|This has been the most frustrating radio I've ever purchased. I hope in reading this users have a heads up as to these ergonomic defects and thus have a much less frustrating time than I did. It would have been a lot less frustrating if I had that heads up and didnt have to spend lots of time figuring them out on my own, so I hope this helps some people. Like most things, once you get it set, then you can enjoy the radio, which for most people is probably just fine (for me in the end the Mil Air RX defect is the deal killer). I also hope the MFRs read these so their next radio will be better. Some of these things are little annoyances, but there are a lot of them, they add up (like when you've had a really bad day but nothing major happened, just a lot of little things, thats this radio), and most are completely unnecessary, which...makes them even more annoying.|
Ok, lets get going! First FAIL! I have a test when unboxing a new radio. How fast can I get on the air on a local rpt WITHOUT the manual. This is an important gauge of the ergonomics of a radio that sooner or later will show itself when down the line you need to make a change in the field. Its the first impression. This radio is a Big Fat Fail! This is the worst fail in this regard I have ever seen in 35 years as a ham. The FTM-7250 is the same way. You are required to put in a call sign (for that digital stuff that 90% of people probably dont use) before you can do ANYTHING....INCLUDING PROGRAM via software (my callsign is X because I have no use for digital). Its not intuitive, you are forced to hunt in the manual. When you spend 1/2 hour trying to get that to work and get nowhere (I'm just lucky, I guess), so then you then have to hunt for the reset procedure. Finally I could put my X in and get on 52 simplex and call for the nice young men in their clean white coats. Its not a great start, folks!
I didnt bother trying to program it manually because software is so much easier, right? I downloaded the FREE (Yippee! about time!) (but no free software for the 7250??? what gives?) and the software went to install a new dot net framework. I can program 30+ radios from this computer without having to do this, so I dont know whats so different about this. Several HOURS later (I let it go because I didnt want something like that 1/2 installed if I pulled the plug) it finally finished that and then started installing the original radio software which took the usual minute or less. I changed where it saves the radio "personality" to the same folder as the software, otherwise it saves it in the black hole "Documents" folder. Newer computers likey wont require the dot net update (I hope!). You also need to update the driver for the new USB connection. Its included in the folder once you unzip it (72.6mb zipped, 73.7 unzipped (woohoo! saved a whole 1.1mb!). The program itself is only 2.14mb, so the other 70+mb must be the dot net stuff that every other radio program doesnt need, but at least they saved 1.1mb of bandwidth making you do the extra unzip step (just another one of those small unnecessary thing in the pile). Clicking "Determine" on the com port setup was the only way I got it to work. Once set, its set, but it could have been SOOOO much easier! I had my $26 China special installed, programmed and out the door literally hours less than it took for this.
FAIL! This radio has absolutely the most convoluted software setup I've ever seen. Remove the battery, plug in the charger, turn it on, unplug the charger, plug in the USB cord (any "old" style mini usb cord should work, the supplied one isnt special, and I never heard any "click" like you are supposed to after you plug it in), then plug the charger back again while holding the AMS key. Guess whats not going to work if you dont put in a stupid call sign first????
FAIL! The radio has been out for 2 years and NO AA pack? No bigger pack?? Is there a Chinese knock-off? This radio is obviously made there, and they usually have "sort-of-the-same" knockoffs by now. This is especially awful because of the dreaded battery life I have yet to have the chance to experience. I did change the batt save time to longer, so will see, which of course does nothing in scan mode which is what I usually use. Due to the "dies even when off" feature, its not a good candidate to throw in the glove compartment, it will be dead when you go to use it. That may be due to circuitry in the battery itself and not the radio(one reason I dont like LiIon), so taking the batt off might not help. Guess what happens (or rather doesnt happen) when you let it sit for a few months and it drains to zero? Like I said, I dont like LiIon. In that case an AA pack would be a valuable thing, right? This is not an issue with my $26 Chinese radio, let it sit a year and it comes right on.
One of the big reasons I got this is because of its UHF mill Air capability, Analog 2m and vhf Air and UHF air is all I want. Since FM is their default mode in this range, you have to uncheck Auto in the software and change the mode to AM (then of course reprogram...battery off...charger in... Turn...ETC ETC ETC). So far this radio is COMPLETELY DEAF (like sq off hooked to a discone 1.5 miles from the tower DEAF) on the bottom half of Mil Air (363mhz good, 292mhz DEAF). I live across the river from an air base and can disconnect the ant from my old PRO-43 and it still picks it up. 313mhz is coming in too so I suspect its a passband filter selection error in the radio firmware at 300mhz when it should change at 225mhz. Of course most of my local freqs are in the lower dead zone. In all the advertising I've seen it says wide band receive 108-579.995 but in the manual it has a gap from 222-300, or at least it doesnt specify the sensitivity for that range. Yes, thats false advertising! I realize this isnt the primary function of this radio, but dont advertise a freq range it simply does not get! I'm sure I'm in the minority, but this was a major reason I bought the radio.
FAIL! The word SET is not printed on the radio, so if you forget how to get into it, you will have to dig out your manual. (its Press and Hold the F key, P35). Perhaps a blue (just different than orange) printed "SET" next to the F button would have told me this. Like I said, small annoyances, but a lot of them.
FAIL! The manual is not the whole manual. I can't count how many times I see "download the real manual to see..." Like how do you scan just certain banks? (F then Band, P15 of the ADVANCED manual). Once you are in that bank, press F then 2 and it will scan that bank. I saw nothing regarding scanning more than one bank at a time. I guess you can assign a freq to more than one bank if you want to mix it up. Good luck keeping track of all that. The Advanced manual is a staggering THREE PAGES longer than the regular "Owners Manual", which translates to ONE sheet of paper. What in the world is the purpose of the 2 manuals??? And dont be fooled, the 6.6mb PDF is the Advanced manual, and the bigger 11.5mb PDF is the 3 pages smaller "Owners" Manual. Once you click on the wrong one 15 times you will change the file name to something you can actually understand.
So...you can probably tell my initial impression wasnt exactly stellar! The complete non-functionality of the lower half of the Mil Air band makes this a deal killer for me (this brought the review from 3 to 2) which I realize is probably not a big deal to most of you. But otherwise, for 2m and 440, it seems good (like the $26 radio) . I like the receive audio, it is a little bassy and warm. My old eyes can see the freq on the display. VHF aircraft reception seems pretty good. The belt clip is a (better) standard metal clip that you screw to the back of the radio, not the "cell phone" kind they used on radios like the VX-7r that inevitably leads to the radio falling off. There is zero Fusion in my area, so I really cant comment as to all that, other than it might be of some use if it were DMR instead.
So once you get past the annoyances (and there are a lot of them!), and if Mil Air is not important, its probably OK. If you are on Fusion it will probably serve you fine. If you dont care about digital, the FT-60 (although it was $20 more than this (on sale Dayton weekend) plus you have to buy the software (although its listed on chirp along with the FT-70D...I should have tried that first!) may be less annoying plus has an AA pack (tons of batteries fit it actually), SET is there above the zero key (woohoo!) and supposedly receives Mil Air.