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Author Topic: Need advice for portable ham radio  (Read 7983 times)
NATV
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« on: June 30, 2014, 04:48:38 AM »

Hello everyone,

I'm new to HAM, currently studying for licensing.  Timing has it that it's my birthday and my husband is willing to buy me a ham radio, so I need to decide on one soon before he changes his mind  Smiley

Currently, I don't have a lot of interest in far-away transmissions.  I'd prefer a portable HAM radio, that I can take hiking or wherever.  Maybe in the future I'd get a desk unit with antenna.

So for right now, I want a portable unit, I've seen tri-band and even quad-band.  I prefer paying a little more to have all the bells and whistles now so I don't feel I should have got something better later.


Can anyone recommend a good portable HAM radio?  Ideally something not too difficult to program.  Also would be great if it could plug into some kind of amplifier or antenna in the future in case I want more power later.


Thanks


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W8JX
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« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2014, 05:03:15 AM »

Yeasu 817ND. It is not a HT but is portable and covers HF bands and VHF and UHF thru 440 all mode 5 watts out max.
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NATV
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« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2014, 05:17:13 AM »

Thanks, my bad I wasn't clear when I said I was looking for portable --  I'm looking for the hand-held type.

Anything good you can recommend in that style?

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K5LXP
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« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2014, 06:30:26 AM »

There are only about a hundred choices, from $30 dispos-a-rigs to $750 full blown shack in your hand jewels.

Most any of them would be "good" for just starting out.  At the most basic level they all transmit, receive, have memories, and scan.  Some are easier to program than others but "ease" is an intuitive sense that varies from person to person and radio to radio.  So you start somewhere and see what you like.

I personally recommend the Yaesu FT-60 as a first rig.  It offers VHF/UHF, is durable, will run off AA batteries if you want, and gives you a few extra features like NOAA weather alert.

For a lot less money you can get a Baofeng or Wouxun and they do work.  My personal opinion (and I do own one) is they're enough to get you started but after using it a while you will find their lack of amateur-centric features will leave you wanting more.  You could get something like an FT-60 and not grow out of it for a long time, or maybe never.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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NATV
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« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2014, 06:45:20 AM »

Hi Mark,

Is that the Yaesu FT-60R  ?

Pricing isn't too bad on that one... it's only dual-band though,  I'm wondering but I'd be missing compared to a tri-band?


Thanks again
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AC8ND
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« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2014, 08:15:20 AM »

Mark,

I was in the same situation a little over a year ago.

I bought several Baofengs and was very happy.

Just last week I got a Kenwood TH-D72A.
I went with this radio because of an interest in APRS.

So, I agree with the suggestion of Yaesu FT-60 or a Baofeng depending on your budget.

Join a club, use you radio, ask questions.
After some time you will find where your curiosity leads you.

APRS, D-Star, tri-band, quad band. 
What you decide will be what others are using.

We have about 3 that are using D-Star, less than that using tri/quad band.
Quite a few are experimenting with APRS.

Decided that APRS sounded interesting.

To bad they don't have an ht that will do everything.

Have fun.

Patrick
AC8ND
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K5LXP
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« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2014, 08:37:08 AM »

Is that the Yaesu FT-60R  ?

Yes.

Quote
Pricing isn't too bad on that one...

Right.  This one's at the "sweet spot" of the price/feature curve.  To get just a few more features will cost a lot more.

Quote
it's only dual-band though,  I'm wondering but I'd be missing compared to a tri-band?

You didn't mention what the third band would be but flat out you're just not going to be doing anything near as much on any other band with a handheld than you are on 2M and 440.  Whether it's 10M, 6M, 220, 900 or 1.2GHZ there's little to no opportunity to do anything on those bands with an FM HT unless you have a specific circumstance to do so.  If you do, like you live near repeaters on those bands and will use them a lot, then you could go for a tri/quad band rig.  But for general purpose, walk-about and travel communications 2M and 440 will cover 99% of what you will ever want to do.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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NATV
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« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2014, 12:11:08 PM »

The other one I'm looking at, it's double the price though is this one:

Quad-Band Yaesu VX-8DR Submersible VHF/UHF Amateur Radio Transceiver


Again, I have no idea what I'd do with extra bands, but wondering if I should consider this so it would be something I wouldn't outgrow?


