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Kenwood TH-D72 2m/440 APRS HT Review

Moleculo

Ham Radio Nerd
Apr 14, 2002
9,067
1,397
283
APRS & GPS Continued

I've spent the better part of my "radio time" over the last few days attempting to get the TH-D72's APRS and GPS functions to communicate with my PC to do more advanced tasks than just programming the radio. It hasn't been as simple as I had hoped, but I have been successful.

The first problem that I had was trying to install the USB drivers from Silicon Labs on my Windows Vista PC. The install was unsuccessful several times and I still haven't accomplished that task. I'm sure I can resolve the problem, but I decided to go back to the Windows 7 PC where I had already successfully worked with the driver and radio. I own a current copy of Microsoft MapPoint and wanted to see if the TH-D72's GPS could send its info to the software to display my current location. I enabled the PC Output option under GPS settings and then configured MapPoint to receive GPS updates from the specified port. Despite every possible USB COM port configuration, MapPoint only reported that it could see that the, "...GPS is sending data, but it is not in the required NMEA 2.0 format". I decided to try Google Earth to accomplish the same thing and it also could not interpret the info sent from the TH-D72.

I wanted to see for myself what was being sent from the radio, so next I installed a COM port logger to capture the packets sent to the PC. I was shocked when I captured this:
$
†„„ä„ąć¤ÄÄ…椅&††Ä„dž¤¤§FƤåÄÂâ€\
žÃ¤Ã„„„‡DÆ’!ÀÀÅ¥¦Ä…¦Ä…¦Å„¦Å„†ÅÆ„§†äÆ„‡\
‡AÆ’!ÃÅÄ„¦ÅŦ„¦Æ…¦Ä„ÅŦĄ¦Å¦Ä…†Å…Ä¥§@Æ\
’!ÃÅÅ„†Ä

After poking around in the Windows Device Manager, I noticed that Windows had not only detected the USB serial port, but also had added a failed installation of a new Microsoft trackball mouse that I don't have. Plugging and unplugging the radio verified that this "mouse" was indeed related to the radio. For whatever reason, the driver had not installed properly on my Windows 7 PC, either. I completely uninstalled the driver, reinstalled and initiated a new COM port log. Now I got this:

$GPGGA,063045.000,3409.5571,N,11759.5660,W,1,04,03.0,00242.1,M,-033.0,M,000.0,0000*4D
$GPGSA,A,3,30,16,23,31,,,,,,,,,04.3,03.0,03.1*03
$GPGSV,3,1,12,20,74,212,,23,55,329,21,32,54,152,18,16,50,097,21*72
$GPGSV,3,2,12,13,29,301,,30,23,048,24,31,18,047,22,07,14,239,*7A
$GPGSV,3,3,12,24,09,196,,04,07,310,,11,05,208,,03,01,140,*72
$GPRMC,063045.000,A,3409.5571,N,11759.5660,W,0001.69,305.81,141210,,*25

This looks much better! I tried it again with Microsoft MapPoint and also Google Earth, but neither still likes the message format. I'm not up to speed on the NMEA 2.0 message format, but apparently what the TH-D72 sends isn't it.

Before going any further with the USB interface, I turned off the GPS output and turned on the APRS PC output. Here is a sample of what I captured:
cmd:W6COH-10>APX194,KF6ILA-10,N6EX-1*:=3344.75N111658.13W#PHG7190XASTIR-Linux iGate Hemet,CA
N6QZV-2>SSTRSX,N6EX-1*,WIDE2-1:`-Vfl!n-/]"3v}
N6EX-1>APNU19-3:!3411.21N111802.13W#PHG5664/LA Area W1/A=003000/sceara@ham-radio.com
N6EX-1>APNU19-2,N6EX-5*:!3411.21N111802.13W#PHG5664/LA Area W1/A=003000/sceara@ham-radio.com
K6PYT-1>APT311,N6EX-1*,WIDE2-1:/140640z3403.38N/11756.32Wk205/000/A=000357

These APRS messages looked promising so I decided to give it a try with APRSPoint. Unfortunately, APRSPoint was never able to open the the TH-D72's TNC. I decided to give APRSIS32 a try after seeing G4ILO's report that he was able to work the HT with it. I had to figure out the correct combination of settings, but it worked! One tip: you can't turn on both the GPS output and APRS output on the HT at the same time; APRSIS32 can't address both functions on the same COM port. Here is a sample screen after letting the application receive some APRS info for a few minutes, monitoring only the RF port:

1517-1292309798-d6123adc0e8d5914e4ebec7bb28a8c1a.jpg


I was also able to set APRSIS32 to control the TNC and send a message over the air using my PC and TH-D72 to my other APRS radios. I turned off the TNC connection and enabled the GPS connection, and found that it works with APRSIS32 also. So, despite a rocky start, I've found that the TH-D72 is indeed capable of working with software applications to do APRS and GPS tracking.

