Last week, I bought a Kenwood TH-D74A when it became available at the Phoenix HRO store. I sent out a quick tweet about this purchase on my @WD9EWK Twitter feed: After fully charging the battery, which took about two hours after this picture was tweeted, I tried to make this HT operate cross-band full-duplex. That is, listening on one band while simultaneously transmitting on another band. Unfortunately, I could not make this radio operate in that manner. Whenever I transmitted from one VFO (Kenwood calls it a "band"), the other VFO is muted until I unkey the PTT. Seeing this, I didn't need to wait to try the radio on a satellite pass to try this out. I sent out another tweet that evening: I also posted a recommendation for those who are interested in purchasing a single HT for full-duplex operation on all FM satellites: The retail price of the TH-D72A had dropped below $400 recently, the lowest it has been since its late 2010 release. The TH-D72A lacks the 222 MHz band , D-Star, and the all-mode receiver found in the TH-D74A, but is still a good radio for satellite work (FM and packet/APRS). The inability of the TH-D74A to work FM satellites full-duplex is unfortunate, but not a surprise. I read reports from the Dayton Hamvention earlier this year, claiming that Kenwood representatives were saying this radio (without the TH-D74 model number at that time) would be capable of cross-band full-duplex operation. As this radio gained the TH-D74 model number, and especially after the radio was shown at the Tokyo Ham Fair a few weeks ago, the chatter changed to indicate this radio would not be capable of cross-band full-duplex operation for the FM satellites. Even though this radio is not capable of cross-band full-duplex operation, it can be used to work FM satellites. Memory channels in the TH-D74A are similar to those in the TH-D72A and many Icom HTs - memory channels cannot hold transmit and receive frequencies in different bands. This means we must use the two VFOs and switch between them, operating half-duplex. I have used my TH-D74A to make QSOs on all 3 of our current FM satellites (AO-85, SO-50, LilacSat-2) in the past week. Reports on my transmitted audio were good, although using narrow FM on AO-85 appear to indicate audio is very low in that mode. For other AO-85 passes, as well as SO-50 and LilacSat-2, I used "normal" FM. Beyond using the HT on FM satellites, I have used the TH-D74A's all-mode receiver as half of my station for working SSB satellites. The first test I did of this was last Friday (30 September) evening on AO-73. Here is a twieet I sent out after that pass, showing my station: Transmitting with an FT-817ND, receiving with the TH-D74A, both connected through a diplexer to my Elk handheld 2m/70cm log periodic antenna. The TH-D74A did a nice job. Its all-mode receiver is a big improvement over the all-mode receiver in the Kenwood TH-F6A, has slightly smaller tuning steps (20 Hz) compared to the TH-F6A (33 Hz), and I was able to use the TH-D74A's audio recorder to capture what I heard. I worked 3 stations on this evening pass - NP4JV in southern Arizona, KG7NXH in Las Vegas, and N1VF in San Francisco. Since that AO-73 pass, I have used the FT-817ND/TH-D74A combination on a few other non-FM satellites (FO-29, XW-2A, XW-2F). Just like with AO-73, the TH-D74A's all-mode receiver was up to the task. It has better sensitivity and selectivity than the TH-F6A's receiver. I still prefer the smooth VFO knob on an FT-817 over the tuning knob on the TH-D74A, but I can certainly consider the TH-D74A one of 3 viable options for a satellite downlink receiver when I am in the field (the others being a second FT-817ND, and an SDR receiver like a FUNcube Dongle Pro+ or SDRplay). For an FO-29 pass last Sunday (2 October) afternoon, I had a nice treat. I worked XE1H in central Mexico, NH6Y in Hawaii, and N6NUG in San Diego from my driveway with the FT-817ND/TH-D74A combination. It was fun to have NH6Y call me, and the TH-D74A had no problem hearing the satellite: During the last weekend, I also used the HT to work the ISS packet/APRS digipeater on 145.825 MHz. The APRS setup on the TH-D74A is similar to the TH-D72A, so I didn't need to read through the manual much. I was able to define a new packet path ARISS for use with the spaceborne digipeaters (ISS and NO-84), put some text in the comment field that is transmitted with my position beacons, and figured out how to use the messaging functions. With that, I began to work some passes. I have made several QSOs over the past week, and I have been happy with the performance in this mode. Last night (Wednesday, 5 October), I was on a western ISS pass with 3 other stations. I made QSOs with two of them - K6VUG in northern California, and KK6OTJ in southern California. One nice enhancement in the TH-D74A over the TH-D72A is that I can see my own call sign in the stations heard list. The TH-D72A would not list my own call sign in the heard listing, even if it heard one of my packets retransmitted by a digipeater. I sent out a tweet after last night's ISS pass with my own form of a stations-heard list: I have tried this HT on all 3 bands it transmits on (2m, 222 MHz, 70cm), and with a local D-Star repeater. Those work fine. I installed a microSD card, and have made several recordings of some of the satellite passes I've worked. The recording function will record audio from one of the VFOs, so I made sure the VFO used for receiving was set as the "recording band" before the pass. The TH-D74A has a micro-USB connector, and Kenwood provides a free USB driver for Windows systems and programs to configure the radio and use its IF output function. When I bought my TH-D74A last week, it came with v1.02 firmware. On 30 September, Kenwood released the v1.03 firmware. I applied that last night, and the radio appears to work the same as it did with the v1.02 firmware. I used the programming software (MCP-D74) to copy my radio's configuration before applying the firmware update, as the last step of the firmware update requires a full reset of the radio. I uploaded my previous configuration to the radio after the firmware update, and the radio works fine. Similar to the TH-D72A, users can upload a different image that is displayed as the radio is powered on, after the Kenwood logo appears on the screen. After updating the firmware, I took a moment to take one of my images of my two call signs on license plates, and adapted it to fit on the TH-D74A's screen (240x180, 24-bit BMP file). It only shows up for a second or so, but it is one way I can identify my radio from a group of TH-D74As... Overall, I like this radio. Here is how I summarized that, in two tweets from Monday (3 October) afternoon... It is expensive at $649, especially when compared to the prices of some of the Chinese-made dual- and tri-band HTs on the US amateur radio market. Then again, if you purchased HTs that contained the functionality of this radio, the $649 price really isn't bad. Using current prices at Ham Radio Outlet for this comparison... Kenwood TH-D72A (dual-bander with packet/APRS, GPS): $389.95 Kenwood TH-F6A (tri-bander with all-mode receiver): $269.95 These two radios alone are about $10 more than the price of the TH-D74A, and the TH-D74A improves on the all-mode receiver found in the 15-year-old TH-F6A, but then there's D-Star. In my opinion, the closest equivalent to the TH-D74A for D-Star functionality would be Icom's ID-51A. There are a couple of variants of this radio currently on the market: ID-51A at $299.95, or the ID-51A Plus at $364.95. Either of these ID-51A models, added to the price of the two Kenwood HTs above, means you could end up spending around $1000 in HTs to get the functionality found in the TH-D74A. As I tweeted, I like this radio. It's a keeper. I wish it could be used to work FM satellites full-duplex, but it has more than enough functionality in it to be useful. Maybe the price will drop, once this radio has been on the market for a while. The TH-D72A debuted around $500 when it came on the market in late 2010, and it was a couple of years before its price dropped to $449, and only in the past couple of months its price dropped below $400. In other words, I wouldn't hold my breath for a big drop in the TH-D74A's price any time soon. If it is a radio you like, save your pennies/centavos/kopecks and get one. 73!