FT-817 Review (long)

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From: Rod Cerkoney (n0rc@hotmail.com)
Date: Sun Dec 31 2000 - 10:04:50 CST


FT-817 Mini Review, by Rod Cerkoney, N0RC, 31-Dec-2001 (C)

I went to HRO yesterday, just to look around. They had three 817's!
One followed me home. Like others I was "struck" by the sexy ways
of the FT-817.

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): It's a cool rig with many nice features,
but it will not replace my K2 for CW work.

I've only had my rig for 8 hours so here are my first impressions,
garnered from one 2m repeater contact and 2 40m CW QSO's. I will
concentrate on user ergonomics, facts and figures of TX/RX performance
can be had from the data sheets.

                                * * *

Given the wide band RX coverage: VLF, AM/FM BCB, 160-6m (with all
FREQs between), 2m and 70 cm--I found it odd that the FT-817 did not
offer the WX Band! In fact VHF coverage extends to 154MHz then quits!
Oh well I have a VX-5R that can get WX.

I could find no references to software controllability to help program
and backup the 200 memory channels. OUCH! The manual mentions that the
FT-817 is "CAT" controllable, and that "CAT" software is readily
available. According to the manual CAT offers only rig control, can't
read/write memories. A quick search on the internet with Google, and
another quick search on the ARRL website did not yield any "CAT"
software. But, I have not made a serious effort yet.

Other nits, no "Tilt stand" and if you do prop it up on something, the
coax connector in the rear interferes. Time for a homebrew shack/field
tilt-stand gizmo.

The FT-817 does most of what a shack bound rig will do, but with far
fewer knobs! ;-) The are three Multi-Funtion Keys, (A,B,C) to control
common "front panel operations". You press the function button "F", to
activate the A, B C buttons, twirl the "SEL" knob to find the
function(s) you want then press A, B or C to change settings. Button's
on top of the rig change bands and modes (CW, AM, SSB...).

So let's look at some common operations to support QSO's. Please refer
to the Specs on Yeasu's site and it's good Front Panel (FP) picture to
follow along. The URL is: http://www.yaesu.com/amateur/ft817tx.html
I'll put FP control names in brackets "[]", like this: [VOLUME], using
the terminology found on the data sheet.

Lets start out assuming that the Rig was last used on 20m, 14062 CW-
R, 25WPM, 0.5 Watts. Tuning around [MAIN Dial] we hear a FISTS station
near 14058.50, running at about 18WPM. So lets zero beat, lower our
keyer speed, and give him a call.

SWITCH FROM CW-R to CW

Press the "<" [Mode Key]

                                * * *

ZERO BEAT

Press __and hold__ [HOME (channel) Key] we hear our sidetone and
adjust [MAIN Dial] for zero beat. NOTE: You must hold the key it does
not "latch"

                                * * *

KEYER SPEED CHANGE

Press [F(function)Key], rotate [SEL(Select)Knob] until [Multi-
Function Keys [A][B][C]] display the "VOX BK KYR" labels. Press and
hold the KYR button [[C]], after a second the radio switches into the
"Set Menu" mode for keyer speed. Rotate [MAIN Dial] to adjust
speed to 18WPM as read out in display. Press and hold "KYR" [[C]] to
complete operation.

                                * * *

OK answer that CQ......they come back: WK SIG OM QRO? Ok we can
get to 2.5 Watts on Batts:

INCREASE POWER

Press [F(function)Key], rotate [SEL(Select)Knob] until [Multi-
Function Keys [A][B][C]] display the "PWR MTRxxx" labels. Press the
"PWR" [[A]] button until front panel display indicates 2.5 watts.
Press [F(function)Key] to fix power setting.

NOTE: Pout is a small icon with vertical bars, three bars is 2.5
watts. For those with a VX-5R the FT-817 works similarly.

                                * * *

OK, call again, this time they come back TNX FOR CL RST 579 IN.... But
as while sending they drift down in FREQ a bit. No problem we have
RIT, Yeasu calls it "Clarifier".

RETUNE RX WITH RIT.

Press and hold [CLAR(Clarifier)Key] turn [SEL(Select)[Knob] to retune.

                                * * *

Ahhh that's better, hey, what's this? A station just inside the
passband
causing a little QRM, no problem we have IF shift (pretty cool feature
for a rig this size and cost!)

SHIFT IF PASSBAND

Press and hold [CLAR(Clarifier)Key] turn [SEL(Select)Knob] to adjust
passband centering.

                                * * *

OK, nice QSO, let's check out the local repeater action.

SETUP FOR 70cm REPEATER

Press [BAND(UP/DWN)Key] to get to 440MHz, turn the [SEL(Select)Knob]
to set the repeater output frequency. Like a good HT the FT-817 has
auto repeater shift. COOL! Press [MODE Key] to select FM. I'll call
my friend Gary & tell him about my FISTS QSO. KC0XYZ N0RC Over. Hey no
"Rodger Beep" from repeater, huh? OOPS forgot tones, DUH!

SET CTCSS TONE

Press and hold [F(function)Key] to access "Set Menu system" (there are
57 set menu options). Turn [SEL(Select)Knob] to access menu 48, CTCSS
tones, then turn [MAIN Dial] to select tone FREQ. Press and hold
F(function)Key] to fix setting.

                                * * *

OK nice chat with Gary time to PUTZ about the shack, think I'll listen
to some AM/FM/SW-BCB. Picking FREQ and MODE is like above, but unlike
a
SONY or SANGEAN SWL Radio you need to supply an antenna.

                                * * *

MISC RAMBLINGS

You need an Antenna tuner with this Rig no internal tuner available.
(The LDG Z11 is a good choice)

With the standard Wide filters it's OK for CW but too wide for my
taste, about 2kHz. When the 10pole 500 Hz Collins filter comes
available I probably get it.

Lot's of info display options to select from: Power, SWR, Voltage....

The role I see this rig taking in my shack is: travel rig, take one
small do-it-all thingy. For listening and light transmitting I bought
two sets of Ray-O-Vac rechargeable Alkalines. For heavier duty Batt
ops I'm making a 5AHr Gel Cell package. For more serious work I'll
toss in my Radio Shack light weight PS. I tried it [RS PS] out and it
works pretty good.

I'll also use it as a 2m/440 "mobile" in the car and in the shack.

But where this rig will find a lot of use is PSK-31. The FT-817 comes
"DIGI" ready! A DIN plug on the back of the rig has all the signals
necessary to support PSK-31. This is going to make a "killer"
multiband PSK-31 Rig.

And, the FT-817 can do cross band split on 2m/440 for satellite work!
That too will be fun to experiment with.

                                * * *

Hope you found this mini-tour of the FT-817 useful. For me the 817 is
like using a BIG FAT HT! ;-) Given all it can do it's good, but it
won't replace my K2 or KNWD for QRP contests and sprints. (No keyer
memories, multi-passbands, no direct keyboard Freq entry....)

                                * * *


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