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VX8r Review

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  • Roy K4SOL
    Hello to everyone: I have had requests for a VX8r review to be posted here, so here it is. I have owned this radio about a month and have been able to try out
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 13 2:02 PM
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      Hello to everyone:
      I have had requests for a VX8r review to be posted here, so here it is.

      I have owned this radio about a month and have been able to try out most of the features .
      For the sake of not being too long, I am going to dispense with all the specifications and "how to" stuff.  There are several places on the web where the full manual can be viewed and thousands of places where the brochure, pictures and specifications are posted. I am instead going to give my opinions with a slant towards the use of the radio for APRS. If anyone has follow-up questions or there is something I have not made clear, just contact me.
      If you purchase this radio you'd better have deep pockets and a VERY understanding XYL!! Don't think the price of the radio is the end of it. You need the GPS unit, a way to attach the GPS unit, The stock battery runs dry too quickly on APRS,  get the high capacity one and you will definitely need a better antenna too (more on that later) I can't help think that Yaesu knows what they are doing. But in all honesty, its not just Yaesu, all the radio manufacturers are milking us the same way.
      Now that I have that gripe off my chest- here are my likes and dislikes:
      LIKES
      I had heard how complicated this radio was and how hard it was to navigate all the menus. First of all the radio does so much, a lot of menus are unavoidable if you want to have options to control all those functions. That being said, I didn't find it too bad. You have to remember that you are not going to be changing 90% of the menu options but once-when you first set it up. If someone like me with the logic skills of a 3 year old can do it-you should be able to also. One of those nifty mini manuals that all the ham stores sell is a nice thing to have around for reference as well. The APRS menu is a completely separate menu accessible only when the APRS function is active. This makes it easier because you don't have to go through the LARGE main menu to control APRS functions. The APRS menu has 24 items that can be selected by the main dial. I got used to navigating them very quickly. Within this menu you can manipulate all the available APRS functions. The main APRS screen has 3 views, which are selectable by pressing the menu button repeatedly while in the APRS mode. These screens are : GPS data view, heard stations view and APRS messages.  APRS can only be activated on the "B" band
      In the heard stations view you can scroll down and view the GPS information (speed, bearing latitude/longitude distance etc..) ,and text information, if any was sent, of the transmitting station.
      I was ask about whether the VX8r will TX APRS messages-the answer is yes. It can TX and RX APRS messages up to 60 characters long. It can store up to 20 incoming messages. You can program one text message to be sent each time you beacon. You can store several messages that you might want to send routinely so you don’t have to type in the same messages repeatedly, or compose a message and send it immediately
      .

      The radio comes from the factory set up as WIDE1-1 and WIDE2-1. This is what you would want in most situations but You can put anything in any of the several SSID slots.

       One of the APRS features I use a lot is the ability to mute the Brrrappp sound from the speaker on incoming packets. While audio is muted you can still hear activity on the “A” band. You can activate the "APRS bell" feature which has several different tones. Different tones let you know if a beacon is heard, an emergency message is heard, a message is acknowledged, etc.. There is even a tone when your beacon is received by a digi. This way you know instantly if your beacons are getting digipeated. You can mute the "bell tones" as well so you hear nothing while the internal modem does it's thing. A nice feature if you are one of those hams that take your radio into meetings.

      I find it easy to change the symbol being TX'd on my beacon. When I'm in the car I set the "car" symbol then when I get out to hike I change it to the "jogger" symbol. It can be done in less than a minute, once you get used to the menu. Most of the basic APRS symbol set is available.
      This radio allows you to monitor any frequency on "A" band while working APRS on the "B" band. I can beacon on APRS that I'm monitoring 146.520 and be listening on .52 at the same time.

      The radio has incredible RX coverage. A lot of the shortwave, marine and weather frequencies are in  special pre-stored non changeable banks which allow you to quickly scan the "more frequently used" frequencies, or jump quickly to the local NWS channel in a severe weather situation

       This radio will TX on 6 meters, 2 meters, 220, 440. The power is reduced on 220.
      I like the way this radio can have "alpha tags" stored for each programmed frequency. You can see at a glance what repeater you are on. For early stage dementia folks like me, its a lifesaver. If you are in the "single band" mode with one VFO turned off-it will display both the frequency and the alpha tag at the same time. With the VX150 and many of the others you can display only one or the other but not both because of the limitation of their screen size.
      The VX8r has more user programmable memory channels than I will ever use. The memory channels can be stored in banks allowing you to tie groups of memory channels together for easier access.

      These days, so many amateur radios are being outsourced to china and Taiwan , but the VX8r is actually made in Japan , at least the current production run is.

