Survey #2 Results: If you could only have one QRP radio for all of your ham radio activities, which one would it be?

This past weekend, I posted the second of several surveys on QRPer.com asking:

“If you could only have one QRP radio for all of your ham radio activities, which one would it be?”

The responses started flowing in immediately and, once again, within the first day we had already accumulated over 400 votes.

I turned off the survey at 8:00 EDT on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, with a total of 618 responses. Due to my travel schedule this week, I didn’t leave the survey open for responses as long as I did for Survey #1.

Survey Results

Here’s a pie chart showing the top 14 results in the survey. To see detail, you will need to click on the image below (or click this link) to enlarge it in a new window:

The top choice was the Icom IC-705 which accounted for 28.8% of the 618 votes.

I’m not at all surprised the IC-705 was the most popular choice.

This survey focused on the one single QRP radio you’d pick to accommodate all of your ham radio activities, modes, etc. Frankly? The IC-705 does it all: HF/VHF/UHF multimode operation, DV voice (D-Star), built-in GPS, wireless connectivity for digital modes, built-in sound card, built-in Bluetooth and WiFi hotspot, built-in recording, broadcast band reception, high-performance receiver, color spectrum display and waterfall, and so much more. Heck, you can even charge its battery pack with a common Micro USB charger.  Read my review if you want a more comprehensive view of the IC-705.

The only real con anyone mentioned was a lack of an ATU which, frankly, is something that’s so easy to remedy with an external ATU or by using resonant antennas.

Your second choice was the Elecraft KX2 which accounted for 20.1% of the votes.

The KX2 is such a versatile portable HF transceiver that it was the most popular choice in our first QRP radio survey. No doubt, those who chose the KX2 love playing radio in the field as their primary activity because it’s such an adept and versatile radio to take outdoors.

Your third choice was the Elecraft KX3 with 18.7% of the votes.

I actually thought the KX3 would take second place since it’s one of the highest-performance HF radios on the market and covers 160-6 meters with a 2 meter option. It’s an HF Swiss Army Knife of a radio.

In fact, during the first day of voting, the KX3 held the number two spot with as much as a 2% lead over the KX2, but as more votes rolled in, that lead narrowed and the KX2 displaced the KX3 for runner-up.

Your fourth choice was the Yaesu FT-817/818 which accounted for 10.5% of the votes.

Again, I’m not surprised the FT-817/818 ranked high among survey respondents. As I mention in a recent article, the FT-817/818 is an amazingly versatile, durable, and capable QRP radio.

It’s also the most affordable among these top contenders!

Like the IC-705, the FT-817/818 has multimode capabilities from 160-6 meters, VHF, and UHF.  It also sports both SO-239 and BNC antenna ports which makes it very unique among QRP radios!

The lab599 Discovery TX-500 took fifth place with 3.9% of the votes among this set of distinguished radios.

Those who chose the TX-500 appreciate it for its 160-6 meter coverage, its unique form-factor and weight, overall performance, weather-proofing, and superb RX/TX current numbers for battery conservation. For those who like to play radio outdoors (sometimes in the rain) for hours at a time with a modest battery? Yeah, the TX-500 is made for that stuff!

Full Results…

If you would like to see the actual number of votes for each of the 48 radios in this survey, click the link below to load the rest of the page:

  • The Icom IC-705: 179 votes
  • Elecraft KX2: 125 votes
  • Elecraft KX3: 116 votes
  • Yaesu FT-817 or FT-818: 65 votes
  • lab599 Discovery TX-500: 24 votes
  • Elecraft K2: 18 votes
  • Xiegu G90: 12 votes
  • Xiegu X6100: 10 votes
  • (tr)uSDX: 9 votes
  • Icom IC-703: 8 votes
  • Mountain Topper MTR-3 series: 5 votes
  • CommRadio CTX-10: 4 votes
  • Elecraft KX1: 4 votes
  • FX-4C, FX-4CR or FX-4L: 4 votes
  • Pentek TR-45L: 4 votes
  • Ten-Tec Argonaut series: 4 votes
  • Homebrew QRP Transceiver: 3 votes
  • M0NKA mcHF: 3 votes
  • QRP Labs QCX-Mini: 3 votes
  • Mountain Topper MTR-4 series: 2 votes
  • QRP Labs QCX: 2 votes
  • QRP Labs QDX: 2 votes
  • SGC SG-2020: 2 votes
  • Venus SW-3B: 2 votes
  • The following radios received 1 vote…
    • ELAD FDM-DUO
    • Flex Radio Flex 1500
    • Penntek TR-25
    • uBITX transceiver (any model)
    • WVU-604F
    • Q900
    • MTR-5B
    • QRP Ham Radio Kit EGV+

More QRP radio surveys on the way!

What did you think about these results? Was your choice in the top five? Feel free to comment!

Also, stay tuned as I have quite a few QRP radio survey questions in the works. I hope to post the next one as soon as I’ve recovered from the Hamvention weekend.

