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#297593 - 11/17/20 03:24 AM The ultimate prepper radio?
chaosmagnet Offline
Sheriff
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 3436
Loc: USA
Iíve been a ham radio operator for decades. Recently I purchased my first brand-new HF rig, an Icom IC-705. Itís my first radio of any kind made by Icom. This first impressions review will be based on about a week of home-office and backyard experimentation.

The IC-705 is designed to run at a maximum 5W of output on an included rechargeable battery, with 1880 mAh of capacity, or a larger version with 3150 mAh capacity. These are the same two batteries that the current Icom handheld ham radios use, which I have never touched. It can run at 10W output on external power. For transmitting, this is low power.

Size wise itís big for a receiver and ridiculously tiny for an all-band transceiver, at roughly 7.9◊3.3◊3.2 in and less than 2.5 lbs with the smaller battery. I got several hours of operation out of that battery before it dropped down to about half power and I wrapped up my play time.

It covers all amateur radio HF bands (160M down to 10M) with 6M, 2M and 70cm of VHF and UHF coverage. The touch screen display makes it about as easy to learn and operate as a full-featured radio can be. I have radios with fewer features that are significantly more challenging to learn and use.

The radio is designed to have a single USB cable to operate with amateur digital modes, which is where this radio is meant to shine. In the last few years, amateur digital modes have taken a huge leap forward in allowing very long distance communication with very low power output. It also recharges via USB. Both features are a big deal and will make ti a lot easier to operate, especially, for portable operation.

My first full day of operation was significantly marred by deploying a wire antenna backwards, with the feed point in the wrong location. I had a few SSB voice conversations despite that, but lesson learned.

The receiver on this radio is unbelievably good, and after a few hours invested in reading the manuals and a few more working it, I can say that itís the best receiver in my arsenal. I was hearing stations clearly from all over the world with my compromised antenna. I doubt that thereís a commercially available receiver at this size thatís anywhere near as good.

The most commonly used applications for digital ham radio operation donít yet have the right settings for this rig, and I spent some time fiddling with it unsuccessfully. I have some time set aside next week to continue with that effort, and my confidence that I can overcome the difficulties and user-related errors is strong.

Icomís configuration software is very hard to use, which seems like the industry standard for ham radio. I spent hours figuring out how to import the 70cm and 2M frequencies I usually use into that program so that I could configure the radio with them.

As with all HF rigs, the antenna is a big deal. Build or buy a good one and learn how to get it set up right. Iím planning a couple of homebrew antenna projects to work on soon.

If youíre a ham who wants a rig that can give you hundreds of miles or better of reach on a tiny power budget, youíll be very pleased with this unit. If youíre a prepper who isnít a ham, this is a spendy piece of kit indeed, and Iíd probably direct you to a far less expensive radio.

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#297594 - 11/17/20 05:13 AM Re: The ultimate prepper radio? [Re: chaosmagnet]
Phaedrus Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2781
Loc: Big Sky Country
I'll look into that one! I've long been interested in getting a HAM license but something always comes up to distract me. It would be good to identify a good versatile radio that could get me started but provide enough capability to not be disposable.
_________________________
ďI'd rather have questions that cannot be answered than answers that can't be questioned.Ē óRichard Feynman

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#297595 - 11/17/20 06:43 AM Re: The ultimate prepper radio? [Re: chaosmagnet]
haertig Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/13/05
Posts: 2219
Loc: Colorado
I am glad to see a review of this radio!

I am not ready to buy my first HF rig quite yet, but I've started looking around. My top three choices thus far are

(1) ICOM IC-705 like you have here
(2) ICOM IC-7300 higher powered sibling of the 705, but without 2m and 70cm
(3) Yaesu FT-991A direct competitor to ICOM's IC-7300

Does your IC-705 have a built-in antenna tuner? I know the IC-7300 has that, but I don't know about the IC-705.

How do you find the touchscreen? That is a little bit of a worry for me. As I get older and my eyesight and hand/eye coordination gets worse, I wonder about these things. But everything seems to be going touchscreen these days.

In my ham class, we got lots of hands on experience with equipment. One of those things was setting up a portable antenna and then using an IC-7300 with that. We had a few exercises to complete for class. I don't remember liking or hating the touchscreen. Probably because I was so new to the radio I wasn't thinking about evaluating the user interface, just getting the assignment done. I do remember that VFO tuning knob was butter smooth though. Spinning that thing just exuded quality.

If one ends up doing any amount of remote transmitting, the IC-705 seems like a dream radio. It pretty much has it all, except for transmitting power. But that's not what it was designed for. For a stay-at-home rig I might be tempted with the IC-7300 with it's 100 watts of transmitting power and then a separate 2m/70cm radio to supplement it. What would be ideal is an IC-705 with external power amp for home use. To go out in the field, you just grab the IC-705 with its battery and leave the power amp behind.

I wonder if anybody does remote transmitting on 160M though. Sure, you'd have this little bitty radio. But the antenna requirements wouldn't be so little bitty...

