Sunday, March 1, 2020

ICOM IC-7100 Review

The ICOM IC-7100 is, by no means, a new transceiver having made its debut on the American market around 2013. The radio comes in two parts, the control head and the main body connected by a controller cable. The microphone connects into the control head as does the speaker or headphones. A contrast from other units where the mic connects into the body which is located in the boot of the car reqiring a long extension cable to the driver's position. It ticks all the boxes power wise with 100W o/p from HF to 50MHZ, 50W on 70 MHZ, 50W on 144 MHz and 35W on 70cms. The 5 MHz band as also available. 
The ICOM IC-7100 was purchased for operation from the car or portable outings as it covered HF through 6 metres, 4 metres, 2 metres and 70cms. A bonus was the fact that D-star was available on all bands. Whilst the control head was a little odd with a touch screen tilted at 45 degrees a suitable mount was found for the dashboard of the car. The length of the control cable was long enough to mount the main body of the radio in the boot of the car.

All functions of the radio are controlled by a combination of button presses and the use of the touch screen. The angled screen was unique at the time and the appearance probably put many off the purchse of this radio. It should be noted that this radio has fully functional VFO A and VFO B and can also work on split frequency. The fact that this radio has the D-Star facility on all bands from HF - UHF is a major plus point in its favour.

The body of the radio has one antenna socket for the HF - 70 MHz bands and a second for 144 and 432 MHz. There are data sockets to interface a TNC, a data modes interface, and CI-V commands for remote operation. An external auto tuner may be connected and controlled by the “TUNE” button on the control head.

Like all radios, it is wise to read the manual although, if one has used an ICOM ID-5100, the D-Star operation is similar. All the functions are accessible through the touch screen menus and buttons. If one has never used D-Star before, operation will be a headache if the manual is not consulted. It is not difficult to operate with a little light reading.

The receive side is excellent and the NR and DSP functions are impressive making it possible to bring weak signals out of the noise and the Noise Blanker is effective also. The audio from the IC-7100’s own speaker is good but is naturally enhanced by using a larger external speaker.

Data modes are of interest and it was easy to interface the transceiver to a Signalink USB connected to the DM780 program supplied with Ham Radio Deluxe or the FL-Digi Program. There are many other Data Mode programs available. 

Good reports have been received on both HF and VHF even with the processor added in whilst using SSB. Having used the AOR9000MKII Digital voice modem on previous models of ICOM transceivers, it was easy enough to interface the same through an adaptor cable. This was only tried as one or two in our locality have the AOR system and, as yet, no facilities for D-Star.

It was good to have the facility to communicate on SSB as well as FM on the bands above 30 MHz. SSB, FM and D-star modes all give good crisp and clear reception.

It was noted, from watching YouTube videos, that the audio from the IC-7100 was slightly better than the new IC-9700.

By adding an external GPS, it is possible to send information via DPRS derived from the external unit when in D-Star mode. In GPS mode it is possible to receive data from other users and their position will show up on screen if selected.

The unit has ample memory facilities, and, like other D-Star Radios, it is possible to load a repeater list into the unit which is easy to access. It is easier to program this radio via the RT systems software than try to do so via the touchscreen. Software did not come with the unit and had to be purchased as an extra. Its value will be appreciated.

Interface to rig control/logging program is possible via the CI-V remote control socket. Ham Radio Deluxe is in use in the shack and there was no difficulty setting up the parameters for the IC-7100. There is no Bluetooth facility on this transceiver, but it is easy build an interface to take transmit the audio to and from the headset to the radio with an additional PTT extension. Drive safe Bluetooth units appear on E-Bay occasionally. To comply with the law, it should be used whilst mobile.

An Auto ATU can be controlled by pressing the “TUNE” button on the control head. Whilst ICOM produce their own model, there are many others available for a lesser price and the mAT-180H is one such ATU. This unit can operate at power levels up to 120 Watts over a range of 1.8 – 54 MHz. The ATU will tune coax fed antennas or wire antennas. It should be noted that Mobile whips for HF should be tuned to resonance rather than reliance on an inline tuner. The in-line tuner is more useful for portable operation.

Remote Base operation is possible using the RS-BA1 software.  It is possible to use the IC-7100 in the shack, or at a remote location via the keyboard of a laptop or P.C. Most functions and modes can be controlled via the remote software including interference rejection and I.F. filter settings. Provided there is internet access, it is possible to operate from any location.

In conclusion, the IC-7100 is a transceiver that has lasted the test of time and is still in production. It retails at around £950.00. It is an ideal mobile/portable radio as it covers both the HF and VHF bands with outstanding performance in noisy conditions. Using a mount that slots into the CD unit of the car, from Lido Radio Products, it is possible mount the Control Head without drilling holes in the dashboard. This transceiver is still in production and presumably firmware upgrades and minor modifications over time have made it what it is today. Whist the ICOM IC-7100 is not at the hugh end, it does represent good value for money.