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My APRS-related pages begin here!
2/2/2009: I got it! A wonderful Yaesu VX-8 triple-band
submersible handheld transceiver.
Below, a few comments while waiting for the first battery charge
After a very few days, SPLASH! it fell into the water
while it was raining. It was receiving APRS. A few seconds
almost completely submersed in water, with the display in the
deepest waters. I took it, while the rain continued falling on it
and... IT WAS STILL WORKING! Yay! That's actually "submersible".
I'm glad it continued receiving and transmitting APRS packets,
as if nothing happened.
Why did I buy it?
First, I wanted a complete APRS system without hassles and
cables: you can even go jogging while doing APRS... (this
was not easily achievable using my Good Old Kenwood TH-D7).
But the Yaesu VX-8 also got my attention because:
- up to 5W on FM bands 50, 144 and 430 MHz
- even receiving AM/FM (even stereo) from SW up to a GHz
- submersible (!)
- clean and compact design
- lots of nice "gadgets" (barometer, LED-lamp, attenuator,
mini spectrum analyzer, CW rx training...)
Currently I am not particularly interested in other features
(CTCSS/DCS/EPCS, WIRES, ARTS, EAI, etc). I wanted a good handheld
transceiver fully APRS capable, and I got it.
Maybe I will change my mind... but now, after the very first day
of usage, I am not quite happy with its menu system and some
engineering flaws. Let's start with the bad news.
Add-ons are somewhat pricey
- the VX-8 is reasonably priced, but its add-ons (Bluetooth, GPS,
external MIC, external TNC, etc) are pricey and have "proprietary"
- thus, I only bought the GPS receiver and its adapter (both needed
- Bluetooth interface is currently only useful for Bluetooth headset!!
Hardware limitations and flaws
- sadly, standard LiIon battery is only 7.4V 1100mAh - I would
prefer a bulkier unit with (far) larger capacity... anyway, the VX-8
is quite small compared with other handheld transceivers (have a look
at the photo below, comparing with a TH-D7);
- while it appears sturdily mounted, I do not like the GPS antenna
weird mount solution;
- the 12-channel GPS add-on is only available to the internal APRS
- no volume dial: changing volume level requires pressing a "Vol"
key and then using the top dial (you can switch volume/freqselect
functions, but you cannot have both as in Ye Goode Olde THD7);
- when volume is set to level 0 (of 32), there is still some audible
signal and noise (!)
- AM/FM broadcast is not always excellent, but you don't buy such a
transceiver to only listen broadcast music...
- the rubber cap protecting the "Ear" and "Ext DC" jacks will have
a hard life (to plug something, you have to fold it by more than
Menus and function keys are quite hard to navigate and even learn:
- the "Set Mode" menu does not allow the user to type the menu number
(imagine when you have to rotate the dial from option 55 to option
- the "Mode" key is used for both radio and APRS Set Modes, and
multiple or prolonged keypresses are often needed to access simple
- text input is... eerie! You have to press the "Mode" key to
advance to next character position! Hard times if you want to use
any messaging feature (APRS and others)...
- I think that adding a few keys (Enter and Esc) and allowing to
select multiple options using the numbered keys would have led to
a dramatically easier menu navigation;
The Most Annoying VX8 Firmware Bug: "Dial" and "Vol" functions
News, news! It is not a firmware bug. It is only a weird feature,
documented in small characters in the rightmost column of manual
If you hit the F button, release it, then hit the Vol button
on the left side of the radio, the "Dial" and "Vol" functions
are exchanged (top dial becomes direct volume control). To get
back to default operation, just hit again F and then Vol.
In this page I previously (and mistakenly) stated that a "full
microprocessor reset" (manual page 134) was required.
Thanks to Tim KI6BSF for pointing out it.
Other small firmware glitches:
- I don't like the "Power" key (a single key!) to be used for
- APRS icons descriptions are all there, but only a few of them
also have a graphical icon;
- battery-saving feature cycle should be configurable to lower
levels (200msec is good while talking; having a 80msec option
would be perfect for APRS; maybe it's only a firmware change...);
- I don't like that "NFM" label ("FM" was cleaner and simpler,
since most of the time we will use "Narrow FM"!), neither I like
that "A12"/"A96" labels (some "APRS" in normal or reversed color
would be nicer) or that "RM" (for "broadcast receive": an icon
- 10 seconds timeout after last keypress is somewhat short...
what about adding 30 and 60-sec?
- niiiice bright led, but sometimes I feel it was better to have
two of them (twice the light!)
I strongly miss:
- a "My Friends" menu where I would add my friends'
callsigns to hear a different beep sequence when one of their APRS
packets has been received, or to limit incoming APRS packets to their
callsigns only. This would come in very handy in lots of situations
(not only sports, and emergencies);
- a "Follow Me" feature (hit a callsign, be informed only on his
packets and have continuously update distance, heading and timer)
- a "Smart Beaconing" feature (progressively reduce beaconing
TX interval when GPS reports a somewhat high speed or locator change,
increase when low or null speed).
I do not know the Science of Marketing, but I guess that with some
little extra cost, a number of features was easy to add (SSB on 50MHz
band and below, AM transmit, a 3-pin serial port to use it as TNC or
GPS or morse key).
Now, the good news!
Problems always require many words to be correctly explained.
Good things, instead, only require a few words - this page section
is smaller than the one above.
First, let me say that I am happy because the VX-8 is worth every
Great band coverage, 5W output, complete APRS system (with a
GPS antenna that seems to receive better than my Garmin GPS),
small, thin (0.9"), light (less than 300g including GPS and
antenna), submersible, shockproof.
It has even "triple" band operation: in the photo below, the APRS
is working on the two-meter band, while listening broadcast AM
on 660 kHz (!), which will be automatically silenced if signal
incoming on the 70cm band.
Lots of configuration options: you can even tell the VX-8 to save
the energy by turning off the "Busy" LEDs.
Lots of gadgets: a simple flash light, a barometer, mini spectrum
scope, and other things... and even a CW rx training utility.
As far as I know, there are two versions of the Yaesu VX-8: the
"US version" (Yaesu VX-8R) and the "export version" (Yaesu VX-8E).
Main differences are:
- the VX-8R is "cellular blocked" (except a few "holes", most
of the 774 to 999.9 MHz band space is blocked);
- the VX-8R allows FM transmitting between 222 and 225 MHz
(but limited to 1.5W output).
More comments coming in next weeks...