I arrived home to a small package delivered by UPS with my name on it. Upon opening the box, I found a Yeasu VX-7R handheld transceiver starting at me. The box was smaller than I expected (compared to what Kenwood ships out), so I opened the box to see what all was included. I pulled out a power brick, a belt clip, a lanyard, the radio, and 2 antennas (more on this later).
I took the bigger on the antennas (about 8") and screwed it onto the radio. I pondered the short (2") antenna a bit before I realized it was an extension for the big antenna for 6m coverage. Thankfully, you can keep it on at all times without performance issues; it is just a bigger antenna. After hooking up the antenna, I took the battery out of the plastic bag that said, "Charge fully before using" and snapped it into the radio. Since the radio is submersible, the battery system is a bit odd in how it snaps into place. It was simple enough to figure out though.
Once the battery was in place, I actually did plug it in, and immediately turned it on. I typed in the frequency for my local repeater, and was happy to see that I could enter any frequency, on any band, without having to change bands first. At this time, I picked up the book and started at page 1. Normally I wouldn’t do this, but I never owned a Yeasu product, and I wanted to get to using it properly before I got mad at it. My impressions after a few days of use follow.
The setup menu is a bit tough to navigate, and there are a lot of options on the main setup screen to cycle through. A nice hierarchical system would have been preferred, especially since it is described this way in the user manual. This is especially true of setting things like CT tones and non-standard repeater offsets. These options reside in the main setup menu, where I would have preferred to see them (and other frequent options) in a one or two button system. There may be hot keys to these, but I haven’t yet discovered them. Saving the settings was also a little odd, using the PTT button to save the settings.
The reception on the radio was decent, especially with the antenna extension, on the primary (2m and 440MHz) bands. The reception on the pre-programmed AM stations was less then stellar from my basement, with the stations often fading, despite the radio not moving. I can’t completely blame this on radio though, as conditions were less than favorable. There were no unexpected problems on the Amateur bands, and the radio has a feature that allows shifting of the clock to alleviate birdies on many frequencies. The 6m coverage that I tried was acceptable, but not outstanding. I was not able to hit a fairly local repeater, but conditions were not very good. I will have to do more 6m tests, but my gut feeling tells me that it is not as solid as the 2m or 440MHz.
The radio has two unique features, this first of which is that it is submersible. My brother, of course, had to try this out. The night I received the radio, he filled up the kitchen sink with cool water, and dropped in the radio. It in fact stayed on, and I could even here a voice echoing through the water. This, while it may not always be practical, is very cool. It is also shock resistant, so I am happy to say I don’t need to worry about taking the radio off when I am out hiking, or it starts raining. Like I said, it is cool.
The second ‘neat’ feature is the strobe. I noticed a multicolored LED on the front right of the unit, which turned green on receiving on the primary band, blue when receiving on the secondary band, and red and orange when transmitting on the primary and secondary bands, respectively. I later found out that the LED does far more than 4 colors. It is actually programmable at 24-bit color. You can independently set the red, green and blue value for the LED for 6 different functions; receive on primary and secondary bands, transmit on primary and secondary bands, receive on both bands, and battery finished charging. I again don’t know how practical this is, but it has a very high neat factor.
The only other minor complaint I have, and it merely minor. The belt clip allows the radio to freely rotate, so the radio often times ends of sideways, as my arm hits the antenna. This may be ‘fixed’ by the soft case that is available, but I have not yet seen it, so I can’t be sure.
Comparing this radio to a Kenwood TH-F6A, I would have to call them very comparable. The VX-7R has 6m support, which is acceptable, but not the best reception. It is also shock and water resistant, which the Kenwood is not. The radios are about the same size, with the Kenwood being thinner, but slightly deeper. For anyone who is an outdoor enthusiast, or who is looking to have a quad band radio, the VX-7R is a good choice. If none of these the TH-F6A is probably a better choice with its easier to navigate menus for setup, and slightly easier setup for CT and DCS tones.