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Author Topic: Flex 6400M vs. Icom 7610 ?  (Read 33232 times)
K6BRN
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Posts: 450




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« Reply #15 on: May 25, 2017, 07:48:01 PM »

Lee:

A little knowledge can lead to the wrong conclusions...  but you made a very credible try at an explanation.

W90Y said...
Quote
The architecture of the Flex is primarily FPGA based.  An FPGA is basically a bunch of gates that can be programmed in the field to be a custom IC.  It requires a special kind of programming language and skills to program.  It is a kind of computer, but it is not like your Dell or HP or iPAD.  Every time the FPGA boots it has to be programmed from scratch.  It has no memory of its configuration.  This is something to remember.  The Flex takes a relatively long time to boot.  This is because there is a TON of things to configure, as the radio is primarily FPGA based.  I understand the Icom boots quickly.  This would indicate not much happening in the FPGA.  This would mean the complexity of the Icom must reside somewhere else in the signal chain as compared to the Flex.

Load time of a RAM-based FPGA is influenced mostly by the configuration method, of which their are many, while utilization of internal FPGA logic and memory is by far a second order cause.  If Flex is loading the FPGA via the system CPU (a processor outside of the FPGA) and its memory, load speed will be slowed down by more than an order of magnitude due to the processor/bus/IO bottleneck.  If Flex is further performing a daisy-chain load of more than one FPGA, things slow down even more.  The payback from this is more flexibility in FPGA configuration updates due to the system CPU's ability to easily accept, parse and load new configuration updates from the very handy and user accessible USB port.  Switching to a dedicated configuration flash memory device is simple, cheap and allows fast configuration loads.  I suspect that the ICOM IC-7300 takes this route.  But updates to the dedicated memory can be much clumsier to perform, or may simply be inaccessible to the user, making the "software radio"... not so soft.  And there are even quicker methods that require a bit more hardware and JTAG port access - which I doubt any amateur radio provider is doing - there is no real "need for speed" to boot up in this market.

Generally, the digital signal processing architecture of most FPGAs is a "data-flow" architecture, where information flows in one end (often from an ADC), is operated on in many successive stages in an assembly-line fashion, with many, many numerical operations happening at one time, then out the other end (often to a DAC).  Except when using an embedded CPU, no logical branching is involved, though adaptive decisions and adjustments can be made in structures like the AGC.  The "programming language" of an FPGA is called a Hardware Description Language (HDL), of which Verilog and VHDL are two of the most popular.  They are used to describe the logical contents of FPGA primary functions and this logical description is translated into a resource interconnect map (often called a netlist) by a synthesis tool, such as those supplied by Synopsys, perhaps the biggest player in this field.

Best Regards,

Brian - K6BRN

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K6BRN
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Posts: 450




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« Reply #16 on: May 25, 2017, 07:54:43 PM »

By the way... there are very few actual logic gates in a RAM based FPGA.  Most logic functions, from simple to complex, are performed by "LUTs" - memory based lookup tables, while others are performed by dedicated macro structures, such as (in Xilinx FPGAs) "DSPs".  Then there are memory structures, both block and distributed, some with built in EDAC, and I/O structures used to talk to the outside world.  But not many real "gates"

B.
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K6BRN
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« Reply #17 on: May 25, 2017, 08:02:05 PM »

Footnote #2... a RAM based FPGA, like those used by Flex and ICOM, are mostly (2/3 or more) memory - memory that is volatile and loses its contents when the power goes away. Which is why a configuration reload from a non-volatile memory is required at start-up.  And FPGA configuration memory can become corrupted during operation, in something called a "single event upset", or SEU.  In most commercial/consumer gear, this requires power cycling to correct.  So if your Flex or ICOM SDR starts misbehaving - try the old fix of turning it off, waiting a bit and turning it back on.

B.
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W9OY
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« Reply #18 on: May 25, 2017, 11:27:41 PM »

Thanks Brian.  I live under NDA and I struggle with how detailed to get when describing things for fear of saying too much, while still trying to advance understanding in some way.  My goal is the reader comes out with a little finer appreciation of how the radio/s work, and maybe have a little clearer understanding on how to make a purchase decision, on longevity and obsolescence.  Your explanation was excellent especially regarding the functional signal path.  Knowledge is very much the key.

73  W9OY


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GM1FLQ
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« Reply #19 on: May 26, 2017, 12:22:56 AM »




And a lot of Icom's are in the landfill due to display problems...



+1

+2
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GM1FLQ
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« Reply #20 on: May 26, 2017, 12:33:07 AM »




"SD Card Slot for Receiver Recorder

Ed VE3WGO

.........DVD slot for the TV screen, CD slot for the inbuilt equaliser & your favourite music............

The new 7610 multimedia player, available soon at Walmart.    Undecided
« Last Edit: May 26, 2017, 12:36:39 AM by GM1FLQ » Logged
W1BG
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Posts: 69




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« Reply #21 on: May 26, 2017, 04:59:02 PM »

....... Flex has several features that Icom either purposely omitted or maybe just forgot about.  One specific feature that would be of interest to me is the ability to immediately "playback" an off-the-air recording to help someone struggling with TX audio issues.  Flex can do this, Icom can't...


