Well, it’s that time of year again where we pick the top radio related gifts for 2012. This year offered up some pretty interesting technologies related to the radio monitoring hobby and ham radio. If you are looking for something this year to give yourself, ham radio friend or radio monitoring enthusiast here are a few suggestions. Ham Radio Science has used or reviewed most of these products and found them to be pretty darn cool. The other great thing is that most of these items are fairly inexpensive, which is a nice for a change. Here are our top picks for the 2012 Holiday Season.
RTL2832U / R820T DVB-T Receiver – $20
If you haven’t gotten involved in the cheap SDR Radio revolution, don’t get left out. Earlier this year it was discovered that these inexpensive USB dongles that were primarily designed to receive HD-TV broadcast signals (not in the US) could be hacked to be used as a SDR radio covering a pretty wide swath of the FM/VHF/UHF band. Since then, support for these devices in various SDR decoding programs like SDR Sharp and HDSDR has been added. The use of these inexpensive dongles as SDR receivers have reached a fairly high rate of adoption by radio hobbyist. The RTL2832U dongles have been used from FM/VHF/UHF radio applications to inexpensive ADS-B receivers. The RTL2832U dongles would make great stocking stuffers for your radio monitoring friends or yourself. You might want to get your Ham Radio Club buy some of these and pass them out as party favors at your next meeting. Oh, and be sure to put a link to www.hamradioscience.com on the gift tag where they can find plenty of information on how to get these devices up and running as well as some of the cool things you can do with them. The best dongles now seem to be the ones with the RTL2832U / R820T chipsets.
Newsky TV28T v2 USB DVB-T & RTL-SDR Receiver, RTL2832U & R820T Tuner, MCX Input. Low-Cost Software Defined Radio Compatible with Many SDR Software Packages
NooElec Ham It Up HF Converter -$50
Adding the Ham It Up HF Converter to a RTL2832U will net you a very good HF SDR receiver for less than $75. Actually, it is pretty amazing how well the RTL2832U / Ham It Up combo compares to HF receivers costing over 10x more. No, you don’t better specs as the high end units, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. The RTL2832U / Ham It Up combo will give you an SDR HF receiver with over a 2.5MHz waterfall display, good sensitivity, and a reasonably low noise floor. The Ham It Up HF converter is easy to setup and use. For best performance, you will need to be sure to adjust the sensitivity of the RTL2832U dongle.
Ham It Up v1.0 – NooElec RF Upconverter For Software Defined Radio. Works With Most SDRs Like Funcube, RTLSDR (RTL2832U with E4000, FC0013 or R820T Tuners); MF/HF Converter With SMA Jacks
7″ Android Tablet – $199
If you have been thinking about getting a tablet computer for the ham shack, now is the time. This year two excellent inexpensive Android tablets were introduced, the Amazon Fire HD and the Google Nexus 7. These are both 7″ Android tablets running the latest version of Android for the low cost of $199. Having been a long time iPad user, I find that the 7″ size is much easier to carry around and use as a book reader or internet device. The performance of these new devices are also very good. They appear to be just as snappy as the iPad and both have excellent high resolution screens. The Android Apps continue to get more numerous and better. Having one of these devices around the shack comes in very handy for keeping documents and manuals handy, remote control of equipment, internet communications, and ham radio apps. As far as which one is best, they both have their pros and cons when compared to one another, but it in the end, they are both excellent inexpensive tablets. If you think you want one for the holidays, don’t wait, they are going fast.
Google Nexus 7 available from Google Play Store
Kindle Fire HD available from Amazon
Kindle Fire HD 7″, Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers
Acu-rite 5 in 1 Weather Sensor ($65) plus Internet Bridge ($79.99) – $144.99
The Acu-rite 5 in 1 weather sensor is an all in one weather sensor very similar to the Davis Vantage Vue. The 5 in 1 sensor measures wind speed, outside temperature, humidity, wind direction and barometric pressure. It even has a solar powered aspirating fan to help maintain temperature accuracy if the device is in direct sunlight. The Internet Bridge allows you to access the weather data over the internet via a web browser or mobile device app. You can also share your weather data via Weather Underground all without a computer. The internet bridge simply plugs into your home router and after some configuration you are good to go. The system recommended above does not include a hardware display since you can use your computer, iPad, iPhone, or Android device to remotely access your weather data. Acu-rite also sells the entire package including a hardware display as the Pro Weather Center for $199.
Happy Holidays from Ham Radio Science!