after running around town forthe past two weeks with a pair of Motorola's tiny Talkabout two-way radios strapped to my belt, it's hard to imagine how I survived without this glorified walkie-talkie. Even in the age of miniature cellphones, two-way pagers and wireless e-mail devices, there's nothing more immediate for communication than a two-way radio. No voice mail or fancy downloadable rings, just static and your voice.
Of course, the Talkabout has more than that. The stylish little radios also include a stopwatch, altimeter, compass, thermometer and a link so you can find out the weather. There's also an FM radio, in case the sound of your friends' voices crackling through the speaker isn't enough.
The appeal is shocking, especially for folks who would never consider having a two-way radio. Fights nearly broke out between my jaded cellphone-using friends when I took the radios out of the box, and suddenly everyone was offering to run to the store for something just to see if the radio worked across the street.
The ideal use for these radios would obviously be out in the country -- hiking, cycling, golfing or maybe tracking some wild animal with Ted Nugent. Without a trip into the sticks, though, our test runs were largely confined to city life.
Walk through St. Lawrence Market on a Saturday morning barking into the hand-held receiver about the need for more tomatoes, and people immediately think you're someone important. Unfortunately, for the radio to really work, you and your pal have to split up, which isn't exactly a fun way to pass the day.
After working out a few trucker-like CB radio handles, we tried the radio across city blocks and in parks, and the Talkabout's reception remained surprisingly strong throughout -- it's supposed to work within two miles.
The novelty factor wore out quickly, though. So in spite of wondering how I lived without a two-way radio, I was also forced to ask why anyone besides a security guard or traffic cop would need one in the first place.
For all its fancy add-ons and ease of use, the heaviest and most regular workout the Talkabout got was actually inside my own house, asking whoever was in the kitchen to bring another G&T up to the deck.
Probably not the use Motorola was hoping for, but worthwhile nonetheless. 10-4, good buddy.
MOTOROLA TALKABOUT TWO-WAY RADIO $189-$279. Rating: NNN