Hello fellow ADDARS members, Amateur Radio fans and netizens in general.
Well, hasn’t it turned out to be an exciting time for portable gear in the last month or so? As many regional amateur operators will know, a few members from the AADARS club enjoy portable operations while taking part in the SOTA (Summits on the air) scheme. CQ SOTA anyone?
Now in terms of truly portable multi-band radio gear, many HAM’s tend to go for one of the big names, i.e., the Yaesu FT-817/818, the Yaesu FT-857, the Elecraft K2 or K3, the older Icom 7000 and a smattering of other commercial and home brew radios. It’s been a case of much of the same for quite a while. A real lack of any new man portable equipment.
Then… wow… all of a sudden we start falling over the things. In this quick article, I’m going to take a look at two of the most exciting upcoming developments in portable transceivers, the Icom 705 and the Lab 599 TX-500.
Now please take note, while the basic details of both of these transceivers are presented here, and in the review links, neither of them are “out in the wild” at the time of publication, and the expected prices and final specifications are yet to be announced – but they do exist, and will be on the shelves of your favourite radio retailer in the near future.
First off, let’s take a look at the latest offering from Icom, the IC-705. It was announced just over three weeks ago at the Tokyo Ham fair, and wow! Hasn’t it gained some attention, caused some debate and already caused arguments!
The 705 is an all mode, all band Hf to UHF SDR transceiver that appears to share some lineage with the IC-7300 and IC-7900 sets. The large colour touch screen is the same size as it’s older siblings, but the overall transceiver size is significantly smaller and aimed smack bang at the portable operator. Ok, ok, yes, it can be used by any operator, but given that Icom is releasing a dedicated backpack to accompany the 705, it’s fair to guess which market it’s targeting (Maybe they can put a small SOTA logo on the backpack?). I won’t delve into a long list of known specifications here, it’s covered very well in the review I’ve linked too.
It does seem to be causing a bit of a stir on many discussion groups, as many potential buyers seem to be unhappy with Icom’s choice of not fitting an internal ATU, and others seem miffed over it only having 10w output (plus a host of other niggles and dislikes??). For me though, it’s already a winner, though I would love to see 25W output from the finals and making it a weather proof device would put the icing on the cake. Come on Icom, portable ops are often damp affairs. We need shower proof gear that we don’t have to worry about.
However! as Icom state on their own website, the models shown to the public are simply prototypes. Things can change guys… but come on! Give the Icom tech team a thumbs up for their hard work. A dedicated portable SDR gets my approval. I’m just a little unsure on some of the design choices.
Full details of the Icom IC-705 can be found via the link below.
But wait…did I say shower proof? if one new radio was not shock enough!! there is another! Recently, one of the smaller manufacturers caught my eye with a new rugged transceiver designed for the portable operator. This is the LAB 599 TX-500.
Again… wow. An Ultra compact, lightweight, WATERPROOF, SDR Hf transceiver with a custom CNC machined alloy casing. Yes… I said waterproof… rated… designed for use in wet conditions… (are you watching Icom, Yaesu, Kenwood…etc) It’s been designed from the outset with bad weather and the great outdoors in mind. To me, it has a great layout and while sporting a mono LCD display, it brings a band scope to the table on a clear and easy to read display. It has a host of inbuilt features and a full set of configurable digital filters.
Again, it’s a 10w set, but as with the 705, if you really need to go above QRP power (and with the current solar conditions, we sometimes have that need), then there are a number of great little 50w Hf PA amplifiers on the market. The same can be stressed for the ATU.
This is definitely another set to watch out for in the near future. Links to the LAB 599 TX-500 are below.
Also, let’s not forget… there are other options for portable use. We have the kit and built versions of the McHF 10w SDR transceiver, oodles of home brew sets including the Tulip SDR, and a host of new sets coming from smaller manufacturers if you don’t fancy rolling your own. Like everything else in this great hobby, it’s all down to personal taste… but up on the hills, every kg counts! So seeing a group of feature rich and lightweight sets coming out is good news for anyone who has to carry the damn things.
I’ll post more details about the TX-500 and IC-705 as the become available. I would also not be surprised if we see an offering from Yeasu in the near future. In many peoples opinions, they missed the mark with the 818 and have no real alternative to the 857. The old 857 still rules the roost for a relatively man portable all mode 100w set, but come on Yeasu… Let’s see a portable SDR from you, or at least an updated ALL mode mobile.