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FT-857 Reviewed by K7SZ | Radioaficion Ham Radio

FT-857 Reviewed by K7SZ

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Yaesu FT-857 MF/HF/VHF/UHF Transceiver

Reviewed by Rich Arland, K7SZ QST Contributing Editor

The FT-857 offers 100 W in a very compact package. Think of it as the FT-897 for your car.

When I was asked to do a review of the new Yaesu FT-857 transceiver, I thought, "What timing!" I had been looking at both the FT-857 and its bigger brother, the FT-897, for several weeks, trying to decide which one to buy.

Out of the box, the first thing I had to tackle was mounting the front panel to the main portion of the radio. Thumbing through the manual I found, on page seven, exactly how to do that. The detachable front panel has become an industry standard with small, mobile transceivers. In order to remote the control head, you need to purchase the optional YSK-857 Separation Kit. It is very handy to be able to bury the main "box" of the radio under a seat or in the trunk in a mobile installation and have just the small front panel/ control head mounted on the dash. It's a convenient, space-saving idea with the added benefit of being easily concealed when you leave the vehicle.

On the surface, the newest addition to the Yaesu HF portable transceiver line looks a lot like an FT-817 on steroids. That is where the similarities end (frequency/ mode coverage and menu access not withstanding). The '857 offers a fully adjustable output from 5 to 100 W on 1.8 through 29.7 MHz, plus 6 meters. Power out on 2 meters is 50 W and power out on 70 centimeters is 20 W. The rig can operate on voice, CW or data modes. The package is about twice the size and three times the weight of the FT-817, so while it may be suited for a mobile or base station environment, it might be a little on the heavy side for the backpacker, when combined with the added weight of a battery, antenna and accessories.

Yaesu offers three filter options— the YF-122S, a 2.3 kHz SSB filter, the YF-122C 500-Hz CW filter, and the YF-122CN, a 300 Hz CW filter. The transceiver will accommodate two of these optional filters, and the installation instructions are outlined on page 120 of the manual. Filter call-up is accomplished by using the Multi Function (MF-n) menu.

The FT-857 is a nice compact package, measuring 2.0x6.1x9.2 inches (HWD) and weighing 4.6 pounds. The frequency agility of this rig is amazing. The receiver covers 100 kHz to 56 MHz, 76-108 MHz, 118-164 MHz and 420-

470 MHz. The user can listen to international shortwave broadcasts, commercial AM and FM outlets, VHF aeronautical stations, public safety stations and nearly all the ham bands from 160 meters through 70 centimeters (only 222 MHz coverage is excluded).

The 128 page operating manual is quite well laid out, considering the complexity of the FT-857 and the multitude of menus needed to configure the radio to your particular operating style. The manual is chock full of pertinent information. It will take you a while to assimilate the entire manual, so plan on doing a lot of reading and subsequent "playing" with the radio.

The Learning Curve

Getting comfortable with the controls on the FT-857 requires a bit of a learning curve, especially if you are not used to working with smaller radios utilizing layered menus. A total of 14 buttons control most of the radio's features. The FT-857 uses multi-layered menus, accessed by the function (F) button. Since I had owned the FT-817 for over a year, the controls and menus on the FT-857 were almost intuitive.

Press and release the F button and you go into the multi-function display, a series of 17 menus controlled by the three MF buttons directly below the LCD display. These are adjustments and parameters for some of the most used features of the radio.

Many of these multi-function selections are merely toggles that switch specific features on and off. These are the settings you may want to change on the fly. Examples are CW/SSB filter selection, A/B VFO

selection, split frequency operation, memory storage, speech processor on/off, keyer memory playback, preamp on/off, attenuator and noise blanker on/off, and CTCSS tone encode/decode. Various display options, such as Spectrum Scope Monitor enable, LCD display size and metering assignment (Power/SWR/ ALC/S) are also selected through the multi-function keys.

Press and hold the F button to enter the menu system, which controls a wide variety of the performance aspects and operating characteristics of the FT-857. This is where you configure the radio to work the way you want it to. Menu items include RF power output selection, keyer setup, CW/Phone parameters, display color and brightness, mic gain, repeater shift, keyer speed, CW pitch and the like. There are 91 menu options available. Each of these is briefly explained in a matrix, which is a lifesaver when you are trying to remember all the nuances of this tiny radio.

The FT-857 is loaded with memories. The QMB (Quick Memory Bank) is used to quickly store a frequency you might want to recall in a hurry. You can load any frequency held in the QMB into one of the 200 regular memory slots at any time. While in QMB you can change frequencies, emulating the VFO mode, and you can also change the operating mode.

The main memory bank is composed of 200 memory slots that can be used to store your favorite operating frequencies and.......

August 2003 Product Reviews: Yaesu FT-857 MF/HF/VHF/UHF Transceiver
Copyright © 2003 by the American Radio Relay League Inc.

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