I received my brand new Yaesu FT-70D a few days ago. I previously wrote a post about the five things that appealed to me most. Here is a review of my first few days with this handy little radio and how it suits me.
The first thing we notice when we open a box of new equipment is the build quality. We all know how we feel the difference between good and lesser quality. FT-70D is no exception, and it gives an impression of excellent quality, with a sturdy plastic housing without any glitches or quirky noises. The first thing I notice is how light the main body is, and the bulk of the weight lying in the battery.
The caps covering all the connections and the buttons on the side are made of comfortably soft rubber. Stiffer, more “plastic-like” rubber forms the keypad. On top of the radio the rotary knob makes distinct ticks when I twist it.
When I place my radio on the table it stays there; no unstability causing it to fall over. With its subtle hook, the belt clip holds the unit securely to the belt, and I don`t feel it is going to fall down or tip back or forth on my hip.
All in all it seems like this is a solid unit, and I am not afraid of taking it with me outdoors. Rain or snow is not going to cause trouble with this one.
Yaesu is known for their messy menus, and the tradition goes on here. If you know Yaesu you probably have no problem navigating around the FT-70D. As a newbie I need to use the manual to understand almost every single entry in the menu, and a few of the buttons as well. Some functions are not described in detail in the menu, and it takes som trial and error to get the hang of some functions.
Functions in the menu are grouped to some extent, but some groups seem to be split in two parts. To confuse even further, buttons change function depending on the context. Some times PTT confirms input, other times it aborts. In other contexts Band or V/M confirms my choice. Buttons need to be memorized, as many of them also have a second function.
Still, the radio is quite easy to use, and procedures stick quickly after playing with the radio while reading the manual for a little time.
Access to buttons
Buttons are placed in easily accessible places for my long fingers. I suspect my wife would have a bit harder time reaching around the radio, even to press the PTT button. Two buttons are programmable, which comes in handy. Any function in the menu can be assigned to these. I have assigned displaying battery voltage and dimming the backlight to my buttons.
When finding my way through the radio, I was surprised to find that the radio does not have VOX built in. I did not look for this function in advance as I have not yet needed it. To make use of VOX, you will need the optional SSB-63A VOX headset. I have to admit that I thought VOX was more or less standard today, and those needing it should be aware that the FT-70D does not have it on board.
On this radio even noise sounds rather pleasant. The internal speaker produces warm, rich sound, and even noise does not sound sharp. In a one and a half hour long QSO neither of us had to repeat anything. Sound quality is good, and sensibility too.
Love it or hate it; to adjust the volume you need to hold a button on the side while twisting the knob. I find this feature brilliant. No more yelling radio when the noise breaks the squelch, and no more missed calls.
Programming and scanning
When you get used to the buttons, programming with the keypad is easy. 900 memory slots, 25 banks and scanning through ten channels per second makes this handheld nice for scanning purposes. You can add memories to several groups, and give memories and groups an alphanumerical name. With only six characters it is inevitable that some names are a bit cryptic, like AMITWR or AMATR. Ordinary call signs for repeaters fit nicely though.
A programming cable ships with the radio, and the ADMS programming software can be downloaded from Yeasus website. After a few minutes you are up to speed with it. Descriptive texts help you in the process of setting up the software, installing drivers and communicating with the radio. Programming is straight forward and intuitive.
Many radio amateurs comment on this radios poor battery life. In my case the battery is still not depleted after a full day of moderate use and plenty of scanning. I purchased an extra battery and the charging dock. The radio itself does not charge while it is switched on, it only does when it is off. But the spare battery fits in the cradle and is fully charged after a couple of hours. Changing the battery is easy and takes only a few seconds.
Is it worth it?
Any radio has flaws, and the FT-70D has its own. None of them are major to me. This far the transceiver has lived up to my expectations. It is an easy to use, no-fuss unit that does everything I want it to. If I break it tomorrow I will definitely buy another. Some challenges may probably be expected with any radio, but did we get into this hobby just because of the easy ride?
The only thing I actually miss is an OEM battery cassette for AA or AAA batteries – for weekends on the cabin or in the outback with my tent. Maybe – hopefully Yaesu will release one some day?