How About an Updated FT-817?

The Elecraft KX2 made a big splash with QRP enthusiasts at the Dayton Hamvention this year. HamRadio360 had some good coverage of the product introduction. Basically, the KX2 is a shrunken version of the KX3, covering the HF bands 80m through 10m.

The Yaesu FT-817ND
The Yaesu FT-817ND

There were rumors circulating that Yaesu would introduce a replacement for the FT-817ND, but that turned out to not be true. It is a good rumor because the original FT-817 was introduced way back in 2001 (according to Wikipedia). Also, Chris Wilson NØCSW was actively soliciting inputs for an 817 replacement at the Central States VHF Conference last summer.

A while back, I did a comparison of the FT-817 and the KX3 (big brother to the KX2). I evaluated the two radios from a VHF/UHF point of view. The FT-817 is the only portable single-radio solution for 50 MHz, 144 MHz and 432 MHz. The KX3 includes 50 MHz standard and 144 MHz is an option. The KX2 leaves out the VHF bands completely to achieve a smaller size.

What’s Next for the FT-817?

Its always fun to speculate on what might be coming in new gear. I expect Yaesu will maintain its position as the QRP transceiver that covers HF/VHF/UHF. It has a long history of delivering cost-effective “do everything” radios. We can look to recent product introductions from Yaesu to get a hint of what might be coming.

The FT-2DR, FT-400DR and FT-991 have all adopted larger touch-screen displays so we can probably expect that for the 817 replacement. However, this will challenge the existing form factor…you can’t just drop a larger display into the existing 817 design. The three newer radios include the System Fusion C4FM digital mode…at this point, I don’t think Yaesu would introduce a VHF/UHF radio without it.

Which raises another question: will the new radio also include a GPS receiver? This capability is a good complement to the C4FM mode in a portable radio. The FT-991 requires you to enter your location manually, which the FT-2DR and FT-400DR use a built-in GPS. But it adds circuitry and complexity so I am going to guess they will leave that out.

I am expecting (hoping?) Yaesu will improve the battery life of the transceiver. (Receive standby current is spec’d at 450 mA.)  Even if they don’t improve the current drain, newer battery technology could be used to improve operating time. Also, depending on the form factor changes, it may be wise to dedicate more space for a physically larger battery.

Yaesu will probably improve the overall receiver performance, including advanced DSP features. Many 817 users have complained about the lack of coverage of 162 MHz weather radio in the US. On the transmit side, a little more output power would be nice…maybe match the KX3’s 10 watts on HF. Yaesu could really make the VHF crowd happy (in the US) if they included the 222 MHz band.

Take One Tablet

The radio will surely have a computer I/O port with USB being the most flexible choice. There is an opportunity to innovate a bit here by coupling the radio with Android and iOS tablets. I could see a really nice app that handles logging, CW, PSK31, RTTY, bandscope, and other advanced features. This could take the pressure off having a larger display and loading tons of features into the radio. The most convenient I/O would be wireless, most likely Bluetooth or maybe WiFi.  Many of the SOTA and QRP operators already take along a smartphone or tablet for logging and other tasks, so it would be a good fit to that market. The key to this idea is careful human factors design and tight integration with the radio. Do I expect this from Yaesu? Not really. So surprise me and knock my socks off.

Those are my thoughts. Your turn.

73, Bob KØNR

The post How About an Updated FT-817? appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

5 Responses to “How About an Updated FT-817?”

  • Goody K3NG:

    The lack of an FT-817 replacement has to be one of the biggest mysteries in amateur radio today, right up there with “When is my next copy of CQ magazine arriving” and “Are people really that dumb on QRZ.com?”. One of the gazillion SDR radio manufacturers you see at Dayton could walk up and snatch this market segment from Yaesu, and from Elecraft who should have stepped up and stole it from Yaesu years ago.

    I’d love to see a rig with an RF connector, power button, and a touch screen. Yaesu, Icom, and Kenwood aren’t going to make it. Elecraft could, but I fear they’ve gotten too comfortable.