I’ve tagged all of these reviews so they’re easy to browse, just bookmark or note: QRP Radio Survey Series.

19 thoughts on “Survey #2 Results: If you could only have one QRP radio for all of your ham radio activities, which one would it be?”

  1. I am glad to see the 705 come out on top as that is what I have. It kind of justifies my purchase somewhat.

    I’m a little surprised that the 817/818 came in as low as it did but the two Elecraft radios are excellent choices for second and third places.

    All in all, I enjoyed the survey and it was good to see the results.

    Maybe do one for antennas, not types but actual models. For example Packt 10 not EFHW or MFJ 1979 not 17’ whip.

    W4MKH

  2. I enjoyed this survey and it is very NICE to see the Yaesu FT-817/818ND in the top five!!

    72 Mike

  3. Thank you for this survey. Very interesting. I wonder if the popularity of the Icom 705 is partly due to two things over, say the KX 2 or KX3. Firstly, the increasing popularity of POTA and, secondly, if new to the hobby the ‘latest’ rig would be very attractive?

  4. To each their own… I own a KX2, and love it. But like the Miss Universe contest, the choices can be a bit overwhelming.

    de W7UDT

  5. Thomas, thanks for conducting this survey !

    Wow, I was sure that the KX3 was going to win.
    Honestly I think that the IC-705 or KX2/KX3 are all excellent choices.

    A couple of years back I was on a waiting list for KX2, but after 6+ weeks with no clear indication from Elecraft when my order would be processed I cancelled it and ordered an IC-705, which showed up on my doorstep before noon the next day.

    A quick peek at the shipping status on the Elecraft order page currently shows a 12 to 16 week delay on shipping for the KX2 and about the same for the KX3. I guess that lingering pandemic supply-chain issues and their own success is working against them.

    I would still love to get my hands on a KX2 sometime.

    Michael VE3WMB

  6. Thomas,

    Great Survey.

    A couple of ways to interpret the results of course (the top 14). Elecraft comes out at 41.7% (3 radios) and Icom at 31.8% (2 radios).

    Then Yaesu roll in at 10.5% (1 radio).

    With the recent deluge of radios released by Yaesu, which have grabbed the top spots on the Sherwood receiver tests, I do hope that they are secretly working on a 817/818 replacement.

    Tom.

    G0JSV

    1. Tom, good point. Yes KX2 and KX3 are essentially same rig as they are from EleCraft with I am sure similar designs. I think KX3 has tuner, KX2 does not and this would be a good point when buying. Other wise not. 73, ron, n9ee

      1. Both the KX2 and KX3 have an optional internal tuner. KX3 is generally a better radio, though not so good an internal battery. And it’s bigger.

        -kb

        AC1HJ

  7. The key advantage for the KX2 is how “hikeable” it is:

    – Starts out small.
    – Good internal battery: stays small.
    – Low power consumption: stays small.
    – Internal antenna tuner: stays small.
    – Tiny paddles available: stays small.

    Yes, there are other radios that are even smaller and even lower power consumption, but in exchange for many fewer features. The KX2 is a full featured radio, just so long as you don’t consider a waterfall and 100W output obligatory features…

    -kb

    AC1HJ

  8. POTA has definitely changed what I now consider important in a rig. What I used to see as essential, I now regard as overkill – I use very few of the capabilities of my IC-705 and am considering selling it for a more POTA-and-nothing-but-POTA rig (KX2). I’m amazed at how little I use the 705 anymore. But, yeah – the waiting list for a KX2 is a huge turn-off.

  9. I was surprised the IC705 took the top for it is expensive. So are the KX2/3. I do have IC705 and do love and prefer it. I am also surprised the X6100 is down so low. It is about as a complete QRP rig as one can get, has so many features. I dont consider the 2m/440 features of any of the rigs as a feature for QRP operation, same goes for DSTAR, good to have them I guess, can get weather info and maybe help in the wild. Some of the rigs have not been on the market very long so can see why they are down the list. If survey was taken say 10 years ago, bet the FT817 would taken first place. So many QRP rigs have come to market in that time.

  10. First, I must complement you on undertaking the surveys – a most valuable contribution in many ways.

    I too would have combined the KX-2 & 3’s as the 817 & -8’s.

    A little respondent info might be useful. eg hrs/week operating, favorite bands, modes & POTA/SOTA etc.
    Maybe include no of months each choice has been available and whether owned by the respondent.

    1. If you combined rigs like that it would have invalidated the survey. The survey was radio specific not manufacturer specific.

      Combining the KX2 and KX3 so that Elecraft would come out on top would have resulted in a different QRP picture.

      W4MKH

      1. I already use ubtex v3 radio last 4 year with no problem at all and dayle contact at 1500 to 2000 km this is the best radio for me.

  11. 3.9% are clever enough not to follow in Main Stream (ICOM, Elecraft, Yaesu) mass plastic radio movement.

    Long live TX-500 – outstanding QRP radio all categories 🙂

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