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#297596 - 11/17/20 12:42 PM Re: The ultimate prepper radio? [Re: Phaedrus]
chaosmagnet Offline
Sheriff
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 3436
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Phaedrus
I'll look into that one! I've long been interested in getting a HAM license but something always comes up to distract me. It would be good to identify a good versatile radio that could get me started but provide enough capability to not be disposable.


There are currently three gradations of Amateur Radio license in the USA, with no-longer-used license classes grandfathered in. All ham radio licensing is dependent upon passing a multiple choice test, with every possible question in each question pool published, along with its correct answer. You can in fact pass an exam by memorizing the answers to the questions, if you choose.

Anyone, licensed or not, may listen to any amateur radio frequency on any mode. Transmission on ham radio frequencies is limited to licensees by Federal law. When I was working on my first license, I bought a radio before I passed my exam, and it was quite an incentive.

The Technician license is easiest to get but has very limited HF privileges.

The General license is a bit tougher to get and has great HF privileges. This is my class of license.

The Extra license is very challenging, and has all ham radio privileges. Iíd like to do this one day, but work has pushed it to the back burner.


If thereís interest, Iím happy to support an online training event. I can probably get my Elmer (a ham radio term indicating a mentor who had a significant impact on an operatorís learning) to assist.

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#297597 - 11/17/20 12:58 PM Re: The ultimate prepper radio? [Re: chaosmagnet]
chaosmagnet Offline
Sheriff
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 3436
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: haertig
I am glad to see a review of this radio!


Thanks!

Quote:
(1) ICOM IC-705 like you have here
(2) ICOM IC-7300 higher powered sibling of the 705, but without 2m and 70cm
(3) Yaesu FT-991A direct competitor to ICOM's IC-7300


The FT-991A is very highly regarded, as is the IC-7300. Without having tried either, Iíd be more inclined to the IC-7300, with a separate rig (connected to a separate antenna) for 2M/70cm.

Quote:
Does your IC-705 have a built-in antenna tuner? I know the IC-7300 has that, but I don't know about the IC-705.


The 705 does not have an ATU, which is a big negative for a lot of people. I bought a manual ATU, the Emtech ZM-2. Itís ridiculously easy and quick to use. I chose this over the Elecraft T1 for cost and because Iíve read that the ZM-2 can find a match to a wider range of antennas (and objects being used like an antenna) than the T1.

Quote:
How do you find the touchscreen? That is a little bit of a worry for me. As I get older and my eyesight and hand/eye coordination gets worse, I wonder about these things. But everything seems to be going touchscreen these days.


The touchscreen is a big strength in my opinion. It has a sensor that automatically adjusts brightness based on ambient light conditions. I have had zero inclination to mess with the default visibility settings. There are two major flaws, in my opinion. The first is that the UI designers took some functions that I would have wanted a button for, and put them in not-intuitive parts of the touchscreen. Second, the UI designers didnít make it easy to identify areas of interactivity and what they do. Youíll need to read the manuals. On the plus side, the manuals are very well written.

While Iím on the subject of manuals, if youíre planning a purchase of an expensive ham radio rig, find the manuals online and read them first. It will give you a huge leg up in your purchase decision.

If I were planning to operate CW primarily, Iíd almost certainly have bought a different radio.

Quote:
In my ham class, we got lots of hands on experience with equipment. One of those things was setting up a portable antenna and then using an IC-7300 with that. We had a few exercises to complete for class. I don't remember liking or hating the touchscreen. Probably because I was so new to the radio I wasn't thinking about evaluating the user interface, just getting the assignment done. I do remember that VFO tuning knob was butter smooth though. Spinning that thing just exuded quality.


The 705ís tuning knob feels that way to me.

Quote:
If one ends up doing any amount of remote transmitting, the IC-705 seems like a dream radio. It pretty much has it all, except for transmitting power. But that's not what it was designed for. For a stay-at-home rig I might be tempted with the IC-7300 with it's 100 watts of transmitting power and then a separate 2m/70cm radio to supplement it. What would be ideal is an IC-705 with external power amp for home use. To go out in the field, you just grab the IC-705 with its battery and leave the power amp behind.


100% agreed, with every word. I already have an HF rig with 100W of power (an FT-857D) and wanted something portable.

Quote:
I wonder if anybody does remote transmitting on 160M though. Sure, you'd have this little bitty radio. But the antenna requirements wouldn't be so little bitty...


I think itís becoming a lot more common.


Edited by chaosmagnet (11/17/20 12:59 PM)
Edit Reason: Make words better

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#297605 - 11/17/20 09:45 PM Re: The ultimate prepper radio? [Re: chaosmagnet]
Blast Offline
INTERCEPTOR
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 07/15/02
Posts: 3607
Loc: TX
Nice review and tempting radio...once I get both daughters through college. laugh
But seriously, if you don't have at least the lowest (technician) level ham license spend a week prepping and go get it. It opens up a lot of information to you. Just take the free practice exam at https://hamexam.org/exam/15-Technician over and over until you've memorized the answers.
-Blast
_________________________
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