How about the SD Memory Card slot on the IC-7610 front panel below the Sub AF/RF knobs on the lower left corner?  It should be good for playback into the Tx path if it's stored on a PC?  Looks the same as the new IC-R8600 receiver, and the brochure for that receiver says:

"SD Card Slot for Receiver Recorder
The recorder function can record received audio onto an SD card in
WAVE format. The recorded voice audio can be played back on the
receiver or a PC. When a 32 GB SD card is used, up to 270 hours of
recording is possible. In addition, the screen capture function saves a
snap shot of the screen in PNG or BMP format on the SD card."

Maybe it can't be used to playback in the Tx path, I'm just mentioning it.

Ed VE3WGO

Of course this can be done, but certainly not in anything approaching real time.  The files have to be moved to another directory and renamed before they can be played back over the air. Kind of kludgy, don't you think?
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The Pay-TV Industry may not hold the patent on poor customer service, but Comcast in particular has made an art form of it.
N2RJ
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Posts: 2008




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« Reply #22 on: May 31, 2017, 10:37:28 AM »


An API is not the same as access to the source code. As I understand the Flex API it is dependent on Microsoft .NET and the "FlexLIB".

FlexLIB creates an abstraction layer between Flex hardware and any software a third party might write. Which means you cannot control the radio without Windows and a functional FlexLIB DLL.

Bottom line: if Flex signs the death certificate on SmartSDR/FlexLIB, goes of of business, or for some reason stops supporting the technology the radio is more likely to become a doorstop.

This is a problem inherent to closed source software on computer hardware. It also illustrates the superiority of open source in ham radio. As a primary example I'd cite the Flex 5000/3000 series of radios: they are being supported by hams, generating new features, and still remaining relevant because the software is open source.


It is a common misconception that the only way to access a Flex is with .NET. The API is platform agnostic. The discovery protocol is based on VITA-49 using plain text UDP packets and the actual functions of the radio are accessed via ethernet commands which are unencrypted in plain text and quite frankly, in plain English. If you have some time with wireshark (or tcpdump) you can write a client for the radio. I've written code in python and C++ to access functions of the radio without having to even touch the C# .NET API. K6TU began mapping out an Objective-C library for the radio and even wrote an entire app for iOS. Third party clients - dogparkSDR and SmartSDR for iOS don't really use the C# .NET API as far as I know.

There are two pieces of software - the firmware inside of the radio and the client software. When Flex stops supporting the earlier 6000 series radios (whenever that is) it will suffer the same fate as older icom, elecraft, yaesu, kenwood and other radios - the radio will not get firmware updates but will be able to run whatever was the last client software supported. If you have a Maestro it will run until the Maestro breaks. If you have an M version, ditto.

In fact, you can still write a client for the radio if Flex stops releases software updates. It's not DRMed, except possibly where firmware updates come into play.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2017, 10:39:51 AM by N2RJ » Logged
W8JX
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Posts: 12080




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« Reply #23 on: May 31, 2017, 11:51:02 AM »

Of course this can be done, but certainly not in anything approaching real time.  The files have to be moved to another directory and renamed before they can be played back over the air. Kind of kludgy, don't you think?

Not really because it dies not need a PC to not crash to record it and it is not a volatile storage either. I personally do not like a rig that needs a PC for some functions and would rather have a rig that is self supporting and can function without a PC.
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--------------------------------------
Ham since 1969....  Old School 20wpm REAL Extra Class..
WD4ED
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Posts: 25




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« Reply #24 on: June 01, 2017, 12:01:47 PM »

Unless I missed it, I don't see any discussion on prices.  Does it not matter to the hams buying these rigs? 

I don't own a late model ICOM, I don't own a Flex rig of any kind.  I have looked them over and consider myself a future "upgrade" buyer over my FTdx3000.  I have a bunch of various SDRs.  I like them.  I like my FTdx3000.  But that may not last forever. 

BUT... when it comes to a Flex radio I like them, I like the performance they appear to have and what owners claim.  My only issue that makes me favor a knob radio is simply this:

Flex products are expensive.  In my mind, too expensive to have to a buy a decent level of PC  or another $1000+ device to an already expensive device in order to run it.  Will there be any added value adding controls to the radio?  Or are they simply going to add up the costs and pass that on to the customer?  Because of this, I think that Knobbed radios of whatever type will have an advantage in flexibility and cost. 

Maybe the end, pricing of these two rigs will end up making it a wash.  We'll see eventually.

Thanks,

Ed
WD4ED
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N2RJ
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« Reply #25 on: June 01, 2017, 12:07:47 PM »

Unless I missed it, I don't see any discussion on prices.  Does it not matter to the hams buying these rigs? 

Flex has released pricing on the new models. You can get it on their website. $2000 gets you the 6400, and $3000 gets you the 6600. Add $1000 respectively for the M models with built in control console.

The 7610 in the UK has a MSRP of £2999. US pricing hasn't been released yet, as it is pending FCC approval. In the USA I expect the price to be around $3500 or so. Icom may of course cut into their profit and lower the price even further since Flex dropped the 6400/6600 bombshell on them.

