Yaesu FT-817 Multiband Multimode Transceiver
Reviewed by Rick Lindquist, N1RL ARRL Senior News Editor
What a great little radio, and what a great little price! This carry-along does it all. You can take it with you after all! As one user declared: "It's a keeper!"
For today's on-the-run population, the multiband, multimode FT-817 means that you can take along much more ham radio than that FM-only H-T you've been tossing into your bag up until now. In a short time, this (so far) one-of-a-kind transceiver has proven to be one of those "killer" Amateur Radio products that come along every so often and capture our imaginations with their unique universe of operating possibilities.
Because this is a low-power radio (5 W), its introduction at hamfests as early as last summer attracted particular attention from the QRP crowd. But, let's be clear about something up front: The FT-817 is a low-power radio that everyone can enjoy, and it was not developed with the QRPer specifically in mind. This carry-along transceiver only happens to be low-power because it needs to be, especially when you're running it off internal batteries.
With all-mode transmit and receive capability on all bands between 160 and 2 meters plus 70 cm plus wide LF, MF, HF, FM broadcast, and VHF-UHF receiver coverage in a package that almost but not quite fits in the average jacket pocket, additional output power might possibly be the only other feature you could possibly desire, but it's one we found we didn't miss either.
A Unique Radio
In case you're wondering about the nomenclature, Yaesu seems to be subtly suggesting that this little transceiver shares some DNA with the company's FT-847 multiband, multimode HF+VHF+ UHF+satellite transceiver. Indeed, both rigs cover essentially the same bands. The '817 is not capable of full duplex satellite operation, however.
In terms of form factor, the FT-817 is reminiscent of the early "sack pack" radios that were popular in the 1970s—the Kenwood TR-2200A and the closely related Drake TR-33 come quickly to mind, as well as the ICOM IC-502. In their day, these radios bridged the gap between the somewhat clunky H-Ts and a full-blown FM mobile. Later hand-held transceivers overtook that trend, but by and large, the H-T style never adequately made the transition to HF transceiver design. One ex-
ception is the still-popular but hard-to-find Tokyo Hy-Power HT-750. This was perhaps the sole successful attempt to meld a usable transceiver with HF capability into an H-T package. While the HT-750 offered 2 W or so, SSB and CW, on 40, 15 and 6 meters and includes a real superhet receiver, it never took off and no longer is marketed in this country. Perhaps it was simply ahead of its time.
I Just Gotta Have Me One of These!
Think back a few short years, and consider those products that generated the biggest "buzz" on the bands (today we'd say "on the 'net"). Remember in 1993 when Kenwood awed the amateur community by introducing the first compact 100 W HF transceiver, the TS-50S? For those of us weaned on Hallicrafters and Johnson gargantua, this was a huge leap in the direction of Dick Tracy's mythical two-way wrist radio.
The race for small was on! While Kenwood seems to have dropped out for reasons best known to itself, Alinco, ICOM, and finally Yaesu came out with ever-more compact transceivers, upping the ante with additional capabilities and features with each succeeding unit.
With the FT-817 you get an economically priced transceiver you can carry, instead of lugging around, just about anywhere—not quite an H-T in form, yet much more than an H-T in function. And that's the whole idea. The FT-817 offers a lot of features you're already familiar with from your H-T as well as those you enjoy on a typical HF transceiver. It's kind of an H-T plus, and that's spelled with a "p" for portable!
Cost vs Capability
When it comes to ham radio gear, we like to say that you get what you pay for. Viewed in those terms, the FT-817 might just be one of the best values in the Amateur Radio marketplace today.
The FT-817 wears a lot of hats. It's a CW, SSB, or digital mode rig for HF, VHF and UHF; it's a FM rig for repeater work (a multi-section H-T style rubber ducky antenna for the VHF and UHF bands is included); and it's an on-the-road listening post—LF, AM broadcast, FM broadcast, HF amateur and shortwave, AM aircraft, and more.
As any HF transceiver worth its salt does, the FT-817 offers VOX for SSB (sorry, no speech processor, however) and a built-in keyer for CW. There are separate VOX delay settings for SSB and CW—some larger rigs don't even have this feature, but should. It has both an RIT and an IF shift, plus you can add one optional filter for either SSB or for CW in the 455 kHz IF. For digital work, it includes provisions to discretely adjust the audio input (ie, from your sound card or TNC) for digital modes. There's a noise blanker that really works. Great!...... Copyright © 2000 by the American Radio Relay League Inc.