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Yaesu VX-8DR Review

Discussion in 'Product Reviews' started by ham, Sep 9, 2013.

  1. ham

    ham
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    I decided to splurge and get this HT after using a Yaesu FT-60R and FT-250R. I wanted to learn what ham has to offer, more than just RX and TX with a PTT button. My father was the programmer for the local emergency response team's radios, decades back. He later got me into CB and from there, I wanted to learn more. While I'm still a n00b, I hope I can give this great little HT some justice.

    Like I said, it's little. I thought the FT-250R was little, compared to other radios, but the VX-8DR fits nicely in the palm of my hand. The following picture shows the size comparison. The antenna (without the stubby) is similarly sized with the FT-60R's stock duck.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Now, before I bought this radio, I read a few complaints, which made me weary to make the $400 purchase. These complaints were difficulty learning the menu and key combinations, low audio speaker output, soft keys instead of the hard plastic ones used on previous models and 2-step volume adjustment. I'm going to talk about these and also my own complaints, which aren't many at all. I'll also follow up with what I really enjoy about this radio.

    Let me start off with my experience with the menu. I don't understand why people consider it difficult to understand. By holding down "MENU" for half a second, an extensive list of many (111) self-explained options is displayed. I'll show a shot of this after this paragraph. Saving the settings after changing something in the menu is annoying, in the sense that different menu options use a different button to save the setting you just changed. Yaesu should have made it that one button is the universal "save changes" button, instead of making different menu items use different buttons to save the changes. I just received this radio a couple days ago and after reading the manual (~40 out of 180 pages so far), the settings were learned pretty quickly and were easy to remember, but I'm sure I'll have to look at it again a few times before I remember it all. It's not nearly as difficult as what I've read from others, in my opinion. The audio output was low as others have stated, but I noticed that doesn't happen on all frequencies, especially when in "Mono" mode (not dual-receive). I put the volume all the way up and while some frequencies were still low, some were insanely loud. Tip: Those low frequencies sounded better when put in mono mode (taken out of dual-receive). This also goes for noise/reception. If the RX quality was a bit noisy, I took it out of dual-receive, putting it into mono mode and it sounded fine. Obviously, listening to two at once will compromise RX quality a bit on each. I must admit I enjoy being able to listen to AM/FM broadcast as well as 2 frequencies at once. It's also really easy to do, which is nice (you just press FW + 7). If you read the manual, you'll get the basic gist of how the device's settings and key combinations work and figure out quite a bit on your own. It seems really easy to get used to for me and this menu is nothing like the previous Yaesu models I've been using until now.

    [​IMG]



    Now let's get to the other 2 complaints in a shorter paragraph. Those would be the soft buttons and 2-step volume adjustment. When I unpacked the radio, I did not like the buttons. Until I pushed it. They click when you push them. They're not like mush. They feel and work just fine. The 2-step volume adjustment, I can see as annoying to some. I'm used to a knob, but I did notice the best part of this new mechanism: I don't accidentally lower my volume down to almost nothing, which I've done on my 2 previous Yaesu models way too often. You only have to press VOL and turn the knob. It's not hard at all, unless you have only one hand available to use, then I could see it as an issue.

    I should also mention I use the RT Systems programming software and cable for this radio. I've programmed 80 frequencies in here so far and have many more to do so with. Saving memories on this radio is easy if you're used to Yaesu HTs already. I'm not sure if it would be considered easy to other hams. You go into VFO mode (out of memory mode), go to the frequency you want, then hold down FW for a few seconds, turn the DIAL knob until the memory bank number you want to save it on and then hit FW again to save it. To name it, you just open the menu, go to MEMORY NAME and type in the name. Done. That's much easier to access and do than previous Yaesu models, which I find as a really nice upgrade and makes programming in memories straight from the HT much nicer. I prefer the software and cable only because I have so many memories to program in at once. On-the-fly programming memories is great.

