The Yaesu FT-90R Dual-Band FM Mobile Transceiver
Reviewed by Joe Bottiglieri, AA1GW Assistant Technical Editor
With the FT-90R, Yaesu redefines the term "compact" as it applies to FM mobile transceivers. In spite of its small stature, it matches the big boys watt for watt, and still manages to squeeze in a formidable array of advanced features and capabilties.
I know you're becoming weary of hearing us drone on about the diminishing size of Amateur Radio transceivers. Tiny full-power handhelds and compact HF and multiband HF/VHF/UHF radios have become pretty common place.
One market segment that seems, at least 'til now, to have escaped this trend towards shrinking dimensions is the FM mobile transceiver. Looking back through product review data tables over the last decade or so reveals that, for the most part, the size of the typical example of this subspecies has remained essentially unchanged. With the majority of these units featuring remov-able/remote-mountable front panels, some may even question the necessity of further reducing the chassis size at all.
While the physical measurements of the FM mobiles haven't changed much, those of us who prefer direct mounting of the transceiver and faceplate assembly as a single unit are encountering ever-increasing challenges in finding suitable mounting locations in the typical modern vehicle. I like to have the flexibility of using a single mobile radio in a number of applications— at home, in the car or portable for example. Remote mounting can make this a bit of a chore.
The automobile industry—like Mother Nature herself—hates a vacuum. If there's any unutilized interior cabin space, rest assured some engineer will be assigned the task of designing a coin tray, storage compartment or cup-holder to fill the void.
It's a Small World After All
If you've been paying any attention to the advertising for this transceiver, you already know the FT-90R is small. Even still, it's difficult to appreciate just how small it is until you see one "in person."
Let's use the latest edition of the ARRL Repeater Directory for a reference. You'll find the FT-90R is about 3/4-inch wider and 7/i6-inch thicker. The transceiver (not counting the knob projections) is about as deep as the directory is tall. It's that small— simply amazing.
For those who are still unable to find a convenient spot on their dashboard or console to bolt in a transceiver even this tiny, like its larger siblings, the FT-90R also allows remote mounting of the faceplate with an optional "Trunk Mounting" kit.
Squeeze a radio this hard and something's got to give—or does it? Yaesu's done a commendable job of pulling off this size reduction without seriously compromising features, performance or operating convenience.
The FT-90R is a "one-band-at-a-time" VHF/UHF dualbander. It won't receive two signals simultaneously or operate full duplex (Yaesu's got another model in the lineup with these capabilities)—but that's about it for limitations. You get a full 50 W/VHF and 35 W/UHF RF output with four power settings down to 5 W, a total of 186 memories with alphanumeric tagging, direct frequency entry from the microphone keypad, CTCSS and DCS encode and decode built in, expanded receive, 1200/9600 bps packet capabilities, eight autodial memories and Yaesu's "Smart Search" and "ARTS" systems.
The front panel has a black textured finish and carries on the curvy stylized look that has been evident in all of Yaesu's Amateur Radio products since the release of the FT-1000MP. The face of the radio is surprisingly sparse—the entire complement of front panel controls consists of only three knobs and five buttons. Two small grooved knobs on the left edge of the panel provide
volume and squelch control and a third larger knob in the lower right corner serves as the encoder/channel selector. Just below the center-mounted display are three nearly rectangular keys: a key, a SET key and a key. Each of these had a unique shape and is separated from the others by a tiny ridge. The position, size and shape of these keys make them easy to locate by touch— a definite advantage for mobile operation.
The remaining keys are DISP/SS and PWR, located just above the encoder knob. A small ridge between these makes them simple to identify by feel as well.
In spite of the diminutive dimensions of the FT-90R, Yaesu's engineers managed to locate the controls on this radio's panel in an arrangement that makes it unlikely that you'll accidentally bump neighboring keys or knobs during normal operations. While the spacing between the volume and squelch knobs is a bit tight, a small amount of drag in their action makes them resistant to unintentional rotation.
The dot-matrix LCD displays black segments on a light blue background. Display backlighting can be set to four different levels or off—contrast can be adjusted to one of 13 settings. The display is readable even at fairly extreme angles. The upper two-thirds of the window can display the frequency, memory tags, channel numbers or menu titles. The bottom third of the window can show soft key labels for the three.... Copyright © 1999 by the American Radio Relay League Inc.