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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 01-09-2015, 11:42 PM
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Default Considering the VX-8DR

All,

Background:

I just recently have started looking into Ham radios, but as I haven't completed my exam yet I'm only in 'lurk mode'. I'm looking to use the radio primarily as a backup for when camping or traveling in areas of no cell phone reception (emergencies or just for fun). Over the past couple weeks I have been playing with the BF-F8HP, but its lacks both the RX & TX ranges of the VX-8DR. Along with the water resistance, channel capacity, etc, etc, etc.

Question(s):

With the AA adapter for the VX-8DR I have seen some videos stating it will only transmit in 1W (low) power mode. Is this accurate?

Are there any 'extended' AA battery adapters that people know of? When I bought my BF-F8HP they actually made an extended battery back (which is pretty nice for a 60 dollar radio).

Outside of the aforementioned issue, is there any compelling arguments to buy or not buy the BF-F8HP.

Thx,

T
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Old 01-10-2015, 12:42 AM
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Having owned a VX-8DR for a few years, I can only address the quality and performance of that radio. I never had any problems with the '8DR, and it had an incredibly good (sensitive and selective) receiver. Being a fan of 6-meter FM, the Yaesu was a no-brainer for me. I did the APRS thing for a while and had a lot of fun with that as well. Programming it is easy... even better is programming it with the RT Systems cable and software. Battery life is pretty good, considering all it can do. I always kept a charged spare battery ready, but could do several hours of operating (APRS included) before having to swap out the battery. The only reason I sold my Yaesu was because I wanted to get into D-STAR.

The Yaesu is priced higher than the BF-F8HP, but I believe it is worth the money.
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Old 01-10-2015, 5:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tummy View Post
With the AA adapter for the VX-8DR I have seen some videos stating it will only transmit in 1W (low) power mode. Is this accurate?
According to the Yaesu VX-8DR Operating Manual (downloadable from Yaesu's web site), 1 watt is the maximum output when using the FBA-39 AA Battery Case.

In my opinion, the FBA-39 is simply too small. It only accommodates 3 AA batteries which means the maximum voltage available is about 4.5 volts. That's not enough voltage for the radio's power amplifier to generate the radio's nominal 5 watts. OTOH, the Li-Ion rechargeable packs for this radio are capable of 7.4 volts.
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Old 01-10-2015, 9:21 PM
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@W9BU Thanks. I read up on some of it. I'm kind of amazed the cheap 30 dollar Pofung radio has a AA adapter that extends to 6 AA's, yet the 400 dollar 'top of the line' series doesn't.

Any recommendations on an alternative make/model that has similar capabilities but can run on AA's?

From what I read the 8DR has been around for a number of years, would it be worth waiting for the next series / model to release? I don't know what type of cycle they release radios on, but I would assume it being out for a few years a new model would be on the horizon? I have been searching around the Internet and honestly think I have hit the end and had to turn around and go back.
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Old 01-10-2015, 9:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by w2txb View Post
Having owned a VX-8DR for a few years, I can only address the quality and performance of that radio. I never had any problems with the '8DR, and it had an incredibly good (sensitive and selective) receiver. Being a fan of 6-meter FM, the Yaesu was a no-brainer for me. I did the APRS thing for a while and had a lot of fun with that as well. Programming it is easy... even better is programming it with the RT Systems cable and software. Battery life is pretty good, considering all it can do. I always kept a charged spare battery ready, but could do several hours of operating (APRS included) before having to swap out the battery. The only reason I sold my Yaesu was because I wanted to get into D-STAR.

The Yaesu is priced higher than the BF-F8HP, but I believe it is worth the money.
Thanks for the feedback. Wish I could have caught yours before you let it go.

Did you run any 3rd party antennas? Anything you would recommend?
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Old 01-10-2015, 9:53 PM
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I had a VX-8, but it was more difficult to program on the fly than the FT series. The quality was good, but the AA battery was also a problem, as I always buy an AA case with my radios for back up during storms and outages. I have a 91AD that also used 2 AA batteries, but it has a booster circuit that raises the voltage to around 5 volts, which of course shortens the life but gets you to the 1 watt output.
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Old 01-10-2015, 9:56 PM
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I used the OEM antenna most of the time and occasionally used an aftermarket extended antenna. Both worked OK. One nice thing about the '8DR is that it has proven good over the years. No "guinea pig" stuff there.
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Old 01-10-2015, 10:04 PM
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Originally Posted by w2txb View Post
I used the OEM antenna most of the time and occasionally used an aftermarket extended antenna. Both worked OK. One nice thing about the '8DR is that it has proven good over the years. No "guinea pig" stuff there.
I'm currently trying to investigate a good option for something field expedient that might work well for backpacking to squeeze some extra range.
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Old 01-11-2015, 5:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tummy View Post
Any recommendations on an alternative make/model that has similar capabilities but can run on AA's?
Let's go back to your original question, the one you asked yourself before you came here. What about the VX-8DR attacts you? What features does it have that other radios don't have?

