21 November 2021

The View From The Bench - 21 November 2021

Been a quiet few weeks on the ham radio front.

  • I guess the biggest news is that Icom released US pricing information on the long awaited ID-52 DSTAR handheld. This is Icom's newest flagship HT. It was supposed to hit the market at the same time Icom announced the demise of the venerable ID-51A, over a year ago. But then COVID. And chip shortages. And supply chain issues. And more COVID. We got a hint at what the US pricing would look like when Icom released pricing information for the UK market a few months ago. If you did the math, and subtracted the embedded British VAT, the radio was coming in at over $600 US. A lot of folks didn't believe me when I discussed it. SURELY Icom wouldn't put something that expensive on the US market, with no other real DSTAR handheld options. But yup, they did. The ID-52 will have an introductory price of $650. I'm sorry, but that's just too much for a handheld, even if it does have a cool new color screen. Suddenly Yaesu's new FT5DR flagship HT doesn't look too shabby, at $480. It looks like I'll be holding on to my ID-51A for a while longer.

Purdy. And purdy expensive

  • I got word that Gems Products, the makers of the excellent KXSide snap on covers for the Elecraft KX2 and KX3, have released a snap-on cover for the Icom IC-705. The cover mates with the Peovi protective 'cage' by snapping into the carry handles. This provides some good protection to the rig's front side during transport. Sadly, the Peovi 'cage' doesn't provide any protection for the rear of the radio - it's really just a mounting frame. It's a very, very good mounting frame and thousands of owners are perfectly happy with it, so this snap on cover will be a welcome addition. Photo from the Gems Products website:

OK Peovi, now what about the back of the radio?

  • On late Friday Devin Butterfield, the developer of the Ion2G ALE software, put out a new release. One of the fixes in this release is a clean-up of the IC-7200 rig control interface. The last version introduced a bug that caused the radio to drop out of digital mode when scanning was stopped. I've been playing pretty heavily with Ion2G for the past few weeks, and I'm coming to better understand both the software and ALE concepts. My thoughts are that ALE as a system (regardless of the software used) does have application in Amateur Radio emergency communications. I just need to scare up a few local players to give it a try.
  • Getting ready for winter camping season. Of course radios will be brought (along with fishing gear!). So, I'm back to playing with the radio I love to hate - the Yaesu FT-891. Why? It's a topic I'll cover in detail later, but it comes down to assured communications. I'll be bringing my IC-705, and that will be the main radio 'toy', but my camping trip planning always includes a 100 watt rig capable of working on Winlink and JS8CALL. If we ever camp in an area that has no or limited cell service I want to be able to send and receive email, and I don't want to have to depend on a 10 watt radio to get it done. I also don't want a radio with a large footprint, or one that sucks up battery power. Looking at what I have available, that means the FT-891. In fact, looking at the ham radio market right now, the FT-891 is the only HF radio that fits this description. Of course the IC-705 can probably handle the Winlink and JS8CALL tasks just fine with 10 watts, but there's always the possibility that band conditions or other factors mean I need more 'oomph'. I think of the FT-891, tucked away in the camper, as insurance.

It's a shame that the 891 is currently the only option in this category

W8BYH out

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