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Author Topic: FT-897D as a starter rig?  (Read 6516 times)
MDNITERDER
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« on: March 12, 2012, 11:47:06 PM »

What are your opinions.
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STAYVERTICAL
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« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2012, 02:37:06 AM »

By the time this page is full you will have had as many points of view as posts.
But, I can give you the benefit of my experience, since I purchased an FT897D as my first and only rig (after being qrt for many years).
At first, I thought it would be my entry level rig, and then I would move on to a more expensive rig, but this was not to be.

For my usage pattern, which is basically everything and every mode from HF to UHF this rig has proved to be a real performer, and although I have seen and tried many other rigs, they just don't have enough "extra" to warrant a change.

The FT897D is my favourite and lucky choice, since my main criteria is reliability.
I don't want to have a rig which must be pampered or is not able to take hard and sustained usage, and the FT897D, even after five plus years use, just keeps on going without losing a single day for repair.
When I needed mobile/portable use, I simply bought another, and it too has been going for 4 years without a hitch.

For a newbie how can you go wrong - it is inexpensive, does 160m to 70cm including all WARC and even 60m and is built, looks and performs, like a military radio.

This is one of the best selling radio's out there, and for a good reason, so if you are looking for a starter radio, you will make your life much easier with an FT897D, since you will not later be looking for a 6m or 70cm or 2m or whatever other band, the other radio's do not support.

I have added the FP30 integrated switching PSU which bolts to the bottom and just looks like it is part of the radio, the FC40 remote atu which allows me to just push the tune button on the transceiver to tune remotely whatever antenna I put up, and also have the 500hz collins mechanical filter for cw and psk31/digital operation.

All these accessories add to the total cost, and you may then be moving into a more conventional or higher performance radio, so it is important to be aware of nickel and diming your way to a different possible solution.

But, and this is my opinion and experience, for a starter radio, the FT897D is a very capable solution.

As always, do your research, talk to people who have one and look at both the good and bad points, then make up your own mind.

Happy shopping,

73s

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AC4RD
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« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2012, 04:19:35 AM »

I bought an FT-897D used last summer to use as a portable rig, mostly SSB with some CW.  Used from one of the big ham stores, it was a good price ($700.)   I flat out LOVE this radio.  Performance is pretty good for an "entry level" radio--the front end gets overloaded in very crowded conditions (big pileups or contests), and some people don't like the menu system.   Personally, I think it's a great little radio:  It's as tough and well-made as a good Swiss Army knife, easy to use, and it has good performance.  To me, the "feel" of the radio is great--a few minutes with the manual and I was doing everything I wanted to, including split ops and using the DSP.  The DSP is nowhere near as new and advanced as on the new rig I just bought.  But I still worked over 100 countries last summer and fall from my riding mower, using the 897.      http://www.duke.edu/~kuzen001/lawnmower.htm

:-)   IMO a good used 897 is a great deal in terms of "bang for the buck."   I'm no expert on radios, but I *really* like my 897.  GL HTH!
« Last Edit: March 13, 2012, 05:12:58 AM by AC4RD » Logged
N6AJR
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« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2012, 10:59:56 AM »

The ft 857 is the same radio inside, but with no battery option. and a couple hundred bucks cheaper.
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AG6WT
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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2012, 11:54:39 AM »

I wouldn't recommend it as a 1st rig.

Assuming that $1000 (the cost of a new FT-897D) is your budget...

If you need a HF/VHF/UHF radio, the FT-857D is the same but a couple hundred dollars cheaper.

If you need a HF radio, the FT-450D, TS-480 and IC-7200 are the same price and are much better radios both in performance and ergonomics.

The FT-897D looks really nice but for most people it is not practical and when figuring in adding the options that make it a complete rig (e.g. the bolt on power supply, the FC-30 tuner, SSB/CW filters, etc.) it becomes very expensive. At that point, you are spending as much as a new IC-7000, FT-950 or TS-2000.
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MDNITERDER
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« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2012, 01:06:12 PM »

 There are a few things that caught my eye on it, the bands it will work on plus the 2m and 70cm. Resale value, they appear to have a good resale value so if I ever do upgrade. This may sound stupid to others but it is very eye appealing to me. I see the 857 but i do not like the look of it. I actually like the physical size of the 897 being larger. One day i would like to get a dedicated base unit but i also don't like the idea of clutter but that Im sure will change as i get deeper into the hobby.
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W8JX
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« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2012, 01:47:20 PM »

Well like some pointed out the 857 and 897 are same internally except for that 897 does have bigger heat sink area and will run cooler than 857 will. A small 100 watt rig has to loose as much heat as a big one so small one will run hotter and tend to overheat easier too.

