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ICOM IC-T90A
Triple Band Amateur Transceiver
(Kenwood TH-F6A review is down this page)



The "discontinued" Icom IC-T90A Tri-Band Handheld Amateur Transceiver
(Photo : N9EWO)


NOTE : The following 2 HT reviews on this page are from my archives (dated with some corrections done). Dave N9EWO


Dave N9EWO's Review : ICOM IC-T90A (USA Version)
Serial Number on Test Sample : 025xx
(A test of a few HT antenna's using the IC-T90A can be found at the middle of this page.
)

(I no longer own this transceiver , Discontinued Model)


COUNTRY OF MANUFACTURE :
IC-T90A: Japan
BP-217 Lithium Ion Battery: Japan
BC-110AR Charger (for BP-217 charged on set) : Taiwan
FA-S6270D antenna : Japan (a guess here ?)
Accessories :
LC-152A Case: Japan
BP-216 AA Battery Case: Japan
BC-139 Desktop Charger: Japan
BC-123A Adapter (comes with BC-139): China
HM-131 Speaker Microphone (a.k.a. Pryme ?) : Taiwan


Good News: Very easy to use with no function button and no 3 function buttons. Overall excellent receive sensitivity across it's entire range, SW sensitivity being the best in the lot of current crop of HT's that allow HF receive (at time of writing). Good contrast LCD with excellent lighting. Standard mic/speaker jacks on top of set where they should be. Good transmit audio quality and loudness out of the box (using internal microphone and speaker). Attenuation setting. Preset weather frequencies (TV presets now useless in the USA). External BC-139 desktop charger option (see Bad News). Built in weather alert feature.

Bad News: No dual receive. Serious receiver images noted from the 160 mhz area into the 2 meter part of the set. Hissy receive audio with a internal speaker that breaks into distortion ay only moderate volume. Only 2 RF output selections and not stored into memory. TX PTT / Sql buttons press fairly stiff. No SSB on short-wave coverage. Clumsy stock FA-S6270D antenna even with it's club not attached. Memory bank system not easy to use. Can only display frequency OR alpha tags, does not allow both at the same time. Useless "Low" battery indications. Computer cable and software grossly overpriced. No schematic or block diagram included with set. 15 hour wait time when charging battery on the set. The equally overpriced desktop charger option BC-139 runs extremely
"HOT" in operation, and sometimes has intermittent glitch when first inserting a dead battery.

Important Note : My tests were done within a city of a population of approx. 60,000 people. Overloading in the VHF-UHF segments was not a problem. No tests were done in a larger metro city area where such overloading might be more of a concern. Please treat these findings with this in mind.


Why A IC-T90 and what is it ?

In my view Icom has not had a winner in the handheld "ham" transceiver market in a couple of decades (yes decades). Were just about all dogs, and the battery disasters over the years with the IC-W2A series and even worse models IC-T8 and IC-T81 series sets sure left a nasty sour taste in owner's mouths. Icom was just striking out time and time again and again to my eyes !

The now discontinued IC-Q7A was an SINGLE exception, however it lacks real RF power of any kind. But still has about the BEST "wide band" receive section using a triple conversion scheme. I don't know of another currently sold handheld transceiver that uses triple conversion receiver (including the IC-T90A we are looking at here which is only dual conversion).

So I had written off Icom with HT's until the IC-T90. We of course should have had the IC-T82 awhile back but being that the sets FM wide receive was a total disaster, Icom decided to stop the distribution just as it was being released in Japan (I guess a few exists in the world but not many).

The IC-T90A is a triple-band handheld transceiver. Transmit is on 6 Meters, 2 Meters and 70 cm. The receiver coverage is between 495 kHz and 999.990 Mhz (with the usual stupid cell phone gaps for the USA version that are not even used in that band anymore). Receive modes are AM (wide), FM and FM Wide for FM broadcast reception. 555 memory channels, with really 500 being useful. No SSB receive mode I'm afraid.

Still Made in Japan. / Speaker-Microphone jack on top.

