Monday, February 08, 2010

Charged up

I recently sold my Yaesu VX-8E because the lack of APRS RF infrastructure in this part of the world rendered that part of its functionality fairly useless and I didn't need two FM hand-helds. My Kenwood TH-F7E is a more useful radio to me because of its ability to receive CW and SSB. The only thing I didn't like about the Kenwood was the lack of a drop-in charger base. To charge the radio you have to uncover a charging socket and then plug in a lead from a wall-wart charger. That might seem like a small inconvenience, but having to crawl around on the floor plugging in the charger, then thread the charging cable through to a safe place to stand the radio while it charged was a bit of a chore. Most hand-helds offer a base charger as an option; even the cheap and nasty Chinese Jingtong had one. I think Kenwood missed an opportunity to sell an accessory here.

I was sure I wasn't the only one lamenting the lack of a base charger for this fine little radio so I posted a question about it on QRZ.com and was pointed by Mel KS2G in the direction of W & W Manufacturing Company of Hicksville NY, who make a range of replacement batteries and chargers for two-way radios and other devices. They offer battery packs for most amateur radios, including the Kenwood TH-F6A which is the US version of the TH-F7E and all of them are charged using a drop-in charger.

The company didn't respond to attempts to contact it via the contact form on its website, but Mel very kindly phoned and obtained an email address for a helpful lady named Flossie, with whom I placed my order.

It wasn't exactly cheap. Since the stock Kenwood battery doesn't have contacts for base charging I had to purchase a replacement battery as well as the charger unit. By the time I paid VAT and tax collection tax it came to half as much as the actual radio.

The new battery has a 2000mAH capacity compared to the 1500mAH of the standard version. The charger is a universal unit and takes plug-in "cups" for different radios, so if I ever sold the TH-F7E I could keep the charger and just buy a "cup" for whatever replaces it. I was a bit disappointed to discover that when placed in the charger the radio faces to the side rather than the front. It doesn't really matter, since you can't use the radio while it is in the charger, and perhaps they do that to discourage the temptation to switch it on. But it would look better if it faced the front.

Also supplied with the charger was a European 220V switched mode 24V 1A power adapter. I really didn't need that, and would have liked the option to save some cost by not having it. I haven't checked to see if it makes any of the usual switched mode warbly noises and broadband hash. I generally avoid switched mode power supplies at all cost. For batteries up to 7.2V which the TH-F7E is, the instruction sheet states that the charger will run from 15V so I am actually running it from my Diamond shack supply that powers my K3, which normally runs at about 14.2V. It worked fine, and charged the new battery in a couple of hours.

I am very pleased with this smart if rather expensive accessory, which will help me make the most of the TH-F7E by keeping it nicely charged up.
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