Icom IC-R20 Review

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Icom IC-R20 Review

Post by Pty » Fri May 06, 2011 11:05 am

This is a review of the Icom IC-R20 Receiver.


Big Screen
Backlit Keypad
Built-in Recording
Extremely long life from supplied battery


Audio not loud enough
Slow Scanning
May need manual for operation/programming
Slow charging time
Unable to save recorded audio onto pc



Full details are at:

http://www.icom-australia.com/products/ ... c-r20.html

This scanner/receiver from icom receives 0.150 MHz to 3304.9999MHz and has full FM, WFM, AM, USB, LSB and CW receive modes. It has 1250 Memory Channels ( 8 Character Alpha Tagging) and comes with both a rechargeable battery and a removable clip so you can use 3x AA batteries instead of the rechargeable battery.

I purchased this receiver 2 years ago (2009) after previously owing:

a Bearcat 200 XLT:


a Bearcat 120XLT:


and an Icom IC-R5:


The R20 seemed to fit the bill for what i was after. I wanted wide receive ability with SSB, backlit keypad, Dual watch and the recording feature seemed to be a nice bonus. I ordered the R20 through http://www.prestigecom.net.au/ and it arrived 3 days later. Prestigecom.com.au always have speedy service.

It arrived in the usual Icom plain looking box and i opened it up and checked it was all there. All the supplied accessories listed were in the box. The build quality is impressive, it feels light yet sturdy. Not in the league of an Icom commercial handheld 2-way but still very good. The buttons and knobs all have a solid, firm feel to them. I had been studying the manual while it was in transit which i had downloaded online from the Icom website so i was already familiar with the operation of the radio. After having a good look at it i inserted the AA adaptor and 3x AA's to bring it into life. I turned it on and had a play around with menu, VFO & memory operation. I tuned into one of my local emergency services and i noticed that the audio and signal was excellent, although at full volume a little less than i would have liked. The only criticism i would give at this point is that the audio doesn't appear to go very loud. I have an Icom 41s CB handheld that it's audio is much louder and i would go as far to say that my Icom R5 had louder audio.

After playing around for a while i popped it into my pocket and went outside to water the garden while listening to the local emergency services. Only several minutes later while walking around the radio slipped out of my pocket and slammed with a thump onto a rock. Oh no i thought, i've had it for literally 5 minutes and i've broken it already! I picked it up and to my horror there was a scratch and a gash out of the DUALWATCH button, a scratch near the power button and bottom right of the screen. I was devastated! I've had plenty of scanners through the years and carried them all the over place and never damaged one. However to my relief the button and scanner worked fine and has been doing so for the last 2 years i've owned it and still does today. The scratch is only aesthetic and proves that the radio can certainly take a drop/knock. Immediately after i went inside and fitted the supplied belt clip. It hasn't happened since!:


The screen is awesome. It's big, and displays so much information that you're never wondering about a feature. The buttons light up and because i use it a lot at night i really wanted something that i could use in the dark. My previous Icom R5 did not have illuminated buttons and i felt that this was a drawback because you need to take a torch with you if you wanted to use the radio in the dark.

I tested the radio on HF bands around 3-20 Mhz and i am pleased to say that it picks up Shortwave broadcasts fairly well and i have been able to receive HAM/Amateur conversations in SSB mode on several occasions with the standard telescoping antenna. AM/FM Broadcast stations are about average. This radio really shines on the Aircraft band and 400-500 mhz band. The audio is loud and clear. It also works well with a cordless headphone set i use for my TV which operates around 930mhz wideband. When my headphones are flat i just whip out the Icom R20 and use an earpiece and it works a charm.

As far as the operation of the radio is concerned, i would say it's easier to use and navigate than my Icom R5. With more buttons it's more intuitive and makes programming a breeze. It's definitely not as easy to program as a Uniden bearcat but it's not an extremely hard task to do once you've done it a few times. I won't delve into the process of programming as the manual clearly explains how to do this. Yes it can be confusing but that's only because there are so many more options to choose from than a standard style scanner. The settings menu is very easy to navigate.