Also, while it is a Jack of all trades it is not really good at any of them (like TS2000 too) If you are not sure which direction you want to go (HF or VHF/UHF) it is  good rig to try but if you wat to focus on HF you would be much better served with a TS 480 or maybe a FT450 if you are a Yaesu fan.  In the 1000 dollar class for new HF rigs the TS-480 is at top of class.
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MDNITERDER
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« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2012, 03:31:08 PM »

 I have heard good things about kenwood. I am not sure where or what band i want to work as it will all be new to me. Hf is great but large antennas but exciting to make long distance contacts but better in the day for big skip. VHF UHF great all day and night with local repeaters and talking to locals and making new friends. Its one reason I looked at the all in one kinda package for now to see where or what I will enjoy. I work days so day skip would be hard unless I talked the boss into an antenna on the roof.  Grin

 I am also excited to know I can help in the case of an emergency if needed and having the 897 would be great. I do have a family member in the desert that has some land and setting up a nice large hf antenna is possible but not at home.
 
 John
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AE5QB
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« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2012, 03:52:05 PM »

I highly recommend the 857D.  It is a fine radio.  I own it.  I have had it as my main radio for 3 years.  I am not a contester but a casual user.  People say it sucks for CW.  I have not had any issues using it for casual CW.  It works fine for repeater and even simplex 2m.  It plops into the truck when we go on vacation and works fine there.  I have taken it to the park and run it portable off of an extra battery I have.  Works fine there.  I cannot think of anything I have wanted to do that the 857D cannot do.  If you want to get into spec wars, then it will lose.  It is NOT the best VHF or HF radio available.  But it is a very well designed package and you get a bunch of stuff in a small package.  I am very pleased with mine.  As a first radio it is a great choice.  Where else can you find an all in one radio with comparable capabilities for the price?   I looked at the 897 and there just isn't enough extra there to make it worth the extra cost.  You are correct, the resale value on these units is very good.  Not that the resale values of other radios aren't good also, but the 857 does very well on the used market. Many people use them and are very happy with them.  I know many hams starting out and experienced who would love to have one.  I can't recommend the 897 but I can recommend the 857, highly.  Nothing wrong with the 897, there just isn't enough extra to warrant the extra cost.  You won't be disappointed with it. 
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W8JX
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« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2012, 04:02:41 PM »

I have heard good things about kenwood. I am not sure where or what band i want to work as it will all be new to me. Hf is great but large antennas but exciting to make long distance contacts but better in the day for big skip. VHF UHF great all day and night with local repeaters and talking to locals and making new friends. Its one reason I looked at the all in one kinda package for now to see where or what I will enjoy. I work days so day skip would be hard unless I talked the boss into an antenna on the roof.  Grin

 I am also excited to know I can help in the case of an emergency if needed and having the 897 would be great. I do have a family member in the desert that has some land and setting up a nice large hf antenna is possible but not at home.
 
 John

2m and 440 FM can be very busy at times but I would not tie up my HF rig to work them. I do it with a dual band rig that can monitor while I am working HF.  If you still want to go that route the 897 is still a better choice than 857 for a base rig. The 857 can get very hot when pushed long and had in a base application. Especially high duty cycle digital. 
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MDNITERDER
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« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2012, 04:07:57 PM »

 I do live in the desert area of California and we get temps above 107 in the summer. but if its in my truck or house it would be in the nice cool AC  Grin

 If I do find i enjoy working the HF I would gladly get a FT-450 or a TS-480 for the future,

 I also don't have a thing for small units, something about radios in a small package.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2012, 04:15:33 PM by MDNITERDER » Logged
W8JX
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« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2012, 04:14:39 PM »

I do live in the desert area of California and we get temps above 107 in the summer. but if its in my truck or house it would be in the nice cool AC  Grin

 Make no mistake, a small 100 watt rig gets a lot hotter than a bigger rig. You might also look at a TS-480 HX which is a 200 watt rig. It can be had new for a bit over a grand.  It keeps its cool too.
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AG6WT
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« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2012, 07:08:49 PM »

I also don't have a thing for small units, something about radios in a small package.

The physical size isn't the only thing to consider. While the FT-897D is bigger than the FT-857D, it still suffers from the less than desirable ergonomics. That is many each radio's features are hidden behind a myriad of button combinations. Some options are accessed with a single button push. Others by holding the same button for a longer until a new option comes up. Yet other options are accessed by holding the F button then spinning the SEL knob. And so on... The FT-897D is bigger but it still feels small because there are few buttons and knobs. In addition, the FT-897D LCD screen is very small and presents little information. For example, if I recall this radio correctly, there is only one bar that can show transmitted power, or ALC, or SWR. Other larger radios can show two or three of those datum simultaneously.

