Wednesday, 26 October 2022

IC-705 REVIEW UPDATE

IC-705 TWO YEARS LATER

Two years ownership of the ICOM IC-705 have passed and I thought it might be an idea to take another look at it to see if it still rules the roost for Portable Radios in 2022. In this 'look back', I'm only going to focus on what I've been doing and how well the 705 has worked for me. My original review is >>HERE<<

What should I compare it to?  Well I originally had an Elecraft KX3 but ended up selling it. You can tell yourself all day long that the KX3 is the king of portables (I did), but reality soon hits you in the face when you start to add desirable accessories which increase the cost of the radio to a staggering £2,800 and you still haven't got a fraction of the features of the Icom.

But has the Elecraft not got the better receiver? Yes of course - there's little to beat the KX range in terms of outright performance, that's a given! If you want to hunt down the very faintest, weakest signal, then you stand a better chance of success with a KX. It's a stunner!

But for the other 99% of the time, when you've driven, walked, hiked to the perfect take-off spot and set up your antennas, there will be virtually no difference between a KX and the 705. Or between a 705 and an 817. In fact, my $89 (tr)uSDX will probably get you as many QSO's in the log as the others!

Over the last couple of years I've relied almost exclusively on my IC-705, using it outdoors, on hillsides, in the back garden, in a park, at the caravan, by the seaside and even at home as a base station. It's been utterly reliable and surprisingly tough even though it's not been wrapped in cotton wool. Unlike my Elecraft, I've never really worried about it - I guess I look upon it as a bit of a workhorse. If it gets a little scratch or a ding, it doesn't really matter. I don't believe it would substantially affect its resale price either.

The notable difference between the IC-705 and other radios  is flexibility, features and what I call 'friendliness'.... 

The Icom IC-705 is more feature-rich than any other portable radio. It puts together such an awfully good package that you don't have to buy anything else (assuming that you use resonant antennas). You can operate throughout HF, 6M, 2M and 70cm on LSB, USB, CW, AM, FM, DV and DSTAR. 

With the radios built-in server, you can operate remotely. With the built-in WiFi you can tether to your mobile phone and operate Digital Modes out in the field. Thanks to the built-in GPS, you can even ensure accurate timing for FT8, etc. 

 
Forgot to take a pen for logging your QSO's?? Don't worry - you can record all QSO's onto the SDCARD and run back through it later to get the callsigns - it even records the time and date of each individual QSO!! How good's that??

After using it so frequently and for so long, I'm now in that happy place where I know I just need to grab my small rucksack and head off outdoors for some radio fun. I don't need to carry a million bits of ancillary items - it's just my radio, my antennas and my iPad. If I'm just going out for a couple of hours, then I rely on the Icom battery, but if I'm out for the day I will take a 13.2V LifePO too.

Up on a hillside, I tend to stick with 5W and there's little need for more. Usually, the take-off is excellent and my SotaBeams Dipole works amazingly well - enough to have SSB chinwags across to America from the UK. In fact, one of my favourite chats was from a beach to two hams in America using only 2.5W (KE5EE and WD4NGB).

If I'm struggling to get a response to my CQ calls on 5W, I might move up to 10W, but once I establish contact with someone, I ask them to let me drop to 5W and get another report. If the report is very good (it often is) then I'll ask for another at even lower power. Needless to say, I don't want to make the QSO hard work for the other operators, but most people are happy to experiment with me and they often end up dropping their power to me too and because they've been so used to knocking out 400W+ for years, they've forgotten how far they can get on a tiny fraction of the power. All very entertaining (to me at least) 😂 

I have to admit that it's easier to answer someone elses CQ Call than it is to get a response to your own CQ Call at QRP levels. But patience often does reward. I find that using the IC-705's TX Memories makes light work of repetitive calling. I have a Long and a Short CQ Call recorded in memory and it's easy to set a TX-Loop going. The call is repeated over and over with a small pause inbetween to allow you to listen for any responses. 

Once I've finished with SSB, I tend to briefly switch to the 705's CW TX-Memories and put out a "CQ TEST"  for a few minutes on various bands to see how far I get on the Reverse Beacon Net before switching over to DSTAR depending on how close I am to a repeater. The IC-705 comes with a comprehensive list of repeaters already programmed in and thanks to the built-in GPS it can quickly determine which repeaters are the closest to your location and list them in order of distance (showing you the distance of each one in miles or kilometres).

After DSTAR I might switch to FT8 which gives me a chance to grab a drink and a sandwich. 

The IC-705 has proven to be a true all-rounder and can seemingly do it all, without any fuss or alterations or expensive plugin modules. The only thing that isn't included is an ATU, but neither does the KX3 come with one (unless you pay almost £300). Most of my portable antennas are resonant, so I usually have no need for a tuner, but if I want to use a multi-band end-fed, then one is required. 

I own two ATUs - the LDG Z100PLUS and the Elecraft T1. My favourite is the Elecraft T1. It's compact, light and incredibly good at finding a match - quickly!! And finding a quick match is very important when it comes to QRP equipment because many QRP Transceivers don't seem to have a very robust PA, resulting in blown transistors during long tuning sessions.

Thankfully, the 705 is pretty strong in this respect and I've never had a problem when tuning up using any of my tuners.

The success of the IC-705 in the marketplace has led to much third-party and community support. One of the most useful addons for the 705 is Marcus Roskosh's SDR-CONTROL app which not only provides remote-control operation, but also provides a host of other tools which make the 705 (or 7610 or 9700) an absolute dream to work with. It's a game-changer.

SDR-CONTROL is available on IOS or MAC and I personally use it with my iPad 11. It performs flawlessly with virtually no lag between the readings on the radio and the readings on the iPad. It's all very fluid!
 

