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Yaesu VX-8r Review

Discussion in 'Product Reviews' started by Moleculo, Jan 3, 2009.

  1. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    I called up my local HRO last night and found that they finally had the new Yaesu VX-8r in stock. Some of the features that intruiged me about this new radio is that it's sumbersable to 3 feet, has a built in TNC, APRS support, optional Bluetooth headset support, and optional GPS receiver that integrates with the APRS. The supported bands are 6m/2m/23cm/70cm. This morning I got up, drove over and after playing with it in the shop for a little while, decided to take it home with me! :w00t: I also purchased the handheld speaker/mic and the GPS receiver options. I really didn't want the handheld mic, but Yaesu hasn't released the GPS adapter for the radio yet; you have to get the hand mic if you want the GPS right now. I'm actually glad I got the mic...more about that later. Total bill for the whole package without tax came to $549.85. Ouch!

    Here is a picture of the new little HT:

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    You can see that it fits pretty well in the hand. It's not too small to the point where the buttons are difficult, but not so large to be bulky.

    Here is a comparison in size to the popular Kenwood TH-F6a and the ultra small Yaesu VX-2r:

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    Here is a picture of all three radios side by side for size comparison purposes:

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    Even though the VX-8r is a little larger in height and width, you can see from this picture that it is more slender:

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    My first impressions of the radio is that it is built really rugged! After handling it and assembling the necessary components, I can say without too much doubt that is is much more rugged than the THF-6a. Even small details like the screw holding in the earphone and charging rubber plugs is well thought out. On my THF-6a, this little cover was the first thing to rip off.



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    Here is a picture of the SMA antenna connector. You can see that it has a thick rubber seal that mates with the rubber around the antenna. The lip of the seal extends up to help keep water out. Very nice.

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    Here's the THF-6a connector for comparison. Its seal is inside the radio. Of course, Kenwood doesn't claim that the TH-F6a is waterproof, either:

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    Here is the external mic connector with the waterproof cover popped open. When you attach the connector, the plug presses in, then scews on. This is similar to how commercial handheld radios are built. Maybe this is some of Motorola's influence starting to show? Regardless, it's a really good design (y)

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    Here's the volume knob. It's nice and big for easy adjustments. The volume knob placement is one of the things I didn't care for on the TH-F6a, and I like this design by Yaesu's. You can again see the design details even on this as it's held down by a fairly decent sized screw. On some HT's the knobs are just stuck on and can pop off.

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    Here are a couple of pictures of the antennas. The first is the stock antenna for 50/144/220/440 mhz. The second picture is with the low frequency extender added. You can use it like this at all times if you want, but you can see how much additional bulk and length it adds. The manual says this extension greatly improves reception below 50mhz. I'll guess we'll have to find out after it finishes charging up.

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    Here's the external speaker/mic with the optional GPS receiver installed in the top. The GPS receiver is also held in with a screw instead of just snapping in. I think this is a pretty nice sized speaker/mic also...not to small, but not too big.

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    Finally, here's the whole unit assembled.

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    That battery is shipped deader than dead, so I'll probably have to wait until tomorrow to play with the radio. While it's charging, you can see how nice the dot-matrix display is with the charging progress bar showing:

    [​IMG]

    Coming soon - functionality review and mod information for MARS. I have to wait for it to charge first!
    #1
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  2. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    The battery charged up in about four hours or so. It might have been longer, but I wasn't paying attention. Since it's a Lithium Ion battery, I didn't have to worry about charging it overnight, developing a memory and all that nonsense. After it was fully charged, I started playing with it.

    I quickly made sure all of the functions where working as promised. One thing about this radio is that you will never be able to figure out how to use it without reading the manual. I wanted to play with APRS first, so I read that section and configured all the basics like my callsign, beacon, etc. I found Happy_Hamer in the forum chatroom so I got him to help me test it. He used UI-View (an APRS mapping/communication tool) to quickly locate me. I did the same on www.findu.com. Cool! That meant the GPS and APRS stuff was working as advertising. After reading the manual a little more, I figured out how to send text messages to him from the HT. The interface on this radio for sending and typing messages is really a lot like text messaging on a cell phone: you can use the number pad to key in the letters. It was actually pretty fun! After spamming the APRS messages for a while :LOL:, I put it up and we went and had dinner and a movie.