  • Harry K7ZOV:

    It will be interesting to see what Yaesu will come up with and when. I have had a number of FT-817’s and it is a nice, slightly, better then basic radio with a lot going for it. That said, the IC-703 danced circles around it on HF SSB and CW. Not even close. The KX3 is by far the single best QRP type radio ever made IMHO. The KX2 is a giant step into a “pocket rocket” SOTA/Camping/Hiking/Travel/ Take it anywhere radio. I don’t have one ‘yet’, but based on the size it is a bit smaller then my Samsung Note 5 Smartphone.. That’s small.. I just read Elecraft is now 2-3 weeks behind in delivery. If Yaesu had a replacement and was a KX3 killer, they waited too long. Yes Elecraft is more expensive, but you get more radio, second to none service and free radios on a regular bases …Free in the sense they keep improving and adding features with FREE firmware downloads. In the long run the radios becomes a bargain.

    That said don’t expect the FT-817 replacement not to have VHF/UHF/GPS/CM4FM… My sense is the FT-991 will be the last one for a while. They have introduced too many new Fusion supported radios. The FT-857 replacement they showed off does NOT have VHF/UHF. Again, because they want you to buy two radios now. Time will tell… But whatever Yaesu will come up with to replace the FT-817 will be good, that I am sure. But not even close to the capability of anything Elecraft has on the market… My 2 cents… Hope I don’t get flamed to badly… 73

  • Goody K3NG:

    No flames here, but I’d caution you to not conflate performance and capability when comparing Elecraft and Yaesu. The KX3 (and probably the KX2) way outperform the FT-817 (performance), however Elecraft doesn’t make any rig that can natively do 160m to 70cm, like the FT-817/857/897/etc (capability). Because of capability, if I had to sell every rig in the shack but one, I’d sell the KX3 before the FT-817. I could still operate on repeaters and satellites with the FT-817, but not with the KX3.

  • Boots VK3DZ:

    * RANT MODE ON *
    1. For goodness sake stop comparing the KX3 & 817 – they’re > 10 years apart in design philosophy & one is twice the cost of the other.
    2. 817 was designed to be a portable & compact outdoor transceiver. That’s the over-riding design consideration. All else springs from that premise.
    * RANT MODE OFF *

    I’ve used my FT817 all over the Pacific & chunks of the Australian mainland as well. A great performer for the money. I’m about to buy another. Some grizzle about the receiver etc. – if you want a contest transceiver then go & buy one – you’ve got the choice of that or 3 or 4 FT817.

    Touch screens go bat guano in rain (ask any bushwalker who’s tried to use an Ipad in rain). Also they’re impossible to use with gloves.

    600 & 60 metres coverage would be expected. And DSP (there goes the rx consumption). There’s a sales slogan: “470 to 470”

    I like the physical form factor of the 817, dislike the spray of sockets around the KX3.

    5 W (PEP for SSB, carrier for CW) is ample. Buy a 50 W pa & a 100 Ah battery if you want more. Or use a better aerial.

    Scrub that poxy UHF/M/SO-239 and stick with BNC sockets. (the only mod I’ve done to my 817)

  • Burak DL7BUR:

    If the Yaesu 891 is really a replacement for the 857, then probably the 817 replacement will also not have VHF/UHF.
    I don’t get why so many hams expect a Touchscreen on the radio itself. Most of the time the implementations look ugly. One bad example are the Runbo X5 type of devices. Another bad example are devices like FT2DR, 991 or FTM-400DR. I don’t think that any of these Touchscreen radios from Yaesu have a great design or usability.

    I for my part would prefer to have a black-box-radio that I can command with my Smartphone ot tablet. Have an App on my Phone that allows me to use it while it is connected to the radio via Wifi, Bluetooth or USB. Maybe even provided with an SDK from the manufacturer that allows me to write my own App for it. Maybe have a way so that I can buy a Radio for a band and control them all from one single app. If I am in europe I might prefer 70 MHz, if I am in the US I might want to have 222 MHz instead. The manufacturer could simply create one device per Band and I only buy those that I want to use. Not a “single solution fits it all”, but more like a “completely modular” approach. On the user interface side I have my smartphone that I use on a daily basis anyways. I am accustomed on how to use it and the touch screen concept is given by the operating system. Maybe I even want to use some SSTV app on my Smartphone to send my latest vacation pictures via HF to my friends at home. The Rig manufacturer does not have to implement this. The app developer does not have to implement this. I -as a user- can just fire up my favorite digimode app and use it together with the frontend.

    I don’t get why nowadays manufacturers still try to invent something that already exists. Use the smartphones / tablets that are already there. Be modular. Provide a module per band. Let me decide which one I want to use. (I am not going to use the same Antenna for 70cm an 80m anyways.)

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