So are extra bands are if I want to link up to repeaters? And I'd need more than a dual-band to do that?

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K5LXP
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« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2014, 01:31:22 PM »

Quote
The other one I'm looking at, it's double the price though is this one:  Quad-Band Yaesu VX-8DR
Again, I have no idea what I'd do with extra bands,

Well, probably nothing.  Just because you have a radio that operates on a particular band doesn't mean there's automatically something there to hear or talk to.

On 10M, you need a general class license to operate on the FM subband there.  You're going to need a mobile-sized antenna to have any degree of efficiency since you're running comparatively low power. Then you have to wait for the band to open up (less and less likely for this part of the cycle), or set up a contact with a local on simplex.   

6M you can operate as a tech, but you still need an external antenna to get anywhere and unless you have a local 6M repeater, you have to wait for an opening that only happens a few times a year.

Now, the 220MHz the 8DR covers can be useful in areas there are 220 repeaters but in terms of overall usefulness, it's no different than 2M and 440.  Without a local 220 system you can use to your advantage it offers nothing else in a practical sense.  If you're "into" 220 this could be a great choice, if not, you wouldn't miss it.


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wondering if I should consider this so it would be something I wouldn't outgrow?

This radio has some features besides the band converage that can make it a desirable radio to have.  It is a true dual bander, so you can hear both bands at the same time.  It has an optional GPS for APRS, if you ever get into that (but I wouldn't use an 8DR for APRS anyway).  It has lots of memories you can sort into banks which is handy for working in different regions, or for segregating frequencies for scanning.

I actively use around a dozen different HT's, from the lowly Baofeng through high tier Motorola commercial radios.  Even though some of them have the capability of dual receive and APRS I don't really ever use them that way.  Frankly I don't want so much of my activities tied up into one radio that if I lost it or it died, I'd have to start out again with another expensive radio.  This may not be your mindset but I would rather have a few inexpensive HT's that do what they do really well, instead of one really expensive one.   I get that you're afraid you might miss out on something by buying a mid tier instead of a top tier radio but that would only be the case if you were into specialized operating that required a specific form factor radio that did specialized or even proprietary functions.  I've done my share of that over the years and I wouldn't bother worrying about it until you decide to go down that road, and by then you'll know for sure what you'll want to get.  Odds are better than not it won't be what you picked out of a hat just starting out.  A decent basic radio will serve you a long time.  There can always be a 2nd, 3rd or dozen-th HT down the road if that's what you want/need.  You started out this thread wanting a "good" radio and already feature-creep has set in.  An expensive radio can be fun/interesting to have but your learning curve is steeper and you might find you'd rather have spent the money on a more basic radio and applied the balance to something else you could use like antennas or other station equipment/accessories.  More $/features doesn't automatically make a radio "better" unless it does something you need.


Quote
And I'd need more than a dual-band to do that?

There are way more repeaters on 2M and 440 than the other bands.  As a result, all of your potential contacts are more likely there too.  Even with a high power mobile having 10 and 6M is a minor feature.   You're paying for bands you'll hardly ever use.

Check out the repeater book for your area to get an idea of what systems are around you, and compare what's on 2M and 440 compared to the other bands.

http://www.repeaterbook.com/


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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KD0SFY
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« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2014, 01:34:40 PM »

I am pretty happy with my VX-8GR.  

My advice, don't think "entry level" or that you will upgrade later -- buy something good right out of the gate.  You'll be happier in the long run and more likely to continue with the hobby.  A lot of folks who bought something inexpensive either end up getting out of the hobby because they get frustrated or they find out they want a lot more than what the cheap radios can do and they end up getting the better unit anyway.

