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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: VHF/UHF+ Amateur Base/Mobile (non hand-held) | Icom IC-290A/H Help

Reviews Summary for Icom IC-290A/H
Icom IC-290A/H Reviews: 14 Average rating: 4.1/5 MSRP: $(missing—add MSRP)
Description: 2m all mode mobile rig
Product is not in production.
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KU4QD Rating: 2/5 Jun 19, 2002 14:23 Send this review to a friend
Correction on IC-290A VCO problem  Time owned: more than 12 months
First, I rated the IC-290H a "4" and the IC-290A a "2", so adding this balances the numbers. These are two different radios, as you can see in my review.

Also, in rereading what I wrote I had to groan. Two thoughts got run tongether, and the result is simply wrong. The microphonic VCO in the IC-290A causes feedback in receive mode if you turn the volume well up. It has nothing to do with transmit. Oh well...

Anyway, as I said before, the IC-290H is fine. The IC-290A needed help, which Icom provided by making an improved model.
KU4QD Rating: 4/5 Jun 18, 2002 14:08 Send this review to a friend
Two different generations of the rig--one very good, one OK  Time owned: more than 12 months
The IC-290A and IC-290H are two *different* generations of the same basic radio. Writing one review of the two is like writing one reveiw for the IC-706 and IC-706MkIIG. There has been a lot of improvement, and the same was true with the IC-290A and IC-290H.

The IC-290H, the later radio, put out 25W, had a green LED display, and a very decent receiver. In many ways it was comparable to it's big brother, the IC-251A. I agree with thre previous reviewer that the transmitted and received audio are both excellent, and that is true on both versions of the radio. Sensitivity is good, but, of course, doesn't compare to the best base rigs, such as the later IC-275. It's still way better than other 2m mobiles, including some that came out much later, such as the Yaesu FT-290RII. Selectivity is also decent, but there is nothing at all to help with a close-by adjacent signal or to fight any other sort of QRM. The noise blanker is effective for ignition noise, but not much else. In it's class, the IC-290H was one of the best.

The memory backup issue previously raised is easily solved with the IC-BU1 memory backup option, a small box which bolted to the back of the rig and plugged into the power recepticle and a small round jack. (The big accessory jack was not used with the BU-1 as a previous reviewer suggested.) This is the same arrangement as Icom used with the IC-25A/H and IC-45A. Many used IC-290s will have the BU-1 with them. If you are not using the rig with a continuous voltage supply (i.e.: a car battery) then this may be something to look for before spending money on this rig.

Another issue is the lack of any allowance for PL tones for the FM crowd. This is a great SSB mobile rig, but if you are in an area where tone is needed to get into most repeaters, figure the cost of an external CommSpec box into the total cost of the rig. This issue, more than any other, drops the rating from 5 to 4.

The "4" only applies to the IC-290H. I'd rathe the IC-290A a "2". The IC-290A has a red LED display and only puts out 10W. That isn't my objection to it. My main problem was that the VCO circuit was microphonic, so if you needed to turn up the volume near the maximum you'd get feedback when you keyed the radio, and that was totally unacceptable. If you ever drove with the window down you had no prayer of being able to use the rig.

I've owned both versions, and I highly recommend the IC-290H as a 2m all mode mobile for a ham on a budget. Even all these years later it performs well. I do not recommend the IC-290A to anyone.

I've parted with both rigs, but finding an good, clean IC-290H with a BU-1 today would still be something I would look at buying seriously again.

While I am, wit
G7TOK Rating: 4/5 Nov 20, 2001 14:48 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Audio  Time owned: more than 12 months
The memory backup issue with this radio is not really an issue for me as it remains connected to the power supply permanently.
However, the main attraction of the set is the quality of recovered audio, better than most modern transceivers I have owned. The yaesu FT-847 I own has a permanent high frequency hiss on the audio output regardless of volume, not so the IC-290.
The standard microphone has a very rounded audio and a built in amplifier that provides punchy audio that has garnered many good reports.
The receive sensitivity is not the hottest, but with only reasonable antennas and a pre-amp I have managed contacts all over continental Europe.
The set is very robust and is easy to use, especially mobile.
WM5R Rating: 3/5 Jul 20, 2000 15:41 Send this review to a friend
Get accessory connector  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
This is a decent radio for SSB/CW on 144 MHz. It puts out 25 watts, and can also do FM. It doesn't have a lot of features, and in particular there's not much you can do to tweak the receiver (i.e. no filters, passband shaping, etc.) This is just what you would expect from a mobile radio, though.

My biggest problem with this transceiver was that there was no internal battery back-up. I had the radio hooked up to an external 13.8VDC power supply. So, every time I turned it on, it would default to the factory settings, and the frequency would be way up in the FM repeater section of the band. I could never find a fast way to get down to 144.200, and just resigned myself to spinning the dial a lot. This would not be a problem if I either left it hooked up to a power supply that didn't get turned off (like a car battery) or had the "memory backup" accessory.

Speaking of which, the memory backup accessory was one of several thing you could plug into the "accesory" jack on the back of this radio. The jack had a center pin and eight pins in a circle around it, and was shaped just like a tube socket. I tried for a long, long time to find some sort of connector to plug into it to wire up my own memory backup feature, and eventually gave up. I also tried for a long, long time to find that memory backup accessory without luck. Both are very rare to come by.
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