    More to come...
    #2
  3. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    VX-8r mod

    Mod time!

    Since I confirmed everything was working as designed, I decided it was time to mod it for out of band TX. Keep in mind that I'm a MARS op, and I need this.

    I emailed Yaesu on Friday for the info, but I hadn't heard back yet. I was impatient, so I figured I would see if I could figure it out myself :D :unsure: :D

    Here's how to do it:

    -Take out the battery.
    -Under the battery is a heavy, thick plastic cover with very strong adhesive. Remove it using an XActo knife or a very small screwdriver that you can slip under it. This is the same cover you need to lift to install the Bluetooth option.
    -After you get the cover open, it will look like this:

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    To mod the radio for out of band TX, locate the only resistor visible on the board, just to the left of the bluetooth plug:

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    All you have to do is carefully remove this resistor. I have a fine tip for my solder station for little work like this:

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    Make sure you clean off ALL the residual adhesive. Don't try to put back the cover that you took off, as it will be badly deformed and you will have lost some of the adhesive. Yaesu gives you several extra covers in the bottom of the box, so use a new one. This is important to preserve the waterproof integrity of the radio!

    After you put the battery back in, the radio will have reset and you will lose all of your settings. I'm not sure what the complete range of TX is yet, but this mod definately opened it to TX out of the Amateur bands. I'll cross post this info in the mods section also.
    #3
  4. WX2MIG

    WX2MIG Still Alive & Well

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    Awsome radio Mole, and great review too.....(y)

    My VX-170 is also submersible and has many of the same water tight features as the VX-8r. I just wish the VX-170 came with the Li-Ion batteries, it has the Ni-MH batteries instead, but at least they are a step above the old Ni-Cad.....

    I got my HT from The Antenna Farm, and for an extra $35.00 they did the xpanded Tx mod before shipping it out. (Mention of this fact at QRZ got me a lot of hateful responses from the armchair radio lawyers, however the folks who frequent this site seem to be quite a bit more relaxed about such technicallities......;))

    I'am thinking about getting the speaker - mic for my radio, they do seem to come in handy, and it's my understanding that since the speacker-mic is not submersible, it transmits a clearer voice than what you get through the built-in radio mic that's covered with a water proof membrane.....

    Good luck with your new Yaesu Mole......let us know how the mod, and the 6 meter band works on it.......(y)
    #4
  5. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    Impressions on the manual

    I've been learning how to do various features of the radio this morning. As I hinted earlier, this isn't a radio that most people are going to figure out without studying the manual. So far, I would say that the manual is above average when comparing it to most radio equipment manuals. It seems lacking in some areas (for example, it explains how to limit the APRS message reception to only those in your call group, but it doesn't tell you how to add stations to your call group) but it seems to explain most of the features fairly well. I'll probably have more to say about this in a couple of days.

    I'll also try to show a few of the interesting features that may not be showcased as well as they could be by Yaesu.

    One neat feature that I just found is that the radio can monitor TWO VFO/Memories on the ham bands while also listening to broadcast AM/FM radio. This is a triple monitor radio! I've never seen an HT that can do this before. If it picks up a TX station on one of the vhf/uhf frequencies you're monitoring, it mutes the audio of the AM/FM broadcast briefly so you can hear the VHF/UHF station. The default mute is 2 seconds, but You can adjust it to whatever you want. You can even scan on the VFO's while listening to broadcast AM/FM! If you want to TX, you just key the radio and it will TX on whichever VFO button is selected. This is a very cool feature!

    Here's a pic of the radio showing broadcast 93.1 FM while monitoring 146.52 and TX/RX'ing local APRS data simultaneously on 144.390. You can see that the VFO A button is activated (just to the left of the display) so if I key the radio, it will TX on 146.52.

    [​IMG]
    #5
  6. derrickg

    derrickg Member

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    Great Review!

    Keep it coming. I'm thinking of buying one.

