Tim Kirby G4VXE gets a first look at the much-heralded FTdx101 from Yaesu.
A few days ago, I popped into Martin Lynch’s store in Staines to pick up an FT-2D transceiver (more on that another time!). That was all taken care of quickly, so I took up a kind offer of a coffee and set off around the shop to see what was new and interesting.
I didn’t have to go far before I found something to grab my attention – a sample model of the FTdx101D transceiver! Of course, I’d read plenty in the press about how widely it is anticipated, so I settled down (taking up another kind offer, this time of a chair) to have a play.
Before I go any further, both Martin and Yaesu want me to make very clear that this is a pre-release version, so it’s likely, if not guaranteed, that there will be changes before the final released version. However, we agreed that readers might be interested in some first impressions, so I set to, exploring the rig. I should also mention that the sample model had the transmit capability disabled.
A first impression is of a solid, nicely-built piece of kit. It’s substantial (revealed by a quick heft off the desk) at 12kg. The front panel is dominated by the multifunction display. The tuning knob has a good feel to it. To change bands, there’s a series of buttons along the top right-hand side, quick to find even at first glance. Changing mode between SSB and CW is easy enough – just press the appropriate button, but to find the other modes, you long press the mode button and then a more extensive mode menu is displayed on the touch screen. Another first impression was that the receiver was quiet. That’s pretty subjective of course, as the shop antenna is one that I’m not used to, but the rig seemed quiet and signals stood above the noise well.
With the rig on 20m CW, I had fun trying out the Morse decoder (you can decode PSK and RTTY as well). It took a bit of fine tuning but in the end, the on-screen display was a fair representation of what was being sent. There wasn’t much RTTY activity to try that out but I did manage to decode a PSK signal. If you want to decode FT8 and similar, you’ll need to do that externally. I didn’t get too much chance to listen to SSB and play with the filters, so will look forward to doing that more comprehensively in future.
What about the touchscreen display? You can configure the components to be displayed reasonably easily. The waterfall display can be set to 2D or 3D. Although it’s maybe a bit gimmicky, I liked the 3D option. I thought it would probably be great in a contest or even if you were using the rig with a transverter on VHF for meteor scatter. You’d be able to have a visual scan of where, in the spectrum, reflections were appearing. If you have two receivers running, then you can choose to have a waterfall for just the main band, or a waterfall for both the main and the sub bands.
If you’re watching the waterfall and you see a signal (or group of signals) of interest, you can dab a finger on the display and the rig will change frequency to that part of the band (although you’ll need to do the fine tuning with the tuning knob).
I found you could configure the meters simply, by pressing the meter area of the screen. A menu then appears and allows you to choose what you want to be displayed.
If you’ve had a Yaesu rig in recent times (or even as far back as the FT-1000MP), the general layout of the filters, notches, IF Shift and so on will seem pretty familiar. Because the bands were quiet when I was trying the rig, I didn’t get a real sense of how the filters would perform under more testing conditions but certainly you could vary the bandwidth as you’d expect to.
Martin and the team had hooked up the FTdx101D to an external monitor, which made a nice display. That seemed to support 800×480 and 800×600 resolutions.
As a VHF operator, I tuned the rig to both 50 and 70MHz – yes it covers the 4m band. Unfortunately, at the time, there were no signals, but covering 4m in particular can only be good for activity on the band. I didn’t spot a transverter socket, but it may well be that this functionality is available on one of the other outputs.
With so many options available, I sometimes found that it took a little time to get the hang of some functions. Although there was some preliminary documentation, Yaesu are clearly still working on a full and comprehensive manual.
While I was playing with the FTdx101D, some other amateurs came in, having travelled some distance to try it out and it was interesting to see them take the controls and compare it to their existing rigs – their impressions were much the same as mine, I think.
So there we have it, some first impressions. Like the rest of you, I will await a final release date and price. There will be two models, the MP with 200W output and the D with 100W output. Thank you to Martin and his team for welcoming me and allowing me to try the rig out. The transceiver is on permanent demonstration at their Staines-upon-Thames store.
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