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Author Topic: How Do We Pick Between These Two Radios?  (Read 6341 times)

Posts: 80

« on: October 23, 2008, 12:36:26 AM »

Since the XYL took an interest in radio, there's miraculously a budget for a new radio to replace the FT-101E I scrounged for cheap (she doesn't like the 101E). However, there's not much of a budget, so the only two we're considering (due to price) are the Icom IC-718 and the Yaesu FT-450.  If the price on the 450 at Texas Towers isn't a type, until the end of the month, both radios are the same price: $600. However, we're both basically brand new hams (her literally and I still count as a noob), so deciding what to think about each of the radios compared to each other is confusing as heck. We hope to make the ~275mi pilgrimage to the nearest AES to be able to play with both radios before we buy, but I'm not sure that's going to be feasible. I don't necessarily want you all to tell us what radio to buy as in the end that comes down to personal preference. What I'd like is some suggestions of things about each radio that might be good or bad in relation to the way we probably will use them.

Things the radios will be used for:
1) General chatting on HF
2) Casual DX-ing (as in so casual I may not even try to get QSL cards)
3) Portable operation for EmComm w/ ARES/RACES
4) Portable operation for vacations because driving to the top of a mountain, throwing out an antenna, and making some contacts sounds fun.
5) Computer control and digital modes
6) Radio astronomy (this is the XYL's domain, I don't know anything about it other than the frequency ranges she told me it has to be able to receive and both radios cover them)
7) Operating a whole lot of sideband (neither of us know code but we're both working on it)

Things I'm sure the radio will never be used for:
1) Serious DXing (as in actively trying to pursue awards)
2) Serious contesting (even after participating in one, the idea of contesting as fun just baffles us)
3) Feeding a big amp

Here's our thinking so far:

Until I noticed the price at Texas Towers, the 450 had been $100 more than the 718, so we'd been leaning in that direction. The 718 has AF DSP which will not have the problems the IF DSP in the 450 might (see my other thread in Elmers or Rob Sherwood's talk at Dayton 07), The 718 supposedly has a quieter receiver which might be helpful with her radio astronomy. The 718 is a "known quantity" in that there's a lot of them in use and they've got a decent reputation whereas the 450 has not been around long enough to find out if it has any problems.

However, against the 718 you've got the fact that it's somewhat dated and my be nearing it's end of life (and therefore closer to the day when parts become hard to get). The AF DSP in the 718 also might not be as effective as the IF DSP in the 450. The computer control isn't quite as complete with the 718 as it is with the 450. Presumably, being a much newer design, the 450 also is more technologically advanced than the 718.

So, based on what we will and won't use the radio for, and our analysis of the differences so far, what other sorts of things do we need to think about to decide between these two radios? Is there any glaring feature one has or doesn't have that isn't obvious to a noob but that turns out to be a big deal in practice? Any other sort of advice about making this kind of a decision?

Thanks everyone,
Ty (KD8IVL) and Michelle (KD8JLC)

Posts: 646

« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2008, 02:58:12 AM »

      i don't know much about the 450 but i did own the 718 and im sorry i got rid. The 718 is a more than capable radio even for dx'ing. Ok its not got all the bells and whistles but this is what attracted me to it in the first place.

It has good write ups and i spent more than a month debating about buying it. I was really glad i did and i couldn't fault anything on it. build quality was sound and felt like a well constructed piece of gear.

If you want a 0-30 hf tranciever and are not worried about bells and whistles then i think you would be hard pushed at the new price to get much better.

The only reason i got rid of mine was to downsize everything for portable work.

My only advice is don't get caught up in the consumer hype of buying something that has lots of functions that most of us simply don't need.

Its a great radio at a great price, its easy to use and does exactly what its supposed to do.


Posts: 147

« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2008, 02:58:32 AM »

The only advice I can think off is to try both radio´s before buying. Even if you can only try them for 10 to 20 minutes, you will be able to tell wich one feels better for you and the (X)YL.

That being said, I bought a Elecraft K3 without ever seeing one other than from a picture, HI!

Have you considered the use of a build in ATU?
Both radio´s are menu driven, you need to figure out if that is going to be a problem for you.
What about customer support?

In Holland the DARES uses VHF/UHF most of the time. I have a FT 857D wich dan do HF/VHF/UHF.

Lots of things to consider, hope this helps a bit.

Good luck,


Posts: 147

« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2008, 03:05:04 AM »

Oeps, my bad... The IC 817 is hardly menu driven. SRY.

Posts: 490


« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2008, 03:46:05 AM »

I agree you have to try both of them yourself. I have the FT-450 and for day to day SSB contacts really can't fault it. The internal ATU is fairly limited in range, did you plan to use an external tuner?

Remember you need a good quality 13.8V PSU to run either of these.. I use a big switcher (Runs the whole shack) but if its just the one tranceiver a good linear supply would probably be best..

73 Rex - G8UBJ

Posts: 490


« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2008, 03:54:24 AM »

BTW the FT-450 includes receive up to 56Mhz and 6M operation which is a lot of fun.. Not sure if that's important?

Posts: 0

« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2008, 04:46:58 AM »

Steps I always suggest when making a purchase of a new radio.  

It starts with pencil and paper.

First on a legal pad I write down all the features I would like to see on my radio.

Then I go to the web sites of the Big Three radio manufacturers and write down all their current models listed there making notation as to all the features on each model

Then I eliminate those models that have far more features than I am looking for--stuff not used is wasted money.

