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Author Topic: What is the role of an HT, in your opinion?  (Read 7106 times)
SMAUG
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« on: June 24, 2013, 10:57:47 AM »

This quote from the removable face 2m mobile thread made me think about it:

Quote from: Mark K5LXP
An HT isn't up to the rigors of a mobile environment physically or electrically.  OK to do once in a while but there's a reason they make mobiles and HT's.


I've read that beginners often choose an HT as their first radio. But the more seasoned hams seem to suggest this is not the best choice for a first radio, but that a mobile rig, set up as either a base station or mobile station seems to be the best choice.

I bet beginners choose them because on paper, they seem so versatile. In theory, one can talk on a repeater with them, use them from the car, etc. Accessories like external antennae, amps, speaker/mics, 12 V power supplies, and 12 VDC power cords seem to make them just about everything a mobile is, but also more flexible.

So, what are you experienced hams using your HTs for? Just as scanners and to relay to a dual band mobile to hit the repeaters?

Inquring minds want to know.

By the time I got out of amateur radio in the 90s, I hardly used an HT at all.
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Jeremy (KC9ZHE)
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"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
-Abraham Lincoln
AA4PB
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« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2013, 11:14:34 AM »

An HT is useful if you want to communicate through a local repeater. I often take one with me when traveling on airlines. An HT has some limitations that need to be considered:

1) 5W may not be enough power if you want to communicate with distant stations using simplex (no repeater).

2) A typical HT receiver will be overloaded, causing intermod, if you connect it to an outside antenna capable of receiving many strong signals.

3) An HT has a limited battery life.

Bottom line: When you need something small and easy to carry take an HT. If you need a permanently installed mobile or fixed station then use a mobile transceiver.
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2013, 03:56:22 PM »



I bet beginners choose them because on paper, they seem so versatile. In theory, one can talk on a repeater with them, use them from the car, etc.

Reminds me of the old joke about two Russian visitors to America who didn't know much about the lifestyle here and were down to their last $5 to spend; so one goes into a market and comes out a few minutes later with a box of tampons.

He shows it to his friend, who asks, "What the heck can we do with this?"

So the first guy points to some photos and text on the box, and replies, "We can ride bicycle, we can go swimming, we can run in park..." Wink

IMO, hand helds today for the most part aren't as good as they were 20-30 years ago.  They're smaller and the batteries last longer, and they are more programmable and have more memory capacity, and probably scanning.  But not really "as good," for me, because they are specifically designed to be very inexpensive and do way too much that isn't required of a hand held.

Most of the new models cover well outside the amateur band(s) and some cover from HF (for receive) through upper UHF using a single antenna port and circuitry.  Others cover from VHF-Aircraft (AM at 118 MHz) through high VHF or UHF and do all that using a single antenna port and circuitry.  Performance suffers.

Most of my "old" hand helds covered one amateur band only; no out of band coverage at all, even for receiving.  As such, they had real RF stage filtering (usually helical resonators) that severely restricted sensitivity outside the band -- which is very good, because that prevented interference in-band from out of band sources.  And most of the old ones sounded better (larger, with a better speaker and microphone).

When I compare my "new" hand helds to stuff I had 25 years ago...in general, the old stuff works better for what I want it to do, which is operate in the ham band and successfully make contacts. Smiley
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K0JEG
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« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2013, 06:36:26 PM »

I used HTs mobile until I got a work truck that was incredibly noisy. So loud I couldn't hear the speaker unless right up against my ear (I was the new guy, so I got the old truck. Makes sense, right?).

Anyway, I installed a mobile and found out it was much easier to hit repeaters, and not having to fuss with adapters and cables on the front seat made it much simpler to operate too. Of course the real bonus was being able to hit repeaters better with no issues.

But I know exactly why people want HTs over mobiles: cost and "cool." They don't usually cost much, so if you're not sure you want to dive into the hobby, the outlay isn't too bad, and cool, you can carry one anywhere and talk "anywhere." Of course, once you get some experience you know that watts do matter sometimes.

