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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: VHF/UHF+ Amateur Base/Mobile (non hand-held) | Kenwood TM-281A Help

Reviews Summary for Kenwood TM-281A
Kenwood TM-281A Reviews: 73 Average rating: 4.5/5 MSRP: $174.95
Description: 2 meter FM mobile transceiver providing 65 watts of power
Product is in production.
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K7TCE Rating: 4/5 Sep 4, 2015 13:49 Send this review to a friend
Nice radio, but...  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought mine used on whim and sold it soon after. It's a nice radio, performs well, and Kenwood gives away the software that Icom and Yaesu don't. That said, why is Kenwood selling a radio in 2015 with only 100 alpha memories? I was told by the seller it had 200 memories, which it does, but it's all or nothing if you want alpha. In my case, I don't like to program in the field. I pre-program my VHF radios with 68 memories for 2 meter simplex channels and repeater splits, and about 46 for Coast Guard channels. A few more for public service and you see the problem. If you don't want to program more than 100 alpha channels (or you can look at 200 numbers and know what they are) this is a good radio.
KD5BVX Rating: 5/5 Sep 4, 2015 07:40 Send this review to a friend
Solid Radio With Solid Results  Time owned: more than 12 months
It's great to see this radio get so many 4 and 5 start reviews -- it truly is a great radio. It's solid, packs a powerful punch, and will withstand some elements that would cause other radios to fail.

To me the radio is more along the lines of a commercial radio design than ham. Many ham radios these days are more about soft keys (i.e. items on the screen with a button below them that you press to perform the function) and while those have their place -- and there are plenty that I like -- this radio fits a niche that is needed. It will "take a lickin' and keep on tickin'" as they say.

While it would be fine in a daily driver vehicle, I see several getting installed in off road vehicles, etc., because they can take the vibrations, dust, etc.

The mic is also something to praise. Kenwood really makes some solid mics for their radios. This seems to be where many manufacturers skimp (looking at you, Yaesu). Icom mics aren't too bad but the Yaesus are just pathetic -- they just feel cheap. This Kenwood mic, however, is solid, commercial feeling, and made to last.

If you're looking for a 2m only radio, give this one a shot. I don't think you'll be disappointed. There are some reviews here that make legitimate points and others that are just being downright picky. Overall it's a great radio.

I've had one for over a year and am planning to purchase another in a few days to go in another vehicle I just bought as a 4-wheel-drive "beater". I know this radio will withstand the elements it may receive in that install.

As I always say, if you want to "test drive" a radio but don't have a place to do so locally, just hit up YouTube and search for the radio make and model you're interested in. More than likely there will be a few dozen videos showing different features. You'll get an idea of how it works so you'll know what to expect if you decide to make that purchase.
W6AKF Rating: 4/5 Aug 7, 2015 13:07 Send this review to a friend
Better power out, and microphone  Time owned: more than 12 months
I purchased my TM-281 from AES in May 2014 and I'm impressed with its front-face look and easy front panel functions. The Menu buttons are large enough to engage without the problem of other rigs that have their smaller buttons to close to one another and accidently pressing two buttons instead of the one button you wanted to press. No use for a external speaker, the rig has a front-fire speaker with great audio. Display is easy to read under any ambient light condition and was easy to read with my old eyes. I has good transmit audio with clear and strong volume. The bottom & back act as a substantial heat sink, the mounting bracket helps with the dispersal of heat, however there's no fan.

The hand microphone fit well in my hand and the PTT is solid. It didn't have the < or > scan buttons like the IC- HM-133V instead it used the UP # DOWN * buttons to control the user to sequence through the Memory channels, up and down. however no scan function. A two second touch added to these buttons to scan up or down would have been a nice touch. Pardon the pun.

I did notice on page 42 it says press [MR] (1s) (second) to start the memory channel scan. Then it says "Press any key other than [F] or Power to stop all channel scan".
However there was no mention in the manual on to how to re-start the scan again.

I wanted to find out which other button on the 281 microphone controls the "scan-start/scan/stop" like the MR button on the front panel and the MR/C button on the microphone. After about few minutes I found that the PF/D on the microphone key does the same thing.
The manual doesn't address this that these keys do that and pressing it for 2 seconds activates the scan.

Kenwood should look in to producing a better microphone that has scan/up/down/resume/scan. Have a Low, Mid and High power buttons on their microphones. Have a four (or three) step power sequence (5, 10, 25, and 65 watts) instead of 25 and 65 watts. If Icom and Yaesu can do it so can Kenwood. Each frequency should be programmed for low to high power according to the user desire.

If Kenwood come out with a TM-291, (a logical sequence from the TM-241 to the TM-281) I would probably purchase one or more if they upped their game re. the power out and a better microphone.

A short comment on TOT's

If you have other rigs like Icom or Yaesu and have a tendency to time out simplex, or on a repeater; check your Time-out Timer (TOT) in the newer Menu fed rigs. They all have their TOT listed in their Menu Function List, for the 281it's number 21; see page 62 for details. This function will shut the TX off after a certain amount of time. Here are the default on the TOT settings. Icom: Off, Alinco: Off, Kenwood: 10 minutes, Yaesu: 3 or 6 minutes.