In contrast, the TS-480 is a little smaller but has many of its settings are accessed on a clearly labeled, illuminated buttons. And the LCD is bigger and present a whole lot more information. It's like a miniature TS-2000.

I'd suggest you get a dedicated HF rig in the $1000 range. To cover VHF/UHF, a $100 Wouxon dual bander HT is enough to talking on repeaters until you can justify buying a dedicated mobile VHF/UHF radio. Put a j-pole on the roof of your home and a mag-mount whip on the truck and you should do all right. Like W8JX said, it's much more practical to have separate radios so you can monitor your favorite repeaters while working HF.

But before you buy anything, if you have not tried the rigs mentioned here, you need to, if only to confirm that is radio is too big or small for your taste. I don't know where you live but I don't think a drive to HRO in Burbank or Anaheim is too much of a burden. They'll have all those radios out for you to try.
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STAYVERTICAL
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« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2012, 03:51:46 AM »

If you like small footprint rigs, my FT897D, bolt on 25 amp FP30 psu and its FC40 ATU, and accessories all fit into a Laptop computer bag (one of those double compartment jobs).
I am currently painting the shack and my two FT897D/FP30/FC40 complete ham shacks are in two laptop bags in a cupboard until the painting is complete (including its PSK31 USB signalink and morse keys)!
For emcomms it is just grab and go, a bit of wire in the bag and you have a complete 160m-70cm ham station.

The menu system is really quite simple and obvious, particularly since you will probably spend time in only a few menu settings which will soon become your favourites. A small rig needs menus unless you want to use a nutdriver to turn dozens of tiny knobs.
If you are really allergic to menus (which most modern radios have these days), just connect a laptop to the CAT port (via a level converter) on the radio, and use Ham radio deluxe, omnirig,commander or ftcat to give radio control on a big screen.
Be aware however, that the CAT port is one port which controls the FC40 ATU, Linear amp control, or radio control but only one at any time. So if you are using this CAT port for an FC40 you will not be able to use radio control.
So compromise is something you will need to consider - and should be factored into your decision.

The FT897D uses fans which switch on every time you transmit, and although it may be a bit noisy for those people who hate fans, I can testify that the rig never overheats, or even gets too hot too touch in my qth (where it gets over 110 degrees in summer with no A/C). This rig is simply bulletproof.

The TSXXX/Kenxxx rigs are also great rigs, but they are in a different niche than the FT897, which which is designed to be seamlessly expanded.
The other rigs are the same as most ham rigs in that they are not really mobile/portable/base station ready except as a compromise.
The FT897D is configurable as a base station, mobile or portable (20W with internal batteries) - and its performance is really very good - I have 5000+ DX contacts in my log with this rig running 100W in the depths of the last sunspot minimum into a vertical groundplane antenna.

The comments regarding the expansion cost bringing you into another price bracket are quite correct, and something to be considered. Resale price is good because it is a great rig.

Only you know what your criteria for a starter ham rig are, but I can talk as an actual long term user of this great radio, and I feel absolutely no need for another radio, and at no time have I felt at a disadvantage against other 100w rig users.

The net is your friend, research, research, then research again, and then make up your mind.
Its your money, let it be your decision.

Good luck and 73s.


« Last Edit: March 14, 2012, 04:03:45 AM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged
AC4RD
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« Reply #14 on: March 14, 2012, 04:23:22 AM »

While the FT-897D is bigger than the FT-857D, it still suffers from the less than desirable ergonomics. That is many each radio's features are hidden behind a myriad of button combinations.   .... In contrast, the TS-480 is a little smaller but has many of its settings are accessed on a clearly labeled, illuminated buttons.

This is a good example of what "Stay Vertical" meant when he said there would be a lot of opinions.  :-)  I love my 897 and think it's remarkably easy to use--it just seems right to me.  I've got a TS-480SAT, and it offers slightly better performance than the 897, but I've never been fond of the thing, and I've never used it much.  I just don't like the feel of it.  (My 480 broke a few weeks ago and I still haven't sent it off for repair; instead I ordered a new FT-950.)   KJ6AMF and I both have valid opinions, they just happen to be 180 degrees out of phase with each other.  :-)

KJ6AMF was right to suggest trying other rigs out, too.  If there is a ham club in your area, find them and go to the next meeting.  Hang around, talk--hams LOVE to talk about radios at meetings.  :-)  Finding some people near you who can help you get started on HF will be a big help!  73 GL!
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