Note: Cool isn't as cool as it once was in the days before cell phones.
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W8JX
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« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2013, 08:51:53 PM »

Note: Cool isn't as cool as it once was in the days before cell phones.

I used to control OP a few repeated in 80 and 90's and phone patches were hot then too. But then came cell phone and it replaced a lot of HT functions and repeater needs too.
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APW19562
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« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2013, 09:32:37 PM »

I actually bought both... mobiles and HT's.

I picked up two Kenwood TM281A's. Mounted one in the house and one in the Tahoe.
They are plenty powerful at 65w, but not very portable... so I bought two Kenwood TH-K20's.

One of those always goes with me in the Vette, since I cannot mount a radio anywhere inside that car...  The other is a spare for whatever need may arise.

All four radios are programmed with identical channels and frequencies.
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K1CJS
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« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2013, 04:52:00 AM »

An HT is useful if you want to communicate through a local repeater. I often take one with me when traveling on airlines. An HT has some limitations that need to be considered:

1) 5W may not be enough power if you want to communicate with distant stations using simplex (no repeater).

2) A typical HT receiver will be overloaded, causing intermod, if you connect it to an outside antenna capable of receiving many strong signals.

3) An HT has a limited battery life....

I have to agree--to a point.  Number 1--yes.  5 watts (the typical HT output) may not be enough power for reliable communication.  Number 2--not always, but it can hapen.  If you get a close, strong station your HT may be front end overloaded, but it doesn't always happen.  If it does, disconnect the outside antenna and put on the small antenna that came with the HT.

As for number 3, if a person were to get a HT to use as a mobile, they would more than likely get the car cord adapter to go with it--allowing, in most cases, both powering the HT in the car and recharging the HT battery too.

A HT as a mobile may work for you if you're in a metropolitan situation, but for being out away from population centers, you're probably going to need the power and performance of a mobile tig.

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K4JJL
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« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2013, 07:31:04 AM »

About all I do with my handy scratchy now is use it to test repeaters on sites and at home.  I've even been tempted to install Convertacoms inside repeater cabinets just so I don't have to worry about dead batteries when I go work on them.
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AA4PB
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« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2013, 07:41:34 AM »

Most of the receiver intermod problems with HTs comes from out of band signals. This has been made worse in recent years because newer HTs often include Wx and non-amateur reception so their front ends are wide open. If you've got an HT marketed for amateur radio that includes out of band reception then most likely you will experience intermod if you connect it to a good fixed station antenna - unless you are located out in the country.
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KC9NVP
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« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2013, 10:31:04 AM »

My first radio was and still is an HT, followed by more HTs.  For me, both HT and mobile get used equally well.  Since I am part of the weather spotting team here in north central Illinois, I generally have an HT with me and turned on whenever I am wake, including at work.  When helping out with community events, the HTs perform most of the work since I am generally out on foot walking around, where as weather spotting, the mobile is better since I am in my vehicle.  I operated with a power amp and HT for several years before getting the mobile rig and if necessary still have the amp to install in another vehicle or at home to help the HT boot it output from 5w to 35 – 50 watts.

They both have their place and work well when used accordingly.
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KB2FCV
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« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2013, 10:51:36 AM »

I got my license back in the Novice days, so an HF radio was my entry radio way back when I first got my ticket. HT's didn't come into play until you upgraded to Technician. Anyways, for me an HT does not see too much use. In the car or at home it's a mobile rig for the routine VHF/UHF stuff. HT's come into play when I need to do something on VHF/UHF when it can't be done from the shack or from within the car. My HT gets used at hamfests, some club events, if I'm working with someone else on antennas and we're not in easy talking distance, or if I'm operating satellites standing on my porch. Othewise most of the time they sit on the shelf. An HT definitely has its place.
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VE5EIS
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« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2013, 01:35:25 PM »

I'm only a new ham (callsign assigned in April).  I started with an HT.  Here are my reasons:

1.  An HT is the only radio that works well portably.
2.  An HT can work as an acceptable base station or mobile radio if you use a superior antenna with it.  I had a one-hour QSO with a fellow on Saskatchewan highway 11 this month using my 5-watt Wouxun and a 3/8-wave mag mount antenna, via a repeater.  I could have done slightly, but only slightly, better if I'd had a mobile radio.
3.  A power supply for an HT is pretty cheap (it's a $10 battery eliminator).
4.  They're inexpensive to buy, which is important to most new hams.

