First impressions of the Kenwood TM-281



Kenwood TM-281

Kenwood’s small mobile rig is packed with some nice features including:

  • Frequency Coverage: 144-146 MHz TX, 136-174 MHz RX
    201 Memories (100 with alpha-tagging)
    25/65 Watts RF Output
    High-Quality Front Mounted Loudspeaker
    Built-In CTCSS/DCS Encoder/Decoder
    Rugged, Compact Design to MIL-STD 810G

Rig needs 14A on High Power and 8A on Low Power. RX Drain is near 1A. 

Dimensions:  160 mm (W) x 43 mm (H) x 126 mm (D) – excluding projections

After the necessary (need to know) information lets move for the first impressions and the usability of the rig.  After unpacking the rig first I noticed the N-connector behind the radio.. okay this wouldn’t be a problem as everyone have N to UHF adapters @home right?  So for me the N-connector was not an issue, but for some people it may come as a surprise. Wish every connector would be at least N.. hi.   Mounting the rig under my desk was easy and fast, no extra bolts or anything which required rocket science engineer to finish these tasks. It took about ten (10) minutes to get on air after the package was opened on my desk. 

After the mounting it was time to power up this beauty. Firstly I noticed the very clear RX Audio which was very pleasant to listen to (no need for external speakers) Also the position of the speaker (front) would make this rig nice to install on in example  DIN-spot @mobile installations. Next step I noticed (well actually I heard from fellow HAM) was the TX audio which he gave thumbs up. “very clear Mikko, 59”.  After some ragchewing I was running around opening the repeaters and going through of various of the menu-items.

For the first impression only cons I’ve found (depends do you get used to it or not) was that Squelch was behind Function+Rev button and changeable only via software menu. Actually Squelch seemed working quite well on level one but time will tell.. also stuff like “Smartsearch” on Yaesu was not found on Kenwood.

Last time when I blogged about Yaesu FT-1900 I went through programming rig manually fully but this time I ordered programming cable separately. I will update this blog entry after I have received the cable and dwelled into the abyss of programming this tiny monster.

Few links:

More talk about TM-281:




I promised to get back within the blog after I tested the software programming on this tiny rig. Software itself is called MCP-1A and it is made by Kenwood.  It only works under Windows (slight maybe for virtual or wine) and to make things easier I honestely suggest you run it on native WinOS. Cable is either easy to make yourself (rs232 +usb adapter maybe) or you buy one, I chose the later. First starting the MCP-1A you notice big difference compared to made in china software for rigs like baofeng and wouxun. Program is stable, rather fast and it didnt die while configuring the rig. Programming is very clear and you are up and running in 5-10 minutes. I used kind of same idea for programming as with Yaesu’s ft-1900 and filled banks with HAM simplex, repeaters and then some stations for pure RX enjoyment.  You can get more information on the links below, I hope you good times with tm-281!


UPDATE: after succesfully running this for some time im having some problems with the factory made mic. Problem is related to TX which for some reason is not activating at all the time. Seems I am forced to get me a new mic.



Keep the bands safe!

73 de OH2FXD