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Yaesu FTM-350 APRS Review

Discussion in 'Product Reviews' started by Moleculo, Jan 19, 2010.

  1. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    Perhaps the main reason most hams will consider the Yaesu FTM-350 is the APRS functionality. Until now, only Kenwood offered an all-in-one APRS solution. However, Yaesu has attempted to one-up Kenwood's TM-D710A by offering an small, optional GPS module that integrates directly into the radio control head. This is a detailed review of the APRS functions available to the Yaesu FTM-350.

    You turn on the APRS modem in the APRS set menu. You can also choose which band is used for the APRS and TNC data. You can choose to use either the left or right band or even a combination of both bands, splitting the TX and RX functions between the two bands. On my radio, I chose to make the right band the APRS and data band. Here is a screen shot of the radio receiving APRS data on the right band. You can see that the A12 and bullseye symbol at the top indicates that the APRS modem is on and auto beaconing is enabled.

    [​IMG]

    In the above screens, you can see that I have selected the APRS functions for the buttons across the bottom. You do this by pressing the right "F" button repeatedly until the menu at the bottom reads "F-3".

    In this picture, I've hit the S-LIST, or Station List button to show all of the received APRS stations:

    [​IMG]

    Using the left main knob, you can scroll up and down on the list to choose a station. By pressing in on the knob, you can view the details of the station:

    [​IMG]

    You also use the left main knob to scroll up and down to view more details about the station:

    [​IMG]

    Hitting the MSG button shows all of the messages that you've received or sent:

    [​IMG]

    Again, pressing in on the knob shows the details of the message. In this example, I'm showing a message I sent to my VX-8 HT:

    [​IMG]

    If you choose any of the Reply or message transmit buttons, you get this screen:

    [​IMG]

    To input the message, you can use the soft buttons on the bottom of the control head or just use the DTMF mic to input the message in the same way you would enter a text message on your cell phone. On the DTMF mic, you can also use the A or B buttons to move the cursor, as well as the C button to delete. The instructions in the manual are pretty clear on this topic.

    On the message list screen, if you hit the F button, the bottom menu changes to allow you to perform more functions:

    [​IMG]

    The TXClr clears all remaining retries on a message send attempts. The UnRead toggles the "Read" flag that shows to the right of the RX indicator. Lastly, you can query a station that sent you a message, or just show the position of the station that sent the message.

    Here is a pic of the query screen:

    [​IMG]

    If you want to "ping" or query a station to get an updated position report, you just hit the Query button on the second function menu and it performs the operation.

    APRS Setup Options

    There are quite a few useful APRS options and setup choices. Many of them are standard APRS setup options like filters, digi path settings, position options (most people will just use the GPS). I've highlighted a few of the interesting or key setup options here.



    Beacon Status Text
    The FTM-350 allows you to input whatever text you want for the Beacon Status Text, but it also supports the "listening frequency" options. If you select this option, it will include your other VFO's current frequency, tone squelch, and shift information. You can also include additional text in the message. In this example, I've chosen to just include my listening frequency and a short text blurb:

    [​IMG]

    APRS Popup
    You can choose how the radio notifies you of other stations and messages. The default is to popup a screen on every received beacon and message. In a busy area like Southern California, I don't want to be notified of every station because there are too many of them, so I turned the beacon off. You can also set a time limit that the popup screen displays for both the beacon and message.

    [​IMG]

    APRS Ringer
    The radio also gives you a little bell ringer when it receives or transmits a beacon or message. You have complete control over this behavior, as well:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    APRS Beacon TX
    These options change both the frequency of the auto beacon and what route the beacon includes. If you turn on the "Proportional" setting, it will change the transmitted route between "WIDE1-1, WIDE2-1", "WIDE1-1", AND "OFF" automatically. The INTERVAL setting will tell the radio how often to change between these routes. If you use the DECAY option, it extends the setting of the INTERVAL when the vehicle is stopped. If you turn on the SmartBeaconing option (menu E33), you can also just choose to use that by setting the AUTO menu in this section to "SMART". Here is a shot of the screen with this settings:

    [​IMG]

    Here is a shot of the SmartBeaconing option screen:

    [​IMG]

    Here is a short video clip of the radio receiving beacons with the beacon popup and RX ringer turned on:



    Here is a short video clip of the radio receiving an APRS message with the popup and ringer turned on:



    There is one function I was looking forward that is included in the Kenwood TM-D710 but is missing in the Yaesu FTM-350: digipeating. I was really hoping to be able to use this radio as either a mobile or base digipeater, but the option just isn't available. If you really want to do it with this radio, you'll have to use an external TNC or some type of PC based TNC.

    Overall, I'm very happy with the APRS functionality of this radio except for the inability to digipeat. However, I realize that digipeating is a feature that the vast majority of people will not want or use. I was able to figure out most of the basic functionality without even reading the manual! Message sending and receiving is very simple to learn, and I really like the APRS functionality customization options that you are given. The message and beacon fonts are large and easy to read, which is important in a mobile environment. I think most people will be very happy with the APRS functions of this radio.
     
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  2. rigref

    rigref Member

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    Excellent review! Especially like all the images, as they say an image tells more than 1,000 words...
     
