Thoughts on Common Sense Radio Manufacturing

Background

I recently installed a Yaesu FTM-100DR in my wife’s car and an FTM-400XDR in my car. Both of these radios are good quality, but they could have been excellent given some common sense decisions from Yaesu. Although it may seem like I’m hard on Yaesu, it is simply because I own all Yaesu radios. They are very capable and provide great features. I just feel there are decisions they make which could make all their radios be amazing, especially with their more feature rich radios.

FTM-100DR

The FTM-100DR is a mobile, digital radio that has APRS built-in. I am a massive fan of APRS. Although there are more features on this radio than my wife will use, it is allows for her to expand into those features. The radio features two channels that can be monitored, but not at once. It is not dual VFO. This means that you cannot have APRS running while monitoring a second channel. It seems like a design oversight that a mid-tier radio doesn’t offer dual VFOs, especially in a radio that has APRS. My wife is then forced to make a compromise. Does she activate APRS and use the radio as a tracker? Does she have APRS off and monitor a repeater? Does she use the Group Monitor (GM) function? She can only do one at a time. A massive design flaw which could have been overcome with some common sense. Dual VFO could easily fix this problem.

The menu isn’t easy to use. Since it is a mobile radio, many of the features should be right up from and easy to access without needing to hunt through the menus. This isn’t an option. It takes around 7 seconds to turn on APRS if you know where it is in the menu. This is a lot of time to have your eyes off the road. It would have been easy to replace the TXPO button with an APRS menu button allowing for quick access to the APRS on/off function. Again, another issue that could be fixed with common sense design.

FTM-400XDR

This section applies to both radios, but I will focus on the FTM-400XDR since you are not capable of attaching the head unit to the radio body. Why is this an issue? Having a separate radio body and head unit suggests that the manufacturer intends or at least offers the user the ability to mount the radio body in a separate location from the head unit. This is a great feature as it gives the user more flexible installation locations. The issue is the speaker is located on the radio body. I chose to mount my radio in my truck, since I have a hatchback. There is plenty of space in the hatch and it doesn’t put a radio in the passenger space where it may become damaged. With the radio in the trunk, I can’t hear the speaker. I had to purchase a separate speaker and run an additional wire from the trunk to the front. The speaker from Yaesu is rather large, making it difficult to mount. This problem could have been solved by having a small speaker on the head unit. My phone has a very loud speaker that could have been installed on the radio. This couldn’t have been all that expensive. It just seems like an oversight on a $450 radio.

The other issue is the DTMF mic. The mic is pretty good. It has a nice red glow on the buttons when the lamp is active that doesn’t cause light interference when active. The buttons are easy to read. The issue is that the cable needs to plug into the radio body. Again, you will need a cable unless the radio is mounted within the cable distance. Yaesu doesn’t make the cable, at least that I could find. I ordered a cable from eBay that is good quality, but this seems like a design oversight. A simple fix would be to have the a plug on the radio body that can accepts audio. This is the same if you have the camera mic, except the extension cable is $55. This isn’t even a great fix since the camera mic doesn’t have a speaker connection. It will transmit your voice, but a speaker is still needed to hear audio. Another design oversight on a $450 radio.

Solutions

While I’ve listed some solutions above for the problems, many of these problems could be fixed if Yaesu used their radios before manufacturing. There are plenty of operators that will put their radio through the paces. It just seems like they didn’t ask what their radios may be used for. I identified this on two radios, but this same thing could be said about the FT-818 or the FT2DR. Use common sense in manufacturing. The FT-818 is a bad radio, forever. It is unfortunate from a company that made one of the best radios with the FT-911A and the FT3DR.

Finishing Up

Thank you for reading. I plan to do an actual review on the FTM-100DR, FTM-400XDR, FT3DR, FT-70D, and FT-991A in the future. I just wanted to become more familiar with the radios first. Make sure you follow on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date on post. Comment below if you have any questions or feedback. Thank you again.

-73, Adam

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