13 Feb 2013

FT817 v KX3

People who own the Elecraft KX3 generally rate it very highly as it is a very feature rich product with  an excellent receiver. However to buy one with all the features such as the auto ATU and the internal battery box is EXPENSIVE. For the price of one fully loaded KX3 one could buy 2 well proven FT817ND transceivers.

One has to question whether the KX3 truly is worth the extra cost. Although a trail friendly radio, the KX3 does have a messy cabling interface with wires everywhere, it would appear, from both sides! By contrast, the FT817 has simple, clean interfaces and is as happy in the field, in your hands or on a desktop.  The KX3 looks functional, but hardly a thing if beauty.

I'd be interested to hear the views if others.

This video, by Jim Mullen, is the first part of 2 that compare the RX of the KX3 and FT817.


PE4BAS, Bas said...

Hi Roger,

The KX3 is much much better. I know because I don't have one ;-)

So far I'm satisfied with the FT817ND.

73, Bas

Dick said...

So am I. Satisfied with my FT-817ND, that is. If only the 817 had a larger display, sigh. Happy to note a couple new good-looking QRP kits on the market for those who don't have deep pockets. 73 Dick

David Cope said...

Great industrial design seems missing from most modern amateur equipment. KX3 in point - pure function over style. From Elecraft's perspective that may not seem all that important - but your not the first to comment on the ergonomic issues of the KX3. How about the TS-990? It's decadent use of switches, knobs and displays has male insecurity written all over it IMHO.

Off course when function follows style that too leads to poor usability. The hard part is getting the two in balance. Consider the Braun SE-104 [Rigpix]I think it's the same Braun company famous for it's industrial design made possible my Dieter Rams [Wikipedia]. Clean, functional with an interface that even I could use within five minutes of switching it on to first QSO.

Clearly that radio is not trying to be all things to all people, which is why I personally think it's design works - design constraints with a clear vision I believe are ingredients to good product.

That's why I think I'm drawn to QRP, many of Dieter Rams's design principles do seem a good fit for the ethos of QRP.

Apologies for the long comment, but you've touched on a subject that is close to my heart.

73 David.

Paul PC4T said...

I love my FT817, never had such a small, solid state all mode transceiver, and very functional. 73 Paul

Steve Wigg said...

Certainly I would not run Elecraft down, they certainly know what they are doing and their service is second to none. I would like to own a KX3, but the price is the stumbling block, too high for a kit, maybe ok in its own market? If it came near the FT-817 price I would be more interested.

The FT-817ND does everything I have wanted, Portable, Mobile, and Home. At the time I purchased my 817 the exchange rate was good, the cost was only £349 unbeatable! Worth every penny.

Still at todays UK prioe of around £549 there is still nothing to beat the 817 for a good all rounder in a small box which represents VFM, well done Yaesu!

73 G1KQH

Anonymous said...

Hello Roger

I want to try and make this a balanced comment. I have owned the FT817 for many years now. It is an original version not ND, etc. I have also just received a KX3 and have spent a week getting to know it.

I realise that the KX3 is more expensive but I believe that it is so much better performance than the FT817 that I don't think that they should be compared in the same league.

The differences include; option to add an internal atu (a very, very flexible atu too - rather than the typical internal atu of so many rigs), more power out, a far superior receiver that can be used in any circumstances, built in dsp (amongst the very best noise reduction systems I have heard) and variable filtering with notch facilities, built in punchy audio, built in digital mode and cw decoder, CW key to PSK converter, much lower current drain, psuedo stereo receive, one of the quietest receivers I have heard, etc.

If you wanted to add dsp noise reduction, a fixed bandwidth CW filter, a linear amplifier, an MFJ decoder, a speech compressor, etc., the FT817+ would cost more but would still not offer the fundamental core performance of the KX3.

The FT817 wins over the KX3 in that it has 2m and 70cm built in but the receive performance is poor - high noise and folds up under big signal conditions on the Tuesday activity nights. Some also prefer the build style of the FT817 but personally I do not find it as ergonomically versatile as the KX3 and I have to say, once time is taken to understand where all the controllability is and how to access it (a couple of evenings) I find the KX3 much easier and intuitive to use. Of course, there will be a built in 2m facility for the KX3 in the future but it will add to the cost as it is an option.

Most of my other transceiver equipment is either vintage or home-built and I felt quite guilty in the first instance at going for the KX3 there might be a bit of bias as the KX3 is new to my 'stable' but I do feel that the cost is justified. I know that the KX3 will get pretty much daily use in both base and portable station modes and I cannot say that has ever been the case with any other transceiver whether an 'investment' in cash or many hours of designing and building my own lower-power rig.

If I were to compare the transceivers on a VALUE basis, I would choose KX3. If on a cost basis, clearly the FT817 would have to be the choice.

Anyway, forgive the bandwidth.

Kind regards and 73
Philip G4HOJ

g4fre said...

The KX3 wins for me because I can actually read the display!



YO9IRF said...

I started to write a reply here but it became so long that it ended up on my blog. If i'm not bothering you too much, here's the link:


Anonymous said...

I agree FT-817ND is better than KX3 - in all aspects . Even in reception as we can see from video test .
Most significant drawback of KX3 is it is overpriced .

Larry said...

Which is better depends on how one compares the KX3 to the FT-817. If you compare the KX3 to the FT-817 using the features of the FT-817 then they are about equal. The features that both have are about equal. So if you are satisfied with the FT-817 there is no point to buying the KX3.

However; the KX3 has many more attributes than the FT-817. It is a much more feature rich radio. Also harder to learn to use. Trying to say they are equal in performance is ludicrous. Start a comparison between the two by looking at the features of the KX3 and then try to match them with the FT-817 is just simply not possible.

When the abilities of the KX3 are considered it is worth every penny. When the abilities of the FT-817 are considered it is also worth every penny. But they are not equal radios. This is a case of you get what you pay for. In the case of the KX3 you get what you pay for and then some, since it is software based and is easily updated.

There are valid reasons for buying either one, but they are comparable only in that they are both portable.

The biggest knock against the KX3 is ergonomics. It is a piss poor physical design. Actually I use the word design pretty loosely here. I don't think there is much design to it. But operationally it is equal to many much more expensive radios. Certainly superior in that regard to the FT-817.