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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: 51 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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KB9YNJ Rating: 5/5 Oct 11, 2012 15:01 Send this review to a friend
Quality rig at good price  Time owned: months
After having owned various models of Yaesu, Icom and Radio Shack 2 meter rigs, I decided to try The Kenwood TM281A.I find that 200 Freq memories or 100 Alpha memories are more than adequate.
I Love the ease of programming and the practical front panel controls. The scan speed is as good as it gets.The reputation Kenwood has for great transmit and receive audio shines through with this rig. I am constantly asked "what kind of rig are you running" and receive a lot of complements.The Simplex contacts are amazing.I am only running a NTAX dual band slim Jim at 20 feet, but have reached 80 to 100 miles simplex!
I bought a second TM281A for the car. the compact size made it easy to mount.Rugged mil should make it last a long time. Thanks Kenwood and the great Guys at R&L
AI4WM Rating: 4/5 Sep 16, 2012 19:24 Send this review to a friend
Good working solidly designed radio  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
This radio would earn a 5 rating if it had a real microphone connector.

I bought 2 new radios this summer to replace the aging ones in my cars. The TM271A was one of them.

This radio is very well built and solid. The front facing speaker, although small, produces crystal clear and loud audio. I was very surprised at the audio quality of such a small speaker.

The supplied microphone takes a bit of getting used to compared to my other radios for up/down.
The function is on the front rather than top.

The radio is a bit trickier to program than my Yaesu, but not difficult. There are plenty of programmable options for the radio as well as

There are plenty of memory channels (200) and a dedicated weather channel with alert. It would be nice if Kenwood included the S.A.M.E. tones rather than a general alert.

Besides the lack of S.A.M.E. tones the radio only has 2 transmit power levels (Which I knew before purchase so it does not affect my rating) 25 and 65 watts. Both are over kill since any repeater in our county can be hit with full quieting with less than one watt.

I rated this radio a 4 because of the cheap microphone connector and over molded strain relief of the cable as well as an LCD display (another thing all manufactures use) LCD displays are crap for mobile. They have a life span less than the radio and they die. They do not handle really cold weather. They cannot be seen with polarized sun glasses (so it can create a driving hazard). Even though I am not keen on LCDs for mobile I do wish this had the green back light of the TM-271A.
W5LZ Rating: 4/5 Sep 12, 2012 06:34 Send this review to a friend
Very good  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I've had the '281 for a few months now. I've found that it does what it's supposed to do and does it well. It's a 'bare-bones' single band radio, you can't expect any more than that.
There are a few things different about the '281, not 'bad', just different. The speaker is one of those 'different' things, I didn't really expect much from such a tiny thing. I was wrong, it does very well. I never gave much thought to it not having a fan, figured if it needed one 'they' would have provided one, you know? It doesn't need a fan because of the huge heatsink. It does pose a 'problem' though, be careful on how/where you mount the thing. It do get hot. Don't misplace that mounting bracket, you WILL need it.
This radio is about as simple as you can make one. There are four connections with it, power, external speaker, antenna, and the mic. That's it. (The mic connection doubles as the programming cable connection.) All connections are of a different type/shape, it's kind'a hard to get things mixed up (even for me).
What do I not like about it? Same as most people I think, with the addition of "Why didn't they mark the on/off knob's marker, change it's color so I can see it?", you know? Really biggy, huh? I also do not like the 'telephone'/RJ-45 type connectors! That's something I have to live with so isn't a biggy either (except to me). Make sure the mic connector is seated good, the 'dust cover' on it requires that you give it a 'firm' push. That's good actually.
I'm happy with the '281. It's exactly what it's claimed to be. Oh, and it's got a very nice receiver.
- Paul
N7KFD Rating: 5/5 Sep 11, 2012 20:20 Send this review to a friend
Kenwood hit the mark again!  Time owned: 3 to 6 months

I decided to put the TM-D710 in our new Jeep and needed a VHF rig for the house. I also decided that I didn't need a dual bander so started looking for a two meter only mobile rig. I compared the TM-281 to several other radios and it seemed to fit my needs better than the others. I've owned it for about six months and it is a great little radio.