Just about all parts of this set are made in high cost Japan. With an exception of the ac chargers and the HM-131 speaker microphone which come from either Taiwan or China.

All parts of the set look well made indeed. We have the same battery latch system that is used with the IC-Q7A. I will agree the plastic is a bit thin on this latch.

Whew...the speaker microphone jack is on top where it should be. Thank goodness.

VERY Confusing External DC - Charge Jack Operation / 15 hours to charge the battery using the included wall charger / Manual OK

When charging the supplied BP-217 lithium ion battery on the radio, one uses the included BC-110AR (USA version) wall wart and plugs it into the external 11V DC jack. Humm, this charger is rated at 12V at 200ma. The owners manual states that you NEVER should connect a power source over 11.5V EVER.

I guess leave the radio off when charging, but this is confusing indeed. I guess when you use the optional 11vdc car cord it will not charge the battery. Oops , but it says it will on page 4 of the owners manual.

Well not so fast again as on page 5 it sezs :

"If a battery pack is attached, the voltage of the external power supply must be within 11.5~ 16 volts, otherwise the battery power may be used for operation"

BUT hey wait a minute (SAY WHAT), you are NEVER supposed to connect anything over 11.5 volts to this jack. Icom needs to make it more clear on this one...or include a couple of Tylenol with the set. This is not good!

And again you have the gremlin that it takes 15 hours to charge a BP-217 pack. This is way too long in my view to charge a lithium ion battery.

Other than this very confusing part of the manual, it does a pretty good job of explaining the set. Much better than Vertex-Standard-Yaesu (or my term "VSY") manuals which are total horror stories, at least the last couple I have tried to read.

BC-139 Desktop Charger OK, but overpriced and runs very
hot ! / A bug maybe when you start to charge a battery ?

Good to see Icom to offer a desktop charger, the BC-139 (see picture). It comes with a 1-amp 12volt-wall wart to use with it. Being that the battery takes super long to charge in the set (15 hours), you almost have to think that Icom had this in the game plan to sell lots of the BC-139's (as a must), as the price of this charger is absurd.

Well, it's somewhat for good reason. There are some guts to the BC-139. It's not just a cup to hold the battery and a pretty light. There are some major innards in here. An internal 2 amp fuse, couple of IC's, a relay and other circuitry make up the bulk of the charger.

It does the job too in about 2 1/2 hours. However one bug that a prospective buyer/owner needs to know about this charger (I have heard this from a few owners now, and I too have experienced this so it's not a fantasy):

"Once in awhile right after you drop in a dead battery in the BC-139, the LED shows that it's charging-orange. After only about 1 min (or right away sometimes) to goes green showing that it's charged, which it is not. Just pulling it out and placing it back in the stand again does the trick."

Only other gremlin with the BC-139 is with excessive heat. This is really a MAJOR problem especially with the first half of charging cycle of a dead battery. The bottom metal cover will get so hot that you will be unable to touch it without a burn.

This is not good, and I had a peek inside the BC-139 and a BA10T voltage regulator (TO-220 device) is what's getting so hot. It's "sinked" to the steel bottom over on the BA10T's back mounting screw (nut) using a small pad (cube) of thermo material between the nut that mounts the BA10T to the board and the cover. "This is really poor engineering ICOM", especially at this price point. Bad news for sure....

Only one screw holds the bottom cover on this charger. Mine was about to fall off (it was that loose) when I open this up from the package (purchased new).

Watch out if you take a BC-139 apart, there is a very small plastic pin on the floor of the chargers cup that can be lost very easily. It's a "filler" pin that helps push down on a micro switch on the PC board as a battery is inserted.

No CTCSS delay problems

The first thing I checked out on this set was to see if we had the dreaded CTCSS delay problem that plagues a number of Vertex-Standard-Yaesu HT's. Thank goodness we do not. Works the way it should even in scan.

