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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: VHF/UHF+ Amateur Hand-held | Icom IC-T81A/E Help


Reviews Summary for Icom IC-T81A/E
Icom IC-T81A/E Reviews: 50 Average rating: 3.7/5 MSRP: $290
Description: Quad band handheld transiever
Product is in production.
More info: http://www.icomamerica.com
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You can write your own review of the Icom IC-T81A/E.

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KC0KAN Rating: 4/5 Jan 13, 2002 14:44 Send this review to a friend
GOOD OVERALL  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
WHAT ATTRACTED THE T81A TO ME WAS THE QUAD BAND FEATURE. THE HT DOES PERFORM WELL, BUT I DO HAVE A FEW PROBLEMS WITH IT. I WOULD LIKE TO SEE LARGER BATTERIES FOR IT. I THINK THAT THE STOCK ANTENNA IS ONLY A LITTLE BETTER THAN NO ANTENNA AT ALL. I CURRENTLY USE A TRI-BAND ANTENNA THAT WORKS VERRY WELL. I ALSO HAVE TROUBLE WITH INTERMOD ON VHF. I WOULD LIKE TO SEE SOME KIND OF FILTER, PROGRAM OR OTHER MOD THAT COULD DEAL WITH THIS.

I INTEND ON KEEPING THIS RADIO FOR QUITE A WHILE.
 
KB1HCY Rating: 4/5 Nov 6, 2001 20:22 Send this review to a friend
excellent features  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
This HT is small enough to fit in a pocket, and has all the features you need. The T81a has auto repeater operation, which if you are in a new area can be very helpful. The power output is a full 5 watts, when pluged in, or 4.5 on the supplied NI-MH battery. (Less power on 23 CM.) Having 6 meters, 2 meters, 70 CM, and 23 CM, on one radio is very convienent and very cost effiecent. The 23 CM band is only useful to me at hamfests, skiing, or other places where I want to use very close range simplex operation. The radio is very water resistant, I used it in a rain strom and water didn't even got close to the gaskets. The t81a offers excellent audio on transmitting and recieving, very nice speaker. One thing that should be noted is that the T81 can be modified for wide RX while the T81a cannot. Weak points are the small SMA connector , and battery, which on high power can die pretty fast.
Excelent radio.
 
K1CWB Rating: 4/5 Sep 18, 2001 09:31 Send this review to a friend
Great radio, could be better  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
The T81A is a good radio, it has good audio, and gets out well. The only complaint of course is the joystick, and also the battery life is pathetic, because their biggest battery isn't all that big. I will be getting the AA pack so I can put some 1700mah Nimh batteries in it for real use. Other than that, the 6m comes in handy, so It's still a decent radio.
 
KD5JCC Rating: 4/5 Jul 19, 2001 18:38 Send this review to a friend
Hard to break  Time owned: more than 12 months
I agree, this is a neat little rig. Before I moved out into the wilderness, I used it often, usually indoors, to hit 23cm and 70cm repeaters. True, the four-way rocker switch is a pain, but once the radio is set up there's rarely occasion to use it. I dropped this HT on the sidewalk four times but I just couldn't break it.
 
K3SUI Rating: 4/5 Jul 19, 2001 12:51 Send this review to a friend
I like it !!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I'm not a shack on the belt kinda guy, but I bought this radio to keep in contact with my friends at hamfests and to get local info during trips. I bought it in Las Vegas while I was there for a "Networkers" conferance to play with in the hotel room. I feel that the most challenging part of the radio is learning to use the "joystick" button. It is frustrating. Also, should this component get noisy or break the radio will be useless.
I belive that the largest battery you can get came standard with this unit. I bought it at a GREAT price ($299) from AES. Hard to believe that you can get a quad band FM tranceiver with these features and this quality for a small price like that.
I haven't broken my battery clip yet. Maybe I am more careful knowing it can be a problem. The antenna sucks. Bought others and they seem to work better. I particuarly like the 1200 mhz. Not too many people on that freq regardless of how big the hamfest is. The radio does get hot when transmitting for a long time, but who would use an HT to rag chew ?? The audio is acceptable for the size of the speaker included in the case. I jacked the audio into my stereo at home and the receiver puts out good sounds !!
I wish that these guys would send along a good charger. The usual wall-wart is a pathetic piece and it costs a fortune to get a good charger from any radio manufacture.
I have heard some crossmod on occassion, but not nearly as bad as with my Kenwood TR-22a. Receiver seems very sensitive.
In all I like the rig and plan on keeping it for quite awhile.
 
KD7MWR Rating: 3/5 Jul 18, 2001 21:05 Send this review to a friend
OK Only if you must have 6m and 23cm  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I purchased this radio for my wife. I found it very frustrating to program. The audio is not up to standards of other radios. The volume control is a up and down button instead of a knob. The MULTI key gets pushed in the correct position about 70 to 80% of the time when programming. I also have a Kenwood TH-g71 which is far superior in every way and MUCH easier to program. It seems that ICOM only likes to put backlit keypads on the IC-W32. There is no 6 meter or 23 cm activity in my area so these bands mean nothing to me. The fm broadcast receive is nice if you like poor audio. I would rather use my Walkman. This radio should ONLY be considered if you require 6 meter and 23 cm. As for mine, I sold it. Buy the Kenwood instead of this ICOM.
 
KC2ZI Rating: 4/5 Apr 9, 2001 22:04 Send this review to a friend
Nice but a few bugs  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I've had this 2 months now, and overall I like it. I got the T81 instead of the VX5R after trying them both at HRO - the T81 is a bit larger, but still small, and the slight larger size makes it easily operated by one hand. And in my opinion, the user interface is much easier to use than the VX5R.

