FT-65R and FT-4XR for FM satellites

Discussion in 'Satellite and Space Communications' started by WD9EWK, Oct 1, 2018.

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  1. WD9EWK

    WD9EWK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi!

    In the past year or so, Yaesu has introduced a pair of new FM-only dual-band HTs - initially the FT-65R, followed by the FT-4XR. With these two HTs, Yaesu now has 5 dual-band HTs in its current lineup (along with the FT-60R, FT-70DR, and FT-2DR). These HTs may be different physically (the FT-65R is larger), but their internals are similar. They also use an SMA male connector for the antenna, similar to other Chinese-made HTs. The speaker/mic connection is similar to low-end Motorola HTs, and not compatible with other two-pin speaker/mics normally used with many amateur HTs. I wanted to see if either - or both - of these radios could be used to work satellites, and try to dispel some myths along the way. The following outlines what I found when I took a closer look at these two radios...

    Time to get the first question I write in these reviews: can the FT-65R or FT-4XR work FM satellites full-duplex? The simple answer, for both radios: No.

    For full-duplex operation in one HT currently in production, you still need to look to the Kenwood TH-D72, or for the U/V FM satellites like the AMSAT Fox-1 series the Wouxun KG-UV9D or KG-UV9D Plus are options. Wouxun's KG-UV8D HTs (and variants) are also capable of working the U/V FM satellites full-duplex, but the receiver in the KG-UV9D series HTs is far better and cleaner than the receiver in the KG-UV8D series HTs. I have written more about the TH-D72, KG-UV9D, and KG-UV9D Plus in other threads on this forum.

    Physically, the FT-65R is slightly larger than the FT-4XR, and both are smaller than Yaesu's FT-60R. The FT-4XR is almost the same size as the Baofeng UV-5R HTs with their standard battery packs. The FT-65R and FT-4XR both use lithium-ion battery packs - the SBR-25LI pack for the FT-65R is a 7.4V/1950mAh pack, and the SBR-28LI pack for the FT-4XR is a 7.4V/1750mAh pack. These packs use the same charging cradle and wall-wart adapter, which are also capable of charging the battery packs used with the Baofeng UV-5R HTs. Both radios have 200 normal memory channels, 3 home channels (one each for 2m, 70cm, and the FM broadcast band), 10 pairs of memory channels used for scanning, and the 10 frequencies used by the weather radio services in the USA and Canada around 161-163 MHz. The FT-65R and FT-4XR are direct-conversion radios, similar in design to the Baofeng and Wouxun HTs. The FT-65R has a monochrome dot-matrix LCD display capable of displaying two frequencies or channels, and the FT-4XR has a multi-segment LCD display showing one frequency/channel at a time.

    You can see internal photos of an FT-4XE (the European version of the FT-4XR sold in North America and other parts of the world) in this review by Razvan YO9IRF/M0HZH:

    https://qrpblog.com/2018/09/yaesu-ft-4x-review-it-is-after-all-a-baofeng/

    The RDA1846S illustrated at that link is an "FM transceiver on a chip" used in many of the Chinese-made HTs like the Baofengs. This chip is capable of operating on 3 different bands (134-174 MHz, 200-260 MHz, 400-520 MHz). The RDA5802N is an "broadcast FM receiver on a chip", for the 65-108 MHz coverage in these radios.

    A look at the specifications of the 3 FM-only HTs currently in Yaesu's lineup - the FT-65R, FT-4XR, and the venerable FT-60R - shows that these radios are more similar to each other than you might think.

    FT-4XR_FT-65R_FT-60R_comparison.jpg

    Sensitivity is marginally better on the FT-60R for the 2m amateur band, and the same on these 3 radios for the 70cm amateur band, according to Yaesu. Selectivity is identical on these radios, along with other specifications on that chart. It helps to actually look at the specifications for these HTs, and not rely solely on tired statements about the perceived superiority of one radio over others.