No Dual Receive / Good LCD / Frequency or Alpha Tags, but not both at same time / Weather alert fearture (USA version only)

Here is an area where the Kenwood TH-F6 will shine. We only have one receiver. So you cannot listen to 2 signals simultaneously. You can use that priority stuff...but I find these to be a pain and more of a annoyance than being useful. A built in weather alert feature is part of the IC-T90A (USA version only). But be aware if you operate this the receiver will act like a priority circuit , that is it will cut out the received regular signal for second while it checks the WX channel for the alert tone.

The LCD is ample big and features a 4-step contrast setting. The default is 3 and I found that the max setting of 4 worked best for my eyes.

Downside is that one can choose frequency or alpha tags to be displayed. Not both at the same time. Bit of a downfall, as the old Yaesu VX-5R did this.

Very easy to use, no function button and no 3 duty ones either / PTT a bit stiff to push / Only 2 Transmit power levels.

I was able to pull this set out of the box and use it without touching the manual. Try and do that with your Yaesu VX-5R , VX-6R or VX-7R. No way charley...

No function button and no mazes of one button doing 3 things either. Buttons have a good tactile feel and we will cross our fingers that the lettering will not rub off down the road? Some do wiggle a bit more than what I would have liked to see (say the volume up/down buttons), but is not a problem. The rotary encoder has a bit of "giggle play", but again is not bad enough to be serious.

The PTT button is a bit hard to push to my liking. Yes, it's the good old rubber PTT. I guess you get used to this in time but why does this practice continue? Kenwood's TH-F6 is much better in this regard.

Also just as it is on the Kenwood TH-F6A, we only have 2 "useful" transmit power levels. One is needed around 1 to 2 watt area.

Another little smirk is the fact that the power level is not saved to memory channel. But not a real big deal either. Yaesu does this.

This has been covered elsewhere, the IC-T90's case will get extremely HOT in the high power 5 watt setting with any extended use. I don't like using HT"s at the HI power setting for any length of time , let alone connecting it up to ANY external DC power source. This is a handheld transceiver and not a mobile or base rig.

Receive Sensitivity Good / Short-wave broadcast best around, but no SSB / Stock Antenna OK / 10 dB attenuation selection.

I have found that the overall receive sensitivity is very good over it's range. You might have to revert to a different "Rubber Antenna" to strut its stuff, as the stock FA-S6270D antenna may not do the set justice in certain area's. Low band VHF area (30~50 MHz) proves to be much better when compared to the Kenwood TH-F6, which is fairly crummy even with a better antenna on it. My local government (DPW), which still uses 45 MHz, came in super on the IC-T90 sample (using the stock antenna).

I still find the stock FA-S6270D antenna to be useful but unfortunately is real clumsy on this pocket set, and that's without it's added 6 meter club attached. With that thing on it, it makes it even worse. I have a few other antennas tested with the stock one below and I hope this helps choosing a less bulky and maybe better performing (or even worse) replacement ?

Short-Wave broadcast reception on this HT to my ears the best in the lot (for one that can do that). Now don't get excited here as it will still not rival a better short-wave portable, It simply will not. Selectivity is of course wide, but useable.

Now as can be expected, the rubber antenna will not even begin to work to properly receive short-wave signals. I found the best and easiest way was to connect a 25 foot piece of "thin" wire to the "bolt" on stock ducky (remove the tip). A small "gator" clip on the wire end worked for me, and this can be easily pocketed for use wherever.

Nope, no SSB on the SW side, and again the Kenwood TH-F6A has this. But unfortunately as we already know the TH-F6A is as deaf as a toothpick on HF even with a decent chunk of wire attached.... So no match up here, the T90 wins easy.

Large outdoor antennas on SW will of course overload the set and this can be expected. We have a 10-dB attenuation setting, and of course will help with any overloading anywhere in its received range.

A finding that is actually common to many HT's but it appears to be worse on this radio, if I hold the set in my hand...signals can be much improved on any frequency (HF/VHF/UHF). A signal being full scale in hand and when set down dropped to nothing.

Not entirely all red roses however. Aircraft band was one area that I felt was a bit lacking, but being I'm not into listening to this band, my input here should be taken lightly.

