I had the pleasure of testing a fully loaded ICOM 9100 HF/50 MHZ plus VHF and UHF all mode radio. The radio arrived direct from ICOM Canada fully loaded with all filters plus the UT-121 D-Star module plus the UX-9100 1.2 GHZ module. This radio puts out 100 watts on HF, 6 and 2 meters, 75 watts on 440 and 10 watts on 1.2 GHZ.
This is really the ultimate radio all in one package. Using the optional programming software CS-9100 I was able to program the DSTAR settings very quickly and soon found myself on the VE3LSR repeater talking all over the world. for those that are new to DSTAR, this is Icom’s digital mode and is found on some handheld and mobile radios such as the Icom 92AD or ID880H VHF /UHF radios.
DSTAR allows global communication via a DSTAR repeater connected to the DSTAR gateway.
Here is a picture of the IC-9100 listening to VE3LSR in Barrie, Ontario displaying a callsign from the UK, notice the operating location?, The weather was awesome…The one thing that I noticed, no matter how bright the sun was, the display remained readable at all times… very nice!!!
I also experimented with the RBSA-1 remote control software, this allows control of the basic radio functions across a local network or the Internet via a secure IP address. This software is a fairly basic remote software allowing most of the radio functions to be duplicated on the remote computer screen, but because it is designed to work with many Icom transceivers many features of the 9100 were not available, this I found disappointing. in addition the configuration is not for the inexperienced computer user, with advanced networking knowledge a must. One must be comfortable configuring router ports and other settings on the users computer. Once configured it was stable and worked well.
One plus is that the IC-9100 has a USB port on the rear panel of the radio, the included USB cable with the RBSA-1 made for easy configuration of the USB audio requirements for the software, it was essentially plug and play.
Now on to the fun stuff!!!
I had the pleasure of taking the radio on the road for a week, I setup the radio at my cottage. As the title of this article suggests, I had plans to operate the radio off the grid for a few days, take a simple G5RV antenna for the HF needs and a mobile 2M/440 antenna for the VHF/UHF stuff and away we go.
For power I planned on operating from a group 27 deep cycle battery that I use for my trolling motor, I figured this would keep me going for sometime. I have the battery located in a very handy Minn Kotta battery case, this case is awesome, it provides high current terminal connections plus it is fully protected by circuit breakers up to 60 amps.
There is a battery status indicator on the top panel, plus 2 12 volt outlets that can handle up to 5 amp current draw fully protected by circuit breakers. for $75.00 this case beats all the ones I have seen out there. O yea and it fits a group 27 battery perfectly, the attached handle has no problem with the 55 pound weight of the battery. A bargain in my opinion.
Here is the setup, IC-9100 and Minn Kotta battery case, great signals on 40 Meters.
On to the antenna, Radioworld has been selling our own version of the famous G5RV for sometime now, these high quality antennas are manufactured in Ontario by a local supplier. over the last few years we have sold a whole bunch. One thing I have learned is you rarely get comments about products when they work well, but should they fall short you will almost certainly hear about it. Well I can honestly say I have never heard a bad thing about these antennas.. So I felt the need to take one and review it.
The first thing you will notice is when you take it out of the box is the construction quality… amazing, nothing but the best parts used here. For the purpose of the testing I used the 1/2 size G5RV as I was concerned about the available space I had, I knew I could fit 51 feet, not sure about 102 feet. So i opted for the 1/2 size version.
Both models come completely assembled and included 50 feet of coax cable with connector supplied and installed, ladder line that is used is very low profile and balun is installed to prevent and RF getting back down the coax. This antenna is really plug and play, toss it into the trees and away you go.
I only was able get the antenna up about 20 feet in the air, not the most ideal, but the 16 feet of ladder line was straight and not laying on the ground, this was critical, I was skeptical about the installation.
Now to say the HF bands have been dead over the this past summer would be an understatement… daytime was a waste of time, so I planned on evening operations covering 20 meters and 40 meters.
My first night with the IC-9100 was spent learning all the great filtering capabilities of this radio, the two optional filters installed in the radio made for some interesting learning, but boy did they work. I had the fortunate luck of virtually no man made noise, the fact I was operating on a battery seemed to help. I also had no RF issues, in fact I opted not use a ground.. NO RF coming back down the coax. the balun in the antenna was doing a great job.
The internal antenna tuner in the ICOM 9100 had no problem tuning any frequency from 40 Meters and up, it was quick, seemed to remember were I had been and was lightning quick in retuning. Once I got a complete understanding of the radio it was down to business.
After sunset 20 meters opened up most nights with great signals from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
My first call netted me Italy and about 6 other European countries all with 59 plus signal reports, in some cases 20 db over S9. I though wow 100 watts and a simple G5RV this is working well. As the night moved on 20 started to shut down so i moved to 40 meters.. Had lots of contacts through the US, again with great reports. a few Europeans in the DX window were also worked
Most fellow hams were blown away by the audio from the radio using only the included hand mic, when I described the setup, battery and G5RV, most of the high powered guns I spoke to running a kilowatt were very impressed.
On the second night the fun really started, with some big guns out of Kuwait working US pileups.I figured myself and a 100 watts and a poorly installed antenna would not stand a chance, but boy was I wrong, typically 2 calls and boom a new country in the books for me. later in the evening the coast of Africa and various other countries including Russia were added to the log. This setup was providing lots of fun.
The rest of the week provided the same kind of results over the course of the week i worked over 40 countries and 20 or so states.
The battery only required one recharge and the radio continued to provide full power output at all times, this was by far a nice way to operate, proving that a power supply and a wall plug are not always needed.
I had a great week with the radio at the cottage, and overall spent about about two months playing with it. A true station in a box, this radio does it all, from HF to DSTAR to satellite communications a true one of a kind.
I want to thank Paul Veel at Icom Canada for sending me the radio and letting me experience this great product.
This will be my next radio for sure