    Even though the FT-65R and FT-4XR have the same numbers and types of memory channels, the memory channels do not function in the same manner with these radios. The memory channels in the FT-65R can store the receive frequency, along with the size and direction of the offset - provided the offset value keeps the transmit frequency in the same band as the receive frequency. This is a problem for working FM satellites, as this means you will have to use the two VFOs to work satellites (explained in the FT-65R's Advance Manual). This is cumbersome. On the other hand, the FT-4XR's memories allow for separate receive and transmit frequencies, where these frequencies are in different bands. The FT-4XR can be programmed to work FM satellites like many other dual-band HTs half-duplex, using groups of memory channels. Make sure to download the FT-4XR's "Advance Manual" PDF from the Yaesu web site, as the instructions for programming "split memories" aren't in the printed Operating Manual supplied with the FT-4XR.

    Yaesu has made free programming software available for these radios, along with Yaesu's 2m-only FM HTs that came out with these dual-band HTs (FT-25R and FT-4VR). This is a departure from Yaesu's past, where programming software for Yaesu radios was generally left to RT Systems. The Yaesu software requires an SCU-35 cable that is compatible with these newer HTs, priced around $20. The download for the Yaesu programming software includes the Prolific driver for the SCU-35 cable. If you prefer, RT Systems has a software/cable package for these HTs.

    I have found my KENMAX 6-in-1 programming cable I ordered from Amazon a while back:

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01466PL7U/

    has a pigtail that works with these Yaesu HTs. Like with the SCU-35 cable, the KENMAX cable - which appears to be similar to other 6-in-1 cables available from Amazon and other online sources - uses a Prolific chipset. The KENMAX cable came with a small CD with drivers for a variety of Windows operating systems and other software. I found that the driver for Yaesu's SCU-35 cable also supports the KENMAX cable, so I didn't need to install a driver from that CD. I use the M pigtail which has a 3-conductor 2.5mm plug to go into the microphone jack on the FT-65R and FT-4XR. I also use the KENMAX cable with other radios, either on my Windows systems (Windows 7 laptop, Windows 10 tablet) or my Linux (Fedora 28) laptop.

    For on-the-air testing working FM satellite passes, I will continue only with the FT-4XR. Someone wanting to get started with FM satellites might not be happy with the work needed to use an FT-65R on the satellites by itself. Full-duplex operation is ideal, of course. The FT-4XR can be used by itself to work satellites half-duplex, with groups of memory channels. The FT-65R and FT-4XR can be used as one radio in a two-radio setup to work the FM satellites full-duplex.

    The FT-4XR does not have a VFO knob on it. In fact the only knob is a volume knob which is also the power switch. The up/down keys on the keypad are used to change frequencies in the VFOs, or to change memories when in memory mode. I did not try working AO-85 with the FT-4XR, but was able to work the other 3 FM satellites (AO-91, AO-92, and SO-50) with the FT-4XR. Most of the time, I used my Elk dual-band log periodic with the FT-4XR, but I did work one AO-92 pass with an MFJ-1717 2m/70cm whip instead of the Elk. I had to twist my antenna to stay aligned with the satellite downlinks with a little more precision than I would with other radios, but the FT-4XR was up to the task. I received good reports on my transmitted audio through the satellites, and didn't think the receiver's front-end had sharper filtering like with some of the Chinese-made radios. In other words, not having a 2.5 kHz tuning step caused no problems for me with the FT-4XR. Recordings I made from passes I worked are available in the "FT-4XR" folder at my http://dropbox.wd9ewk.net/ space.

    I also used the FT-4XR and an MFJ-1717 2m/70cm whip to listen to a couple of passes, which have been turned into YouTube videos. This is the video of an AO-91 pass I heard with this combination on 15 July:



    and an AO-92 pass on 23 July:



    I could tell that the FT-4XR's 2m receiver wasn't as sensitive as other HTs. With a gain antenna, it worked OK for the FM satellite downlinks, but might take a little more effort on lower passes.