The multifunction rocker is a problem, though. If it was just a 4-way rocker (l-r, u-d) it would be fine. But the 5th movement, the direct press inward, is critical for several functions such as setting PL, adding name tags and scan skips. And as many have posted, it is very difficult to get it right. Problem is, when you get it wrong, you've just skipped to the next band in VFO mode or the next channel in memory mode. I've becomed trained enough to get it right about 75% of the time but it's still an annoyance. Icom should keep the joystick - it's great for frequency changes and volume adjustments while driving. But add a button for "set/enter".

The other problems of any significance all are on 6m. First, the supplied antenna is ok on 2 and 70cm, but is worthless on 6m. With a 20" NGC 6/2/70 duck, or a mobile antenna, 6m is fine.

There appear to be software bugs related to 6m only, also. Both in the internal software, and in the programming software ICOM sells with cable. Many 6m repeaters have one tone on input PL, and a different tone for tone squelch output PL. On other bands this works fine. But on 6m, if you program for example, 71.9 input PL, 100 output tone squelch, there's a big problem. The radio won't even transmit the 71.9 PL tone. It appears that at least on 6m, if the two tones are set diferrently, it ignores the transmit PL. Which means you never open the repeater! I can tell - because I never see the S-meter bars move at all on the repeater tail, nor on other's transmissions. Normally if you have tone squelch on with an incorrect recieve PL (or on at all if the repeater doesn't support it) but are using the correct transmit PL, you still can tell you're opening the repeater from SEEING your repeater tail, even though you can't hear it.

The other 6m software problem is with using the cloning software. There's a handy "merge" feature that lets you pull in all or part of other sets of memory channels. I used this in conjunction with trips to NYC from Boston - I had previously entered a bunch of NYC, CT, RI, NJ repeaters manually, which worked fine. Then when I got home, I backed up the whole set, then saved it as a different name, then deleted the "travel" freqs and re-loaded just my Boston area freqs. Fine so far. But for the next trip to NYC, I used the "merge" function to pull back in the NYC-trip frequencies from the other file. The software has a bug that made it totally ignore any 6m frequencies on "Merge".

So I figured I'd be smart, and use the "export/import" functions that save to an ASCII CSV type file (a standard interchange format for spreadsheets ever since the dark ages), edit what I needed, and re-import. Well that picked up 6m ok - but it ignored any different tone squelch settings. It only loaded up the transmit PL into both the transmit PL and receive PL.

BTW, I only noticed the "won't transmit the output PL on 6m if the receive PL differs" after this move, even after manually correcting the receive PL. I don't know if it was a problem originally, or if this was a bug introduced into the radio's own software from manipulating the files. Otherwise it works fine.

I still rate this radio as a very good value. I find that I enjoy using it. If you get the software, be careful what you do with it, but it is a good addition.
 
XX9ZZP Rating: 3/5 Mar 26, 2001 02:33 Send this review to a friend
Don't they make volume knobs anymore?  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I owned this radio for 1 day. Icom had the right idea. They just need to put a real volume/squelch knob on it and lose the "joystick". The buttons are a little on the small side. They probably would wear out as I had to push them fairly hard with my fingernail to use them. It has good power, I was able to hit many repeaters on all four bands with the supplied antenna. If it had a volume knob, backlit keypad, wideband recieve (.5 - 1200MHz cw,ssb), and BNC antenna connector, it would be perfect.
 
KB2WYG Rating: 3/5 Nov 16, 2000 15:09 Send this review to a friend
Decent for Money  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Bought radio for the four bands in one and the broad-band reception for the scanning end of the hobby. The supplied antenna is horrible. I bought a Diamond tri-band antenna, which works a whole lot better. I also modded a cell phone power jack to work with the cig. lighter adapter cord for power and it works great. Personally I would actually prefer a larger radio for my pudgy hands. This radio gets really hot too when on high power for long. You need to let it sit for while. Scanning isn't as fast as a regular scanner though. One thing I found in my quest for a ham radio/scanner combo, is that if you want a scanner for all the things newer scanners are known/good for, go buy a scanner. I modded my radio (older serial number) for 220 tx/rx. Works great. So essentially I have a quint bander.
 
KB1FVD Rating: 4/5 Nov 16, 2000 06:11 Send this review to a friend
Pretty good, some problems  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I'm basicly happy with this radio, but there are a few problems. Like others, I'm not a fan of the MULTI button. I think it's poor design. Worse yet, it's a single SMT componenet, so modifying it to be better is not easy.

One thing I have experienced: I use an external power supply, which supplies 13.8V at the plug, and can handle 1.75 A, so the radio can basic operate at max power. If I chew the rag too long, the radio gets hot, and eventually stops being able to transmit! If I let it cool for a few minutes it comes back.

I may have to try and arrange for a heat sink!

I also have a couple of other small complaints. ICOM tech support had nothing useful to tell me about alternate antennas for the thing. I'm paranoid enough, and new enough that I don't want to slap a tri band or dual band on, and just see if it works on other bands. I was hoping they could provide me with the dimensions and design of their antenna as a starting point. The tech had nothing to offer.

Also, it annoys me that they don't have the programming software for anything but Windows. I run Linux and Mac.

Would I buy another one? Maybe. If you want a 23cm radio and be able to hit 2m and 70cm, I'd recommend it.

If you are new to Ham Radio, I'd say hold off, and find out what band the majority of local repeaters live on, and then buy a radio appropriate to that.
 
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