In my opinion, the fact that the VX-8DR can transmit on 6m is a bit of a waste of time. Unless there are 6m repeaters that you want to work and unless you connect the radio to an external antenna, I think you are going to be disappointed. On 6m, 5 watts into a dummy load (aka rubber duck antenna) is not going to accomplish much.

And, the VX-8DR's touted capability on the 222 MHz band is also limited to 1.5 watts.

Using the VX-8DR on APRS requires the Yaesu external GPS antenna which is bulky and expensive.

So, what exactly are you looking for in a handheld radio?
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Old 01-11-2015, 7:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tummy View Post
I'm looking to use the radio primarily as a backup for when camping or traveling in areas of no cell phone reception (emergencies or just for fun).
Disclaimer: I know nothing about this radio, but I have used a number of HTs over the years.

If you want a small radio for emergencies that can be used when there is no cell service, I don't know that I would count on an amateur radio HT to come to the rescue. If you are that far away from civilization that there are no cell towers, the chances are better than average that there are no amateur radio repeaters anywhere close. A small low power HT with only a couple of watts might get out a few miles at the very best, but that's it.

As far as 6 meters, that is really a crap shoot as far as reliability. It can be a lot of fun, but I sure wouldn't count on it.

So if you want to get an HT "just for fun", go for it, but don't buy into this notion of, "When all else fails, amateur radio gets through."
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Old 01-11-2015, 8:20 AM
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Default VX-8

An alternate choice would be one of the radios that give you VHF/UHF, has a case for AA batteries that give full power, a mag mount to increase mobile range, and maybe even a small amp to boost power when you are mobile. The Yaesu FT-60 is a very solid radio for under $150, but you will only get VHF/UHF. As has been said 6 meters on a HT is useless, but you can buy a Baofeng UV-82 with 2 meter and 222 mhz for $50.00.
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Old 01-11-2015, 10:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by N0IU View Post
Disclaimer: I know nothing about this radio, but I have used a number of HTs over the years.

If you want a small radio for emergencies that can be used when there is no cell service, I don't know that I would count on an amateur radio HT to come to the rescue. If you are that far away from civilization that there are no cell towers, the chances are better than average that there are no amateur radio repeaters anywhere close. A small low power HT with only a couple of watts might get out a few miles at the very best, but that's it.

As far as 6 meters, that is really a crap shoot as far as reliability. It can be a lot of fun, but I sure wouldn't count on it.

So if you want to get an HT "just for fun", go for it, but don't buy into this notion of, "When all else fails, amateur radio gets through."
Thanks! The more and more I dig into the current technology baselines for amateur radio the more I'm starting to agree with your statement. Just being able to source repeater locations, freqs, tones, and easily get them programmed into your radios is definitely difficult and begins to feel like plugging a laptop into a cable and not knowing what IP I should use or the IP of anyone else to talk to. I work on the 'internet' technology side of the house and I assumed we were 'more advanced' than all of this.

Too bad nothing really seems to be standardized across the industry. APRS seemed like a good option with the radio. When close enough to a repeater one could pull the beacon information and program it into the radio. Assuming the repeaters actually had that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jaspence View Post
An alternate choice would be one of the radios that give you VHF/UHF, has a case for AA batteries that give full power, a mag mount to increase mobile range, and maybe even a small amp to boost power when you are mobile. The Yaesu FT-60 is a very solid radio for under $150, but you will only get VHF/UHF. As has been said 6 meters on a HT is useless, but you can buy a Baofeng UV-82 with 2 meter and 222 mhz for $50.00.
If I was out in the wilderness and ended up in an emergency, I would probably risk being fined, break the protocols and talk on any net I could (UHF/VHF/SAT). The VX-8DR w/ Mod seemed to be one of the smalles radios that had the wides spectrum of both RX/TX, so that is what pointed me towards it. Pershaps I'm wrong in that statement.
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Old 01-11-2015, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by W9BU View Post
Let's go back to your original question, the one you asked yourself before you came here. What about the VX-8DR attacts you? What features does it have that other radios don't have?

In my opinion, the fact that the VX-8DR can transmit on 6m is a bit of a waste of time. Unless there are 6m repeaters that you want to work and unless you connect the radio to an external antenna, I think you are going to be disappointed. On 6m, 5 watts into a dummy load (aka rubber duck antenna) is not going to accomplish much.

And, the VX-8DR's touted capability on the 222 MHz band is also limited to 1.5 watts.