    Yaesu has followed Alinco to China for manufacturing of these radios, and it appears there is acceptable quality control in the factory where the FT-65R and FT-4XR are made. Yaesu now offers a 3-year warranty on their radios sold in the USA, including these new HTs. With Yaesu, service on these radios - if ever needed - should be easier to obtain than service on radios from Baofeng and other Chinese manufacturers. Accessories for the FT-65R and FT-4XR are also priced less than comparable accessories for other Yaesu HTs, except for the RT Systems programming kits. These radios fill a niche in the market - priced higher than Baofeng and similar Chinese-made HTs, but less than other FM-only HTs from Yaesu (also Icom and Kenwood) with more features or better performance. You get what you pay for, of course, and you get acceptable performance with these Yaesu dual-band HTs.

    In summary... there are better radios that can be used to work FM satellites. You will need to spend more than $100 or so to get them. You can get acceptable performance from Yaesu's FT-4XR priced around $100, and be able to work FM satellites using groups of memory channels. The FT-65R is a slightly-larger HT that is around $15 to $30 more than an FT-4XR, but you will need to use the two VFOs to work FM satellites with an FT-65R. Or add a second radio to either an FT-65R or FT-4XR, and work FM satellites full-duplex.
     
    XQ6BQ, VU3JNM, W5SAT and 8 others like this.
  2. KA2CZU

    KA2CZU XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    On AO-91/92 passes, I really can't see any viable way to work Half Duplex. It's hard enough to not step on anybody running Full duplex, just do to the number
    of OPs on a typical daytime pass (no less weekends!) and timing.
     
    W5PFG likes this.
  3. WD9EWK

    WD9EWK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Crowded passes on any FM satellite make it tough for a half-duplex operator. Even SO-50, where the downlink is being adjusted.

    I've worked AO-91 and AO-92 enough to know when I would need to make my tuning adjustments. I can split an AO-91 pass into 5 equal parts, and I don't stay on 435.340 as long as I do with the other uplink tuning steps for AO-92. Would I use my FT-4XR regularly to work these passes? No. It helps to be familiar with these radios, since questions come up about them and their suitability for working satellites.

    I was surprised that this FT-4XR did as well as it did, for a half-duplex radio. Especially after seeing that blog showing the internal photos, and seeing how similar the insides of the FT-4XR are to other Chinese-made radios. I'm curious to see the inside of an 2m-only FT-4VR, to see how similar it is to its dual-band brother FT-4XR. They are sold with the same dual-band duckie antenna.

    73!
     
    KA2CZU likes this.
  4. WE4B

    WE4B Ham Member QRZ Page

    Awesome review! Much better than I have seen on some other web sites. I own a VX-6R that I purchased many years ago at HRO in Atlanta. It's still going strong, after the replacement of its original battery. It and a Chinese HT allow me and W4AQT to be full duplex on the FM birds. Lots of fun has been had thanks to this radio.
     
    W5PFG likes this.
  5. KA2CZU

    KA2CZU XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Great review, and yes I know you were just be thorough in your review of their capabilities, not recommending either for regular sat work (by themselves) :)
     
  6. WD9EWK

    WD9EWK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks!

    I know these radios aren't ideal for satellite work, but we all know there are some who don't want to spend a lot on a radio. It is interesting that the FT-4XR is better suited for FM satellite work than the more expensive FT-65R, although you don't get a flashlight on the top of the FT-4XR like you do the FT-65R. :)

    QST published a review of the FT-65R last year, and I'd expect a similar review of the FT-4XR in the not-too-distant future. The FT-65R's QST review said that radio met Part 97 requirements for harmonic and spurious-signal suppression. I would expect QST to reach the same conclusion for the FT-4XR.

    73!
     
    W5PFG and KA2CZU like this.
  7. WD9EWK

    WD9EWK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi!

    I updated the data file used to program my FT-4XR earlier tonight, to include additional memory channels for AO-92 (TX 435.365/RX 145.880) and AO-91 (not sure it's needed, but I put a new channel with TX 435.265/RX 145.960). It has been posted in my Dropbox space http://dropbox.wd9ewk.net/, in the FT-4XR folder. I also updated the screenshots from the Yaesu programming software.

