Since my early days in the world of radio, there have been radios I found very intriguing, but have never owned. I’m sure I’m not alone in this regard.
These radios have enticed me, but not enough to pull the trigger…you know…to actually buy one.
Not yet, at least.
Here’s a small sampling of radios I currently window shop:
The Elecraft K3/K3s
There’s a reason this particular radio series has been on so many DXpeditions: it packs a lot of performance and is efficient for its size.
I’ve owned all of Elecraft’s QRP radios and I love them. I know I’d like the K3 or K3s as well.
There are a couple reasons why I haven’t purchased a K3 or K3s. First of all, I already own a KX3 with a CW roofing filter and a KXPA100 amplifier. In a sense, I feel like this is a rough equivalent of the K3. The KX3 doesn’t have all of the features or options of the K3 series, but it has everything I need as a primarily portable op. Secondly, the price of the K3 or K3s–depending on the installed options–range anywhere from $1,100 – 2,900 used. The lower priced ones tend to be QRP and lack some of the performance options.
That said, if I ever landed a super deal on a K3, there’s a decent likelihood I’d buy it.
The Yaesu FT-897D
I know what it is about the FT-897: it looks like it means business. I’ve always found the rugged design of the ‘897 appealing even though a friend jokes that it’s the ugliest radio Yaesu’s ever made. Of course, folks who buy an 897 aren’t looking at the form, they’re going for the function.
I’ve used a friend’s FT-897 on Field Day and really enjoyed it. Having owned the FT-817, I sorted out its quirky menus and ergonomics pretty quickly.
I’m sure the reason I’ve never pulled the trigger on one of these is because it’s 100 watts–I typically don’t run that kind of power in the field. The ‘897 is no longer in production, but there are loads of them on the used market. I kick the tires on these when I find them at hamfests. Maybe one day? We’ll see.
The Icom IC-7200
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve *almost* purchased a used IC-7200. In fact, I came so very close to selling my KXPA100 amp in order to buy a new IC-7200 several years ago (when they were still in production).
I love the milcom look of the ‘7200 and the overall ergonomics. The receiver is very respectable for the price class. It even has a built-in sound card which was somewhat rare when the 7200 first entered the market.
I think a ‘7200 would be fun to take to the field and, of course, mine would have those side handles even though it adds to the bulk.
The Yaesu FT-891
I’ve used the FT-891 and have been very impressed with it. I’ve also recommended it to many new POTA operators who want to pack 100 watts in the field.
The most amazing part is that you can (at time of posting) purchase a brand new FT-891 for $640 US. That’s a LOT of radio for the price and I feel like there’s no compromise in quality here. Again, I’ve never owned one of these nor used one for more than an hour or so in total, but I do like it and so does a good half of the POTA population.
On Black Friday in 2021, I actually had the FT-891 in my DX Engineering shopping cart and had the debit card out ready to complete the purchase, yet I stopped shy of hitting the “place order” button.
QRP radios simply have more appeal
I’ve nothing against running 100 watts–none at all–but I operate portable 97% of the time. I tend to focus on gear that’s lightweight, compact, and can easily fit in a backpack that I might lug to the top of a mountain.
I know if I purchase a 100 watt radio–no matter how much I like it–I just won’t take it to the field very often. Even though I could run the FT-897, FT-891, or IC-7200 at QRP power, those rigs need a higher capacity battery than the 3 Ah LiFePo4s I pack. I have a 15 Ah LiFePo4 that I use with my larger radios, but I don’t pack it unless it’s really needed.
With QRP transceivers, one fully-charged 3 Ah battery will carry me through 5-6 activations often with power to spare.
That said, I see a place for 100 watt field radios. In terms of emergency communications, it makes sense to have access to a field-capable 100 watts transceiver like those listed above.
Also, if you primarily operate SSB and like DXing, contesting, or extended DX ragchews, having the ability to increase power when needed is a real bonus. And if you primarily operate from the QTH? Weight, size, and current draw matter much less. In fact, the focus is usually on a larger display, robust audio, and overall good ergonomics.
Of course, your antenna is a seriously limiting factor, so if you want to make the most use of your 100 watts, invest in the best antenna you can install at your QTH.
As I mentioned, I have a KXPA100 (100 watt) amplifier at home and it will pair with most of my QRP radios. It’s battery-powered, super portable, and very effective. If I need 100 watts in the field, I have it.
I also have a 100 watt Icom IC-756 Pro. It’s my “library” radio that I lend out to anyone who needs it, so it’s not always at the QTH.
In addition, I have a 50 watt Misson RGO One which is an absolutely superb radio for the field or shack.
When I need access to higher power, I’ve got a few options already. I suppose I know that most of these other enticing 100 watt radios would be a bit redundant (I say this as a hypocritical guy with many redundant QRP radios).
Frankly? My shack space is also so limited that full size desk radios take up space I need for my workbench and for review units that are almost always on the table. If I had a larger space, it would be much easier to justify.
How about you?
What radios (QRO or QRP) have always enticed you but you’ve never actually purchased? Radios that haven’t quite made the cut yet?