But there are reasons to get mobile and base rigs.  They're less flexible, but they're generally way more powerful.  They require you to come up with an antenna solution which is a negative, but that antenna solution will work better by far than the stock antenna from a handheld radio.  (In fact, I rarely use the stock antennas for my HTs.  A longer whip is a no-brainer if you want superior capability while still having portability, unless you are using the radio over a very limited simplex range or have strong access to a repeater.)

HTs are flexible.  They do everything.  No other radio can do all that they can do.  It's true that they don't do anything well except for being portable, but they can do it, at least, and in many cases, they do those things more than amply.
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SMAUG
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« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2013, 10:13:32 PM »

Great responses so far.

I read a lot of reviews on a couple models of HTs (Yaesu FT-60R and Icom V80) and the guys who really love them are the ones who use really good antennae with them. A few common suggestions:

- 1/2 or 5/8 wave telescopic
- Larger rubber ducky, that actually has some gain
- Mag mounts (1/4 wave to 5/8 wave), and as often used on a coffee can or cookie sheet as on a car body.

I just placed an antenna order, in anticipation of receiving my Icom V80 Sport I'm going to run a good variety of options and see how they do:

- Stock duck, which is allegedly very good, as far as stock ducks go,
- An MFJ 1/2 wave (2m) telescopic
- An MFJ 5/8 wave (2m) mag mount. I had one of these back in the 90s. It was big and wonky looking, but VERY rarely did I need more than 5W to hit any suburban repeater, full quieting. When I did, I only ever needed the next power level. (15 W, I think it was)
- A 5/8 wave long duck (curiosity: how much better will it be than the stocker? Enough to be worth having?)
- An MFJ thin mag mount (1/4 wave?) with the neodymium magnet. I figure if the bit 5/8 wave mag mount turns out to be too big for me to leave on the car, I'll fit this one, and use the biggun for a base station antenna on a paint can or something. Wink

Wish me luck, and keep the comments coming!
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Jeremy (KC9ZHE)
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"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
-Abraham Lincoln
AA4PB
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« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2013, 04:16:44 AM »

When referring to potential HT intermod problems when using a "good" antenna I was thinking 5 element Yagi at 50 foot rather than a mag mount on a cookie sheet  Cheesy
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W4FID
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« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2013, 05:46:30 AM »

It's true ........... late model HTs do a lot -- maybe more than is usually needed (wanted?). I use an IC-92AD as my rig in my motor home and like it fine. ONLY mobile when the XYL is driving. Use a speaker mic and battery adapter to cigar lighter. It's OK as a mobile around town and from campgrounds and RV parks it's very good. When I'm on foot - sitting at a picnic table or walking a hamfest I stick the battery pack on and I do all I want with a single radio. Even D-Star. I can work a LOT of repeaters from a LOT of places with the 5 watts. Not everywhere or every time -- but a lot very often -- and it's a hobby toy not life support. True -- there are places where cell coverage is thin and 2M simplex could be better ......... but those places and times are the rare exception not the rule where I live and we travel.

For many years in business I traveled 50K miles a year -- 125 to 200 days a year on the road in rental cars. Had 2 wrist straps on my IC-02AT and hung it from the rear view mirror. That put the rubber duck in the windshield. A speaker mic and a 12 V cigar lighter adapter and I was mobile in 15 seconds. Had a AA battery case too so I could always get fresh batteries and didn't need to worry about dead NiCads when I carried it as an HT. Did all I ever wanted around town. Lot of fun and met countless hundreds of nice hams. The rig had over 250,000 miles on it as a mobile and I still have it in my go kit 25 years later. Holds a few memory channels -- has a programmable PL -- so easy to set up/program I don't need the manual. What's not to like? They don't make them like they used to!
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