Scan speed is average. It's no speed demon like the twin turbo Uniden Bearcats but it's effective.

The CTCSS tone scan is an interesting feature, while receiving a signal the radio scans and looks for the tone being used. It's very effective and fairly quick to find a signal. The Band Scope feature allows you to bring up a graph displaying nearby signals within a chosen frequency step. This is effective but i see it as more a novelty but it's nice to play with.

The Dualwatch function is excellent. I usually have 2 emergency services, one in each 'receiver' or one emergency service and say a TV channel or broadcast station in the other. I often have one listening to a memory channel and the other listening to a VFO frequency. You can set the volume and squelch independently and this makes it a great way of using this receiver. It really is like listening to 2 radios and you can listen to 2 different transmissions chattering away at the same time. I found that HF doesn't work very well at all in Dualwatch mode and is better suited to 'Singlewatch' mode.

Now the best part, the recording feature. You can choose 3 quality settings and stop/start the recordings up to 25 times. I found that the medium and highest quality are about the same in audio quality but that lowest quality setting is fairly poor, but it does give much longer recording time. I use this daily but initially I didn't realise how effective it can be until i started using it regularly. I live in a rural area with few emergency services transmissions compared to when i lived in a built up area. The recording feature helps because i can set it to record an emergency service overnight or during the day and it only records transmissions and leaves out the long silences in-between. I can come home from work and listen to an entire day's worth or transmissions which has been compacted down to 30 minutes to an hour. I can find out what happened in an entire day in about an hour or so. A great feature!

Battery life has been excellent. I would say it gets about 10-12 hours on a set of AA's. Initially, the rechargeable battery was getting about the same but now that i've recharged it about 50+ times it seems to have opened up a bit and i'm getting some ridiculous standby times. Last week i set it to record an emergency service overnight. I set it at about 11pm and forgot about it and went to work the next day, came home and forgot about it again until the next morning about 8am. That's 33 hours, and it was still going! Mind you, it had only filled about 1.5 hours worth of recording in that time but that's still quite an amazing amount of time to be on standby. It went flat not long after and then required a charge. This leads me to the only downside which is that it needs 8-10 hours of charging with the supplied charger. This would be ok if you could charge the battery separately but unfortunately the battery needs to be in the radio and the radio need to be switched off which means that the radio is out of action for 8-10 hours. I have ordered a 'fast charger' and a spare battery, the fast charger apparently takes 2 hours and can charge batteries independently. This should solve that problem but it's an extra $130 for the charger.

The R20 uses the same USB cable as a standard Canon camera for programming. I have used the PC software to program the scanner and while it makes it much easier to program info, particular large numbers of channels you can forget how to program the radio via the keypad if you use the pc all the time... i did! Downside is that you cannot save recorded audio files into a windows friendly format on the pc.

It's a great radio with excellent build quality and performance and has features such as dualwatch and recording which makes scanning so much more enjoyable and efficient. I have no regrets at all with the purchase of this receiver.


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Re: Icom IC-R20 Review

Post by yorky » Fri May 06, 2011 6:38 pm

Nice review, and I remember when my Bearcat 200 XLT looked that clean! It must be 20+ years old now...
"VKI, NJ050 will you be attending the job?"
"Negative VKI, my desk is bolted to the floor".
WARSUG General Scanning Moderator

Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:56 pm

Re: Icom IC-R20 Review

Post by misterA » Sat Jun 11, 2011 9:25 pm

Pty wrote: This would be ok if you could charge the battery separately but unfortunately the battery needs to be in the radio and the radio need to be switched off which means that the radio is out of action for 8-10 hours.
I suspect the radio only needs to be turned off while connecting charger probably to avoid any sudden surges or spikes on the dc line.
The manual. page 1 item [5] says the adapter can be used for both charging and operating.
I've only had my IC-R20 for a week and am generally happy with its performance. It is however very deaf down at the bottom end of the spectrum. I live about 1 Km from an airport and can not receive the local NDB with the whip antenna. It is a handy frequency for getting up to date weather info.
That's probably why Icom doesn't quote receiver sensitivity below 495 Khz.


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