The only thing about the VX-8 series is you are probably going to want the computer programming capability.  
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NATV
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« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2014, 03:06:28 PM »

I'm so green I don't yet know what the different bands are for yet, but I checked the http://www.repeaterbook.com list and there are repeaters in/near my area for:

 147.2250+
 443.1000+
 927.6250-  (listed as "wide area", I live about 12-15 miles away so I think I'm good there)


Based on this, does the Quad-Band Yaesu VX-8DR make sense for me? (once I figure out what to do with repeaters will I benefit from this model versus the dual-band Yaesu FT-60R)

I like the idea of being able to hear both bands at the same time too.


Also, I wanted to mention.. I don't know how much I'll be 'operating', in terms of transmitting, I'm mostly interested in listening to what is going on, at least for now -  so even if something needs a higher license than the technical that's OK for now since I don't plan on transmitting on those bands anyway.


I really do appreciate all the feedback.  I think having the radio while I study for the license will really help me get my head around everything too.


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K5LXP
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« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2014, 07:57:12 PM »

I'm so green I don't yet know what the different bands are for yet,

Well, they're for a number of things but when you come to the game with an HT, you do HT things.  Which is predominantly voice repeater and simplex contacts.


Quote
repeaters in/near my area for:
 147.2250+
 443.1000+
 927.6250-

That's a pretty short list.  You wouldn't even need to use memories.  If that's truly all that's in your area, you're going to get really familiar with the users of those machines - because that's all you'll ever hear.  Unless you're really rural though I'll bet there are a few more within range.


Quote
does the Quad-Band Yaesu VX-8DR make sense for me?
...
 versus the dual-band Yaesu FT-60R)

Practically speaking, for just two repeaters it wouldn't make any difference at all.  Neither one can transmit on 900MHz, so you're just looking at 2M and 440.

I would be truly surprised if 2 repeaters is all you could access though.  Plus, over time you'll take trips where you can use it more plus there's no doubt some public safety and commercial frequencies you might be interested in.  So you'll end up with some number of frequencies loaded in no matter how rural you might be.  Still not seeing where dual receive would be a compelling feature for you but it certainly doesn't hurt (for 2X+ the price).


Quote
I don't know how much I'll be 'operating', in terms of transmitting, I'm mostly interested in listening to what is going on, at least for now

Sure.  I agree with both your points - get familiar with operating by listening and using it as an incentive.  Most HT's these days have extended receive capability, which translates to receiving AM and FM broadcast, shortwave, aircraft and public safety bands.  That can offer entertainment and information when the ham bands are quiet. 

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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NATV
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« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2014, 03:54:31 AM »

Thanks

Maybe I just don't know the range, but really 90% the cities listed here are within 40 miles or less:

http://www.repeaterbook.com/repeaters/LocationSearch.php?type=county&state_id=12&loc=Palm%20Beach#sthash.jcE2ZSRM.ffxWFAFD.dpbs


Is that a good number of repeaters would you say?


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K5LXP
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« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2014, 06:44:46 AM »

That's more like it.  Realistically with a handy scratchy your range will be limited due to the compromise antenna but no doubt there will be a number of repeaters you will be able to hear and hit reliably.  You should have no trouble finding activity and discovering clubs around you.

An external antenna at your home and for your car can be an option but you will tire of messing with it and will eventually end up with equipment better suited for that.  But for now an HT is a quick and convenient way to get your feet wet in this aspect of the hobby.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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NATV
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« Reply #14 on: July 01, 2014, 07:53:59 AM »

THANK YOU!

So one last question... something I JUST got excited about is packet data (connecting to a BBS for example)

Is this possible with the Yaesu VX-8DR ?  Or do I now need to consider a completely different radio?


(I'd rather have packet capability than more bands if that helps)

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