Kenwood TM-281A Review

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Whether you’re on or off the road or traveling abroad, you’re going to need a two way radio that has good connectivity, apps, and features to assist you during an emergency. And the Kenwood TM-281A is a great choice, especially for first-time users.

This is a functional radio, depending on the application. Based on its sturdy build and simplicity, we can see why this is a popular choice on the market. And in this review, we’ll speak in detail on its features, strengths, and weaknesses, and other information help decide if this is the right mobile radio for you.

Kenwood TM-281A Features

The Kenwood TM-281A is built to the latest military standard, which is pretty awesome, especially paired with its size and weight. This is a very light device, weighing in at 2 lbs, making it a great candidate for a go-bag or a portable kit.

For users who are looking for a phone during night time travel, the Kenwood TM-281A is your best bet. This mobile HAM radio offers superb operating ease during the day or night due to its illuminated keys and large backlit LCD screen.

We like the Kenwood TM-281A because of its audio quality. It has a small front mounted speaker, which gives it advantage once it’s mounted on your vehicle. Due to its smaller size, you can easily take this with you when traveling abroad.

This radio allows you to store up to 100 memory channels. It allows for manual programming, which is very easy to use.  All you have to do is set the channel parameters, press two more buttons and you’re done!

Also, the Kenwood TM-281A has an “Automatic Simplex Check” feature. When in use, the TM-281A pays attention to the next station’s signal.

If the Kenwood can detect that the other station can be contacted without a repeater, the device will blink on the ‘R’ screen, which suggests that you engage it’s reverse mode. This is more fool-proof than placing your radio on reverse and not realizing that you weren’t close to the desired station.

Kenwood Tm 281a ReviewWith its multiple scan functions, you won’t have trouble finding reception. It has a DCS & CTCSS encoder/decoder, which is used to help find both higher and lower frequencies within multiple stations.


We like its basic user interface. It can be hooked to a vertical ground plane antenna and can hit repeaters that are 100+ miles away. Because of this added distance, you’ll have more reception when you’re in remote locations.

When it’s on a low power setting, you can use its built-in cigarette lighter. But if you want to use it on higher power settings, you’ll have to use a battery connection. Based on its power settings, the Kenwood TM-281A is versatile enough to be used in almost any setting.

If you want a device that’s within the 144 MHz Range, the Kenwood TM-281A is a great device. Plus, it’s easy to program with the free CHIRP software and USB cable. On average, it will take about 2 minutes to program it with your USB cable.


The Kenwood TM-281A’s screen is easy to read and bright, but it only consists of 6 alphanumeric digits. It can be difficult to guess the menu abbreviations without having to read a manual. For new users, it will take some time getting used to this radio.

Consumers disliked the number of steps needed to adjust the squelch setting. When compared to competing brands (that have a quick-access button or a dedicated squelch knob), the 281A requires users to press two buttons before you can select a setting.

Since it has only 100 locations for memory storage, it’s behind some of its competitors. High-end brands tend to have 200+ memories available. So consider using this device if you need something simple.


Bottom line, the Kenwood TM-281A is a radio that’s worth your money. It’s able to pick up frequencies and is designed to enhance your reception. If you’re searching for effective and lightweight 2-meter mobile, this could be the right radio for you.

While it might not be the most prettiest mobile radio on the block, it is built well. It consists of two squelch options an S-meter squelch and a normal squelch. With features like this, you’ll have no problem getting this radio in your vehicle.

You can find this radio available on Amazon if you click the yellow button.

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