    My complaints: The manual is 180 pages and some things were difficult to do without reading the manual first, such as switching to AM when the frequency was usually an FM frequency and defaulted to FM and I needed it on AM, but after the first 30 pages of the manual, I pretty much understood how it all worked and everything became really easy. Yaesu makes great descriptive, yet readable manuals. I do wish the lamp had one more setting available, the TOGGLE setting they had on the FT-60R and FT-250R. I would like to be able to turn it on and off when I press it. My biggest complaint, which I knew before purchase was that when in dual-receive mode, the memory name is not shown. It's only shown in mono channel mode. I really hope this is changed in some sort of firmware update. There's no reason they can't make the name displayed instead of the frequency or even put it in small below the frequency like they do in mono mode. Oh, I must mention the squelch. I would have definitely preferred a knob for squelch, rather than a software option. This annoys me, especially because not all frequencies need the same squelch option (so I need to set it for each) and if it's giving me noise, I can't just turn a knob. I have to endure the noise until I open the menu, scroll to SQL and change it. Plus, it could be different the next day, so quick adjustment is a necessity and I'm upset that Yaesu did this. I hope they can make the DIAL adjust this with a key combination press, like they did with volume, in a firmware update.

    Now, for the good part. Let's start with some button functions. One, locking the keypad and dial for me is an overly-used function and this radio made it even easier. You just press power. Done. Locked. Same to unlock. Next, switching between Band A and Band B is done in one push of a button. Great! Holding down either button makes either of those bands a mono band, which takes it out of dual-receive and makes RX/TX on one band only. If you don't have any need for dual-receive, I recommend keeping it mono mode. The RX audio quality is better that way. The function shortcuts Yaesu chose to put on the keypad were a great choice. They made things like AM/FM broadcast with dual-receive really easy to do, as well as switching to VFO mode (out of memory mode) and switching the frequency to AM/FM/WFM with the MODE button.

    More good things I like about this radio are it's great quality audio - RX came in so clearly when I was outside (better than any radio I've ever used), easy menu, compared to my previously owned Yaesu models, dual-receive plus AM/FM broadcast (basically tri-receive), the quad-band functionality, submersibility, the conveniently small size, rugged yet flattened DIAL (which is more of a dial than a knob used on previous models), and this radio just feels so much more durable than any I've ever held. This feels sturdy and tough. I like that. This radio was more than expected. It features an LED, I guess as a flashlight, but I haven't needed it yet. It's a nice thing to add, though. This thing seems like it's meant for some really tough survival conditions. If you plan on getting stuck in the wild, buy some extra batteries, though ;)

    There are fair complaints, as I have mentioned above, but nothing really sticks out too much to me. Most of the complaints were things I were worried about, but when I got it, those worries went out the window. I do think the audio issue on some frequencies is weird and Yaesu should make sure their next VX series HT doesn't have this, but it doesn't bother me too much. Plus, putting it on mono fixed that enough for me. This thing is easier to program than my previous Yaesu model HTs, even with the tons of extra bells and whistles. I haven't tried APRS yet, which is a major feature on here, so I can't give an educated opinion about that, so I won't try. Since I don't use that, I haven't found use for the 1800mAh yet. I may in the future. I like the idea of APRS.

    This little baby and the programming kit for it were worth the money for me. There are other radios out there for cheaper if you don't need all the extra functions this radio has, but even after reading this one line from others, I wanted a quad-band powerful HT and had to buy this one. I trust Yaesu. The past 2 I have used are still great hardware.

    Did I mention how light this thing is? It weighs so little and isn't a big chunk like other radios, especially my FT-60R. If you want a radio and don't need wideband receive, I recommend the FT-60R 2m/440. It is a nice radio without the big bells and whistles and does a good job. It could always use a better antenna, though. It seems everyone loves Diamond antennas, so I'd check them out if you want the FT-60R. The stock rubber duck is not bad at all, though. At least it wasn't for me.

