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Insight into new radios from Kenwood and Yaesu



All,

I was at the Leicester Amater Radio Show in the UK today, and they had on
show pre production models of the following radios:

o    The new Kenwood multi-band all mode satellite transceiver
o    The Yaesu FT-817 portable multi-band all mode transceiver
o    The Yaesu VR-5000 DC-2.5GHz all mode receiver

The new Icom 2/70/23 duplex IC-910 radio wasn't on show, and ICOM reps had
no info on it.

I had a hands on with the FT-817 and VR-5000 but not the Kenwood.

The Kenwood...

Of most interest to the BB would be the Kenwood as it's a satellite radio.
Now I know this radio isn't hot news anymore, but there's a couple of
outstanding questions on this radio I've not seen any answers to. They had
two of them (a mobile config with a TM-D700-like head, and a 'normal' front
panel version) in exactly the same perspex cabinets as at Dayton, and I
understand that they were in fact the same radios as shown at Dayton.

The difference between my brief Dayton view and this viewing opportunity was
that the reps were more than happy to let me have a really good sniff around
the whole radio.

I asked quite a lot of searching questions on the radio. In particular, can
it do full duplex all mode? The answer is definitely 'YES'. The issue of the
sub-band only doing FM/AM RX is only when it's in dual-receive mode as
opposed to satellite full duplex mode. The radio was set up to work in
USB/LSB mode J already. I guess being able to run FM on the sub-band would
allow you to use that for integrated DX Cluster reception whilst you do your
mormal operating on the main VFO.

I asked if there'd be an option to use a remote mobile head on the 'normal'
front panel version, and the answer was 'quite likely'. On the normal front
panel version there was an RJ-45 style port for a mobile remote head.

I had a look at the antenna connections, and all (HF, 50MHz, 144MHz, 430MHz)
were SO-239 mounted on the back panel except 23cm which was a pig tail N
type. I got an indication that these configurations will change in
production.

The main VFO DSP is on the IF stage. The sub-band DSP is on the AF stage.

The costs? Definitely less than GBP2000 (probably equate that to less than
$2000 in the US as UK prices can be inflated) and the rep said it would be
priced competitively with the FT-847. The 23cm option might be GBP300 if
we're lucky, GBP500 if Kenwood doesn't want to sell many. The rep said that
he felt over GBP500 would be over priced.

Availability? January/February 2001 in the UK. I may be wrong, but I got the
impression it's not got to CE/FCC approval yet.

The FT-817...

Wow what a tiny radio - 5.31" x 1.5" x 6.5". A little smaller than the size
of a TM-D700 (without the detachable head of course). Significantly smaller
than an FT-290. Problem is that the rep had some trouble driving it because
the buttons were sooo small. The display was really tiny too. Runs 2.5W with
the internal 9.6V nicads or 5W with external 13.8VDC. You can switch between
the antenna on the front panel (BNC FT-290 style) or use the connector on
the back. All bands 160m-70cm (except 70MHz & 220MHz).

Price? Well the rep talked about GBP800.

Availability? Toward the end of the year. I think it's going through CE/FCC
approval at the moment.

The VR-5000...

I was looking at this radio as a replacement for my AR-5000/SDU-5500 combo.
My intention is to get something I can use for S-Band RX portable. The
VR-5000 is not as small as I was hoping.

There's no IF out that I could see.

The bandscope was something I was interested in, to see if it's any faster
than the SDU-5500, but it was a bit disappointing, taking several tens of
seconds to perform a wide band scan (the AR-5500 can cover 10MHz in 2s) and
the resolution of the VR-5000 is nowhere near as good. The speed of the scan
may well have been due to operator error, as I couldn't get the darned thing
to sample in anything other than 10kHz increments.

The firmware crashed a lot to, but then it's a pre-production model. Not
even a Ctrl-Alt-Del (sic) or Power off worked. Pulling the power was the
only option. Must have some Windows programmers working on the firmware <G>.

I was also interested to know if the SSB was _real_ SSB or just DSB (like
the VR-500). Couldn't get a really straight answer on that one. Should've
tried it.

The good news is that they've done some fine jiggery pokery so that you can
simultaneously receive on two frequencies within 20MHz of the main VFO
frequency. I guess they sample the IF internally and add another separate
receiver to it.

Price? GBP800

Availability? Next month.

All in all, some nice radios, and it was great to have a proper snoop
around. On the price side, I got the impression that the reps were
interested to know what I felt the unit was worth, rather than immediately
suggesting a price to me. Having seen these radios properly in the flesh I'm
slightly disappointed, especially with the VR-5000 because of its size and
slow bandscan. True all mode dual RX on the Kenwood would have been great,
as would some options on the TNC modem to decode more than just
1200AFSK/9600 packet. I found the FT-817 is very difficult to drive because
the buttons and display are so small, and I think GBP800 is a bit steep.

So, my bank account appears safe for the next few months.

73 Howard G6LVB

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