FM broadcast is only so-so. Capture ratio being in the poor area. Sensitivity is useable, but for any weak stations...well fair is what I have to give it.

Audio Quality: Transmit and Receive

Right out of the box the IC-T90A has more than adequate transmit audio level. Nice and clean/crisp and not muffled. So one should not have to resort to either having to turn up trimmer pots inside or dealing with some silly software setting to bring it to life.

Receive audio quality is OK, perhaps a bit more punch would have been nice. I do hear a disconcerting amount of "hiss" from the set during a received signal. This does bother me a bit as the IC-Q7A does not have this all to my ears and overall it's audio is better. One should get used to this in time...but a bit of "oh no" creeps in here!

The real gremlin with the receive audio lies with the internal speaker. It breaks into distortion at only moderate volume levels. This varies a bit with the signal being received, but is nevertheless a sticking point with this set for me. Icom is trying to push bass responce into a tiny handheld speaker (just like in the old IC-P7A bomb), and YOU JUST CANNOT DO THIS ICOM (wake up here) !!! A "tinny" sound is going to work so much better for outdoor use.

A great package...however

The main grumble with the IC-T90 is the bassy receive audio. Accessories are stiff in price to my eyes. The LC-152A case is overpriced for what it is (but it does provide full protection of the keypad and display). Computer cable and software are so overpriced to be totally unacceptable. I would have liked to see dual receive, at least one more RF power output setting (say 1~2 watts), and a shorter charge time using the included wall wart , 15 hours is way too long.

Dave N9EWO
N9EWO
ver 4.1

(I no longer own this transceiver , Discontinued model)

Current Draw (as tested by N9EWO), Yes it draws current when off (like most radio's do) .

in mA
ICOM IC-Q7A AA Batteries installed but radio NOT ON

.1

ICOM BP-216 (IC-T90A's AA Battery Case) AA Batteries in case but NOT connected to radio

1.2

ICOM BP-217 Battery Pack installed in ICOM IC-T90A, but radio NOT on

.45

N9EWO's Duckie "shootout", are these all rubber "Dummy Loads" ?

We have 4 SMA "rubber" antenna's to compare here, all tested on the Icom IC-T90A . Connecing these to another HT may not give the same results ?? Do not want to get too long here, so I used a chart to help in the report. All tested with the transceiver being held in the hand.

The 4 tested antennas are :
* ICOM FA-S6270D (included with IC-T90A USA version)
* YAESU VX-1R's (stubbie) 4.25 inch long
* Maldol MH-511 (stubbie) 4.25 inch long Tri-Band (6m, 2m, 70 cm)
* Maldol MH-510
"Active Hunter" (or should that be "hunting spear" ?) 21 inch Tri-Band (6m, 2m, 70 cm)

I know it's not fair to test "stubbie" ducks with longer ones, but I feel it will give a better idea if one is choosing a antenna for purchase.

Dave N9EWO's "Duckie" Test Chart (revised)

1 = Best 4 = Worst

50Mhz

FM BC

AIRCRAFT

2 Meter

155 Mhz + WX

US CH13TV

UHF 446Mhz

800 Mhz

ICOM FA-S6270D

2

2

2

2

3

2

3

1

YAESU VX-1R antenna (Stubbie)

n/a

3

4

3

4

3

2

2

Maldol MH-511 (Stubbie)

3

4

3

4

2

4 " DEAF "

4

4 " DEAF "

Maldol MH-510 (21 inch spear)

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

3

The ICOM FA-S6270 with it's added club works well for 6 meters (adds weight and "thugly-ness" to the antenna). Hard in my view to carry around to any extent. The Maldol MH-510 adds a few db improvement but as you can figure, no way one is going to carry this antenna around at all. The stress to the SMA is really there nasty. Yaesu's VX-1R's antenna...forget it at 50 mhz (as can be expected).

The only antenna that did any good at all on the FM broadcast band was the Maldol MH-510, all others failed pretty much.