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WD4ED
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Posts: 25




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« Reply #26 on: June 01, 2017, 12:17:15 PM »

Unless I missed it, I don't see any discussion on prices.  Does it not matter to the hams buying these rigs? 

Flex has released pricing on the new models. You can get it on their website. $2000 gets you the 6400, and $3000 gets you the 6600. Add $1000 respectively for the M models with built in control console.

The 7610 in the UK has a MSRP of £2999. US pricing hasn't been released yet, as it is pending FCC approval. In the USA I expect the price to be around $3500 or so. Icom may of course cut into their profit and lower the price even further since Flex dropped the 6400/6600 bombshell on them.



If that's the case, then I am surprised at the price for the Flex!  I'll research this a bit more on my own.  But, what is the consenus opinion on the performance level and capabilities of the 6400 compared to the other radios in the line?  I know it might be obvious that 6400 is between the other models in the model range.  But that may not always be the case.  Can you get a new 6300 for $2000?  That's why I ask.

Thanks,

Ed
WD4ED
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KS4JU
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Posts: 56




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« Reply #27 on: June 01, 2017, 01:10:31 PM »

Unless I missed it, I don't see any discussion on prices.  Does it not matter to the hams buying these rigs? 

Flex has released pricing on the new models. You can get it on their website. $2000 gets you the 6400, and $3000 gets you the 6600. Add $1000 respectively for the M models with built in control console.

The 7610 in the UK has a MSRP of £2999. US pricing hasn't been released yet, as it is pending FCC approval. In the USA I expect the price to be around $3500 or so. Icom may of course cut into their profit and lower the price even further since Flex dropped the 6400/6600 bombshell on them.



If that's the case, then I am surprised at the price for the Flex!  I'll research this a bit more on my own.  But, what is the consenus opinion on the performance level and capabilities of the 6400 compared to the other radios in the line?  I know it might be obvious that 6400 is between the other models in the model range.  But that may not always be the case.  Can you get a new 6300 for $2000?  That's why I ask.

Thanks,

Ed
WD4ED

You probably won't be able to buy a new 6300 since they have been discontinued. However, I bet you can get a great deal on a lightly used 6300 right now. Wait until the 6400 ships and you can probably find even better deals on used 6300s. More than likely there won't be massive differences between the 6300 and 6400 with the exception of the 6400M all in one.
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N2RJ
Member

Posts: 2008




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« Reply #28 on: June 01, 2017, 01:21:42 PM »

If that's the case, then I am surprised at the price for the Flex!  I'll research this a bit more on my own.  But, what is the consenus opinion on the performance level and capabilities of the 6400 compared to the other radios in the line?  I know it might be obvious that 6400 is between the other models in the model range.  But that may not always be the case.  Can you get a new 6300 for $2000?  That's why I ask.

Thanks,

Ed
WD4ED

First of all, receiver numbers above 80dB for RMDR or dynamic range wide spaced really matter little for someone with normal hearing or brain capacity. 

With that said, the Flex 6400 will be top of the line performance wise, with 116dB RMDR per the spec sheet. The Icom 7610 is 106dB. Bear in mind the first paragraph that I wrote, however.

There are many other reasons to want a Flex:

Ease of use for remoting, in either Windows, iOS or MacOS. Version 2.0 will bring the SmartLink feature for seamless remoting and additional security with 2 factor authentication (if desired).

DAX with no additional software needed for digimode applications to connect.

Unlimited CAT cables, BCD cables or on/off lines for each band or frequency segment.

Ability to stream 192kHz I/Q, an entire CW section of a band for CW skimmer.

You don't get any of these with the icom. They want you to buy their RS-BA1 software which pales in comparison. They use a USB sound card and 36kHz IF which means no CW skimmer. CAT ports are limited. The icom is a pretty radio though, it's not big and boxy like the flexes. It's also an Icom which means that you have their service and dealer network. However Flex support is decent to deal with.

The Anan radios offer a bit more features than the icom so that's another option to look into.

You can't get a new 6300 now. They've stopped producing them. You can get a new 6400 for $2000 which ships probably in August.
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K7JQ
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« Reply #29 on: June 01, 2017, 04:55:48 PM »

Unless I missed it, I don't see any discussion on prices.  Does it not matter to the hams buying these rigs? 

Flex has released pricing on the new models. You can get it on their website. $2000 gets you the 6400, and $3000 gets you the 6600. Add $1000 respectively for the M models with built in control console.

The 7610 in the UK has a MSRP of £2999. US pricing hasn't been released yet, as it is pending FCC approval. In the USA I expect the price to be around $3500 or so. Icom may of course cut into their profit and lower the price even further since Flex dropped the 6400/6600 bombshell on them.



Correction:

6400....$2,000
6400M..$3,000
Optional ATU...$260

6600....$4,000
6600M..$5,000
ATU built-in and included in the prices.

I couldn't find these prices on the website, but had to Google it. Took me to their website to a reservation page that coudn't be originally searched on the site. Strange. I seem to remember these prices posted prominently on the website during Dayton, but not there now...just reservation prices.
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