The Motorola MJ270R two-way radio is a top choice for parents who want to keep in touch with kids who're playing outside. It has a nice lineup of features and is built to stand up to a child's rough handling, but the range is a major letdown.
Don't wander too far. Like most two-way radios, the Motorola MJ270R falls far short of the advertised 27-mile communications range. Just how short it falls, however, can be an unpleasant surprise; many users report maximum ranges of one-quarter to one-third of a mile.
"Remember Charlie Brown's teacher from the cartoons? That is what is heard... often undecipherable communication," writes an Amazon.com user who purchased these radios for the coaching staff of a youth football league. "I tried testing them in my small city here and could only travel about a third of a mile before they went out," writes another.
Those who've tested the MJ270R on the road say the radios can communicate clearly from 1 mile apart, but the sound starts breaking up at a distance of 2 miles on flat highway.
Better than bargain features. Users agree that the Motorola MJ270R represents a great value in terms of features. The built-in flashlight is a particularly big hit, as is the weather radio and weather alerts. One Walmart.com user notes that the "big on/off volume knob is much better than push-buttons," but other users from the same site warn that the belt clip really doesn't work well.
Other features, which don't attract much user comment, include hands-free operation, a backlit display and the ability to broadcast an emergency signal. The MJ270R can be recharged on the go via a mini-USB port but does not come with the required cable.
Rugged, but some quirks. The Motorola MJ270R is a popular radio among parents; they use it to keep in touch with kids who are playing outdoors. The radio stands up well to rough handling from said kids. We found quite a few complaints, however, that the MJ270R shuts off unexpectedly. Sometimes the shut-offs are random, but they frequently happen when you press the talk button.
One Walmart.com user notes that the unexpected shut-offs only happen when the radios' rechargeable battery pack is in place. Others criticize that pack repeatedly, saying that it is, in another Walmart.com user's words, "hard-pressed to make eight hours." You can substitute three AA batteries instead, which users say last much longer. In one admittedly unusual case, an Amazon.com user used the same alkaline batteries for about eight days, averaging nine hours of use per day.
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Review Credibility: Good More than 50 Amazon.com users review the Motorola MJ270R, and it earns an overall rating of 4 stars. Quite a few are disappointed that the MJ270R doesn't live up to its advertised claims for range. On the upside, they say it's reasonably sturdy -- quite a few have given this model to their children to play with and report that it holds up fine. On the downside, we found quite a few reports that the radio suddenly turns off when you hit the talk button.
Review: Motorola MJ270R 22-Channel 27-Mile Two-Way Radios, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Good More than 50 Walmart customers rate and/or review the Motorola MJ270R, resulting in an overall rating of 3.7 stars. They're universally disappointed in this radio's range, but some of them say it's adequate as a tool for keeping in touch with children playing outdoors.
Review: Motorola MJ270R 27 Mile Two Way Radio With 22 Channels, 121 Privacy Codes and NOAA Alert, Contributors to Walmart.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Good This post from an experienced backcountry skier and ski mountaineer covers the pros and cons of lower-end two-way radios in general and also recommends a few models, including the Motorola MJ270R. That said, reviewer Lou Dawson doesn't actually give any real information about the recommended models.
Review: 2-Way Radios Review -- FRS, Talkabout, Ham, More for Backcountry Skiing, Lou Dawson, Sept. 8, 2011