In the aircraft band only small improvements were noted between the antennas (all poor here but could be due to the set just being poor here ?) ,except for the MH-510 which did a touch better.

VHF 2 meter was a bit strange. The Yaesu VX-1's antenna did OK (nothing top either) in the Ham bands, but just above say at 155 and WX frequencies went down hill fast. On the other hand the Maldol MH-511 was "OK" in the 2 meter band and went to fantasic in the 155 Mhz and WX band area. In fact the best performance of a "stubbie duck" I have ever tested in this part of the spectrum. But alas it's not all roses I'm afraid.

Being I have no 220 Mhz signals in my area to use a testing, I used TV audio on USA CH 13. So as close to 200 Mhz as I could get (this was tested when analog TV signals were still around). The Maldol MH-511 was so deaf here as to be unacceptable.

The Maldol MH-511 works fair at best in the 400~500 Mhz UHF area, is indeed at the bottom of the pack. The Yaesu VX-1R's antenna works very well here. The ICOM is pretty close 2nd. After second tests in transmit the Maldol MH-510 really improves UHF (TX) signals by almost double and is in first place . 800 mhz receive is not good at all ,this is the area that the Maldol MH-510 takes a dive.

800 Mhz area (receive) is also where the Maldol MH-511 falls totally flat on it face (it's unnacceptable). Kills signals to nothing that I receive ok on all other antennas tested. Again the MH-510 only a bit better than that.

Ok , lets face it the overall winner is still the Icom stock antenna (one that comes with the set). But you will have to achive your own view by looking at the chart above. But even with the so-so showing I found the Maldol MH-511 to still be very useful. It's a great length for all 3 bands and even works on 6 meters (so be it very limited) without a hunting spear shooting out of it , perfect for any very local crossbanding use to a base transceiver.

Dave N9EWO
N9EWO
Ver 1.7


Kenwood TH-F6A
Triple Band Amateur Transceiver




The Kenwood TH-F6A (as shown at the 2001 Dayton Hamvention)

Dave N9EWO's report....on the TH-F6A

Approx. Serial Number of Tested Sample : 305000xx
Country Of Origin : Radio : Singapore, Battery : Indonesia , Charger : Taiwan
(Note: I do NOT own a TH-F6A myself , OLDER test sample was borrowed via a local "ham-friend" . Test done with stock antenna only.)

The Kenwood TH-F6A

Kenwood has a very high tech amateur handheld transceiver here. More features in comparison to what the Icom IC-T90 or Yaesu VX-5R offer. However it has a bit of mixed differences that might not be pluses for some ??

Indeed it has "Tri-Band Amateur Transmit" FM coverage. This TX coverage is a first for a 3 band talkie. 144 Mhz / 222 Mhz and of course the 440 Mhz ham bands. I think I would rather have 50 Mhz instead of the 222 Mhz. But I guess this will make many very happy. 3 RF output power levels, one at full 5 watts, another at .5 watts (1/2 watt) and a extra low setting at .05 watts (50 mw). These are a still wimpy selections when compared to the Yaesu VX-5 which are at 5W / 2.5W / 1W and .3 watts (much better I think). Total SW receive coverage (not being limited to 16 Mhz as is on the Yaesu VX-5R).

Receive Coverage / With SSB

The MAIN intrest to me is the receive coverage on this new critter. It covers from .01 to 1300 Mhz (with some gaps for the usual stupid US laws which mean nothing anymore). So we have short wave receive spectrum with no gaps. And to make this even more like a dream...it's ALL MODE RECEIVE..like SSB. However, as indicated below the SW receiver falls flat !!! So perhaps we have to use the term nightmare with the SW reception side of this HT. The set does indeed have separate LSB and USB selections and with the finest SSB tuning step of 33 hz Certinally better than just a 100 hz step, which would not be fine enough (i.e. : Sony ICF-2010 SSB steps) .