      The blue tooth and the AM/FM radio are something I will probably never use, unless I were out hiking and needed to find a news broadcast for some reason. I guess its nice to have the options if needed.

      The radio seems to be pretty well built with the few exceptions noted below.

      DISLIKES:
      THE ANTENNA IS ABSOLUTLY HORRIBLE!!!! I always wondered why they make a super sophisticated radio but a truly crappy antenna to go with it. My wife has a Yaesu VX150 2 meter rig. It will RX and TX rings around the VX8r. why? 5 watts is 5 watts, right? I think the problem is in the antenna tradeoffs required for multiband use. When you have to get a duckie antenna to work on 2 bands it degrades the quality on 2 meters a little-now carry this logic out to 4 bands! I tried to put up with this antenna. I didn’t want to spend more money, but gave up and today ordered a Diamond SRH77CA. It won't work 6 meters or 220, but if I have to give them up for some decent quality on 2 meters- then so be it. I am interested to see just how much difference the Diamond will make. I guess if that won’t work, all a guy could do is buy a separate antenna for each band. Wouldn’t that be a pain?
      What were they thinking when they made a ham rig with full HF RX ability, then left out SSB? The "shortwave receive" portion of the bands will RX ONLY AM! No monitoring HF SSB ham activity on this baby. Only shortwave AM broadcast stations. Other than the antenna, I think this is the biggest flaw in the radio. For a radio this sophisticated, its inexcusable.
      I guess the trend is to see just how much radio they can put  into a small package. If you are like me the first thing you say when you see this radio is "how the heck do they get all that in there?” It is incredibly small for all that it does. I think sometimes- too small. Personally, I would rather have a little larger radio to fit my hand. Sometimes it feels awkward, particularly with the large antenna- it just seems kind of “out of balance”

      I bought the soft case Yaesu makes for this radio. The case is a disappointment.  Its hard to get on and off. There are no holes to plug in the charger, either drop in or  the basic one, so each time I charge the radio, the case has to come off.  The spots where the power and other buttons are supposed to line up on the case don’t line up completely.

      I am concerned about the plastic screw terminal on the top of the radio where the speaker mic plugs in.  It looks like it could be really easy to cross thread those plastic threads. I take the speaker mic off sometimes if I’m going to work just FM repeaters or listen to shortwave, then put it back on for APRS. I wonder how long those threads will last?

       

      CONCLUSION:

      This is a pretty cool radio, but the antenna is a big disappointment, and I ended up spending a lot more than I had planned for after all the accessories. If you are considering this radio, do yourself a favor and figure in the options and an antenna too, that way you get the “price shock” up front instead of spread out over a couple of weeks like I did.

      If you want the latest greatest do everything rig in a size smaller than a pack of cigarettes- this is your radio, but you will pay a price for it.

      The functions seem to work well on APRS, but the range is sadly lacking because 1: it’s a 5 watt radio and 2: the antenna is so poor. An HT is always a tradeoff. I need one because I hike and backpack.  My other hobby is nature and wildlife photography. About once a year I go to some very remote places. The problem is, right where APRS might be critically needed- in the wilderness, the combination of bad antenna and low power make it impossible to hit a digi. I can’t do anything about the 5 watts unless I go with something much heavier- which is not an option for me. Will a better antenna be enough of an improvement? I am hoping it will. I will soon find out with the Diamond SRH77CA .  I am also currently working on mounting a 5/8 wave mobile antenna into a military surplus backpack, with a padded side pocket to hold the radio and a spare battery, but that’s for discussing another time.

      Roy K4SOL


      The ra




      Rediscover Hotmail®: Now available on your iPhone or BlackBerry Check it out.
    • James C. Hall, MD
      Great review, Roy ! :-) I also have the VX-8R and I love it !!! Yes, it isn t cheap and yes you should have the heavier duty battery. I splurged on many of the
      Message 2 of 2 , Apr 13 6:59 PM
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        Great review, Roy ! J

         

        I also have the VX-8R and I love it !!! Yes, it isn’t cheap and yes you should have the heavier duty battery. I splurged on many of the accessories except the Bluetooth stuff. And I may get on board with that at some point. I don’t have a lot to add to Roy ’s excellent review except I really love the ability to listen to my favorite FM broadcast station all the while monitoring two other bands – say, a 2M and 440 repeater. If there’s any activity on either repeater, the FM radio will mute for that frequency, and then come back on when activity ceases. If you listen to baseball games in the summer while ‘poolside portable’ or hiking, you will really dig this feature. I own the Kenwood TH-D7 and the old TH-77. You can operate satellites with any and all of these.