Using the VX-8DR on APRS requires the Yaesu external GPS antenna which is bulky and expensive.

So, what exactly are you looking for in a handheld radio?
The initial list of things I was interested in was:

A radio that had a very broad spectrum of ranges to RX/TX on. My thought behind this was to increase the communication options. CB, amature, UHF, VHF, and anything else that might be a viable communication option. Even if it meant bringing along a field expedient antenna.

Waterproof or water resistant.

After looking through different radio options GPS and APRS seemed to interesting features to have.

This was my initial thought process, perhaps this is unobtainable given the current limitations of the technology and vendor offerings.
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Old 01-11-2015, 11:40 AM
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I have owned a VX8R for a long time now and very pleased with it. As an emergency radio it's fine but have to agree a bit of overkill. I love all the bells and whistles of the unit and as the OP I'm not a ham yet. However I like the ability to be able to RX/TX at a wide range and configure it as needed in case of emergency I preconfigure it with the freqs, repeaters, local services for the area I'm going to be better prepared.

On the antenna I tried a few but going smaller never turn out to be better than the original. It depends what your needs are vs size. I found the original antenna to be best all around and a size I can live with. I'm sure there are better antennas but prob gonna be same size or longer, I would also look into specific band only antennas if you know you will stick to VHF only perhaps then a ant tuned for that will do better.

On the battery adapter. One thing I noticed right away is it don't like recahargable batteries this maybe a known in he manual I have not looked yet, it maybe the type of batteries Im trying to use they are not the standard store rechargeables. So will have to stick to regular batteries on it. As I see it the battery adapter to me is a emergency use thing if you have to you have the option and if it only does 1watt well it's better than nothing.

I like the use the speaker mic while the unit is mounted on my belt, chest pack or back back, it would be nice if they came out with a speaker mic with basic controls keypad for the radio.
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Old 01-11-2015, 1:44 PM
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Originally Posted by osros View Post
I have owned a VX8R for a long time now and very pleased with it. As an emergency radio it's fine but have to agree a bit of overkill. I love all the bells and whistles of the unit and as the OP I'm not a ham yet. However I like the ability to be able to RX/TX at a wide range and configure it as needed in case of emergency I preconfigure it with the freqs, repeaters, local services for the area I'm going to be better prepared.

On the antenna I tried a few but going smaller never turn out to be better than the original. It depends what your needs are vs size. I found the original antenna to be best all around and a size I can live with. I'm sure there are better antennas but prob gonna be same size or longer, I would also look into specific band only antennas if you know you will stick to VHF only perhaps then a ant tuned for that will do better.

On the battery adapter. One thing I noticed right away is it don't like recahargable batteries this maybe a known in he manual I have not looked yet, it maybe the type of batteries Im trying to use they are not the standard store rechargeables. So will have to stick to regular batteries on it. As I see it the battery adapter to me is a emergency use thing if you have to you have the option and if it only does 1watt well it's better than nothing.

I like the use the speaker mic while the unit is mounted on my belt, chest pack or back back, it would be nice if they came out with a speaker mic with basic controls keypad for the radio.
The lack of extended battery pack is definitely a disappointment and mildly ridiculous in my eyes. I'd almost be tempted to reach out to the Chinese manufacturer making them for the Pofung radios to see what they could come up with.

Agree on the external mic. I like that they allowed the GPS receiver to be attached on it as it's likely to be attached on external equipment, but having no remote control capability makes its borderline pointless.

Looking at the manual copyright date of 2010, I deeply question spending the money on a 4 year old radio. I don't know what their refresh cycle is, but 4 years is a very long time. Good for resale value of existing models, but slow for any technology improvement. I see Yaesu is releasing a good looking digital radio in the upcoming months, but from what I'm reading digital is a total pointless endeavour since nothing is openly standardized so interoperability between manufacturers. Let alone a radio that actually has the capability to do both digital and analog.
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Old 01-11-2015, 1:47 PM
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A radio that had a very broad spectrum of ranges to RX/TX on.
You've said this twice and both times I had the feeling that you are mis-reading or mis-understanding the specs.

The VX-8DR transmits in the following frequency ranges in the amateur radio service: 50-54 MHz, 144-148 MHz, 222-225 MHz, and 430-450 MHz. It's receive frequency range is much wider, but it only transmits on the listed amateur radio bands. While the radio may be modifiable to transmit outside the amateur radio bands, doing so would not be legal as the radio is not FCC certificated for transmit in other radio services.

