Every ham has a
handheld in their collection of transceivers. I have one normal rig in my
collection of handhelds.
Nearly all the equipment I have can be held in my
hand, chucked in the car, operated ‘portable’ or temporarily connected at home.
It’s the capability that would suit a cold war double agent who has to move
between a series of safe-houses at short notice. Everything I have, I can pick
up and run with. Just as well I don’t have an HF vertical that looks like a
I’ve had my beloved Icom IC-E92D for a couple of years now
and I spend more time talking though this than any other piece of equipment.
Two years ago there was no DV (Digital Voice) or D-STAR activity in my area,
but I wanted a dual band handheld that would be, to some extent, future-proof.
And before the rival Yaesu C4FM digital system is mooted,
let me say that D-STAR is so firmly established, that a lot of infrastructure
would be needed to better the existing system. Great advances have been made
lately with the advent of the German DV-RPTR
(‘DV Repeater’) boards as well as the new DCS
. Having said that, I’m always keen to try any new digital modes.
I’m not going to dwell heavily on specification and features
because this is not a newly launched product – there are plenty of excellent
resources and reviews already available. But here are some things that have
pleased me about both the radio and the technology behind it.
Let’s put the digital stuff to one side for the time being. I
think the E92D is just an excellent FM transceiver in its own right. Its
construction is solid and feels good in the hand. Used outdoors, it’s
comforting to know that it’s waterproof. I live in Wales, after all. The send/receive
audio quality is very good in all modes and the microphone doesn’t suffer from
the aforementioned weather-proofing that blights some other units. It seems
XYL’s sewing kits have been raided worldwide for needles to pierce microphone
I love using low power when I can. In DV mode you either get
a R5 copy or rapidly nothing. Why not see how low you can go? The E92D will go
down to 100mW and oddly enough I use this more than any other power setting. It’s
also all you need for your home D-STAR hotspot, isn’t it? A group of three of
us had a 2m net with a distance of 20 miles between the furthest stations. We
all used DV mode and 100mW (external antennas, of course) for a full lock and
quality audio output. Compare this with the FM mindset of achieving ‘full
quietening’ in many local nets. Admit it - a small swell of pride is taken in
how many dB’s ‘over’ are registered. With DV it is how few. Back to the E92D: If things get marginal and stressed then the
next increments are 500mW, 1W and 2.5W. Unleash the whole 5W if it’s a national holiday
or you’re feeling reckless. In common with many handheld owners, I also have an
aftermarket antenna to add a little more gain when needed.
|Built for the outdoor life - with HM-175
I have, and recommend, the RS232C remote cable and bundled programming
software. There are enough people now who have kindly uploaded their files
(called .icf files) to the internet with repeater and node settings for entire
countries. You can enter or edit data manually from the front panel, but as
with most radios a computer will save you time you can otherwise spend chatting
idly. Seeing how the channels and banks are organised on-screen helps you properly
exploit the memory capacity. Apart from the usual, I have also stored AMSAT,
marine band, PMR and SWL channels. I travel a lot so it’s good to have
repeaters stored by region too.
Dislikes? Only a couple and they’re not going to jaundice my
high regard for this pleasure-giving, grown-up gadget. Most E92D owners acknowledge
that although the battery life is good, there is little warning given before
the battery dies. A bit like a pet hamster. Again, with four power settings you
should optimise your battery life. Secondly, I don’t think many consumers would
eagerly vote for an SMA antenna connector over a BNC, but we have to live with
that. The main problem can be a snapped pin from an over-stressed SMA
to SO239 adaptor, for example. This happens easily, frequently and on one
occasion to me. I sent my unit back to Icom UK for repair, as the stuck pin
could not be extracted. I must add that their support and service was
fantastic. The repair was carried out quickly and was not costly. Chastened, I
made a pigtail adaptor for use in the car, shown below.
|SMA - SO239 adaptor
As far as accessories go, I have the HM-175 GPS speaker
microphone. The embedded data channel in DV is something we’re only just
starting to fully explore. GPS position and distance reporting between simplex users
or posts on APRS.fi via a repeater are fun. I also have a two-pin mic/headset
adaptor for mobile work.
Just download an electronic manual and have a look at the level of specification and configurability! You'll find a new feature every day for the first few months. There are now the lower-cost IC-E80D and 70cm-only IC-ID31E to supplement the range, of course.
So, after two years I think the big test for any bit of
equipment would be “If it was damaged/stolen/confiscated by vexed YL/XYL, what
would I replace it with?” For me, an exact replacement, no less. It’s a much of
a staple as the King Edward potato.