I really like the front facing speaker, and the software makes it easy to program. I also noticed scanning is very fast. The adjustable back light is a nice feature, as are the programmable buttons on the mic. Accessing the weather channels seems like the new fad but I also like that feature. It's easy to operate especially if you're used to Kenwoods. It's a no frills, nothing really special radio but it works great.

As with anything we can find little things that bother us and the 281 is no exception. Only two power settings, three would have been nice. With my 5/8 antenna on the roof of the house 5 watts is all I need to hit local repeaters. Having to go into the menus to change power settings is also something I dislike but it's not a deal breaker as you can program the power setting per memory channel so it stays the same every time you pull up that frequency. After thinking about it for several minutes, those are the only two things I can come up with that I would say I don't like about the radio.

It's a great little, easy to operate, easy to setup two meter only mobile rig. I give this radio two thumbs up and would not hesitate to recommend it.

AA2HA Rating: 5/5 Sep 1, 2012 14:29 Send this review to a friend
Great Mobile Rig  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I purchased a Yaesu 2900R for myself and a few months later the Kenwood TM-281A for my wife. Before installing them in our respective automobiles, I compared them on the bench. Using the same antenna and an "A/B" switch, the Kenwood was noticeably more sensitive. Repeaters that were unusable with the Yaesu, were usable with the Kenwood.
I checked the specs and found the Yaesu 2900R requires .4uv for 12 dB SINAD and the Kenwood only .18! I'm sorry I didn't get the Kenwood for myself too.
The Kenwood has worked flawlessly so far and is fairly easy to program (I hesitate to use 'easy" to describe programming any modern radio).
The only gripe I have is that the Kenwood has only 2 power settings- Low or High.
AJ4YQ Rating: 5/5 Aug 10, 2012 19:01 Send this review to a friend
Very solid  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought this radio to go in my new Tundra. It fits very nicely into a slot in the center console. I like the solid heat sink. It is built like a tank and the front facing speaker is loud and not "tinny". The 65 watt output assures that I can work them if I can hear them. Scans great!j
KD2AKG Rating: 5/5 May 10, 2012 05:46 Send this review to a friend
Great Radio  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I received the TM-281A around Thanksgiving of 2011. HRO had a great special on it. It is a very solid radio. The knobs and mic operate smoothly and have a quality feel. The receive audio is very clear, and the sound the from the front-firing speaker is loud. You don't need an external speaker with this one. Transmit audio is very good as well, and most people usually complement the audio and ask what model radio it is. Programming is very easy. The hardest part about programming is the alpha tags, but after doing it once or twice it is very easy. It could use more memory channels, but for me, the 100 are enough. Overall, a great radio for the money.
KF5IRG Rating: 2/5 May 4, 2012 06:09 Send this review to a friend
281A and DTMF TONES  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
If you are going to buy this radio to access IRLP or ECHOLINK systems then after purchase
check to see if ALL DTMF work! My ham buddy
purchased this radio and I thouhgt I might get one too, but after installing in the mobile to test, I came to see that DTMF has issues, at least on this one. some times they would work but
the 3 A B never worked! I have an Icom 207 and a Yaesu 7900 that work Flawlessly I was just getting tired of taking the radio in and out of Truck. I THOUGHT I would get one of these 281A but I will wait to see what kind of answers my buddy gets fro Kenwood and I'll do a follow up. You would think that DTMF Would never be an issue but I had the same issue with a Yaesu 897D some DTMF not working....I sold it!. Well that is my take on this Radio and yes it does run Hot if you use it for any Length of time. But that is to be expected because there is no fan! 73
KD8RWO Rating: 5/5 Apr 2, 2012 23:57 Send this review to a friend
Excellent for a 2 meter base or mobile  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have received nothing but praise for my audio and signal strength. Full quieting at 30 miles away (as the crow flies) on low power. Its a small radio and seems very durable. Programming is the easier than any other radio I have tried. For 150 bucks, I feel I made a wise purchase.
KK7XE Rating: 5/5 Mar 30, 2012 09:16 Send this review to a friend
Nice 2 Meter Radio  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Have at last installed the radio in the pickup. For some time it just sat on a small shelf that has access to the coax coming in. Was not mounted in the bracket and zero heat problems as I saw in the previous post. It's simple to program and in the truck, the front firing speaker is great. Nice clean, crisp audio. It works great for scanning what ever one would like in the VHF spectrum. Very pleased with the radio as it does just what it's built for.
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