|Before I saw the HCT mentioned in the KX3 yahoo group, I was starting to assemble my own simple keyboard to CW/PSK/RTTY solution and estimated to spend about $200+ on building it for the KX3.|
After I read the HCT manual, it was clearly apparent, they had already solved not only the general keyboard interface issue, but had added numerous useful features, like logging, scrolling display, and keyboard macro with call sign substitution via ALT+C, to change the QSO call sign, then in the macros, it replaces ! (bang) with the call sign, or # with the serial number.
So the $249 price with a great case was in the ball park of what I expected for a dedicated firmware interface, plus they already developed a bunch of software for it. Major time saver for me.
The HCT can store 1200 QSO internally, while it's not going to replace your contest logger or full DX logging SW, for the field it's perfect.
Keep in mind the actual decoding is done by the KX3/K3, not the HCT. The HCT gives you a bigger display that you can scroll through as well as keyboard interface if you wish to use it.
The LCD is easily readable in daylight, the case looks great beside the KX3. The lettering on the case is actually etched instead of silk screen, and looks great.
Easy setup and custom programming of both the keyboard macros as well as rig macros, which allow you to just ALT+Fn and it send to the KX3 setup changes.
By default there are two rig macros:
ALT+F1, sets the KX3/K3 to 14.070, 5 Watts and into PSK31 mode
ALT+F2, sets the KX3/K3 to 14.080, 5 Watts, and into RTTY mode
It's supper easy to edit existing macros... F12 for keyboard macros, then the Fn key you want to edit or add and for the rig macros, use ALT+F12
In my case I added a rig macro to move it down into 20m and set it for CW as well as added several keyboard macros CQ, QTH, RIG info, 73, & SK
Firmware in my HCT appears to be the latest v2.1.5. The manual & website states that in the near future, firmware upgrades will be possible and they are adding ADIF export functionality.
QRPworks has yet to release the utility that allows the upgrade of the firmware, hopefully it works as nice as the Elecraft utility, wonder if it could also set the real time clock as well?
The HCT manual & FAQ states you must use a wired PS2 keyboard, since many today are USB keyboards with a PS2 adapter, including all of the USB keyboards, which as expected didn't work. However I was able to find a very high quality Cherry G84-4100PRAUS Compact Keyboard with PS/2 Interface on Amazon to match the HCT, that is only 11".. well built and has switches rated for 20 million presses, even has a nice little ferrite core right near the end with no discernible RF issues of the cheap keyboard. I mean seriously if your going to buy the HCT, get a solid, well built keyboard.
The HCT is powered by either a internal 9v battery or external power, which could be etch labeled with input voltage range. The HCT also has a realtime clock which needs a CR2032, this will automatically timestamp the QSO.
I know I could use my iPad or drag along my macbook, but why? I want everything to fit in a nice little pelican case for my travels and unlike the NUE-PSK modem, this is designed specifically for the K3 & KX3 rigs.
The only real things I could see that would possibly improve on the HCT, and this is not taking away from the operational use of HCT at all, is the rather LARGEish protruding feet on the back, would much rather see smaller fold out feet, option for internal rechargeable battery, include the cables in the cost, label the power input. And a substitution character for inserting the date & time in the macro.
However these are very small issues, that Shel & Steve can address over time or not, and are not enough to ding my rating or limit my use of this great product by the guys at QRPworks!
Simply put, it just works and it works very very well.