Did Yaesu miss the boat?
Unfortunately I was unable to attend the Dayton Hamvention this year. It was on my list of things to try to accomplish for 2012, but since I’m heading out west to Pacificon in October, I needed to save my pennies for that adventure. The Dayton Hamvention will be moved to my “things to accomplish list” for 2013.
As you may know from my recent blogging, I do own the brand new Elecraft KX3. I described this little rig in a recent podcast as “ultra-lite, ultra-portable, ultra-awesome” and the KX3 certainly lives up to all of these fine attributes. While I’ve owned my Yaesu FT-817 for about 4 years, I really love the larger display of the KX3 and of course all the updated features certainly don’t hurt either.
The Yaesu FT-817 was first released in 2001 and an updated FT-817ND model was made available in 2004. The 817 is based on the main circuit board design of its bigger and more powerful brothers, the FT-857 and FT-897.
As I stated, I purchased my 817 back in the 2008 timeframe and used it for portable operations and carried it along with me on hiking and backpacking trips. I became hooked on SOTA or Summits On The Air in the fall of 2011 and this became my main radio for that purpose.
While I’m perfectly happy with my KX3 and have already used it on one SOTA adventure, I was (like many) thinking, hoping, expecting, anticipating Yaesu to unveil it’s new QRP portable offering at the 2012 Dayton Hamvention. However, the Dayton Hamvention is over and there was no announcement or news of any kind from Yaesu regarding their future QRP/Portable offering. I’m wondering if the boat has sailed and left Yaesu high and dry?
With Elecraft announcing the KX3 at the 2011 Dayton Hamvention and opening the KX3 up for orders in late December 2011 and beginning to ship orders in the Spring of 2012, the 2012 Dayton Hamvention would be the perfect place to announce a new QRP offering from Yaesu. Well…that is if a new offering was planned.
Of course, Yaesu is big enough and perhaps powerful enough not to necessarily need to leverage an event like the Dayton Hamvention to announce a new QRP rig. Also, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the FT-817. While it may be over 10 years old, the old dinosaur is still kicking and screaming and loved in the QRP community. As I stated I do own one and I plan to keep it….for now!
So why do I even bring this up? Well I do have an interest in QRP operations and an updated offering from Yaesu would be great news for the hobby. However, I don’t view this as doom and gloom. I figure Yaesu will update their aging line of 817’s, 857’s and 897’s when they feel the time is right. However, I just wonder if that time is NOW!
Until next time…
73 de KDØBIK
I agree with you. The 817 is long in the tooth but it’s still a great rig. Yaesu should however release an update. I would put three softkeys on the top of the display and one on each side of the display and rework the display software to make the settings more maneuverable. I would keep the same form factor and basic front panel design but make the case a bit lighter for backpacking. Yaesu should make a snap-on cover for the front to protect it in transit. Change the power plug to the more common coaxial size or make it Powerpoles. Last, improve the receiver a bit and reduce current consumption on receive.
I was at HRO last week and was told there was a new version of the 817
just released. The Portland OR. only had three on hand. Too rich for
my pocket book right now. Only have three rigs at this time.
It’s not just Yaesu. Icom is missing the boat here too. Icom discontinued the IC-703+ a year or two ago with no real replacement in the QRP category. At a time when SOTA and other portable operating opportunities are becoming common place I would expect these companies to follow-up with something new. I am glad that I was able to pick up an IC-703+ with filters for a good price on Ebay. Its a great little rig with an excellent receiver and a built in tuner to boot.
I asked the Yaesu USA sales manager point blank at Hamvention about this. His response was that so far aas he was aware, there was nothing in the pipeline to replace the 817, 857, 897 despite their age.
It seems doubtful to me that you will ever see Yaesu update the 817ND. It’s certainly a popular rig but it also sits on the very bottom of their HF product line. In other words, they wouldn’t make much money even if they sold a bunch of them – which they likely would. The portable QRP-space is flat out loaded up with dozens of offerings from $50 to the KX3.
It’s a tough niche for a large manufacturer to make a decent profit. There’s a reason why the “big three” abandoned the low-power market – think about it – if they were making money hand over fist in this segment they would have an entire line of QRP equipment.
Besides, so long as the 817ND is still selling well, and its wildly fluctuating price suggests that it is, they have little incentive to update the equipment. If Yaesu ever produces a successor, it probably won’t include VHF/UHF or its price point will move significantly upward.
I haven’t been following the prices lately. What has been the price range for the FT-817ND? What’s a good price for this radio?
Last year at Dayton they could be found for pennies under $500. Now most retailers are offering them at around $650.
I’m sure if Yaesu aren’t interested in updating then there’ll be a nation who will! The chinese hand helds (HT’s?) seem to be cheap and reasonable at present. Give them a few years and they’ll be out performing for less money no doubt.
My FT817 is a stalwart but one thats got quite a few years under its belt. Its staying in my shack for a while yet though.
Don’t forget the Yaesu Munsen factory was damaged in the tsunami. Guess they probably have been busy rebuilding their factory, with new initiatives being put in the back burner. I have been trying to get hold of a FT817ND from Singapore for over 8 months with no luck. I have just been informed that the new stock will be available in June 2012.
What is to be appreciated is the fact that after all these years, they are still the only ones in the market that manufactures a radio that does amateur HF, VHF and UHF. I cannot think of any others.
There is a thread on the yahoogroups site there is a talk about the replacement for the FT817…not in the immediate future but in the near future!
I am preparing to purchase my first HF rig, and the question has come down to the KX3 or the Yaeus FT-897D. I find this quite a dilemma, and haven’t pushed the “place order” button for either rig.
The upside of purchasing the 897D is that when I do it will arrive in a few days. The KX3 could take weeks or months to arrive.
The 897D has a full 100w of power, the KX3 only 10w, and the KXPA100 is far out on the horizon.
The 897D already has 2m as well as other VHF/UHF bands, the 2m option for the KX3 is only a promise.
The upside of the KX3 is that it is, I believe, a more advanced radio than the FT897D, it is smaller and more versatile to use as both a base station and a mobile unit.
So now, I sit in limbo, unable t o make a decision one way or another.
The main reason for Yaesu not updating the FT-817 is simple: They don’t need to. This is a proven radio that is apparently still selling very well and in terms of sheer usefulness it stands head and shoulders above the KX3 and the like.
With my FT-817nd, I have done many SOTA activations on both VHF & UHF, worked a fair amount of 2m SSB, and when I’m not doing that I find myself listening to music on the FM broadcast band or air traffic on VHF-AM. Can’t get there with a KX3.
And since the FT-817 is all-mode on VHF & UHF, it is backward compatible with many older rigs – the Gonset communicators come to mind – and so it can be used to test and communicate with them.
The old “FT-817 draws too much current on RX” doesn’t hold water anymore. With modern high capacity LiON & LiPO batteries its now a non issue. And many of these batteries are made just for the FT-817.
I’m thinking that the FT-817nd will be available as-is for many more years.
Currently I am considering the purchase of a new FT817ND to join the FT817 owned for 12 years plus. I would love to buy a replacement with an auto-ATU, LiIon battery and speech processor, but I understand the arguments against Ýaesu producing a new QRP radio.
By the way, in then UK the price of a fully loaded KX3 will buy 2.5 brand new FT817ND’s – no competition.