    Thanks
    #6
  7. Happy_Hamer

    Happy_Hamer Administrator Staff Member

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    here you go, submitted to mods.dk

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jan 4, 2009
    #7
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  8. Happy_Hamer

    Happy_Hamer Administrator Staff Member

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    Throw it in an aquarium, see if it IS submersible :LOL:
    #8
  9. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    OK, I'll do that tomorrow night and take a pic and post it. If it fails, it's under warranty :). Seriously, one of the reasons that I got this radio is because I like to go fishing off the coast in the Pacific. I need to know whether or not this radio is waterproof for the occasional accidental drop in the bait tank, or if I'm overboard and expect to be able to use it if it's getting wet.

    Tonite I played around with the APRS stuff some more. The manual is a little lacking on how to do some of the APRS functions. What you have to do is combine different sets of instructions together. For example, if you want to edit the APRS Beacon Stats Text, you follow the same instructions for editing and sending a message. After you figure that out you're thinking "well,duh!", but since it doesn't tell you that, you end up fooling around with it for a while to try and figure it out. Anyway, if you search for me on the various APRS sites, you'll see all kinds of silly beacon messages out there from tonite...including some insults directed at Happy_Hamer ;)

    I decided to do some audio and reception testing tonite and compare it to the Kenwood TH-F6a on 220mhz. When I first got on the air tonite and announced on 2m that I was on the new VX-8r, I had several stations that immediately got interested and started asking questions.

    I used the handheld speaker/mic with the standard audio setting (there is an audio boost setting you can turn on) and all I got was "WOW, I can't believe that's an HT mic!". That wasn't just from one station, but from every station. One guy commented that the audio sounded like it was on a base, desk mic! Of course, I was very pleased!

    I decided to see if I could figure out how to set the PL tone settings (enable PL tone squelch and choose the PL tone) without reading the manual. That was actually pretty easy, which was a nice change since this radio isn't the easiest to figure out without the manual. On this one, choosing the PL tone, DCS, etc., is done by hitting "Function" button, then the number "2". The key text label above the 2 button is the word "Code". That's a little different than other radios, but it wasn't too hard to figure out. After that, I was happily hitting all the local repeaters that I tried.

    I found some guys that were on 220, so I did some side by side comparisons with the THF-6a. On the THF-6a, I was using the Diamond SRH320 antenna (the stock one broke). I consistently got full quieting, S9 readings on the local repeaters on the F6, even if I put the Yaesu antenna on. On the VX-8r, I got S5-S7 readings, depending on if I was using the stock antenna or swapping it out to the Diamond. In my personal opinion, I really don't think the F6 S meter is all that usefull, because it always seems to show S9 regardless of how strong a station is. Going by the very scientific "ear test" :tongue:, I couldn't hear a whole lot of difference. The F6 had a little stronger reception, but not by much. The reception of 220 on the VX-8r definately improved when I put the better antenna on it. Since the VX-8r only does 1.5 watts on 220, I may try to locate an aftermarket antenna that has a little better gain on 440 and 220, as a result.

    That's it for today...tomorrow we do the dunk test :eek:
    #9
  10. dxhound

    dxhound Active Member

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    So when you opened the rig for mars, does this also include opening the HF portion as well? I know it can Rx HF but if it will now TX there even at 1/2 a watt that would be amazing!
    #10
  11. kf4lza

    kf4lza Member

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    Mod

    The mod here is only a mars/cap mod not a freeband mod like on the vx-7r. It wont TX on 47 MHz where I would like it too. I wonder if that can be achieved via a software mod or maybe another resistor clipping?
    #11
  12. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    Not sure. My guess is that you'll be able to do more with sofware, once the info is made available from Yaesu. I have an email into Yaesu's tech support about mods for the radio, so I'll let you know what they say when I get more info.
    #12
  13. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    #13
  14. C2

    C2 Well-Known Member

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    Yeah! I want one too. I've actually been waiting for a long time, and eventually came to a struggle between that and the TH-F6A. I think that in one of my posts around here, I compare the receiver specs of the VX-8R to the TH-F6A.
    #14
  15. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    So I got an email back from Yaesu tech support. They said they didn't have the mod information because the radio is too new. Hehehe.
    #15


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