Next, I'll discuss the digipeating capabilities in the HT
 

Moleculo

Ham Radio Nerd
Apr 14, 2002
9,067
1,397
283
Advanced APRS Functions

I've covered the main APRS functions that will be used most often by most users of the TH-D72. In addition to Smart Beaconing and the typical Filter / Group Filter settings, additional functions are included that work quite well and are worth mentioning:

  • Auto-Reply - Put in a callsign or partial callsign with a * (wild card) who you want to auto reply to when you receive their message. You can only make one entry and one reply message. I tested it between my various APRS radios and didn't find any problems to report.
  • User Phrases - You can store up to 8 predefined phrases that can be copied into an APRS message so you don't have to punch in a commonly used message.
  • QSY Frequency - The radio allows you to easily interact with received stations with QSY frequency info, and also send beacons with your TX frequency info, as well. You use APRS Statuses 1 through 4 to input the QSY info. Make sure and refer to the manual for the supported formats. IMO, this function would work better if beacons where allowed to automatically TX the other VFO's frequency instead of having to punch it into the menu.
  • Weather Station output - If you hook up a weather station to the rig, you can output the relevant info as APRS packets.
Digipeating

The TH-D72 includes all of the functions needed to act as either a fill-in or full time digipeater. Here are some of the relevant menu functions you configure to enable digipeating:

Enable/disable the inclusion of your callsign in digipeated packets
1519-1292396653-b6f338a10db94c3c9b9a905041623373.jpg


Turn the digipeater on/off and configure the path you want your digipeater to respond to:
1520-1292396653-c19b1db627a5338b02e6d7733304329d.jpg


UIFLOOD settings - Typically you will leave this off, but you can use it to enable digipeating for region specific paths (like your state) or even semi-private paths:
1521-1292396653-2faa63d714945af8a9202191ba12ce76.jpg


UITRACE settings - When a packet received contains the specified alias, decrement the hop count and add your callsign to the trace:
1522-1292396653-e1e57c99880818a78c122a3d994fe9ac.jpg


I have successfully tested and used the TH-D72 as a local digipeater and it works well! When used in conjunction with software like APRSISCE, you can configure a 5 watt digipeater/iGate that works to relay other station packets over the air, to the APRSIS network, and also relay messages. There is no other handheld radio available at this time that supports the full compliment of APRS functions like the TH-D72 does.
 

g4ilo

Member
Aug 30, 2009
33
0
16
Cumbria, UK
www.g4ilo.com
I ran a quick test: I switched the radio on and set it next to the window at my desk. The radio took 9 minutes to find the GPS satellites and acquire my position.

That's really so dependent on the location, amount of locally generated interference etc. On my shack desk it only took two or three minutes. A VX-8GR would take 15 minutes to never in the same position.
 

Qwazyone

Active Member
Jan 25, 2009
294
7
28
South of Canada, North of Mexico
That's really so dependent on the location, amount of locally generated interference etc. On my shack desk it only took two or three minutes. A VX-8GR would take 15 minutes to never in the same position.

I ran a couple non-scientific tests of my own. From the second floor of the house, both the VX-8GR and TH-D72 got GPS lock from anywhere from 35 seconds to 90 seconds. Later I tried from the first floor and the VX-8GR got a position before the TH-D72 did and by close to a minute sooner. I am impressed with the TH-D72 and should have the 3 button speaker mic next week to use the full duplex on the sats.
 