    There's a lot more to write, but I can't even remember where I was going with this. $400 is a lot of money for the radio + programming kit (I bought this with the $80 mail-in-rebate, so it would have been $480, which I would have said no to), so make sure you're not fine with something cheaper first. Personally, I wanted wideband receive (RX from 500kHz - 1GHz), quad-band TX (6m/2m/1.25m/70cm) for the U.S.A. version, dual-receive, AM/FM broadcast and other features, so this radio was the only one that matched up to my specs and it does so very nicely. If you don't need these functions, I'd recommend the dual-band FT-60R. I'm definitely hooked on Yaesu. I've had a little bit of experience using Motorola and a friend's Kenwood. This was expensive, but I want to use this for a nice amount of time and I think it's a good investment. I'm in New York. I just picked up some guy from Pennsylvania on a repeater and someone else with a callsign in Argentina! I wonder if he's in Argentina or if he moved here. He sure has an accent. Reception and audio quality on this sure kick any radio I've used before. I'm very happy with my purchase and wanted to share my (extremely long) review of my Yaesu VX-8DR with you. I have a lot more to say, but don't know what to write. If there's anything else you want to know about the radio that you think I'd know about, let me know and I'll see if I can help you. I'm not an advanced user, I've never used anything like APRS, so I won't know more than a lot of the guys here. I just signed up a couple weeks ago and I'm shocked the username "ham" was available.

    So far, it's been a really nice experience here in the forums. You've all been a great bunch of hams!

    Edit: I should mention I'm still reading the manual; haven't finished yet. I just opened it the other night. Also, it would've been nice if the belt clip was a spring, but this isn't bad. It just would have felt more secure, in my opinion.
     
    #1 ham, Sep 9, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2013
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  2. Moleculo

    Moleculo
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    Hey, nice write up! It will be interesting to hear more about what you like or dislike about this radio as you use it over time. It's kind've like the "swiss army knife" of HT's. Keep us updated!
     
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  3. ham

    ham
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    Thanks, I'm really getting used to this VX-8DR and switching memory banks is great! I agree with your analogy of it being the "'swiss army knife' of HT's". It really is. I hope to finish reading the rest of the manual and using the best functions of this handheld. I have quite a few more frequencies to program into it. The software doesn't accept certain frequencies until I clone it from the radio and vice versa. There's probably a setting I can change to at least let the HT accept the frequency without it rounding up a few kHz. I'm enjoying this VX-8DR a lot and after a day or two, it's really easy to access all of the functions and settings.
     
  4. kd7jym

    kd7jym
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    I've been using one of these about 3 years.

    I can only think of three complaints I had with the base radio.

    First is the volume control as you mentioned. Being used to radios that had different knobs for volume and tuning, this took some getting used to .

    Second, for what these cost they should really include a better belt clip. To me it's pretty sad that my VX-150 that I recall paying about $120 for has a way better clip than this $500 radio.

    Third, I really wish you could do firmware updates on it without sending it in for service. Maybe this has changed, but last I looked into it you couldn't do it yourself.

    Beyond the base radio, my biggest issue is with the GPS unit, specifically that you can't turn it off without removing it from the radio/mic. I also have a VX8G and there is a menu option to turn off the GPS in it, which saves a lot of battery when you don't need the GPS running. Wish they'd include this feature in the VX8DR firmware.
     
  5. ham

    ham
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    I agree about the belt clip. It's good, but my previous Yaesu models had better and for a $500 radio, like you said, it should have come with this... as well as a toggle for GPS, especially if the VX8GR has it, since they're essentially the same piece of tech. I don't have much of an issue with the volume control, personally, but I have found it annoying in one-hand use situations and can see others getting seriously frustrated with it.

    To follow up, I'm really loving this HT. I'm in New York and picked up someone in the Czech Republic and Argentina on a local repeater. It's a great device. It's also more comfortable on my belt than the FT-60R and FT-250R were. It doesn't poke into me. It seems like it's a drop further out from the clip than those models, I'm not sure.
     
  6. k0ork

    k0ork
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    I just wish they would make a 50w radio with the same feature set. None of there current mobile radios compare in features.

    KØORK
     

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