         

        The GPS acquires the sat’s extremely fast – very cool. If you have the GPS antenna attached to the VX-8 body, you cannot quickly add (change out to) the speaker/mike – which has a proprietary plug. I second Roy ’s comments on the antenna. Like ALL HT’s, they are encumbered with a rubber dummy load – ditch it and get a Comet or Diamond. You won’t turn back. Yes, you may want to add a separate 6M and 220 antenna, if you operate those bands – you can’t change the laws of physics. I use a hard rubber based SMA-BNC adapter made by KC2BHO which are just plain wonderful – it gives you a lot of support around those small SMA connectors. Presently, I’m using a MFJ-1715 dual band antenna with BNC connector – picked it up at our recent hamfest. J You can quickly detach and throw up a roll-up J-pole (usually built with a BNC connector).

         

        73, Jamie

        WB4YDL

         


        From: wtnaprs@yahoogroups.com [mailto: wtnaprs@yahoogroups.com ] On Behalf Of Roy K4SOL
        Sent: Monday, April 13, 2009 4:03 PM
        To: wtnarps group
        Subject: [wtnaprs] VX8r Review

         




        Hello to everyone:
        I have had requests for a VX8r review to be posted here, so here it is.

        I have owned this radio about a month and have been able to try out most of the features .
        For the sake of not being too long, I am going to dispense with all the specifications and "how to" stuff.  There are several places on the web where the full manual can be viewed and thousands of places where the brochure, pictures and specifications are posted. I am instead going to give my opinions with a slant towards the use of the radio for APRS. If anyone has follow-up questions or there is something I have not made clear, just contact me.
        If you purchase this radio you'd better have deep pockets and a VERY understanding XYL!! Don't think the price of the radio is the end of it. You need the GPS unit, a way to attach the GPS unit, The stock battery runs dry too quickly on APRS,  get the high capacity one and you will definitely need a better antenna too (more on that later) I can't help think that Yaesu knows what they are doing. But in all honesty, its not just Yaesu, all the radio manufacturers are milking us the same way.
        Now that I have that gripe off my chest- here are my likes and dislikes:
        LIKES
        I had heard how complicated this radio was and how hard it was to navigate all the menus. First of all the radio does so much, a lot of menus are unavoidable if you want to have options to control all those functions. That being said, I didn't find it too bad. You have to remember that you are not going to be changing 90% of the menu options but once-when you first set it up. If someone like me with the logic skills of a 3 year old can do it-you should be able to also. One of those nifty mini manuals that all the ham stores sell is a nice thing to have around for reference as well. The APRS menu is a completely separate menu accessible only when the APRS function is active. This makes it easier because you don't have to go through the LARGE main menu to control APRS functions. The APRS menu has 24 items that can be selected by the main dial. I got used to navigating them very quickly. Within this menu you can manipulate all the available APRS functions. The main APRS screen has 3 views, which are selectable by pressing the menu button repeatedly while in the APRS mode. These screens are : GPS data view, heard stations view and APRS messages.  APRS can only be activated on the "B" band
        In the heard stations view you can scroll down and view the GPS information (speed, bearing latitude/longitude distance etc..) ,and text information, if any was sent, of the transmitting station.
        I was ask about whether the VX8r will TX APRS messages-the answer is yes. It can TX and RX APRS messages up to 60 characters long. It can store up to 20 incoming messages. You can program one text message to be sent each time you beacon. You can store several messages that you might want to send routinely so you don’t have to type in the same messages repeatedly, or compose a message and send it immediately.

        The radio comes from the factory set up as WIDE1-1 and WIDE2-1. This is what you would want in most situations but You can put anything in any of the several SSID slots.

         One of the APRS features I use a lot is the ability to mute the Brrrappp sound from the speaker on incoming packets. While audio is muted you can still hear activity on the “A” band. You can activate the "APRS bell" feature which has several different tones. Different tones let you know if a beacon is heard, an emergency message is heard, a message is acknowledged, etc.. There is even a tone when your beacon is received by a digi. This way you know instantly if your beacons are getting digipeated. You can mute the "bell tones" as well so you hear nothing while the internal modem does it's thing. A nice feature if you are one of those hams that take your radio into meetings.

        I find it easy to change the symbol being TX'd on my beacon. When I'm in the car I set the "car" symbol then when I get out to hike I change it to the "jogger" symbol. It can be done in less than a minute, once you get used to the menu. Most of the basic APRS symbol set is available.
        This radio allows you to monitor any frequency on "A" band while working APRS on the "B" band. I can beacon on APRS that I'm monitoring 146.520 and be listening on .52 at the same time.

