Posts Tagged review

GAP 20m Monogap Vertical Dipole Review

I’ve been setting up a small trailer for use as a mobile, independently powered radio station for use at HF and VHF. To that end, it has its own deployable solar panels, internal power storage, and dedicated power conversion electronics. There are quite a few 12.6 VDC VHF and HF radios out there, and I own several, so the radios are less of a problem than a situation where I have to make some kind of fun decision between multiple good options.

VHF antennas are no problem. But the HF antenna… There’s the rub. If it’s to be truly portable, that means it cannot be large, and it will not be high in the air. Those are very significant drawbacks for most antenna systems; they directly impact both receive and transmit performace. So I went hunting. Eventually, I happened upon the Monogap 20 meter antenna, which is a vertical dipole; easily portable within the frame of reference of what can be safely transported in the bed of my pickup, light, easily mounted and unmounted, inexpensive, and — as it turns out — a surprisingly good performer.
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ICOM IC 7300 Transceiver Review

The

IC-7300

IC-7300

ICOM IC 7300 marks an important inflection point for the “big three” amateur radio manufacturers: The beginning of true software-defined RF processing from one end to the other.

As the first full SDR transceiver from “the big guys”, it is interesting to consider the price point, feature set, and performance both in light of the legacy analog designs, and as compared to what SDRs are known to be capable of.
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Kenwood TS-990S Review

ts990sI’ve been operating the Kenwood TS-990S for some months now, so it’s about time I actually review it. This review reflects operation under firmware 1.05 as downloaded from the Kenwood website.

Because there have been a number of reviews that have done an excellent job of enumerating the radio’s features, I’m going to come at this differently. I’m going to first give you an overview of how well I think it operates and how comfortable I’ve become (or not) with its features, along with an assessment of its value with regard to its capabilities. I’ll note a few things that seem unique to me, standout features that are really special from the operations standpoint.

Then I’m going to lay out, in detail, the critiques I have of the radio from an operating point of view — that’s something no one has really gone into as far as I know, and I hope you’ll find it useful. I even nurse a vague hope that Kenwood will, via Google-fu or some kind soul, find this and take some of my ideas to heart, because I really do think the radio could be significantly improved with just a firmware upgrade (or several.)
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Roku XDS – A Review

If you’ve been following my blog at all, you’ll know that we bought an Apple TV v2. That experience was really, really bad. The details are here if you want them, but suffice it to say that I was impelled back into shopping for a similar device, because the Apple TV simply wasn’t going to cut it.

Enter the Roku XDS. Same price, same general type of device, a fair amount of buzz. Enough to catch my attention, consume a few reviews and comments… at $99, these things don’t exactly break the bank, so, in for a penny, in for a pound, we bought one. This is the story of how that went, often contrasted to the Apple TV v2, as that was what it was replacing. You might want to grab some popcorn.
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Review: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

100mm Generally speaking, the Canon EF 100mmis a great lens. The bokeh is fine. The lens is pretty fast. f/2.8 to f/22 is useful as a creative range. The optics are sharp and the all-time focusing is a boon. So what’s not to like? Well, here’s the thing. The Canon EOS50D, which I use, has the ability to use the viewfinder in “live preview” mode, and when doing so, will allow you to zoom in on your focus point (or anywhere else, but that’s irrelevant to my point here) such that you can see extremely fine detail. At which point you can manually focus the lens so that it is exactly right. Marvelous, right?

It would be. But the lens has some mechanical backlash problems. Let me explain backlash; if you’re not familiar with it, it takes a bit of describing.
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Review: Phoenix 500mm Catadioptric Lens

phoenix500 The Phoenix 500mmis a catadioptric lens. That means that it is very similar to a reflex, or mirror, telescope, and that it mixes mirror elements with refractive elements. The light comes in the front of the lens, goes right to the back of the lens, where it hits a large (full lens circumference) concave mirror, which then focuses all that light more tightly back in the direction it came. In the middle of the business end of the lens is another mirror, which then sends the light down the center of the lens back toward the camera, where standard refractive optical elements further magnify and focus the incoming light prior to hitting the film or sensor. A lens of this type is not only similar to a reflector telescope, it can actually perform as one, and you can find eyepiece attachments for just that purpose.

One of the significant benefits of a catadioptric lens is that you get less chromatic aberration, and so with subjects like the moon, which you expect to be grey, you actually get a grey image. With a standard refractor telephoto, you’re quite likely to get colored fringes on sharp bright/dark boundaries – this is an area where reflectors can and do excel, and this lens is no exception.
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Review: Monster MP PRO 3500

mp3500
My A/V system has a fair amount of stuff. There’s what I call the current generation set of gear… There’s a Sony STR-DA5300ES receiver, a separate 750 watt power amp for my sub, a PS3/Blueray, an XBox360/HD-DVD, a conventional progressive scan DVD player, a Wii, a DBS/DVR, a Mac Mini and a CD/MD player. Then there is what I call the last generation set of gear, an XBox, a PS2, and a Gamecube. There are several wall warts for things like rechargeable Wii controllers, an XBox 360 wheel, a network switch, a power supply for the dish multiplexer and so on. All of this feeds an Optoma 1080p projector which has its own UPS that also runs the Mac Mini (you really don’t want a projector to suddenly lose power… the fan stops and the bulb immediately overheats, losing lifespan or even dying right there on the spot; and of course you don’t want power to a computer failing, ever.)

The wiring for all this stuff is… formidable. Prior to getting the Monster unit, there were multiple power strips and cables just everywhere. So the first thing I got out of the MP PRO 3500was increased organization and lessened clutter. I still needed a couple of power strips, partially because wall warts take up so much room, and partially because there are just so many units, but trust me, it is a lot better than it was.
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Review: Canon EOS 40D

I’ll start off by saying that yes, the EOS 40Dreally is a great camera. I bought it as body only, then added a Canon EF 100 f2.8 Macro USM lens. If you’re not familiar with that lens, it is fairly heavy, and so the camera has felt heavy to me since day one. But it was the lens creating that impression.
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