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  3. W5LZ

    W5LZ Crotchety Old Bastard

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    Mole',
    I'm glad you did this review, it told me a few things that made up my mind about a new radio (if/when). Thanks.
    - 'Doc
     
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  4. Skysho

    Skysho W9WDX Amateur Radio Club Member

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    Fantastic review, thanks for all your effort! My GPS module is on track for delivery tomorrow, so this was very helpful.

    73
    Bryant
    W7BDB
     
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  5. C2

    C2 Well-Known Member

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    I don't know why I bothered looking at universal when you do such a good review...

    I can't believe six hundred bucks! Plus you might as well get the GPS receiver for another $70! and if you wanted the external, you have to buy the mount and cable as two additional/separate pieces, which you are probably going to need that if you actually plan to install the radio in the dash!


    The kenwood seems to offer some integration to GPS navigation (on-screen map).

    anyway, really nice rig regardless. It would be cool if Y could get some linkages to the VX-8r and a base, similar to skycommand...

    I'd really like to set up a good base APRS base station that offers iGate...
     
    #5
  6. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    No, the GPS built into the back of the control head will work just fine on the dash. I tested it initially in my den, 12 feet from the nearest window and it was able to get a fix on the GPS birds. On a dash won't be an issue, at all.

    I got mine for $569. Still expensive, but at least not $600 :) If nothing else, it makes me feel better that I didn't spend $600 (except for the tax part! :( )
     
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  7. djb_rh

    djb_rh Member

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    Yeah, thanks for that review. Awesome work.

    My GPS and accessories should show tomorrow. Like you, I wish it would function as a Digipeater. And like others, I wish the VX-8 line could control it remotely. That would be awesome. I'm also bummed the VX-8's don't have that same option to set your beacon status text to the other VFO's frequency. That looks *really* cool.

    I'm excited to get this baby mounted up and running!


    --Donnie
     
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    1 person likes this.
  8. ke7vvt

    ke7vvt Active Member

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    If there is a "packet out" mode that can interface with a computer then any (?) ham software like XASTIR takes care of the iGating/digipeating. For ex, APRS packet -> FTM-350 TNC -> XASTIR -> FTM-350 TNC -> APRS packet -1. But the ability to digipeat on independently is pretty cool.

    Maybe you are right though, if the FTM-350 does not output its TNC data (like the VX-8R) then another TNC is needed. :( That would suck!

    Moleculo can you give a short review on the computer interface-ability of this radio?
     
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  9. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    Yes, you can do that. Here is the interface details from the manual:

    [​IMG]

    The cable isn't available yet, but you could make your own, easy enough. Still, it seems like a waste to have to go through this to digipeat when the radio understands how to do everything else APRS related. It doesn't seem like it would be that much extra programming to provide a digipeat option.
     
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  10. Brlux

    Brlux Member

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    Can you track a station on the screen and simultaneously talk on the other side of the radio without loosing the view of the tracked station. When you are tracking a station on the D-700 and then do a voice transmission you loose the track screen.

    Also do you have to put the radio in a packet mode that disables the internal APRS features in order to use use the serial port for data like connecting it to UI-View? This is what has to happens with the D-700.

    Thanks
     
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  11. ke7vvt

    ke7vvt Active Member

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    Good question.

    Molecule, from that manual page it looks like the the FT-350 plugs into an external TNC as well as a computer. Do you think it would be happy just connecting its internal TNC to a computer?
     
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  12. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    Not really. You can track a station and listen to the other VFO without losing the station, but as soon as you key, it takes you back to the main screen. Tracking that station again is a matter of only a couple of button presses, but it doesn't stay on the tracking screen.

    The manual is VERY sketchy on the data functions of the radio. In fact, the manual has nothing on this topic except how to select the data VFO and set data squelch! The set menu shows that you can choose to output either GPS or packet data to the COM port, so I take that to mean that it will definately output APRS (packet) data. It doesn't say anything about having to turn off the APRS modem to do this. In fact, it DOES say that you can use the same VFO for both APRS and Packet TX/RX, so I take that as a good sign that you can use both the internal APRS functions and those of an external TNC at the same time. This will be something interesting to explore when I either make or buy a cable.

    See the above paragraph. It certainly looks to me like it will output packet data to the computer. You would still need some software or a TNC to do something useful with it at that point.
     
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  13. Brlux

    Brlux Member

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    Since I am very curious about using the internal TNC with a PC based APRS software package I decided I to make Moleculo a 8 pin mini-din to DB-9 cable so that he can get us more detailed information on this aspect of the FTM-350 capability's. He should get it in the mail in a few days.

    Depending on the capabilities of the internal TNC it could be possible to make a small microcontroller based digipeater dongle that would plug into the mini-din connector.
     
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  14. va2rp

    va2rp Member

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    Yaesu FTM 350

    HI
    just wondeing if anyone fund better bracket to hold the head of the radio
    the one that come with the radio not actually the best thing when
    you want to put the head on the dash

    73 Ron
     
    #14
  15. dfm

    dfm dfm

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    ***********
    Using kits from the FTM-10R, u can mount the FTM-350 head almost any way required. Buy the MMB-M10 multi-angle bracket kit and a 2" round magnet and u have a magnetic mount system.
     
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