Then I look at the remaining models.  Knowing that they have the features I want I look at them in so far as where the buttons are located, the size of the buttons, the display size and type etc etc.  In other words the physical design of the radio.  To tell ya the truth I find some designs of today just flat out ugly.  Eliminate the physical design radios that just do not make their use to me comfortable

Next I look at power supplies.  Will I need a power supply to be external or is the power supply internal.  This is important if you are going to go mobile.  If you are going to go mobile then the models with the external power supplies are probably your best bet.  However, if all you want is just a base unit then a model with an internal power supply will suit you better.  Eliminate models appropriately.

NOW you have the TOUGH QUESTIONS.  You have boilded down your choices to the A List.  Look at the remaining few models with an eye for the little things such as plug-in options on the back of the radio and such eliminating the models that make adaptation to say SSTV or RTTY or PSK less than easy.

NOW you are down to probably just TWO or THREE.  NOW LOOK AT PRICE.  Note that up to this point I did not mention price, and quite deliberately.  See how much money you want to spend factoring in the incidentals you might buy into that price as well--mics, SWR Meter, digital interfaces, antenna switches, coax and such.

You have now probably selected ONE MODEL that meets your financial availability and your operational needs.  

You are now declared man and radio.  You may now kiss the radio and leave the radio store/chapel.


Posts: 0

« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2008, 04:52:58 AM »

OHH and one important PS...

If after all the above is said and done and you get down to that magic model of radio you do not have enough money to buy that radio then do not buy ANY radio.

Rather, put that money in a savings account and save up some MORE MONEY to add to the current amount you have.  

A couple of months is not a long time to wait to save up a little more money to add to your current amount so as to allow you to get the radio you truly want.

You have your entire lifetime to enjoy Amateur Radio.  There is no need to rush on the purchase of any radio item.  

Posts: 3331

« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2008, 05:03:18 AM »

Please describe your antenna system.

Posts: 380

« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2008, 05:54:39 AM »

Hello -
 I can guarantee you that the new radio will be a lot easier to carry around than a 30 lb FT-101! I was wondering about your comment of using the rig you choose for radio astronomy. I don't know the specifics of what she intends to do but the 718 is limited to the HF   bands - 160-10 meters. There are several good rigs that operate on HF and VHF and UHF. I have one, the Yaesu FT-897D which will operate on the 70cm band and receive from 420-470 mHz. I bought mine used and in mint condition for $625. The FT-857D can be had used for even less and has the same coverage.
Good luck with your choice!

Bruce  K6RQR

Posts: 380

« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2008, 05:59:01 AM »

Hello again -
 I just reread your post and noticed that your wife said that both radios covered the range of frequencies she was interested in. Both radios are fine. I've owned a 718 and liked it a lot. Its very easy to operate. Remember that the 450 will cover 6 meters which is a lot of fun when its open.

Posts: 8911


« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2008, 06:12:43 AM »

"We hope to make the ~275mi pilgrimage to the nearest AES to be able to play with both radios before we buy, but I'm not sure that's going to be feasible."

Universal Radio is closer:


Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.

Posts: 2808

« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2008, 07:45:35 AM »

Within their frequency ranges, either radio will do what you ask.

You get a few useful features in the FT-450:

1.  Several bandwidths for SSB and CW.  That saves you from buying a filter (you can only install one) for the IC-718;

2.  Transmit audio equalization (9 choices);

As I wrote in a previous post, I haven't found the IF DSP to be a problem.

The FT-450 has been quite reliable.  The FT-450 group on Yahoo is quick to pick up problems.  Some of the early production units had trouble with AF hum, which was fixed under warranty.  The recent units have been trouble-free.  Lots of the guys in that group use digital modes, and run the radios pretty hard.

I think of the FT-450 as the "new IC-718".  


Posts: 1148


« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2008, 07:47:26 AM »

Most excellent advice from 'LRZ!

Listing out the features is how I decide for important purchases. It helps overcome the excitement and anticipation which produce that voice in your head that keeps saying "GET SOMETHING NOW!" <grin>

You'll still need a bucket for the drool.

Buy nice, not twice. If in doubt, wait.

You mentioned mobile and portable ops (my favorite ways to operate). Therefore:

Please, consider the following (any Bill Nye fans out there?)

* volume and quality of receive audio
* effectiveness of onboard DSP on SSB audio (you can always add a nice ClearSpeech outboard unit later)
* size and weight
* a detachable faceplate greatly facilitates mobile and suitcase use.
* ... as do a carrying handle and a fold-down stand.
* apparent ruggedness and water resistance
* the current draw on both RX and TX (efficiency)
* built in power supply (heavier) or 12VDC only (lighter & versatile)
* onboard antenna tuner
* display readability in sunlight
* availability and cost of narrow SSB filter.
* battery/supply voltage monitor
* VHF/UHF capability (avoid carrying another radio)

Good luck and savor the anticipatio. So great that you have full support from the XYL

Definitely research any special features the radio needs for the type of use she's planning, and be sure she knows you're considering those, too!



Posts: 700

« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2008, 07:56:26 AM »

Both are good radios but the IC-718 has been on the market for several years and lacks many features included in the much newer FT-450, including coverage of 6 meters, DSP, digital voice recorder, CW keyer,  good filters and 60 meters -- which might or might not be important to you. The IC-718 was an excellent entry-level radio when first introduced but it's now a mature product and has been surpassed by newer entry-level products, particularly the FT-450, which I own. I must say the 450 is a lot of radio for the money. I use it for a back-up rig to my Icom Pro 3 but I must say it's probably 80 percent of the radio the Pro 3 is just 25 percent of the price.

73, N4KZ
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