Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Equipment Reviews' started by W8EMR, Jul 24, 2015.

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  1. AA9SD

    AA9SD Ham Member QRZ Page

    I just purchased one of these to put in my car. I've had a Baofeng handheld connected to a mag mount but thought this could be mounted a little more neatly. I'm not really a VHF/UHF repeater guy so I didn't want to spend the cash for a "nice" mobile rig. I actually used my Baofeng more to monitor some local parks and arboretums than communication. Since this covers the same frequency range I figured I could program in those frequencies (I did and it works fine).

    I received it today and "installed" it. The installation consisted of connecting the antenna and plugging in the 12VDC power connector (cigarette lighter type with fuse). I have put it in place under the dash of my car temporarily using a heavy duty Velcro-type fastener. (This radio is very small and fairly light so the fastener had no issues holding it securely.) When I'm comfortable with the position I'll probably go with a more permanent, screwed in attachment. I may or may not do anything about the power connection. Like many Chinese radios the manual needs a lot of work but Miklor has clear instructions for programming.

    I programmed in a couple of local repeaters, the process was pretty easy and was done from the mic. A quick test confirmed I was reaching both repeaters. With the car started I could detect no noise from the ignition system or onboard computers and received audio was very clear. The built-in speaker is plenty loud as well which is good since there is no jack for an external speaker. The display is quite bright and easy to read. If it holds up as well as the Baofeng HTs I have it should be a great little rig for my purposes.

    I couldn't find a decent-looking programming cable online so I ordered a USB to serial CP2102 unit and I'll build my own. That should be done by the end of the week.
  2. AA9SD

    AA9SD Ham Member QRZ Page

    Here's a followup to my post above after using the radio for a couple days.

    A minor thing- my Velcro type mount was sagging a little after a day so rather than risk it falling off at some point I screwed the mounting bracket to the underside of the dash. It is very solid now.

    Some of the documentation I've read says that this radio doesn't have 2.5K steps. Mine does. I don't know if that means it has newer firmware or not, but at least I don't have to go to odd steps and hunt around to dial in a frequency from the VFO. That said one can always input the frequency directly from the mic regardless of what the step is set for.

    Speaking of entering things directly, almost everything can be programmed from the mic including channel names, unlike the Baofeng HTs I have. I programmed in several local repeaters as well as the frequencies of the Morton Arboretum and a couple other local things I like to listen to occasionally. I then gave each a name then selected Channel Name for the two lines of the display. Apparently when programming in repeaters the offset gets lost when saving to a memory channel but there is a very easy workaround on the Miklor website. Just click on the QYT KT8900 link and then find the link to Programming. It works just fine.

    The basic programming procedure is to be in VFO mode and enter a receive frequency then go into the menu and change any of the menu settings for that particular repeater (PL frequency, channel name, etc.). Then select a memory channel (you don't have to enter the channels in order and can skip memory locations if you want). When you press MENU then EXIT all the settings are saved to that channel. You then go back into VFO mode, go to display B (bottom line on the display) and enter the Tx or input frequency for the repeater then press MENU twice then EXIT and the Tx frequency is saved. (That's the workaround for losing the offset though I recommend following the procedure on the Miklor site since just wrote that from memory.)

    I checked into a net with it today and it seemed to work just fine though I was mobile and close to the repeater (maybe 10 miles away) so it wasn't really a challenge for the radio. Transmit audio was fine, receive audio was very good.

    I received the USB to Serial CP2102 unit today and built a programming cable to the rig. I haven't tried it out yet so I don't know how well, or even if it works. When I plug the cable into my computer it finds and loads the driver so that much works. Maybe tomorrow I'll take my laptop out to the car and try to program it with the software.

    At this point I have to say I'm quite happy with this little rig. I paid $89 on Amazon but noticed today that they no longer have it at that price, it seems to be about $110 now. Still that seems a decent price for a tiny but capable dual band rig with 25W output.
  3. KB3UWC

    KB3UWC Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I also bought a kt8900 from amazon I paid $110 and it came with a programming cable. I used the drivers and software from Miklor. I do not trust those little cds that the chinese send Loaded with software and manuals. They were loaded into a windows 7 64 bit desktop and i followed the directions on Miklor. I had the radio programmed with 16 channels and up and running in about 20 min. So far very happy with this little dual bander
    73 Steve KB3UWC
  4. AI2SS

    AI2SS Ham Member QRZ Page

    How do you like the TM-281? Was looking at that rig, it looks pretty decent.
  5. AA9SD

    AA9SD Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm with you on not using those CDs with Chinese equipment. I've had more than one show a positive result for a virus. They may have been false positives but I'd rather not take the chance.
  6. AA9SD

    AA9SD Ham Member QRZ Page

    I finally got around to using my homebrew programming cable. I had a 3.5mm to 3.5mm stereo cable about 6 feet long that wouldn't work due to an intermittent connection. I cut it in the middle. I tested both halves and found which end was good. I then just soldered the three wires to the appropriate pins on the CP2102 USB to UART controller. I then plugged it into a Windows 7 laptop and bingo, instantly recognized, drivers loaded automagically and it was ready to go.

    I took the laptop out to the car and plugged the cable into the radio and turned it on. I fired up the software and downloaded the configuration from the radio and it worked perfectly. Next I added a bunch of frequencies I monitor from time to time and uploaded them to the radio. Again it worked perfectly. I highly recommend building your own cable using those cool little controllers!
  7. W8EMR

    W8EMR Ham Member QRZ Page

    the tm281 was on sale at rnl electronics for like 140 with free shiping,its a solid radio with good audio on tx and recive,easy to program repeaters,name here is steve,w8emr nice to meet you
  8. AI2SS

    AI2SS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks Steve, nice to meet you too. Name is Stef. I can't decide whether to get teh 281 or spend the extra and get the 710. Was originally looking at the 281 for 142 at HRO, but saw the other Kenwoods and was kind of wowed by them. I'm just not sure I'd use all those cool stuffz so I keep going back and forth, lol. Thanks for replying! :D
  9. W8EMR

    W8EMR Ham Member QRZ Page

    hello there steff,ive ben useing the tm281 and it has never let me down,i think its built to military specs,and it also does 25 watts low and 65 on hi power with nice audio,the radio is a bargain and you would have money leftover for whatever,if you put it in your car somone could steal it so,the tm 281 also makes for a good base unit if you put the bracket on it and mount it on a small piece of wood it makes for a nice base with a good front fireing speaker insted of one on the top or the bottom,have you ever traveled to my state before michigan ?,and i like your photo on qrz you are beautiful,have a great day and 73's
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2015
  10. KD8UEI

    KD8UEI Ham Member QRZ Page

    The TM-281A was my choice too. No 70 cm activity here so it didn't make sense to spend the extra money on a dual bander.

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