Moleculo

Ham Radio Nerd
Apr 14, 2002
9,067
1,397
283
TH-D72 Summary

I've had the TH-D72 for a long enough time that I can summarize my opinion of this neat little radio. The radio is sturdy, well built and will withstand some abuse. Although it is a little larger than some other units, it feels good in the hand and has a nice sized buttons that are easy to use and read. The display is very simple and very readable. The standard 1800mAh battery will allow a full day's usage, within reasonable TX expectations. The basic radio functions aren't anything special; it is a basic 2m/440 HT. It does offer pre-programmed WX channels and a WX Alert function. If you have other Kenwood rigs that support SkyCommand, this HT can be used for TX/RX and control with those rigs. The menu structure is overly simplistic, which makes it easy to use and read. More sophisticated users will probably wish that the interface could show more information on the screen. The belt clip is probably indestructible!

The transmit audio quality is very good and I have never received a single negative comment. The built in speaker puts out more than enough volume and it sounds good for an HT. One thing I don't like is that the odd-split functionality only works on the same band. In other words, you cannot program the radio to receive on 440Mhz and transmit on 2 meters. Satellite users may find this especially annoying if you like to work the birds using this method. The upside is that the radio's full duplex capability works really well even if you have to switch back and forth between the VFO's to adjust the RX for doppler shift.

The built in USB port that allows you to program the rig, interface with the TNC, and output GPS works well. I have had one problem, which is I've never been able to get the Silicon Labs USB driver to install on my Vista machine. This isn't a Kenwood issue, but a Silicon Labs problem.

The real reason you would consider this HT is for its unmatched APRS capability in a small package. It not only supports basic APRS tracking and messaging, but includes complete Smart Beaconing capabilities, Voice Alert, and multiple digipath entries. The digipeating function works very well. At only 5 watts transmit, the digipeating feature is meant to be used with external gain antennas, and probably a small brick amp, but it does work. When you interface the APRS TNC using the USB port to your PC and add some software like APRSIS32 or UI-View, you track all of the APRS functions on your PC and even gate the packets to the APRS-IS servers. As a side note, the internal TNC not only performs APRS functions, but can be used for any 2 meter packet operations.

The built-in GPS allows you to save waypoints, navigate to saved / entered coordinates, and also save a GPS trail off to your PC. Interfacing with an external GPS is done via the built in COM port.

Lastly, the radio's firmware is updatable by software using the USB connection (Kenwood has already issued one update). The supplied programming software is very adequate for programming.

In summary, what makes this HT shine is its unique APRS and TNC capabilities which are more complete than Yaesu's offerings. However, it lacks many of the general capabilities found in other radios at this price point. If you are looking for a do-everything HT that also has basic APRS capabilities, the TH-D72 may not be the radio for you. However, if you want a good 2m/440 radio that has the most complete APRS and packet functionality in a small package with the best PC interface on the market, the TH-D72 is the clear leader.

If there are any questions or capabilities that I can answer questions about, be sure to ask. If you have your own opinions to add to this review, feel free to contribute.
 

Robb

Yup
Dec 18, 2008
11,433
3,605
323
Silicon Valley CA, Storm Lake IA
TH-D72 Summary
The built in USB port that allows you to program the rig, interface with the TNC, and output GPS works well. I have had one problem, which is I've never been able to get the Silicon Labs USB driver to install on my Vista machine. This isn't a Kenwood issue, but a Silicon Labs problem.
Have you tried it on a XP or Windows 7 machine? Nothing like using Vista to have a problem where there shouldn't be.
 

Moleculo

Ham Radio Nerd
Apr 14, 2002
9,067
1,397
283
Have you tried it on a XP or Windows 7 machine? Nothing like using Vista to have a problem where there shouldn't be.


Yes, it works just fine on my Windows 7 PC. This Vista machine is so screwed up, I can't really find any fault with anything but the machine, though. It's about to get replaced with a new PC.
 

Moleculo

Ham Radio Nerd
Apr 14, 2002
9,067
1,397
283
What do you think it is missing?

Most people are going to make a direct comparison between the Yaesu VX-8DR and the TH-D72, as they are in the same price category and are both APRS enabled radios.

