The FT-817 is Yaesu’s unique, tiny, MF – UHF low power amateur radio transceiver. On this page I’ve posted notes on various things related to it which may be of interest to fellow users. If you’re interested in more information about using the FT-817, however, I’d recommend joining the FT-817 group at Yahoo. This group has an FAQ which is worth reading if you’re a new or prospective FT-817 owner. It contains answers to most of the questions you may wish to know.
Also another reference website is G4ILO (we miss you, 73!)
- Small size. This is probably the FT-817’s most important attribute. There’s nothing smaller, apart from FM-only HT’s and one-or-two band QRP CW-only radios. It’s small enough that you can slip it in your rucksack or even a pocket just in case you feel like having a few QSOs while you’re out. This is something you wouldn’t be tempted to do with the Elecraft K2 (which I also own.)
- “All-band” coverage. The FT-817 covers all amateur bands from Top Band to 70cm (excluding the UK-only 4m band and the US-only 222MHz band.) It also has pretty extensive general coverage capabilities. This makes it an ideal “do-anything” radio, suitable for whatever kind of operation you feel like doing.
High power consumption. The FT-817 consumes around 400mA even on receive. This is pretty poor, especially given the limited capacity of the battery pack (see below). Yaesu could surely do better. The Elecraft K2 draws about 240mA on receive, normally configured, but this can be reduced to about 140mA for portable use by invoking various power-saving options.
Low battery capacity. Eight AA-size cells are too weedy. The original factory-supplied rechargeable NiCd pack had a capacity of just 1,000mAH. The current FT-817ND model has a NiMH pack with 1,400mAH capacity. This is barely enough for three and a half hours of listening, with no transmitting. Yaesu should either have increased the size of the radio to permit a bigger battery pack to be used, or offered a Lithium-Ion battery option (as used as standard in the VX-5R) to permit greater capacity in a small size. This would also allow 5W to be used when running from battery power.
Only 2.5W on battery power. The FT-817 is advertised as a 5W radio. But on battery power the maximum output power is normally 2.5W. This canbe overridden, but bearing in mind the limited battery capacity this may not be a good idea. But it’s disappointing. Let’s face it, out portable you are probably going to be using a pretty inefficient antenna, so being limited to 2.5W as well isn’t going to help.
Poor receiver. A contest-grade receiver isn’t expected nor required in a radio of this type, but the FT-817’s receiver seems poorer than it need be. Even using an inefficient short whip, strong local stations can overload it. The main problem seems to be bleedover (apologies for the CB term, but it sounds just like a cheap CB radio) due to the inadequate IF filter fitted. A better filter is available as a (pretty expensive) option, but you can only fit one accessory filter, which is a problem if you want a narrow filter for CW.
No ATU. The FT-817 has no internal ATU. Originally I thought that this was a reasonable design compromise. However, having experienced how hard it is to get small portable antennas to match in the varying environments in which they may be used, I began to realize that an ATU would be very desirable. Most ATUs are the size of the FT-817 or larger, which negates a lot of the benefits of the radio’s small size. However, Elecraft has recently introduced a tiny portable QRP auto-ATU, the T1. Read my review of it.
Poor ergonomics. Many commonly used functions are accessed from one of the three buttons below the display, which have about 11 different sets of functions. This means a lot of button pressing and knob twiddling just to do something like turn the noise blanker on or off, change the output power or toggle the meter between SWR and power out. Although to a great extent this problem is inevitable given the small size of the 817’s front panel, I’m sure Yaesu could have fitted a slightly bigger LCD panel, with less of a surround, and this could at least allow the current selection of the three buttons to be permanently displayed. Perhaps some functions could have been made accessible from a key-pad mike, as well? Direct frequency input would have been nice.
Nice review in this video
73 de IZ0JOJ