Kenwood TH-F6A Coverage A - Band TX / RX A - Band Guaranteed Range B - Band (RX only with gaps)
144 Mhz 144-148 / 137-174 Mhz 144 -148 Mhz .01 -1300 Mhz
220 Mhz 222-225 / 222-260 Mhz 222 -225 Mhz .01 -1300 Mhz
440 Mhz 430-450 / 410-470 Mhz 435 - 450 Mhz .01 -1300 Mhz

First Impressions

When I first picked up the TH-F6, the first thing that hit me is the fact that the entire case is made of plastic. A very thin die-cast metal heat sink is found in the middle of the sandwich for heat dissipation, but it seems a bit weak, especially if one is planning to use high power in a above average state. It's really going to get
hot with any heavy use in high power. However I did not test this one out, but is common sense. You should not be using a high power setting (ie : 5 watts) in excess on a HT anyway. So for most of us this should be of little moment. For people who are planning to rag chew at the 5 watt level, you are going to have a problem here .Radio is solid and looks well constructed. The radio is made in Singapore, the lithium-ion battery comes from "Indonesia", and the wall charger from Taiwan. No part of this set is made in "hi-cost" Japan.

The included rubber antenna has a more of a "rubber" feel than plastic. The radio uses a SMA connector.We have a nice "metal" belt clip included that attaches to the set with screws (NOT TO THE BATTERY..thank goodness), and is painted a black color.

This set is indeed easy to use. I actually put it in operation right away without reading the manual and did quite well. Try and do that with the Yaesu VX-5R..(not in your life time)....You will not find a "triple function" button on the TH-F6A.

Super PTT and Battery Latch

Here is one that Kenwood should be given 5 stars for. The "PTT" button is of a HARD plastic. None of that soft rubber-soft plastic nonsense that has been with us for too many years with the manufactures. These break down, and usually makes the PTT difficult to a royal pain to use. The "PTT" button is a real treat on the TH-F6, very good feel and tactile response. It has a bit of giggle to it, but is not excessive. Good job here Kenwood !!

As some of you "old timers" (hi hi) might remember the old Kenwood TR-2600 from the mid 1980's also used a "hard plastic" PTT. These indeed hold up better than the "rubber-soft plastic" covers. The "rubber-soft plastic" ones should be abandoned totally (are you listening Icom, Vertex-Standard-Yaesu , Alinco !!).

All other keys and buttons are indeed of a "soft plastic". The main keyboard buttons are more flat and we can hope that the lettering on the keys will hold up better than the lousy Yaesu VX-5R's buttons (which can start to wear off only days after use).

Battery attaches and holds onto the set properly and uses a good latching system. Battery has no play or slop when attached to the radio and it has a real latch. None of that flexible "plastic" piece stuff that Icom seems to like to use these days (like on a cell phone), which can and does break very easy . Another one that Kenwood did right.

UPDATES : After looking over the color brochure on the TH-F6A, and as with other Kenwood HT's, I noticed that Kenwood still uses a excellent quality "SMA" antenna connector. The style of the connector is attached to the chassis using a flange with 2 screws. It's not the "cheap" sma style connector that all other manufactures are using. The cheap style sma connector is held into place with "one nut", and will become loose in use and can also damage the innards of the set once it does. There is just no way it will become loose on the TH-F6.

On the down side: Many people are indicating to me about the lettering wearing off the keys on the TH-F6 with almost no use. I mean this a really bad gremlin here, even worse than Yaesu handie talkies that suffer from this same quirk. The
(so called) case that Kenwood USA sells for this set (the SC-51) is really totally worthless to my eyes. It offers no plastic cover protection over the keypad. I do not see this case listed in the "japan printed" brochure and I also see that it's made in the USA which makes me to believe that Kenwood Japan has no case made for this set at all ? UPDATE : It has been reported with later production samples, this wear issue has been corrected (or at least improved upon) ?? But I cannot say one way or the other .

On a point that I have already covered here, but is worth another comment as others have contacted me direct on this one . Don't expect to do alot of high power transmitting with this set (almost like none at all). The heat sink is not robust enough and at the high power setting will inded cut back in only a very short while. This topic is covered not only in the manual but in the brochure as well. But again I don't use a HT at 5 watts either (perhaps for a very short while).