Here is a short list of major non-APRS functionality that the VX-8DR has that the TH-D72 does not:


  • TX/RX on 6 meters
  • TX/RX on 220Mhz
  • WFM & AM RX
  • Bluetooth headphone/mic (optional)
  • Stereo audio output
  • Significantly increased RX range. These are the gaps that the TH-D72 cannot RX that the VX-8 can: 1.8-76Mhz, 108-118Mhz, 174-320 Mhz, 524-999Mhz (cell blocked)
  • 24 Memory Banks which are completely user definable and flexible.
  • Multi-Band odd-split
  • Pre-programmed VHF Marine and Broadcast SWL frequencies
  • Band Scope
  • Frequency Counter
  • RX Attenuator
  • Mic Gain
Things that I consider minor features (includes Yaesu specific things) are:

  • CW Tutor
  • AF Dual mode - Monitor two bands of VHF/UHF while RX WFM/AM
  • Smart Search - auto load active frequencies into memory
  • Memory Dual Watch is a little more flexible
  • Echolink/IRLP node memories using Internet button
  • ARTS - Alerts you when another ARTS enabled station is in range (Yaesu specific functionality)
  • Submersible
 

wd9ewk

Member
Jan 5, 2009
5
0
11
Most people are going to make a direct comparison between the Yaesu VX-8DR and the TH-D72, as they are in the same price category and are both APRS enabled radios.

True, but a comparison between the TH-D72 and the VX-8GR would be a better one. Both are 2m/70cm HTs with some non-ham receive capability, and both have built-in GPS and APRS functionality. The TH-D72A is a $499 radio, and the VX-8GR is currently $319 - using HRO pricing from their web site this afternoon. If all you want is the ability to be an APRS tracker and to send and receive APRS messages, the VX-8GR will fit that need without having to buy additional stuff. Neither of these radios will transmit on 6m or 222 MHz or have the option for Bluetooth like the VX-8DR - a $414 radio currently - but you will spend about $100 to get a GPS on the VX-8DR. Both of the Yaesu radios come with a smaller 1100mAh rechargeable battery pack instead of the optional 1800mAh pack, but Kenwood made the (IMO) smart decision to include an 1800mAh pack with the TH-D72A. Add $65.95 to the Yaesu radios for the higher-capacity Yaesu battery pack, or Batteries America now has a less-expensive 2000mAh pack for those Yaesu radios.

If the comparison is between the TH-D72A and VX-8GR, the questions could be:

  1. Is a fully-functional TNC necessary for you?
  2. Do you want the ability to work FM satellites "full-duplex"?

For some, the fully-functional TNC is a must. They want to do more than just take a data stream from the VX-8GR and plot callsigns and locations on a map. They want to use other software on a computer for APRS, instead of working with the radio's display and keypad. If I wasn't interested in satellites, I would be completely satisfied with the VX-8GR as my APRS-capable HT with built-in GPS. Since I also work the satellites, and may even try the built-in TNC at 9600bps with AO-51, I now have both radios. For now, I am not selling my VX-8GR, but may do so in the near future. Not because it is a bad radio, but so I can get it to someone who will use it instead of having it sit idle at home.

73!





Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK
http://www.wd9ewk.net/
 
Last edited:

89gta

W9WDX Amateur Radio Club Member
Jan 6, 2009
21
0
11
The manual for the D72 doesn't seem to be the greatest as far as ease of understanding how to set up the radio for APRS. I've checked th Yahoo group but
really can't find any straightforward 1,2,3 procedure for the settings, beacon, received stations and messages.
Anyone here know of a cheat sheet for the D72?
Thanks for any input,
N6RDC
 

Qwazyone

Active Member
Jan 25, 2009
294
7
28
South of Canada, North of Mexico
The manual for the D72 doesn't seem to be the greatest as far as ease of understanding how to set up the radio for APRS. I've checked th Yahoo group but
really can't find any straightforward 1,2,3 procedure for the settings, beacon, received stations and messages.
Anyone here know of a cheat sheet for the D72?
Thanks for any input,
N6RDC

Have you checked the pdf's on the CD? That is where the detailed info is
 

89gta

W9WDX Amateur Radio Club Member
Jan 6, 2009
21
0
11
Yes, I've printed the instruction manual but it seems to be vague, at least
no real "Do this" 1,2,3. The only mention of the TNC switch was in the packet section, I'm no APRS expert and the manual looks like it was written for someone with APRS knowledge...
 

Sami_Touma

Member
Dec 31, 2010
1
0
11
46
Visual alert when receiving APRS msg?

Thank you for your report.

As I was reading about VX-8GR, it seems that a led would flash (optional) when getting APRS msg.

Does the TH-D72 have any similar option (for visual notification upon receiving msgs) ?

Thx
 

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