Product Reviews

Yaesu FT-857D Review [Portable Ham Radio]

Yaesu FT-857D Review [Portable Ham Radio]

New ham operators wishing to transition from using the cheaper handheld ham radios like the Baofeng are usually at a loss on what kind of device to choose. Due to budgetary constraints, their options could be limited to mobile devices like the Yaesu FT 857D. 

This Yaesu FT-857D review gives an insight into the world of small portable mobile ham radios. Though small, the features are adequate for ham radio operators. They are also good as the main communication hub for outdoor activities such as camping and hiking, and to monitor RF chatter for fun or during emergencies. 

Though the Yaesu FT-857D is not the best mobile ham radio one can get, its combination of affordability, simplicity, and easy portability amongst other factors stands it out as a decent amateur radio. 

Yaesu FT-857D Review 

Description 

At about 2 X 9 x6 inches, the radio is very small and compact. The almost 5 lbs weight points to a chunkiness that can be disconcerting at first. You’d be made aware of this weight if you are carrying it in a backpack. That it is one of the smallest transceivers today says a lot about how big and heavy transceivers are generally.

If you bought it new, you would get the following items in the box in addition to the radio:

  • Radio’s front panel
  • The separation kit with the screws 
  • Operating  manual 
  • Warranty card 
  • Hand mic
  • Mounting bracket and screws 
  • A couple of 25 amp fuses 
  • Power cables with 6-point plugs
  • Rj45 connector for data connection

The front panel of the radio comes separately from the main device. This has a couple of advantages. If the radio is mounted in your car, you could detach and take it away with you. That makes it less likely that the radio would be stolen. 

Secondly, it makes the installation convenient and flexible. For instance, you could mount the radio in the boot of your car while having the front panel in the car with you. 

The face/front panel of the radio comes with a port to connect an external mic like a DTMF mic. It is the operational hub of the device with an LCD and all the knobs and buttons you’d use around it. These include volume, SQL/RF, Select, Dial knobs as well as buttons to access the menus and sub-menus. 

The radio itself comes with several ports and connectors at the back. These include the two antenna connectors for HF and VHF/UHF operations and data cable port. 

At the bottom of the radio is the stand. This is used to incline the front of the radio if you decide to use it on a desk instead of mounting it in your car.

Installation

With the mounting bracket and screws, you need just a compatible screwdriver to set it up in your vehicle. It is straightforward especially if this isn’t your first time. You could refer to the manual for all the mounting instructions.

Some users have complained about the manual being too tortuous to read. That is true to a large extent. The simple workaround is to download the online version. You won’t have any problems understanding it.

In terms of power, it comes with a maximum power input of about 22 amps so you have to make sure your power supply can match that. And remember to stick to the fused power cord that comes with it when are installing it in your vehicle. It wasn’t designed to plug into a cigarette lighter.

Features and Operations

The 857D is the newest version of this model and with the ‘D’ version, they have added 60 meters and included what used to be an optional feature, the DSP unit.

The features of this radio are really nice, it gives you a very effective DSP noise reduction, adjustable DSP filtering. which allows you to customize the radio’s audio to eliminate interference and unwanted noise. 

The tuning knob is large, ergonomic and easy to use. The front panel display is large and comes with a variety of lighter colors with contrast so you can choose which one best suits your mood. The backlight and contrast feature also ensures you can view the panel in any light situation. 

All the functions around the front panel and tuning knob and over the top of the device are very ergonomic and easy to use. 

Menu access – The function button is the primary means of getting into the menu. Simply press it once to get access to the various sub-menus using the Select know to scroll through them. You can then adjust your tones, ARTS, searching, scan, setting priority channels or frequencies and so on. 

Display color – One thing you would like it the ability to customize the display color for different operational status conditions. For instance, you could set it to display various colors depending on the ARTS status, or according to meter indication. So you could have different colors for signal strength and power output. 

Of course, to change the color, you must go through the menu. It is quite easy if you have mastered how to navigate the menu. You have the option of choosing over 30 colors. 

Noise reduction – The noise reduction feature works pretty well. So that is a big bonus especially if you are living in an area with much RF activity. The RF ‘noise’ might make it hard to hear what is coming through if the signal is not so strong but the noise reduction function suppresses the unwanted noise effectively 

 

Optional accessories to consider

The radio is compatible with lots of optional accessories to improve the user experience. These include optional CW SSB filters; high-stability oscillators if you want to work in the digital mode; DTMF hand mic that lets you use auto-patch capability; while the keypads on the mic will make frequency entry easier making tuning within bands more convenient. 

The screwdriver-style antenna system on the 857D ensures you can easily get high-quality compatible antennas for the radio. You’d need just one coax connection for it and the antenna would be effective for VHF/UHF, and 6 – 40 meters bands on HF

Some things you might not like

You might want to get an external speaker because the internal speaker is below par in terms of sound quality. It gets worse if you increase the volume way up to hear better. The sound then turns to that squeaky output that many people find irritating. 

The controls are cramped, with too much hidden down in the menus. Many people have given up the device because they found the menu too complicated with so many sub-menus to navigate.

In poor light, the AF/SQL/RF dials on the 857D are difficult to make out because there are no colored marks on either dial except the physical marks. On the AF dial, there is an indentation and on the SQL dial is a ridge that is more pronounced than the other ridges. Without colored marks, it is hard to see the positions at the best of times. It is even harder to see in low-light conditions. 

You could redress this by using paints that are phosphorescent to paint over the indentation and relevant ridge. This allows you to see the marks clearly during daylight and in low light situations since the paint glows in the dark. 

Yaesu FT-857D Review: Features and Specifications of the

  • Output is 100W 6-160M on FM-SSB-CW (25W AM carrier), & 50W VHF 2 meter, 20W UHF 70cm bands
  • RX: 0.1-56MHz, 76-108MHz, 118-164MHz, 420-470MHz
  • Synthesizer steps (min): 10Hz (CW/SSB), 100Hz (AM/FM/WFM)
  • 200 memories
  • DSP bandpass filter, auto notch filter, noise reduction, mic equalizer
  • 2 SO-239 Antenna outputs, one for 0-54Mhz, the other for VHF/UHF
  • 2.5W speaker
  • CW trainer
  • VOX Automatic repeater shift
  • ARTS system
  • Spectrum scope
  • Bright LCD with a multi-color display
  • Detachable front panel

Pros

  • Full-featured affordable transceiver
  • Dialing VHF repeater is easy
  • Compact and lightweight for easy portability
  • Two ways to access the menu
  • Access to all the bands
  • Full DSP functionality

Cons

  • Poor internal speakers
  • Complicated menu

Conclusion 

Mainly due to its compact, small size and affordability, the 857D is one of the most sought transceivers. You could easily set up a full ham radio operation with a small budget. 

As this Yaesu FT-857D review shows, it is a nice radio if you can get over the menu systems. Even experienced users take about half an hour to navigate and learn enough about the menu. But if you stick to it and set it up the way you want, you might not need to go back to the menus again.

Once you get used to the menus, you’d be pleasantly surprised by its intuitiveness.

 

Related Post: If you enjoy my Yaesu FT-857D review, don’t hesitate to check out my other review of Yaesu handhelds.

 

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