The Motorola SL-300 is a mono band (VHF or UHF) portable radio with FM analog and DMR capabilities. This radio is slim at under an inch thick, has a stubby antenna, and is charged and programmed with a micro USB cable. At first glance, the radio appears to not have a display screen, but it actually has a shatterproof "Active View" display with a matrix of LED lights behind the radio housing. It looks like a magic trick when the display lights up. The radio is super simple to operate with a power button, channel rocker, volume buttons, and a zone button. It can store 99 memory channels. Transmit power is 1, 2 or 3 watts.
These radios are really popular amongst schools and colleges with smaller campuses at meets military specs for ruggedness.
Not for Everyone
Before I get too far in to why this is a great radio for use with a mobile DMR hotspot, if you are not into buying Motorola radios and don't have access to their Customer Programming Software (CPS), then stop reading now. This radio is not for you. You will either need to obtain an account with Motorola and pay the enrollment fee to get access to the CPS or have a good friend who is willing to do the programming for you. The Motorola ecosystem is more geared towards the commercial and government markets, not the Ham community. Their price structures reflect that. I would not recommend tackling all of that for this one radio. If you are embarking or larger projects involving Motorola radios or are already prepared for Motorola, then please, continue on.
Could it Be Any Better?
I love this radio for use as a DMR hotspot radio because of its form factor and battery life. It's a compact radio with a battery that will run all day (11-15 hours on a single charge). It's low power, which is an advantage her for prolonging the battery life. There is no need to transmit at more than the lowest one-watt setting when the hotspots are transmitting only milliwatts. The Active View LED screen is off until you need it and gives you the minimum information you might need. For talking on my hot spot, I only care about the talk group I am on.
Maybe a Couple Things Would be Nice
Although this radio was designed to utilize DMR, it was not designed to operate with the Ham community in mind. If you really need the display to give you the call sign of the station talking, this radio will not give that to you. I don't need it. I'll take battery life and ease of programming over that feature.
CPS is a Breeze
This radio is programmed with the standard Motorola CPS. I own three of these radios. Two are older and I use version 16.0 on those. My newest one required CPS 2. No problem. When programming this radio, you can enter in all of the talk groups you would like to program, then associate the talk groups to a zone and channel.
I have two OpenSpots, the first and the third versions. One is always on at home and operates on one frequency while the OpenSpot 3 operates on another. The home OpenSpot is set up in zone two with all of its talkgroups. The OpenSpot 3 is on zone one. I can just switch zones to use the two different OpenSpots. I take the OpenSpot 3 with me mobile with the SL300. I pair the OpenSpot 3 to my iPhone's hotspot and it automatically connects to BrandMeister.
I program channel one as Talkgroup 9 so I can hear the announcements from the OpenSpot. I program channels two and three to switch profiles on the OpenSPot so I can switch to D-Star or C4FM modes and servers. I have also set up switching to a profile that connects to the PNW Digital group. I simply key up the channel with the corresponding talkgroup to change the profile and connect without having to log in to the OpenSpot's web interface. How slick is that?
Set each channel to only transmit if the channel is free.
This radio has 99 available channels, so if you don't use them all up, you can program in some favorite repeaters that are either DMR or analog. If you only have one DMR hot spot, program one zone for the hot spot and zone two for local repeaters. You are not limited to two zones just 99 channels and switching zones on the SL300 is simple.
Tips and Tricks
I programmed the RepeaterBook talkgroup (31419 on BrandMeister only) along with some of my other favorite talkgroups into the radio. I then programmed talkgroup 9 and my other static talkgroups into the same scan list. If I am listening on one of those channels, I will hear the transmission from either of them. The SL300's display will light up with the active talkgroup name. The OpenSpots are only communicating on one timeslot, so if a talkgroup is busy that is not in your scan list, you will only know if you try to key up and get the channel deny tone.
I recently went on a week-long road trip and really gave my set up a test. I could charge my radio and OpenSpot3 while driving. Charging both while talking is not a problem and will not damage either one. At pitstops, the OpenSpot3 was small enough to slip into my pocket and the radio's skeleton-style belt clip attached to a belt or pocket inconspicuously. I never missed a call or a QSO.
The sound quality coming from the tiny speaker was perfect. It had good tone and I found myself turning the volume down in the car, especially when the new-to-DMR guys came on swallowing the mic. Not much you can do about someone else over-modulating their mics. But you'll never get a complaint about your audio.