But a couple of nasty ones Kenwood !!

The LCD Display / Buttons / S-Meter

This is a tiny radio, and of course we are going to have a tiny display and tiny buttons. The buttons you can get used to, and were well laid out to me. The dial lighting and keypad lighting is simply the best I have ever used. The light is perfect and evenly lit, however you will not have the "numbers" in the dark as Kenwood still does not mark (next to them) these on the keys. But this actually make the set easier to use this way, so is really not a drawback.

You have one "bar line" s-meter for both receivers. But I guess for what you need to have displayed it works. The only real down side is the fact that you cannot have the Alpha tags and the frequency displayed at the same time. This is a real down side and one that the VX-5R does better (but of course the Kenwood has dual receive). Kenwood does make it easy to toggle with only one button (no function button needed either to be hit to toggle this).

Speaker Audio / Volume Control

I felt that the speaker audio is very good for such a small radio. You of course are NOT going to get ear shattering audio with full spectrum sound on a set of this size.

Receuive audio has a very nice clear sharp sound to it, with no motor boating , buzzy sounds or excessive "bass" responce trying to be pushed into it . It is certainly an improvement to the Yaesu VX-5R and it's problems with receive audio. However I find the volume control to be a bit of a pain to adjust. It's placement which is under the tuning encoder, is a chore to have to seperate. Here the VX-5R wins for volume control placement. But I do not find this to be a major drawback either. Transmit audio is decent with a good level and is crisp with no hollow sounds, good indeed.

Dual Receive..Not Always Dual, When It Should Be ??

The TH-F6A can indeed receive 2 signals at the same time. But hold the phone again, as some "Dual" receive Handie Talkie's will receive say VHF 2-Meters while transmitting on the 70 cm (440 mhz). Well the TH-F6A simply will NOT do this. The sub receiver mutes. So this makes the dual receive not as much as of a plus as it should be. But I'm sure it comes down to money (as usual).

The Receiver, How Does it do ??

As far as general VHF-UHF and 900 MHz area goes the Kenwood TH-F6A (when compared to the VX-5R), to my ears is a very even performer across the spectrum. And most important it's general sensitivity is a huge improvement over the Yaesu VX-5R. The Kenwood does extremely better in the 800-900 mhz area. A law enforcement agency about 30 miles from me in the 850 mhz area that I cannot even hear with the Yaesu VX-5R (at all), comes in about 80% quieting on the TH-F6A. That's impressive.

The only area in the VHF area that the Yaesu receive does better to my ears in the 50 MHz area (using the included antenna), that is 6 meters. Not sure if the included antenna had a play here, but the VX-5R wins big here. Low band performance (approx. in the 30~50 MHz area) on the Kenwood to me was not good. You are not going to break any records here. Perhaps a different antenna might help, but did not do any testing here beyond this.

You will find the "A" main receiver to be a bit more sensitive as compared to "B". But is not a major difference. But for max. performance be sure and use "A" for any important ham frequency reception.

SW Reception a BIG disappointment !!!!

An internal "Bar Antenna" which works between .1 to 10.1 MHz is included. Well the only place that I found this to work well was in the AM broadcast area say between .530 and 1.8 MHz. Anywhere else forget it !!! The bar antenna is totally deaf for any SW stations (which can really be expected with a "bar" antenna of this type). So you toggle in the set up mode to toggle the .1 to 10.1 mhz range to the SMA connector, so the entire SW coverage is over to the antenna connector. AND you add a chunk of thin wire say '"30 FEET" length, and this you say this should will allow for GOOD shortwave reception ?? You are going to be
DEAD WRONG !!!

Yes, signals will be there and perhaps even more tolerable (stronger) during night time listening conditions with this added long wire. But it is still not good news. If I connect it to a nice BIG outdoor ham antenna to it, it does not do half bad (actually OK). But really.......this is a "Hand Held" receiver, and this set must be able to work with portable antenna's not 5 element beams. Let's face it, the sensitivity on the SW part of the spectrum was just downright unacceptable on the tested sample.

