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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: 80 Average rating: 4.4/5 MSRP: $174.95
Description: 2 meter FM mobile transceiver providing 65 watts of power
Product is in production.
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N3HGB Rating: 3/5 Feb 11, 2019 16:27 Send this review to a friend
outdated  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I just got this radio for an APRS project. For that it works great. As a mobile radio it would drive me nuts. The menu system seems like a leftover from 2 decades ago. If you ever had to adjust the squelch while driving it would not be possible, it is a multi-step dive into the primitive non-obvious menu structure. I was also annoyed to discover there are no power settings other than 25 and full. I get the impression this is a derivation of a commercial land-mobile radio where the end users were not expected to program anything themselves.
NY5S Rating: 5/5 Feb 1, 2019 16:16 Send this review to a friend
great 2m rig!!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have owned 2, one in the house and one in the F-150 and they work great. I have received a lot of queries as to why I didn't get a dual bander, but I could not justify the cost as most of the 440 repeaters are linked to an adjacnt 2m repeater, so why bother?? Anyway it is great, I can load up all the repeaters for an area of the country on the excel format, write it into my rig in the truck and head out, if I go somewhere else, I change my selections, takes only a few minutes.
K5AHH Rating: 5/5 May 22, 2018 15:57 Send this review to a friend
Nice Overall  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've owned this radio since 2013, and it's never missed a beat. Easy for ME to program because the way you program it is very similar to the Kenwood handhelds I've owned. Loud audio when traveling in the pickup, too. I used to keep the radio in a Havis brand center console over the transmission hump in my 2013 Chevrolet Silverado, but I've since removed it, and installed a Kenwood TK-7160H (basically the commercial version of the Kenwood TM-281A). The 281A is still in service at the house, though.

--I really wish Kenwood would have a "5" watt setting for really long QSOs, or even have the power output setup like this: 5, 10, 15, etc. until it gets to 65. It probably would not take much finagling from some Kenwood engineer, lol! Also, I wish the radio had the heatsink on top like my ICOM IC-2200H did, or the ICOM IC-V8000 I had with a heatsink on top AND a small fan on the back. I guess a downward facing heatsink is perfectly acceptable for short transmitting for periods of time, but I am long winded at times, so when using the radio in the house, I simply got a small desk fan and forced the air onto the sink! Works FB.

--The audio from the front-firing speaker (I love front-firing speakers, since I have my mobile radios in a Havis Console which would otherwise block a top or bottom-firing speaker) sounds much nicer, overall, when compared to radios I've owned such as the ICOM V8000, ICOM IC-2200H, and Yaesu FT-8000.

--These are just really good radios, and for $130, you can't beat it. I'd give it a 4.5 because of the bottom-facing heatsink (heat rises, yes?), and the lack of a lower power level of 5-10 watts. I've learned to live with these "quirks", if you want to call it that, and I'll just give it a 5. Thanks, Kenwood! Nice little radio.
SWLCHRIS Rating: 2/5 Mar 25, 2018 17:57 Send this review to a friend
Good radio Bad directions  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I got my Kenwood TM 281A Saturday at HRO in New Castle DE. I got it home, took some 12 gauge wire to the battery and hooked everything up. It turned on and I began a nightmare 45 minutes to an hour trying to program what should have been easy repeater settings in the channels.Each time I went to enter a repeater setting, it got lost. I had my choice of NOAA or nothing when I would try to pull up the memories I just programmed.It wouldn't hold a memory if I had a gun put to my head. I was on the verge of taking my day off to return the radio and get something else.
Something told me to google Kenwood TM281 memory issues and there was the answer !!
It appears that in the manual it states to press MR button when ready to commit to memory.Which is what I was doing.
What it DOESN"T say is that you have to press MR twice to have the memory set.
As soon as I did that ...everything worked great. I now have my local repeaters and simplex programmed in and easy to access.
So far as radio quality goes, it seems to work a lot better than the Chinese radio I had before or the Alinco handheld I had in the Jeep.I"m able to hit repeaters 30 miles away with ease using my dual band antenna on the roof of the truck. I don't have the intermod issues of the Chinese rig I had before or the random signals from the Alinco.
Time will tell how this radio performs but for a new ham that lack of thorough direction in the manual might be a dealbreaker if they don't look up the issues.
K4TK Rating: 4/5 Dec 11, 2017 08:21 Send this review to a friend
Use mine as a base station setup  Time owned: more than 12 months
I use mine for 2 meters at the house as a base station. I have no complaints, though I admit, I'm more of an HF I don't use my rig a lot.

But for me, all the features and performance are just fine. I have the quick cheat sheet instructions by an aftermarket company, and that keeps me straight on all the features/config.
KE5EDV Rating: 1/5 Jun 12, 2017 14:00 Send this review to a friend
No Longevity  Time owned: more than 12 months
Bought this unit last Mar. or Apr. Had it installed in my truck and it has worked fine so far. Good audio fairly easy to program . This weekend however I started having problems. It seemed to be stuck in the Memory Mode.
I called Kenwood and was able to get a technician the very first try within about 5 seconds. Unfortunately after doing everything for him as he walked me through it that I had already tried several times. After I did all of the things he asked, He said, that it needed to be serviced. He then asked if it was under warranty and I said I think it had just ran out . He then stated as a matter of factly I'd just need to buy a new one. I thought since it had just ran out they might still do something. He said they'd work on it for $75.00 an hour plus shipping. So, needless to say this will probably be my first and only Kenwood.
KD6NXI Rating: 5/5 May 17, 2017 13:10 Send this review to a friend
Easy to use.  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Easy to use and has good audio. Entering menu is a little confusing. Rugged.
N6QN Rating: 1/5 Jun 28, 2016 11:51 Send this review to a friend
Works but short-lived  Time owned: more than 12 months
This is--was--my third Kenwood 2-meter mobile. It lasted just over a year. I had two TM-261's before then: both died just over warranty. When it worked, the 281 did an adequate job: nothing special. I have programming software, which made it a whole lot easier to set up. My replacement will be of another manufacturer.
NW0LF Rating: 5/5 Apr 23, 2016 06:35 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have had the radio now for almost 2 years as a base station. I have had to add a fan to mine because the radio will run hot under extended transmission. I wouldn't hesitate to buy another or recommend the purchase. I like that it is simple to program unlike my Baofeng-well the Baofeng is with Chirp. I have had as base stations an Icom IC-2100 and 207H. Good radios but I got the Kenwood for a good price and don't regret a thing.
WA0UAY Rating: 5/5 Apr 22, 2016 13:58 Send this review to a friend
Excellent  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Just installed the 281 in the SUV. This is the third unit I have had and always impressed with the quality and ease of operation. Programming is simple, front mounted speaker is a real plus. Go ahead and get one. There are no issues with this radio. The only thing I would mention is a slight rattle sound of the speaker at higher volumes, but not objectionable at all.
A proven solid transceiver!
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