26 November 2005

tecsun pl-350 review and experiences

I ordered a Tecsun PL-350 on eBay from Liypn, and received it approximately two weeks after sending the PayPal payment. There is already an excellent RadioIntel review of the PL-350, so I'm writing an addendum to that.

Overall I like the size, appearance, and feel of this radio. The size is ideal for a shortwave portable. The control layout on the front panel is sensible, although I often forget the function of the buttons along the right side. (The button labels are in Chinese, and the translated manual isn't always handy.)

The LCD display's amber backlight looks good and makes the screen readable in the dark. The display shows the frequency and the time simultaneously. A strength meter shows the battery life when the radio is off, and the signal strength with the radio on.

I like the size and responsiveness of the tuning knob. The radio has useful values for the fast and slow knob tuning modes, which are toggled with a button. It would be nicer to allow programmable fast and slow tuning steps. I mention a gripe in my previous article about tuning knobs, where fast tuning can leave the knob between notches.

The keypad lock button on the bottom right side of the radio has a nice click feel. One problem with the keypad lock is that sometimes I try to use a control, like the tuning knob or enter button, and the lock icon will blink even though the lock was off. I had to turn the radio off and on again to resolve this.

The flip stand on the back of the radio is a good size and thickness, but it has snapped out a couple times. I am taking more care to avoid losing the flip stand.

The rechargeable batteries included with the Tecsun PL-350 are only 1100 mAh, but one charge seems to last a reasonably long time. I had a bad experience with the battery sensor recently when it showed two bars with the radio off. In my opinion, that should provide at least a couple hours of operation. When I switched on the radio, it turned itself off and flashed an arrow under the battery icon to indicate the batteries were drained. Then the battery sensor displayed two bars again. This inaccuracy was frustrating as I was away from home when it happened.

The plastic grill over the speaker is somewhat flexible, so if I hold the radio in my left hand and place my thumb over the speaker, it flexes inward a bit under my thumb. I like the solid construction of other radios with a harder plastic case (such as the Kaito 1102 and Sony ICF SW7600GR).

I occasionally hear images while listening to shortwave. This is to be expected for a single-conversion radio, although the IF switch doesn't seem to help as I thought it would.

Having to use an antenna tuning dial in addition to tuning the radio's frequency may make using this radio a bit more complicated. I don't find it to be difficult, since the dial has a fixed range and the sweet spot for a given frequency can be found quickly.

Both the Tecsun PL-200 and PL-350 emit a constant, audible hiss through the speaker or headphones when the radio is on, even with the volume at zero. With the volume above zero, the hiss is less noticeable. My Tecsun digitally-tuned radios are definitely the hissiest in my radio collection.

This is a fun and useful radio. It reminds me somewhat of my Kaito 1102, with some additional features (a tuning knob, an antenna tuner, additional memory locations) while lacking other features (single sideband, dual conversion). If I get my hands on the new Eton E5 however, both the Kaito 1102 and Tecsun PL-350 may get less use.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comments, they are quite in line with my impressions. I wish you could help me, because I bought the Tecsun 350 yesterday, and I do not have any manual other than in Chinese, I succeeded in guessing most of it but still it is really unconfortable as you can imagine. I would be very thankful if you could help me. Cedric

weatherall said...

Hi:
Some eBay sellers include a manual translated into English along with the Tecsun PL-350. I received such a manual but I am not allowed to give it out.

First, know that the PL-350 is very similar to the PL-200 (aka the Eton E100) and the PL-550 (aka the Eton E10). So you can take a look at the Eton manuals to get an idea for operating the PL-350. Manuals can be found here:

http://www.etoncorp.com/US/support/download_manuals.aspx?index=1

I recommend looking at the Eton E10 manual because it is more similar to the PL-350 in terms of controls (intermediate frequency switch, antenna tuning dial).

Second, here is a diagram from the Tecsun website that includes some English descriptions of the controls:

http://www.tecsun.com.cn/manual/PL350/images/350.jpg

If you have other usage questions for your PL-350, feel free to post another comment here and I'll do my best to help.