As has been pointed out, 5 watts into the stock rubber duck antenna on 6m is not going to be very effective and that's if there are any 6m repeaters around (6m repeaters are much less common than 2m or 440 MHz repeaters). Also, 1.5 watts on the 222 MHz band may get you into a local repeater, but repeaters on that band are also much less common than 2m or 440.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tummy View Post
After looking through different radio options GPS and APRS seemed to interesting features to have.
Just understand that adding the optional GPS receiver to this radio won't be cheap. The GPS antenna is about $80, the adapter to attach the GPS antenna to the radio is about $38 or you can get the speaker-mic that also holds the GPS antenna for about $65. All this on top of the roughly $340 for the radio. By comparison, you can get a Yaesu FT-1DR, which is just a 2m/440 radio but the GPS antenna is built-in, for $310.
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Old 01-11-2015, 1:48 PM
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Amateur radio refresh cycles are much slower than other consumer electronics markets.

The amateur radio market is simply not big enough to justify the R&D to come out with new models every year or even every 3 years.
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Old 01-11-2015, 2:42 PM
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Originally Posted by W9BU View Post
Amateur radio refresh cycles are much slower than other consumer electronics markets.

The amateur radio market is simply not big enough to justify the R&D to come out with new models every year or even every 3 years.
Makes sense. I'd assume 4-5 years would be a refresh, but what do I know
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Old 01-11-2015, 2:44 PM
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Originally Posted by W9BU View Post
You've said this twice and both times I had the feeling that you are mis-reading or mis-understanding the specs.

The VX-8DR transmits in the following frequency ranges in the amateur radio service: 50-54 MHz, 144-148 MHz, 222-225 MHz, and 430-450 MHz. It's receive frequency range is much wider, but it only transmits on the listed amateur radio bands. While the radio may be modifiable to transmit outside the amateur radio bands, doing so would not be legal as the radio is not FCC certificated for transmit in other radio services.

As has been pointed out, 5 watts into the stock rubber duck antenna on 6m is not going to be very effective and that's if there are any 6m repeaters around (6m repeaters are much less common than 2m or 440 MHz repeaters). Also, 1.5 watts on the 222 MHz band may get you into a local repeater, but repeaters on that band are also much less common than 2m or 440.


Just understand that adding the optional GPS receiver to this radio won't be cheap. The GPS antenna is about $80, the adapter to attach the GPS antenna to the radio is about $38 or you can get the speaker-mic that also holds the GPS antenna for about $65. All this on top of the roughly $340 for the radio. By comparison, you can get a Yaesu FT-1DR, which is just a 2m/440 radio but the GPS antenna is built-in, for $310.
Do you have any suggestions on a good 6M antenna? Preferably something that would be portable? Could be whip or dipole, etc.

Thanks for all the assistance!
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Old 01-11-2015, 3:16 PM
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I have a VX8DR. I got the Bluetooth and the GPS for APRS. It's a good radio, but on 220 it's marginal and on 6M it's a waste. I got a Diamond aftermarket antenna for a bit better gain on 2M/440. That was a nice improvement, but it doesn't help on the 6M.

The Bluetooth is very frustrating. I'm using it with a Plantronics earpiece, and I can't get the mic gain turned down far enough that I'm not distorting all over the place on transmit. Moreover, it's extremely finicky about connecting; it really has to have a clear line of sight and it's picky about the angle as well. standard ear-to-hip doesn't work well!

I also don't like the way it connects to its batteries; I'm constantly having the battery momentarily disconnect, causing a reboot. This happens with both the original battery, but far worse with the larger aftermarket ones. All it takes is a bump; imagine how bad it is when it's on your waist!

The AA battery unit is, for me, just a completion of housing for when I'm powering the radio with external power. It's now so cheap to get Lithium ion batteries and fashion an external battery pack that this is where I'm headed next with that radio.

With that said, you might think I hate it--and when it reboots, I do. But otherwise, it really is a pretty good radio and I don't have any plans to deep six it.

On the other hand, my Baofeng 82 works just as well on 2M/440. No problems there. It's a little bit bigger radio, which I LIKE, and all the pieces-parts are FAR cheaper. It isn't up to the physical quality standards, and it isn't waterproof, and you have to discern between the crap accessory suppliers and the good ones, as with all Baofeng. I also own the F8HP, which works the same.

The Baofengs don't have all the whoopee doopee whistles and bells, but they're SO MUCH CHEAPER that they're my usual carry radio. And they DON'T have the loose battery problem!

Honestly, radio makers' fascination with itty-bitty radios baffles me. It makes for smaller, lower-Amp-hour batteries, which drives me bananas. Those good-old police service radio bricks last for many hours of receive and a whole lot more transmit than most Amateur units. The extra service is worth the weight.

However, if you want APRS, a REAL dual watch, and all that the VX8DR supplies in whistles and bells, power to you; it is fun. You might also consider the Kenwood THF6A or the like, for some of the same reasons (but not for all of them).
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