ICOM IC-7600 HF and 6 Meter Transceiver
Reviewed by Rick Lindquist, WW3DE National Contest Journal Managing Editor
The IC-7600 represents a superb synthesis of ICOM's popular PROIII and the IC-7700/7800 transceivers, both in style, features and capability. Another winner!
Already widely known as the "PROIV," ICOM's IC-7600 HF+50 MHz transceiver is an apparent and worthy successor to the extremely popular IC-756PROIII.1 Whatever ICOM's designation, the IC-7600 is a terrific performer with a fine complement of useful tools for DXing and contesting! Granted, the IC-7600 is not totally new and different with respect to the older PROIII and the more recent IC-7700 and IC-7800 transceivers.2 This review will include some comparisons, as appropriate, to the models with which it shares some DNA. Let's see how the IC-7600 stacks up.
A Stylish Makeover
On its face, the '7600 looks similar to its PRO series forbears, the most notable exception being a larger and improved LCD display (Figure 1). My wife liked the new display after comparing the PROIII and the '7600 side by side, so it must be better. The IC-7600 is essentially the same convenient size and weight as the PROIII with a similar front-panel layout. Some may mourn the replacement of the PROIII's moving-coil meter with an excellent digital emulation on the '7600's larger display. ICOM has a similar implementation on the
IC-7700 and IC-7800, and all offer a choice offaux meter styles, too — standard (analog), edgewise and bar. If you're already familiar with the PRO line, you'll feel right at home with the '7600. If you're a newcomer, you'll find the IC-7600 has a gentle learning curve. ICOM's plain-language menus are a major reason for this.
Wider is Better
Legends and icons on the 5.8 inch 400x240 pixel display feature clean, straight lines. For example, on the PROIII, the current operating mode appears in a stylized horizontal tube, sort of like a hot dog or a blimp. The MODE indicator on the IC-7600 is a smallish but very visible blue rectangle with white letters. The RIT/XIT readout is smaller than the PROIII's, and it's in a different display location that I never quite got used to (the RIT/XIT readout on the PROIII places larger numerals directly below the last three digits of the main frequency readout). As with the IC-7700, the IC-7600
offers only an "A" or a "B" display — one essentially an inverse of the other — plus three font choices — basic, italic and round. The basic and round styles are quite similar, but the round characters are a bit fatter.
After complaining about the limited viewing angle of the IC-7700's otherwise excellent display, we're pleased to note that the IC-7600 offers excellent horizontal and vertical visibility from just about any angle. The IC-7600 does not provide for connecting an external VGA video display, however.
Aside from its fabulous display, the '7600's uncluttered front-panel has a smooth, semi-gloss surface that may be easier to clean than the PROIII's. The rest of the box closely resembles the PROIII's, but without the sunken front apron and with sharper, rather than rounded, features. The '7600's larger knobs — the hefty, clean-edged rubber-ringed tuning knob is like the one on the IC-7700 — ease their use.
The radio's bright-white control legends are larger and easier to read than those on the PROIII. While I do appreciate the PROIII's oversized red keypad numerals for entering a frequency, those on the '7600's keypad, though smaller, remain easy to read, and the keypad buttons are larger to start with. In addition, the "pointer" markings on the IC-7600's knobs are simple to see, and the rings on concentric controls contrast ever so slightly in hue and sheen. All knobs — even the stem controls — are fatter than the PROIII's. On the other hand, the stem controls are in a more congested location on the '7600 because of its larger display. The IC-7600 overcomes the absence of contrasting colors on knobs and front panel legends in part by employing variations in button styles and shapes.
One minor unintended consequence of the front-panel rearrangement: The TRANSMIT, TUNER and MONITOR buttons are in a horizontal line on the left-hand side of the panel, above the AF GAIN control. On several occasions when I wasn't paying close-enough attention, I hit the TRANSMIT button instead of the neighboring TUNER button, which has a status LED. The MP-W and MP-R scratchpad memory buttons also can blend in with their neighbors, so you have to pay closer attention to ensure you're not pressing the adjacent hard memory buttons. On the PROIII, the scratchpad memory keys are not only larger and off by themselves, but are in a contrasting light gray.
Some additional visibility issues are worth a mention. The right-pointing arrows on the seven multi-function keys lining the left hand side of the display blend into the background, especially in soft light; these are not filled in with a contrasting color to make them easier to distinguish one from the other, much less to see them at all in low light. In a similar vein, legends on the six LCD function keys just below the display can be difficult to tell apart.
Just below the LCD function keys are six mode switches. In addition to the FILTER and EXIT/SET keys, the '7600 offers individual mode keys for SSB, CW, RTTY/PSK and AM/ FM. As a PROIII user, I appreciated not having to share the CW mode with the RTTY key. Unbundling the CW key also means you can quickly swap from CW to CW-R when flipping your tuning direction, as I often do during search-and-pounce (S&P) contest operation.
The UP A and DOWN V buttons for memory scrolling are positioned right next to the main tuning knob, making them more obvious and handy. Depending upon how
ham-handed (get it?) you are, their placement may make the tuning knob more vulnerable to the inadvertent jog when using them. I didn't have any problems in this regard.
I was pleased to find a feature on the '7600 that announces signal strength reading, frequency and mode in an agreeable female voice. It's possible to deactivate the S meter and mode components. This is standard equipment on the IC-7700 too. The '7600 back panel looks about as you would expect and is shown in Figure 2.