I'm not sure what AOR stands for but at a guess, it's Awful Old Rubbish?
Things appear to have gone downhill since the excellent AR3000 which was years ahead of its time. I still have one of these and although it lacks many of todays features, such as even CTCSS, it still does me proud. So why did this then happen?
I had a bad experience with an 8600 MK II. I'd wanted an AOR for years and yes I was well aware that they were not good value for money but I just wanted something that was a bit special. How wrong can a man be?
My first impressions were that when the thing came straight out of the box, it would not sit flat on the desk without rocking to and fro. The whole case was distorted. I asked AOR if I could have one that wasn't malformed; their answer was "Sorry Sir, no, they're all like that"
The AOR's logic is slow, changing memory channels is not instant and the whole interface seems to lag behind what the operator is trying to do.
The display is crude and the menus are infuriatingly hard to navigate.
I'd gone all out and bought all the overpriced add-ons which for most manufacturers have been standard features for the last ten years. The audio was quiet on the speech inverter and the 20 pitiful second sound recorder.
The memory expansion did not add channels as such; it just provided a clumsy back up facility. You can save your memory banks to the card but the whole process is blind and prone to catastrophic errors, it's like working in DOS.
What really sealed its fate for me was that the CT8200 optional add on CTCSS card just simply did not work reliably. It would decode incorrectly and open the squelch when a valid tone was not present. Again I asked "Can I have another one that's not broken?" Once again the answer was "Sorry Sir, no, they're all like that"
Note that the AORs will not handle DCS codes at all, DCS has only been available in the commercial marketplace for ten years but it will probably take AOR another ten years to get to grips with dealing with them. We are starting to see an increasing number of newly licensed users taking advantage of DCS.
The AR 8200 needs a special interface lead to program and although the component cost is just a couple of quid, AOR want £80 for it.
I'd like to nominate AOR for the 'resting on your laurels award' 1995-2006
I had to take this shower of shit back to the shop, I really wanted to like it, but it was too flawed to get the emperor's new clothes treatment and back it went in exchange for an R20.
I don't normally buy something, decide I don't like the colour of it and take it back. However, it's not that the AOR 8600 MKII was not just 'not for me', it was in breach of trading standards codes (sales of goods act) in that it plainly did not do what it stated it could.
+ Plus points +
It wouldn't be fair of me to dismiss the AOR8600 without pointing out its strengths.
This shouldn't take too long.
It does perform rather well on VHF. Where I live, I'm up in the hills between a cluster of cell phone, Home Office, broadcast and commercial towers. Pager interference is often a big problem here on two metres, police VHF and the marine band. The AOR 8600 performed very well in this area.
AOR supply free software. It's not an any way as good as the third party software available but it is at least available for download, free at the point of use.
It has a whole 16? Characters of Alpha tag text. (Not many scanners can equal that.)
UK support is very good. You always feel as if you are communicating with a real human being who actually gives stuff. Not the faceless polite indifference you come to expect with so many other manufacturers.
I feel really sorry for these earnest UK support people and wish that the parent AOR head company would give them a product line which they could truly believe in.
It's a simple case of firmware design, either keep up with it, or go under.
Bring in some carefully selected new faces and innovate, or continue to be in decline.
Alternatives to the AR8200 & AR8600:
The Icom IC-R20 knocks the spots off this handheld and is considerably cheaper.
The Fairhaven-RD500VX is a better built radio with better HF performance and is excellent on the broadcast bands. Similar price.
I plan to write the first review if and when It finally arrives. David