I have now owned my secondhand TH-F7E for several months and after lots of experiments and tests I can finally review it. This review will be helpful to you only if subscribing to one of the following categories:
- Looking for a handheld that is small enough to carry around all day
- Love ham radio and especially DX work but don't have time to use the transceiver in the shack.
- Doing some commuting but not necessarily by car (walking, cycling, biking)
- Some car trips but not enough to justify buying a mobile rig and damaging the car's interior to accommodate the rig and antennas/cables.
- Attending ham rallies or simply keeping in touch with the ham club members in your area, via 2-3 repeaters within 50 miles radius.
- Want a dual band HT (2m/70cm) that can scan simultaneously both bands, have CTCSS and DTMF
- Limited budget but basic skills and knowledge to erect a long wire antenna, do some soldering, etc.
- Hooked neither on Yaesu, Kenwood nor Icom yet looking for a handheld whose style and feel doesn't resemble that of a brick.
If one or more of these categories applies to you, this is the handheld to buy. After reading lots of reviews about Yaesu VX-1R, 2R, 5R, 6E, 7R, FT-50, FT-60, VX-110, etc, then Icom E-91, E7 and Kenwood TH-D7E, TH-K2, TH-F7E I decided for the last one, with the condition that I found one in good nick and around a maximum £100.
While other HTs listed above are not bad, some arguably have better reception (?), most of them are quite expensive and all of them make some kind of compromise. There's always a compromise between features, materials, quality and price.
As far as the F7E is concerned, no other handheld offer more features into such a small package. Then I looked at the CONS of the rig. Some of them quite bizarre (no blue backlight, small buttons, complicated menu) and did not matter to me. Others were more concerning (cannot use while charging, long charging time, etc). I found these spurious as well. I happen to have a second PSU in the shack, which I hook to the handheld while at home to avoid discharging the battery. Works without problems, and when I switch the radio off, the battery starts charging automatically. I didn't even have to buy the PG-2W DC cable, as I came across a regulated 1.5-12V DC-DC converter for car lighter which has six different plugs to choose from, one of them fits perfectly with the F7E. This also means the PG-3J cigarette lighter power cable is not needed either and I can use it in the car.
The other concern people have is with reception/rubber duck antenna. I am not impressed with their arguments. The supplied rubber duck antenna for F7E is good enough to open the repeaters 50 miles away, helped by its 5W power supplied by the battery, not only when connected to a PSU as it is with the TH-D7E and some Yeasu HTs. I drove to a wood outside the town the other day and took it with me for a walk in the woods/hills. While on the top of the hill, it opened a 2m repeater 70 miles away, so that's good enough for me.
Driving back, I realised the limitations of a handheld as opposed to a mobile rig in terms of reception. The FM signal from the repeaters was sketchy and interrupted often, but that's normal from a handheld with a rubber duck antenna inside the car. I solved this easily by buying a 2m/70cm magmount 1/4 whip antenna (£10) which I connected to the F7E via a SMA to BNC adapter, having nicely secured the HT to my mobile phone dash mount. The antenna has 0 db gain, and that's actually recommended for good FM reception on the handheld, more gain generating interference to the sensitive Kenwood receiver.
The same goes for SSB operation. I have actually taken the advice of other F7E users who all say a 16feet wire does the perfect job for reception on 10-80m. Don't try to connect it to your vertical or yagi, as it's got a basic SSB filter which will quickly overload. So I built a simple copper wire antenna hooked it between two trees in my garden and via another 16feet of 50ohm coax I am sitting in the garden at evening and listen to VE, YU, W, and UA stations off my handheld. If you are driving a lot, get a HF mobile antenna attached to your car and you'll be all right, although I think that's pushing it. For mobile SSB operation, either SWL or QSO-ing, I would get a TS-480, FT-897, 857, 817 or IC-703.
There are other uses, like airband and weather channels, WFM broadcasts which are all accessible via this rig. All in all, I am satisfied with the compromise made by the TH-F7E and thus recommend it warmly to anyone. If you get it secondhand around £100-110 consider yourself lucky. Mine was advertised on Ebay in the wrong section, so do your research.
73 de r_amanda
Kenwood TH-F7E Handheld Transceiver
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28 April 2009
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