        The radio has incredible RX coverage. A lot of the shortwave, marine and weather frequencies are in  special pre-stored non changeable banks which allow you to quickly scan the "more frequently used" frequencies, or jump quickly to the local NWS channel in a severe weather situation

         This radio will TX on 6 meters, 2 meters, 220, 440. The power is reduced on 220.
        I like the way this radio can have "alpha tags" stored for each programmed frequency. You can see at a glance what repeater you are on. For early stage dementia folks like me, its a lifesaver. If you are in the "single band" mode with one VFO turned off-it will display both the frequency and the alpha tag at the same time. With the VX150 and many of the others you can display only one or the other but not both because of the limitation of their screen size.
        The VX8r has more user programmable memory channels than I will ever use. The memory channels can be stored in banks allowing you to tie groups of memory channels together for easier access.

        These days, so many amateur radios are being outsourced to china and Taiwan , but the VX8r is actually made in Japan , at least the current production run is.

        The blue tooth and the AM/FM radio are something I will probably never use, unless I were out hiking and needed to find a news broadcast for some reason. I guess its nice to have the options if needed.

        The radio seems to be pretty well built with the few exceptions noted below.

        DISLIKES:
        THE ANTENNA IS ABSOLUTLY HORRIBLE!!!! I always wondered why they make a super sophisticated radio but a truly crappy antenna to go with it. My wife has a Yaesu VX150 2 meter rig. It will RX and TX rings around the VX8r. why? 5 watts is 5 watts, right? I think the problem is in the antenna tradeoffs required for multiband use. When you have to get a duckie antenna to work on 2 bands it degrades the quality on 2 meters a little-now carry this logic out to 4 bands! I tried to put up with this antenna. I didn’t want to spend more money, but gave up and today ordered a Diamond SRH77CA. It won't work 6 meters or 220, but if I have to give them up for some decent quality on 2 meters- then so be it. I am interested to see just how much difference the Diamond will make. I guess if that won’t work, all a guy could do is buy a separate antenna for each band. Wouldn’t that be a pain?
        What were they thinking when they made a ham rig with full HF RX ability, then left out SSB? The "shortwave receive" portion of the bands will RX ONLY AM! No monitoring HF SSB ham activity on this baby. Only shortwave AM broadcast stations. Other than the antenna, I think this is the biggest flaw in the radio. For a radio this sophisticated, its inexcusable.
        I guess the trend is to see just how much radio they can put  into a small package. If you are like me the first thing you say when you see this radio is "how the heck do they get all that in there?” It is incredibly small for all that it does. I think sometimes- too small. Personally, I would rather have a little larger radio to fit my hand. Sometimes it feels awkward, particularly with the large antenna- it just seems kind of “out of balance”

        I bought the soft case Yaesu makes for this radio. The case is a disappointment.  Its hard to get on and off. There are no holes to plug in the charger, either drop in or  the basic one, so each time I charge the radio, the case has to come off.  The spots where the power and other buttons are supposed to line up on the case don’t line up completely.

        I am concerned about the plastic screw terminal on the top of the radio where the speaker mic plugs in.  It looks like it could be really easy to cross thread those plastic threads. I take the speaker mic off sometimes if I’m going to work just FM repeaters or listen to shortwave, then put it back on for APRS. I wonder how long those threads will last?

         

        CONCLUSION:

        This is a pretty cool radio, but the antenna is a big disappointment, and I ended up spending a lot more than I had planned for after all the accessories. If you are considering this radio, do yourself a favor and figure in the options and an antenna too, that way you get the “price shock” up front instead of spread out over a couple of weeks like I did.

        If you want the latest greatest do everything rig in a size smaller than a pack of cigarettes- this is your radio, but you will pay a price for it.

        The functions seem to work well on APRS, but the range is sadly lacking because 1: it’s a 5 watt radio and 2: the antenna is so poor. An HT is always a tradeoff. I need one because I hike and backpack.  My other hobby is nature and wildlife photography. About once a year I go to some very remote places. The problem is, right where APRS might be critically needed- in the wilderness, the combination of bad antenna and low power make it impossible to hit a digi. I can’t do anything about the 5 watts unless I go with something much heavier- which is not an option for me. Will a better antenna be enough of an improvement? I am hoping it will. I will soon find out with the Diamond SRH77CA .  I am also currently working on mounting a 5/8 wave mobile antenna into a military surplus backpack, with a padded side pocket to hold the radio and a spare battery, but that’s for discussing another time.

        Roy K4SOL



        The ra

         


        Rediscover Hotmail®: Now available on your iPhone or BlackBerry Check it out.

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