All the functions of the radio are available on the software display and the bandscope and waterfall are superb!! It's nice and easy to adjust the bandscope to increase the signal-peak display size and the ratio of scope to waterfall. The meter is nice and clear but I was hoping for an analogue option which isn't there (in the current version). Long-pressing the "TUNE" button sets the power to 10% (adjustable in menus) and transmits in AM mode so that any attached tuner will activate safely. Long-pressing the PTT button will allow you to choose between the radio's mic or the iPad's mic.


VFO A and B are visible onscreen and it's easy to switch between the two. Everything is very intuitive and there's never a struggle to figure anything out. Take FT8 for example - you can switch to it and be making contacts within seconds! No fiddling around with cables, no special drivers or VACs - it just works. Simple!
 

Any FT8 contacts that you make are logged automatically and that brings me to the next feature in the SDR-CONTROL toolbox - the LOGBOOK. Yes, there's a logbook built-in and it has an easy export function to transfer your contacts to your QRZ, etc.


By clicking on a button, you can see the full contents of the ToolKit which includes some very handy features such as the DX Cluster. This can show you active signals on the bandscope, allowing you to quickly spot and engage desired DX. There's also a BandPlan, a set of CW Macros, QRZ LookUp and PSK Reporter. 

There's lots more to this amazing App and it adds so much to the already pleasurable IC-705. I suggest that you go read the manual by clicking on the image below to find out much more about it...

Click me to read the SDR-CONTROL Manual


So, as you can guess, I've been very happy with my 705 - probably more so than any other radio I've owned (and that's saying something). It does pretty much everything I want and it does it all simply, effectively and without fuss. I can play on all the ham bands, in all the modes, I can do analogue and digital and I can enjoy fantastic support from third-parties and a knowledgeable community.

What do I dislike?? Not much really - in fact it seems a bit churlish to complain when a radio offers so very much. If I had to be Oliver Twist and ask for more, then.... I'd ask for CW Decoder instead of the RTTY Decoder. Having said that, the 705 interfaces very easily with my PreppComm Morse Encoder/Decoder....  

 
I do believe that the IC-705 is genuinely the best portable transceiver ever to hit the market. It offers such great value for money and has so many features and functions. And it's not just about the specification list - it's about how everything works - it's incredibly intuitive. Everything falls to hand and makes sense.

There's so many features which make life easy for the operator and where some radios end up looking like a bowl of spaghetti when trying to do something different, the IC-705 often does it wirelessly via WiFi or BlueTooth. Even small things like getting a pair of AirPods working - I've come across so many radios which have BlueTooth but then fail to connect to BlueTooth headsets! The Icom even works with Yaesu's headsets! The very fact that you get a server built into the radio to enable remote operation is pretty darned amazing - especially when you consider that even Yaesu's £3,100 Flagship 101 doesn't have such a feature 😮.

And yes, the £45 SDR-CONTROL software significantly adds to the richness of the 705 which some might say is down to Marcus Roskosch and not the radio, but the fact that the Icom is flexible enough to permit such interaction/connectivity is something that should be applauded.  There's no similar software for the Elecraft - to get a panadapter working with the KX3, you'd have to invest in a PX3 which is around £800 and you'd still only have a panadapter!



Okay, so what about something other than a KX3 or 705? Let's say you bought an FT818 or a G90 or a TX-500?

Well for a start, I wouldn't even give the Russian-built TX500 a second thought because I wouldn't want to support the economy of the disgusting terrorist Putin. Although the HF TX-500 is a very visually appealing transceiver and is around 2/3rds of the price of a 705, it lacks most of the features that I personally value. 

The G90 is a fabulous budget HF transceiver which offers lots for little, but at the end of the day, it's a cheap Chinese radio which I could never consider to be my 'forever radio'. Like the TX-500, the G90 lacks valuable features.

The FT818 is an old favourite of most hams. It's been out there for over 20 years and at half the cost of a 705 is always going to be the QRP radio of choice for people who are happy with the basics. But let's face it, it's old technology and looks like a dinosaur compared to the 705. A rugged, reliable shack-in-a-box but limited in a modern world.

So in summary, I am still over the moon with the Icom IC-705 and I'm glad I invested in it. In the past, radios have 'come and gone' but this one has stayed with me and I can't imagine a time when I would swap it for something else. Maybe Yaesu will bring out something to compete, but I can't imagine how they'd actually make something better! If they do, I'll be all over it 😁


HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Please remember that these are just the opinions of an M7 operator. My goals, desires and requirements will be different to yours. I'd be interested to hear about them. Please feel free to leave a comment below and include your CallSign if possible. 73, Tom. 





3 comments:

VE9KK said...

Good morning Tom, very much enjoyed reading the 705 review! I just have the 7610 now and did have the KX3 but sold it. When I did have the KX3 the 705 was just a drawing on someone's PC at Icom I suppose. At the time the KX3 was the dream portable radio. I did lose some confidence in Elecraft when they dropped their K3S line suddenly. There was a very strong following for that rig and many invested large sums of money in it. Then to just suddenly drop ALL support was in my view not right. Anyway, this is a 705 review....The more I read about the radio the better it gets and your review is great as you have one. I can't believe you have had it for 2 years! I did not think it had been out that long. I agree with you an internal tuner would have been a great addition to the rig. I have been looking at Marcus's software and have held back as I am not sure how it works for CW? You do have the macros but not sure if you can somehow just send them with some kind of a key setup? I do have an Ipad and you seem to be very happy with the software. I would like to see you do a review of the software one day when you get the time.
Tom thanks for a great review,
Mike
73
VE9KK

Anonymous said...

What mount/tripod are using in the picture with the 705, T1 tuner and elecraft vertical?

MadDogMcQ said...

It’s the SLIK MULTI-POD 3X4. I found it on eBay.