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Reviews For: Icom IC-490A

Category: Transceivers: VHF/UHF+ Amateur Base/Mobile (non hand-held)

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Review Summary For : Icom IC-490A
Reviews: 3MSRP:
430-440 mhz all mode rig
Product is not in production
More Info:
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
NE0P Rating: 2006-01-19
OK for today's prices Time Owned: more than 12 months.
If you want to get on 70cm SSB/CW or the satellites, this isn't a bad way to go given the prices I have seen them going for today. I wouldn't pay more than $200 for one in great condition, though. My overall impression is that this radio is kind of deaf. It did come to life a little more with an in-shack preamp and I did manage to work from Iowa to Oklahoma with one a few summers ago.

It has the detented tuning knob which can get old fast, but for weak signal work you probably won't ever tune much away from 432.100. Might be a little more of a pain on the satellites. The up/down buttons on the mic are actually an easier way to tune.

The 490A put out 10 watts, and to my knowledge there was never a 490H version with higher power, as there was for the 290 rigs. It also covered from 430-440mhz only, so it is good for weak signal and satellite work, but not for repeaters in the US. It has dual VFOs and 5 memories-if my memory serves me correct. That should be more than enough for the satellites. I am not sure if there is an optional tone board for it or not, but you will need one if you want to use AO51 or SO50.

It is a good rig to get you on a new band, but it doesn't really hold a candle to the Kenwood TR851A I have also had. That is a much better radio.
G1HBE Rating: 2004-01-24
Real Radio Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I bought one of these as a 'stand-in', while upgrading. I was delighted with its chunky construction and its 'real radio' appearance, not like the 'fashion accessory' appearance of more modern radios. Performance was pretty decent, but some of the features (like memory writing) were poorly implemented and hard to remember. After 4 years of reliable operation, the PA block decided to throw in the towel, and the radio was stripped for bits. Wow, have you seen how these rigs are constructed? Proper UHF engineering!
KU4QD Rating: 2002-06-18
Decent small 70cm SSB/CW rig Time Owned: more than 12 months.
The IC-490A was my very first 70cm SSB/CW rig. It was part of my first field day satellite station (mode B uplink for Oscar 10) and part of all my VHF/UHF weak signal work on that band for a number of years. I eventually replaced it with an IC-475H. While the IC-475H had more power, more features, was newer, and had a better, DDS based receiver, there really was nothing at all wrong with the IC-490A. Best of all, the IC-490A hasn't retained it's value terribly well, and as it approaches 20 years old you can find them quite inexpensively. For someone clooking for an inexpensive way into UHF weak signal work, it's a good choice even today.

The IC-490A put out 10W SSB/CW/FM, and covered 430-440MHz. That's right, it does not reach the repeater portion of the band, so for FM it is basically useless. The Yaesu, Kenwood, and FDK mobiles of the day also had the limited band coverage. They were mobiles for Europe and Japan, where the 70cm band is smaller, but here I suspect they were mainly used as very small base/portable rigs. They served well in that role. I made many contacts with the rig, mainly taking advantage of tropospheric ducting. It was reliable and had a decent receiver in its day, and was, in many ways, comparable to an IC-451A.

My radio was purchased new, and had the red LED display. Some later radios had the green LED much like the IC-290H. It had five memories, which really didn't matter since it was useless for FM. In theory, if you care about memories (or are in Europe where this rig actually covers the repeater band) you'll need an IC-BU1 memory backup unit if you don't have a continuous power source. Otherwise, you'll lose the memories every time you power down the supply.

I parted with this rig some time ago, but I was very satisfied with it and wouldn't mind having another. It would make a great backup rig. Nobody had reviewed one, so I figured I should :)