Friday, 1 July 2016

Digital Ramblings

I have recently taken delivery of a Yaesu FT1XDE C4FM/ Analogue handheld for use with the DV4 Mini. Here is a brief review :-

The first impression upon un-boxing is the sturdy feel to the unit. It is well built and, whilst not being heavyweight, it does feel rather substantial in the hand without being uncomfortable in use. The XDE comes with a higher capacity battery than the previous model and the GPS function is improved. Having said that, the GPS and APRS is a little tricky to understand and set up - I need to do a bit of reading before I embark upon that side of things.

Sound quality from the speaker is good, it's not the loudest of outputs but it is enough. The keypad buttons are a tad on the small side and for my large fingers I find it slows me down a little when inputting but it certainly is no great detriment to the radio - just needs getting used to.

Analogue performance is what you would expect from Yaesu - DTMF, CTCSS and auto repeater shift are all present and work as they should.

Now the really good bit - C4FM Fusion. One word - WOW! - the audio quality is superb, vastly superior to DMR. Crystal clarity and a balanced audio experience. Users sound as clear as if we were speaking face to face. Another bonus is that it works flawlessly with the DV4 Mini - no drop outs due to incorrect frequency matching and, because Fusion uses a different system for digitising the speech, there is no need for error correction. The DV4 and the FT1XDE are a perfect combination.

Throw an extremely wideband receiver into the mix and you have a great all-in-one monitoring solution. The receiver covers 0.5 to 999 MHz in AM, NFM, and WFM but sadly no SSB. The internal antenna is only really any use with strong broadcast stations but, with an external antenna, things improve.

The GPS receiver uses a whopping 66 channels and ensures a truly accurate fix. Time to first fix was under a minute and subsequent fixes are done in seconds. The position data is displayed on the LCD display and it is shown in a simplified, clear way.

Programming is a little convoluted if doing manually, but the instructions are concise and once mastered it becomes very intuitive. Yaesu supply a programming lead with the radio and programming software is available to download from the Yaesu website. There have been various reports on the functionality of the Yaesu software but I programmed in quite a few simplex/duplex channels with relative ease using it. Chirp also supports programming but is not as good (in my humble opinion). There is provision for a Micro SD card for storage of radio data and also snapshot images, which come when using the snapshot camera mic (not supplied but is an extra cost option). The SD function is not like the dStar, where programming information can be loaded directly to the radio - the SD card is used merely as storage and for back up  (reading the card information into the programming software).

The radio functions are mainly menu driven but they do follow a logical path, so getting to grips with the menus is no real hassle.

Would I recommend it? - Heartily

Is C4FM worth the investment? - Certainly

Do Icom need to worry about dStar? - I think so, the monopoly on DV radio has been broken so we will have to see how Fusion stacks up.

I'm off to play radio for a while,

73 de 2E0ENN

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