One more note on this, The TH-F6A is a bit more sensitive above 10.1 MHz than below (yes proper toggle of the bar antenna has been done !!). Actually quite a bit, go and figure that out !! But still is not good. Just about any $ 20. cheap analog SW set will blow away the TH-F6A on receiving SW signals.

Selectivity On SW Not Half Bad For What It Is

The part I was worried abut , Selectivity on SW receive was a bit better than what I was thinking. Yes, wide..I would guess about perhaps 9 khz or so (again a guess mind you ??) for both AM and SSB/CW modes. But here it was useable. But with the extremely poor sensitivity, do not buy this set to count on for ANY shortwave reception, you will be most disgruntled. Kenwood needs to improve this one. Yes the Yaesu VX-5R is limited to below 16 MHz and no SSB, but it has the edge with sensitivity (if that means anything as it too is pretty deaf, and a much too wide bandwidth filter).

The SSB seemed to be stable enough and worked OK, however it was off a good 150 hz high on our test sample.

Software And Memories

I was able to test the Beta version (v 0.00) of the control software using "Window's 95". It will require the Kenwood cable model PG-4P. It worked well with no problems, either working within the program or uploading to the radio. Worked perfect.

The channel memories will not store transmit power level. Another one that the Yaesu VX-5R does indeed do. Not a big one here as the TH-F6A only has 3 power levels, which buy the way is another drawback on the Kenwood. A middle power level is needed badly. Yaesu does TX power levels better I think....

A Few Other Points

Big Capacity Li-Ion Battery and other first time feature's for Kenwood. First set for Kenwood that has a Lithium Ion pack, and a nice B-I-G one at that. Try a 7.4 v at 1550 mah. Super-Dooper..eh (Update: Later samples include a 2000 mah batery) !! A MAJOR downer is we see ALL of it's jack connections on the right side of the set (yuck, I still still hate on HT's !!!). CTSSS encode and decode, and another first for a Kenwood ...DCS (Digital Coded Squelch) is on the TH-F6A.

I see no drop in charger from Kenwood for the TH-F6 (aftermarket drop in chargers however do, but not tested) . Using the included wall wart charger indicates a 6 hour time period to charge a dead pack. It also indicated in the owners manual is that leaving the pack on the charger after "standby" appears (when done) will shorten the life of the pack...humm ??? IMPORTANT UPDATE : There have been reports around over the years (including eham reviews) that the internal PC board fuses are prown to blow, not sure if this ill has been addressed and corrected ??

I'm sorry that I was unable to do any intermod test on this radio. I live in smaller town , and noticed no problems in this area. Of course in other larger metro area this well may be different ??

A very good HT here and overall improvement over the old Yaesu VX-5R. This is the most interesting HT to enter the market in many years with a number of first's in a "mini" (or even a full) size. Lets hope that others (or even Kenwood) improve SW receive side of the fence on models down the road......this one really stinks with the TH-F6A. The Yaesu VX-5R pars a shade better (but not by much) with SW reception sensitivity.

Dave N9EWO
N9EWO
Ver 3.5

General Information : Kenwood TH-F6A
Modulation: A-Band
: FM , B-Band : FM, FM-W, FM-N, AM, SSB, CW
Size with Lithium Battery : W: 2 5/16 x H 3 7/16 x D 1 3/16 inches Weight 8.8 oz's
Size with BT-13 battery case option with 4 "AA" Batteries (RF power output 1.7 to 2.5 watts) : W: 2 5/16 x H 3 7/16 x 1 5/16 inches Weight 9.87 oz's
Battery System : Lithium Ion 7.4 Volt, 1550 Mah Capacity (newer samples are 2000 Mah)
Memory Channels: 400 (plus call and info channels)
RF Power Output: Hi : 5 watts Low: .5 Watts (1/2 watt) Extra Low (EL): .05 Watts (50 mw's)


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