I recently invested in a new Wouxun KG-699E 4m hand-held. The first thing to say is that this is a really good little radio and outstanding value at around £90. The radio has many functions which we seldom need for amateur radio use, though some may be helpful for activities such as Raynet etc. As 4m does not have repeaters, even fewer of the Wouxun facilities are needed on this band.
The radio is small, light but rugged construction. It has a nicely rounded profile the makes it comfortable to hold even for long periods. It Controls are nicely positioned and easy to use. The display letters are large enough to read easily with or without the backlight on. Additionally voice prompts are available in English or Chinese (handy for those of you brushing up your Mandarin). Changing the voice prompt language does not affect the display language, which is fortunate otherwise you would have to learn Chinese script to change it back.
The marketing material is not clear on what bands this radio covers, so let me clear that up. It transmits on 66 to 88 MHz, so, as it is possible to transmit outside the amateur band care is needed. It also receives on the FM broadcast band, which I find a useful feature. As far as I can tell, it does not receive on other bands, but please correct me if I am wrong.
As with most hand-held radios, the Wouxun is a bit fiddly to programme, but optional software and a cable is available and programming it with a computer makes life much easier.
The Wouxun comes with:
A small rubber-duck antenna
And of course the radio itself.
The rubber duck antenna has been criticized in the press, but to be fair, it is only 1/20 wavelength long so, with that length, it’s never going to be efficient (like trying to work on 20m with a 1m long antenna). However, I have had some good local contacts with just that and its size makes it very convenient when out portable with the radio.
The antenna connector is unusual as it is a male SMA, but I had no difficulty finding adaptors to BNC, N etc. on eBay.
The standard battery charger will either accept just a battery or the radio with the battery in place. The charger can be powered from the mains or from 12V dc, which is useful for portable or Raynet operations. The battery is Lithium-ion 1300 mAh which gives a good operating time and recharges in about 4 hours. The radio does not have an external power socket and as this type of battery ‘falls off the cliff’ when it is exhausted, a spare battery is essential. Batteries are easy to change, but held securely in place with two catches, one on either side of the radio.
The handbook really does need improvement. I suspect it was badly written in Chinese and then translated into English by a non-specialist. Fortunately, however the radio is quite intuitive so the handbook shortcomings are not a serious matter.
On the air, I have had excellent reports. I usually use it with a vertical dipole that I built in my loft from some scrap copper. Unfortunately I bought the radio after the ‘E’ season finished, so I have not worked any real DX, but stations up to 50km are easily workable. The audio reports are good, but on narrow FM I have been told my audio is a bit quiet and there is no adjustment that I can find for this. The receive audio is also excellent quality for a radio of this size.
All round, the Wouxun KG-699E is a great little radio and although it does have a few shortcomings, I really enjoy using it and I believe it will give the other amateur radio suppliers something to think about. The lack of an external power socket has not caused me any problems so far as the battery life is good and they re-charge in a few hours. Their documentation needs to be greatly improved. I have used lots of handheld radios so this was not a problem for me, but could be discouraging for someone who is new to amateur radio.
I really hope Wouxun are successful in this market and bring out a larger range of amateur radio equipment in the future.