Wednesday, February 12, 2020

IC7300 sold

Three weeks with the IC7300 have resulted in a For Sale ad for the radio (it sold within minutes). Despite the almost unanimously high reviews, we each have our own criteria regarding how we want a radio to interact with the user.

The IC7300 is probably a great rig for someone who is primarily a phone op, a very good rig for a digital op, but a less-than-good rig (I won't say "poor") for someone who is primarily CW op. If you've never operated a Ten-Tec, Flex or Elecraft radio on CW, you may like the IC7300 because you won't know what you're missing.

I should have known this in advance but ignored my inner doubts. My expectations were unrealistically high and were formed in part due to the rave reviews by almost all users of this radio. No one's fault but my own.

For better or worse, any reviewer's subjective opinion of a radio is relative to whatever radio they're accustomed to using. In the IC-7300, I found certain characteristics to be annoying and, rather than me adapting to the radio, I'd rather have a radio that can be configured to adapt to me. Those characteristics were:

  • Only three selectable bandwidth filters. These can be configured to whatever width you may want but they are then fixed, not variable without going back into the menu and reconfiguring. I would end up using (or needing, in this case) a different set of three, if that is the limitation, for casual CW and another set for DXing or contesting. Only having three available, for all CW scenarios, doesn't cut it. Furthermore, those three bandwidths aren't labeled with their widths; they are labeled only as 'Filter 1' 'Filter 2' and 'Filter 3'.
  • Similarly, the width of the bandscope has three fixed widths. They are also user-selectable, but in menus that can't be adjusted on the fly.
  • The CW sidetone, set to maximum volume, is quite low.

My Flex and Apache Labs rigs have spoiled me - I admit it. Filter widths and the amount of spectrum presented on the display are infinitely variable and adjustable without the need of accessing a menu. This is enormously helpful in contesting and DXing (split), particularly on crowded bands encountered in those events.

For all my complaints about Flex's behavior with Windows updates, I realize now that the 6000-series of their radios were light-years ahead of their time when they were first offered for sale. I know that because they are still ahead of their time even 10 years later.

In my opinion, the IC7300 capitalizes on the "SDR" aspect as a selling point - without offering the true flexibility of what SDR offers. To a significant extent, it is an SDR-architecture rig with the limitations of a superhet. But this is Icom's first design of a technology that a small handful of others have been producing for a while - and it is a good "first".

Further, more minor, nuisances of the radio were:
  • The fan comes on at each transmission, regardless of output power level chosen or of the current temperature of the finals. 
  • The tuning cursor does not change size (width) to correspond to the width of the filter currently in use. Since the names of the filters don't indicate their specific bandwidth, this would have been a way to see at a glance how much of the spectrum is being listened to. Even my $300 mcHF does this, in addition to displaying the numerical filter width. Much info presented on the touchscreen - but it should be specific, not generic.

The IC-7300 is a very capable and ground-breaking radio that offers a lot for a very low price.
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4 comments:

  1. Hello John, interesting review of the Icom IC-7300. Especially the shortcomings that are annoying to you but actually I took them for granted. Actually the filter issues could be solved in a future firmware update. I hope they read your review at Icom. I had 3 selectable filters in my IC-706 and they could be choosen from HRD trough the computer CAT control. By giving the switches names I could see which width was choosen. The filter in the IC-7300 are indeed variable. You can set them to everything you want, I have to look at HRD to see if I could name them and choose them via CAT control actually. You can imagine that configuring the filters yourself was a great improvement for me as IC-706 user. I never had any other radio so I cannot compare it to anything else. I'm not a real CW operator like you, if you do CW via the internal keyer or via FSK with the computer it does a excellent job in my eyes. The fan....yes it is annoying but the IC-706 does the same so it does not bother me much. However when guarantee is over I will do the fan mod for shure. The SDR aspect, well I can't compare....besides that the flexradio is a complete different SDR and so is the price. Well, you have experienced the radio I have for a few weeks so you know what you're talking about. It is not your piece of cake....back to the elecraft K4 ?? 73, Bas

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    1. Hi Bas - this is a 1st-generation SDR from Icom and it is expected that improvements will be made to subsequent SDR rigs from them as they learn what to implement, improve and delete from their features. The same will be true of the upcoming K4 from Elecraft. I certainly don't mean what I've written to be taken as a review - just one user's opinion of what I want in a radio based on how I operate. Each person will differ, based on their specific interests and expectations.

      How we interact with a radio to implement its functions are just as important as the radio's electronic specs and it is mainly these features that I don't like. I doubt a Flex, Elecraft or any rig will hear more than an IC7300 - but, based on how I operate, those other radios will "drive" differently and it is their way that I'm used to.

      A K4? I won't even consider one until YouTube videos come out that answer (and demonstrate) the questions I have about it, so far unanswered by Elecraft. They relate more to ergonomics than performance issues. And if I do buy a K4, it'll be a kit version...but truthfully, I think I'll just keep love/hating my Flex/Windows machine!

      73 - John

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    2. Good evening John, I agree that certain radio is suited more for CW, SSB or digital or a combo of a combination of modes of operation. I have the 7610 and I do agree that changing the filter can be a drag. I use my 7610 with Win4icom software and via this software, I have a slider to change the bandwidth on the fly. I enjoyed my K3 and the first-rate support from them regarding their product. The 7610 is an SDR radio and silly me I posted on the Icom reflector some ideas for SDR upgrades for the 7610. I am used to the Elecraft reflector and many conversations about new and improved revisions to the software. Well.....the mindset I found on the Icom reflect was updates are only needed if something is wrong with the rig, if Icom can see profit and increased sales from the update and how all ideas go to Icom U.S. and then to Japan. From there it's anyone guess when and if anything is going to happen.
      One of my considerations was the Flex 6300 and I remember we spoke to each other regarding this via emails. Unfortunately, Sun radio left a very bad taste in my mouth for the radio in a box idea.
      Great feedback on the 7300.
      73,
      Mike
      VE9KK

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    3. Yes, I vividly remember our emails and was very disappointed that you had as similar an experience with Sun as I did. The disappointing part was that it quite understandably gave you a negative view of SDR's overall. I keep hoping that I'll see a blog post from you that you bought a used Flex for a good price and are giving the whole SDR experience another go. Maybe this is a good point to remind you that Flex offers a refund if you're not happy with the product, so you don't really have to gamble like I did with the '7300.

      And I'm dying to know: after owning the K3 for all those years, are you happy with the 7610?

      I loved the K3 - it absolutely changed the concept of CW and DXing for me. But then, for a reason I can't recall now, I bought a Flex and there was no looking back. Having a 32" pan display, being able to zoom in on a 5- or 10 kHz pile-up and seeing *exactly" how the DX was moving his rx frequency around...well, I'll never go back to a non-SDR as a main rig. So when the K4 was announced, I thought to myself "Here's the best of both worlds...Elecraft quality (support, QSK, owner participation in online group, etc) coupled with a pan display and the ability to output that display to a large monitor and (hopefully - these are my questions that aren't being answered) controlling the transceiver via that display & mouse.

      IOW, I want an Elecraft that I can control like my Flex (not just via the front-panel controls) and have it not be Windows-based. If the K4 turns out to be that radio, it's possible that I'll gift myself one as a retirement present.

      Please do let me know what you think of the 7610, either here or by email. I'm glad you're at a new QTH that offers better DXing possibilities but I always admired the persistence with which you DX'ed from that balcony antenna for all it was worth.

      73 - John

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