TenTec Eagle (599AT) vs KX3/KXPA100

After having owned a KX3 and it’s KXPA100 counterpart for some time, I found that it was a “Wire heavy,” radio.  This means that several wires were needed in order to run its amplifier, panadapter (I/Q to computer), etc. This is not including the key, microphone and signalink.  I really was not pleased with it and it had always irritated me. Including that, the annoyance with it’s built in speaker was dreadful.

So began a search for it’s replacement.

Several radios went in and out of my google search and since I was partial to TenTec, the only close relative to the KX3 was the TenTec Eagle 599AT.   This radio at this time is technically out of production, but after Dayton 2019, TenTec was going to rebuild it’s Eagle line and include several upgrades. For me, it’s Eagle was a contender in many ways positive and not so good negatives. Let the games begin.

Note: I plan on adding more to this review. It will remain living.

My review was going to be very focused, not an overall review on everything, but finer points of what I see are necessary in a replacement.

To those naysayers and nitpickers out there. My focused review, my way, get over it and turn the VFO.

Here are the key bullet points that had to be met by the TenTec Eagle to KX3 Replacement.

  • Portability in the field?
  • Setup?
  • Comfort operating?
  • Battery life?
  • What am I losing as far as options?

Portability in the Field?

You would expect (and I may as well conclude) that Elecraft has the clear win here just in size of a barefoot KX3 alone. But comparing a transceiver with it’s 100W amplifier, now we are getting into territory that is similar.

The KX3, as previously mentioned has an attachable 100W amplifier. Which is connected by “Semi-proprietary,” connection between the Accessory 1 port and the accessory 2 port on the side of the KX3. From there, RF is fed from my KX3’s BNC port BNC and into the RF In on my KXPA100. In total that is 3 connections from radio to amplifier.  This does not include anything else and adding on a microphone or signalink, CW key and external speaker / headphones increases the amount of wires significantly and makes a royal mess and a large footprint on an operating table.

Here is the KX3/KXPA100 in a tent operating phone and CW,

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Here is the preliminary Field Day Setup. See the mess of wires!

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The TenTec Eagle is a nice unit with 100W built in, that itself cuts down 3 wires. All someone would need to carry is their microphone, CW key, power supply (or battery with cable) for bare-bones operation. the TenTec has a much smaller footprint including cables and connected battery.

Clear Winner in 100W aspect is the TenTec Eagle. Less for low power (less than 20w) it is the KX3.

Setup?

Between these 2 Transceivers, the KX3 again barefoot with 15W is the KX3, but setup time with both of them is actually quite a bit the same.

To define setup, I am referencing the time it takes for someone well educated in their transceivers to plug in all connections, remove protective covers and turn on their transceiver for operation. This does not include testing the radio for connectivity issues or anything of that sort. From there, the final setup test would be including testing.

Both radios share a very similar setup time (minus testing) with favor to TenTec’s Eagle by 4.6 seconds, if that really matters to you.

Including testing, well again, favor goes to the TenTec since it is more plug and play than it is the KX3/KXPA100 which I found its amplifier to be problematic as it does not power up on occasion and needs to be activated from within a menu option. For it’s operation it is FB.

 

Comfort in Operating?

This is as highly subjective as one person may see it as no issue where others are OCD as I am and hate clutter in favor of organization to an nth degree of comfort.  I like comfort and an ability to keep things organized as possible for rapid tear-down. I like my cake and eat it too!

You may think that TenTec’s Eagle is in favor here as well right, WRONG!

This one is quite a bit a loaded question depending on what style operation will be done on that day.

For phone, its easy; A pen, notebook, microphone your radio, and antenna. In the case of the TenTec Eagle, thats all you would need for 100W. Elecraft’s KX3 you would need all of those cables and lug around its amplifier for your 100W. Both can fit within a reasonable faux-pelican case and highly transportable.

For CW, its exactly the same, but your key may vary in size quite a bit.

Digital, now you need a computer and a sound card interface as well as a radio.

You be the judge of who is the clear winner. For me, I choose the KX3. Comfort for me includes features of a radio. Elecraft KX3 includes quite a bit of features that make CW weak signal work a breeze and keyer memories are great to have.

Battery life?

This one is not as subjective. I did an at home test on battery power with a 15Ah Bioenno battery. Elecraft’s KX3/KXPA100 ran about 750mah on receive and no preamp on. TenTec’s Eagle was around 1.6A on receive in a manner that serves with conditions relatively the same as Elecraft KX3. Clear winner here is the Elecraft KX3 with its matching 100W amplifier.

A transmit test actually showed that TenTec’s Eagle fared out better than the KX3, just shy of 4 Amps under the KX3 (24 amps).

What am I losing as far as options?

This was the ultimate answer.  Most often in my reviews that I do, especially for those transceivers, its price / feature.  the cost for a radio, estimating all of it’s standard and optional installed features will tally up not just what the radio is worth, but it’s capacity for ownership and operational worth as understood by a user’s operating practice.

For the KX3, at the time I paid for it, ran about $1200.00 with all of the features (except the 2m Transverter). The KXPA100 came about $1100.00.

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KXPA100 stats

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The TenTec Eagle had this going for it for around ~$900.00. Here is the manual for more info.

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So what I’m actually looking here is that price / feature and what I’m potentially loosing.  With the TenTec, about 45% loss in features I would be loosing (that I have used at some time or another). This means transverter functionality, CW/ SSB voice memories, APF, Dual Watch, Manual/Auto notching (CW Manual), SPOT Feature, CW to PSK / RTTY, I/Q output to a PC, 6M Capable Antenna Tuner, etc.  The list goes on and on.  These are the options the TenTec does NOT have and has nothing comparable to it installed.

Conclusion

The winner here was the KX3/KXPA100.  Mostly because of the price/feature, but also its very hard to beat what it offers. Both are excellent receivers, but loosing key functionality that I am already use to would be a big step back.  For now, i’ll deal with those cables.

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