is not included.
The radio powers on by pressing down the center button below the display. This works alright and would be a non-issue if the buttons on the LXT500VP3 weren’t so squishy and unsatisfying to operate. But it still seems inferior to the more standard dial that other radios use as an on/off switch and volume control.
On a positive note, the LXT500VP3 is comfortable enough to hold in the hand. It is also lightweight and very small so that you can easily carry it in a pocket. This is just as well since the belt clip is of such subpar quality.
In our testing, setting up the Midland LXT500VP3 was something of a frustrating experience. It was very difficult to open the battery hatch, a problem that is compounded by confusing instructions—you have to point the base of the radio away from you, press downwards with both thumbs on the top of the back panel, and slide the compartment door away from you. It also required some amount of force to replace the battery door afterward, and it bulged slightly outwards once the batteries were in there.
Even a little bit of uneven terrain has an inordinate effect on audio quality.
Fortunately, battery replacement is pretty infrequent so long as you use the included rechargeable battery pack and do not need to switch it out in the field. Just insert the radio into the included charging cradle, pressing down until it clicks into place, and it will start powering up. An LED on the charging cradle indicates that charging is in progress with a red light (though, puzzlingly, it never changes color when the radio is fully charged).
The initial charging process took 24 hours, and subsequent charging required 12 hours from empty.
The LXT500VP3’s black and white display is very minimalistic, but it gets the job done and is reasonably viewable in bright sunlight. It is adequate for changing channels and adjusting various settings but is not exceptional in any way.
This radio proved disappointing during testing—even a little bit of uneven terrain had an inordinate effect on audio quality. If you have a direct line without obstruction, then you might be able to achieve the advertised 22-mile range. However, unless you are out on the high seas or standing on a mountain peak talking to someone else on another mountain peak, it is unlikely that range will ever be realized.
The problem of interference and obstruction is shared among all two-way radios, including very expensive models. However, the LXT500VP3 performs especially poorly even for a consumer walkie-talkie. In our testing, it was able to communicate through moderately dense forest and with some structures in the way, but if there was even a small hill in between the signal died immediately.
The LXT500VP3 does not advertise how long its battery should last from a full charge. This will likely vary based on how frequently it’s used, but when we left it on it lasted about 12 hours. To prolong battery life, you can set the radios to a lower power setting, but the reception is already poor so you might as well turn them off.
One issue we ran into while testing is that the LXT500VP3 does not give any indication of battery level until it is running low. Fortunately, you have some flexibility: if the batteries die and you need to continue using the radio, you can swap the rechargeable battery pack for regular AAAs.
A bright spot with the LXT500VP3 is its simple but handy feature set. The 22-channel range is useful (if not particularly impressive), and they include an automatic channel scanner so that you can easily locate which channels are in use.
The wide range of channels and features doesn’t matter if you can’t communicate at all.
The “silent operation” feature is also a plus if you want to avoid loud beeps and other noises emitted by the radios, and the auto-squelch function does a good job of reducing background noise.
Additionally, you can send out call alerts to make sure whoever you are trying to call is ready to receive your message, and the keypad lock prevents you from accidentally changing settings while the radio is in your pocket, pack, or clipped to your belt.
The LXT500VP3 retails for $40 for a pair. On paper, this should make it a good budget option for those not wanting to compromise too much on features, available channels, and range.
However, we found that cheaper radios, such as the Arcshell AR-5, offer better sound quality and range for a fraction of the cost. And for just $30 more, the Midland GXT1000VP4 is loaded with features and performs far better. The LXT500VP3 is still priced too high to be competitive.
The LXT500VP3 just does not stack up against other radios. On one hand, you have the much cheaper Arcshell AR-5 with its excellent sound quality and performance. The LXT500VP3 offers only a few advantages over it like scanning, an SOS alarm, and a wider selection of channels. If it was on a par in terms of sound quality, then an argument could be made for the LXT500VP3, but since it’s actually way behind the Arcshell in these vital ways, it’s hard to recommend the LXT500VP3 over the Arcshell.
If you really do need those extra channels and features, we would instead recommend the Midland GXT1000VP4. That radio has great sound quality and performance, and too many features to list here. It is also better made and is much more professional in appearance.
The LXT500VP3’s only real advantage over other walkie-talkies is its small, pocketable profile.
Not a good buy—you can find cheaper walkie-talkies that perform better.
The disappointing sound quality and performance of the Midland LXT500VP3 are the biggest downsides. The wide range of channels and features doesn’t matter if you can’t communicate at all.
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