The Kenwood TM-281A is a 2 meter FM mobile transceiver putting out a hefty 65 watts of power. You can program up to 200 memory channels (or 100 when used with names). The display has 6 large alphanumeric characters. This radio has NOAA weather built in with alert tone. Also, the front panel and microphone keypads are both illuminated for ease of use. Built in continuous CTCSS and DCS helps to filter unwanted signals .
The Good: Weather alert, upgrade from a output transistor to a power module.
The Bad: No weather/water proofing
The ugly: along with the lack of weather/ water proofing is the lack of the metal top on the chassis leaving the guts of the radio completely
void of shielding.
As I have just gotten this radio, I have yet to use it in a real radio environment. I will be installing it in my Jeep this week with other radios, 10 meter and commercial VHF, hope I don't have problems. I'll keep you all posted.
I didn't have this rig, but a good friend of mine did, so this is based on what he said. He had what would be the Yaesu equivalent to this rig and traded that in for the TM-281A. One thing that he noticed was the RX was incredible. What I noticed was the TX audio was way better on him. He thought that it was easy to program the memories, but noticed that 65W output was quite current hungry. Recommended a 20A power supply for that. He's the kind of friend that goes through various rigs like there's no tomorrow, but he kept this rig longer than most. I guess that says something.
* Based on Kenwood's rugged, commercial TK-7150 chassis.
* Very solid, confidence-inspiring, MIL-STD 810 construction quality.
* Good control feel and response.
* Front-firing speaker improves audio output.
* No cooling fan to fail or make noise.
* Higher transmit efficiency (power in vs. power out) than competitors. That means less heat, though it's passive heat sink still gets quite warm at higher duty cycles (such as one-on-one simplex rag-chew).
* Limit of 100 named channels (or 200 without alphanumeric names).
* Lack of lower wattage setting than 25W.
* Smallish LCD display resulting from the need to make room for front-firing speaker.
* LCD display is segmented rather than dot-matrix, making some alphanumeric characters more difficult to read and distinguish from numerals.
I recommend reprogramming PF-D button on mic to be a "Menu" button. That lets the user reach menus more easily and navigate and adjust menu items without touching the front panel.
Estimating the value of a rig can be challenging. We collect prices paid by real hams over the years to help you estimate the value of a used Kenwood TM-281A. Just bought or sold this model? Let us know what you traded it for and help other ham operators!
Based on historic data, today's second-hand price of the Kenwood TM-281A is around:
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