My FT-2900 got me one time when I was talking on simplex and a ham friend told me about the TOT setting and I changed it from 3 minutes to Off.

Stephen, W6AKF
W2LTD Rating: 4/5 Jul 23, 2015 16:43 Send this review to a friend
Good solid monobander  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Good solid radio. Great price at major supplier. I had a bit of a time programming in the PL tones. Like some of the other reviewers I wish there were lower transmit power options.
AF5QR Rating: 5/5 Jul 18, 2015 17:11 Send this review to a friend
A nice, clean workhorse  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
If you are looking for lots of bells and whistles, pick a different radio. But if you want a solid workhorse that isnt afraid of shock, vibration and mobile abuse, this is your new best friend.

This radio isnt flashy. In fact, personally I think its just butt-ugly. But it works wonderfully. And at 65 watts, its not exactly a wimp. Its the ugly step-sister you turn to when the prom queen radios are not working.

Audio quality on transmit is very good. Receive is quite decent but not stellar. User interface is a bit clunky at first but it doesnt take long to understand it and make it dance.

This critter gets 5 stars and two thumbs-up. At $130-ish, its a bargain and a lot of fun. Put one in your go-kit. You wont be sorry you did.
KD2CTY Rating: 4/5 Jun 14, 2015 12:43 Send this review to a friend
Great Affordable Solid Radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
I really love this radio. It is small in size and seems solidly built. I have one installed in the car. I might be buying a second one for using at home. The price is great. I just wish the power setting was lower so I would not have to worry about draining the car battery. All of my audio reports have been extremely good with this radio even in the car.
KG5HFO Rating: 5/5 Jun 13, 2015 04:00 Send this review to a friend
Great buy!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Show me another radio as simple, effective, powerful, and cheap and I'll make sure you wake up from that dream!

Keep in mind that this review is for this radio as used in a base role, not mobile. I don't hardly spend any time in a vehicle so I have no need for a radio in the vehicle. That's what the FT-60 and Tram mag mount are for.

Bought it $100 used in brand new condition. Hooked it up, spent less than 5 minutes in the manual, cleared the memory, and began programming the radio by hand. Unless you have gobs of repeaters/frequencies to program save your money and do it by hand. Dead simple. The audio is full and loud (when you need it to be). The menus are pretty self explanatory. This radio just works! The receiver hears extremely well. Night and day difference between the receive on this versus my Yaesu FT-60. With the same antenna in the same place I can hear, and now work, many more repeaters. I am currently looking for a TM-481A to go with it. Contemplated the V71A but I don't need X-band repeat ability, as I can hit all of the repeaters in the immediate area with the HT and whip.

This radio combined with the N9TAX dual band antenna allows me to hit a repeater at 65 miles day and night. And I can occasionally hit one at 136.6 miles! Read my review for that awesome antenna as well.

The only, and I mean ONLY, thing I would have liked to have seen implemented is a 2w or 5w low power setting.
N8MJS Rating: 5/5 Apr 22, 2015 05:33 Send this review to a friend
Very easy to use  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have owned the TM-281A for a few years. It was bought for my mobile transceiver. While using it mobile I found it plays very well with my Larsen NMO 150 antenna. You have to read the instruction manual to understand how the menu and dual function control buttons on the front work. Having set the A,B,C,D controls on the microphone to my specific needs I find I never need to take my eyes off the road.
Just recently I brought the TM-281A into my shack for comparison vs my Kenwood TS-2000.
I found the TM-281A to have a MUCH more sensitive receiver. I have a Cushcraft 26B2 for FM and find the TM-281A can hear distant signals easily where the TS-2000 hears nothing.
To me this is a joke. I have spoken with a Kenwood representative about this and the answer I received was, The TS-2000 is more of a compromise on VHF. Similar to comparing a mono band antenna on 10 meters to a multi band antennas performance on 10 meters.
Since I don't do any other modes on 2 meters I have made the TM-281A my primary 2 meter transceiver in the shack.
Thumbs up for the TM-281A.
I will be buying another for my mobile.
N4YAH Rating: 4/5 Apr 15, 2015 16:31 Send this review to a friend
So easy to program it should be illegal.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This radio is very straight forward and simple to operate. It's so easy to program by hand that it feels like you're forgetting something. If you don't want to spring for the programming cable you aren't missing much. It's about as fast to do it by hand as it is to fill out the blanks on a computer screen. Front speaker is great.

I gave it a 4 because it's not perfect. Kenwood could make this a 5 with some simple changes.

1. Add a low output mode of 5 watts.
2. Use a usb interface instead of the mic connector.

I thought the lack of a manual squelch would be an inconvenience, and while it would be nice to have, is not really needed. The menu squelch set to 1 works really well and I have not felt the need to adjust it.
KD8WFU Rating: 5/5 Apr 4, 2015 05:02 Send this review to a friend
from Dave KD8WFU  Time owned: more than 12 months
very nice mobile its clearly a real 65 watts on high not like other that say 75 watts and really put out 55 watts works well for far away repeaters and great sim plex radio
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