    For an AO-92 pass I just worked (around 10pm PDT/0500 UTC), I used the new memory channel with 435.365 MHz as the transmit frequency in the last minute or so of that pass. I was able to work VE7AFV near Vancouver BC, and received a good signal report from Peter.

    73!
     
    KA2CZU likes this.
  8. K6LCS

    K6LCS Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    From another message board a few months ago ...

    Just talked to a fellow ham who was considering the Yaesu FT-65 HT.

    I mean, a radio labelled "65" must be better than a "60," right?

    Not necessarily.

    The FT-60R has 1,000 memories. The '65 - about 800 fewer.

    The FT-60R receives - essentially - 108-to-a-gig. The '65 receives 136-174 and 400-480.

    The included battery pack with the FT-60R - properly charged - will provide about 1,000 discharge-charge cycles. The pack with the '65?
    About 300.

    In reading the two manuals for the FT-65, they describe unusual splits within the same band - but not the capability to program 2M / 440 split
    in a memory for working the voice FM satellites.

    The FT-60R has the optional FBA-25 AA alkaline case. Populate it with AA alkalines or AA NiMH cells, and you have full TX power available. No such accessory s available from Yaesu for the FT-65.

    BUT - The FT-65 had an LED flashlight! It will blink our "S O S" for you, too! And the '65 receives the commercial FM broadcast band ...

    The FT-65 is about $110. The FR-60R $136-155.
     
  9. WE4B

    WE4B Ham Member QRZ Page

    Sigh...
     
  10. WD9EWK

    WD9EWK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Including the error on the model number at the end of the post, this came from an FT-60 group on Groups.io. It has many of the same points you have tried to make on eHam and another part of the QRZ forum in the past year. Which begs the question... did you even read the posts in this thread, Mr. Bradford, before crossposting your tired comments?

    I know there has to be someone that loads most of those 1000 memory channels, but hams I know might be lucky to use 100 memories, if the radio has that capacity. Your (former?) radio programming service worked with providing up to 100 or so memory channels, which fits the capacity of a Baofeng UV-5R radio. Sounds like the 200 memory channels in the FT-65R and FT-4XR are up to the challenge for most hams.

    This may have been more of an advantage when the FT-60R came out over a decade ago, but it really isn't a big deal now. The world has changed, making much of that wide coverage useless or irrelevant.

    The airband coverage is something that the FT-65R and FT-4XR lack. I'm sure some want that band, but I'm OK not having it in every single HT I own. Beyond that, many commercial VHF and UHF two-way radio systems are migrating to digital modes, making coverage in much of the 148-174 and 450-470 MHz bands less relevant. The TV bands at 174-216 MHz and above 470 MHz are mostly unavailable, unless there is still a low-power TV station in your area that hasn't made the jump to digital broadcasting. There may still be analog commercial two-way radio operations in parts of the 800 MHz band, but much of that - and almost all of the new 700 MHz systems - are digital. For most places, the repeater outputs in the high end of the amateur 902 MHz band are not available. Had you read the first post of this thread, I listed the gaps in the FT-60R's receiver in a chart, which includes a gap at 918.5 to 943.5 MHz that wipes out the chance to receive repeaters in that amateur band.

    The larger packs available with the FT-65R and FT-4XR won't need charging as often as the FT-60R's pack.

    Already covered in the first post of this thread. The memory channels in the FT-65R are incapable of holding receive and transmit frequencies in different bands, but the memory channels in the FT-4XR are capable of that type of programming.

    Again, did you even read this thread, Mr. Bradford? You seem fixated (yes, that word again) on the FT-65R, yet you don't even acknowledge the FT-4XR. Both of these newer Yaesu HTs are covered in this thread. You certainly don't appear to have read the first post in this thread.

    If anything, I'm impressed that Yaesu has taken the radio-on-a-chip that is used in many Baofeng and other Chinese-made radios, and turned it into a couple of decent radios without the shortcomings of many Baofeng radios. And you also have a manufacturer in Yaesu standing behind their radios, whether they are made in Japan like the FT-60R, or in China like the FT-65R and FT-4XR.
     
    WE4B likes this.

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