Thursday, March 01, 2018

A KX2 to FT-818 Comparison

All of you out there know that I am an Elecraft person, through and through. I love my KX3(s) and would not give them up for anything.  I don't own a KX2 (BTW, I know a few people who DO own one of every rig that Elecraft sells. Talk about dedicated!) but came across the following comparison by Wayne N6KR on the Elecraft reflector, and I thought it would be interesting to post, especially as it relates to my immediately previous report about the Yaesu FT-818. So here it is:

A number of customers considering the KX2 have asked us how it compares to the newly announced Yaesu FT-818. The latter is an updated ‘817, with a bit higher power output.

In terms of form factor, the ‘818 is essentially unchanged from the ‘817. So it’s worth asking again: just how “ultra portable” can an HF radio be?

Here’s how the KX2 stacks up:

--- Half the size ---

   The KX2 occupies 24 cubic inches, vs. 52 cubic inches for the ‘818. With dimensions about that of a medium-sized HT, the KX2 is truly pocket-sized.

--- Half the weight ---

   At just 13 ounces, the KX2 weighs 60% less than the ‘818. For hikers or backpackers, this means well over a pound of total weight saved. The light weight of the KX2 is also compatible with extended hand-held operation.

--- Twice the power output ---

   The KX2 puts out up to 12 watts on 80-20 m and 10 watts on 17-10 m. This is roughly twice the FT-818’s max output (6 watts). The KX2 also includes highly effective speech compression (not included with the ‘818). Taken together, these advantages translate to more QSOs, especially in difficult conditions.

--- 50% more battery power ---

   The FT-818’s internal battery, at 18 watt-hours, has more capacity than the FT-817’s. But the KX2’s internal battery has still greater capacity -- 24 watt-hours. This extra 50% allows you to operate longer between recharges.

--- One third the current drain ---

   Typical receive-mode current drain of the KX2 is 150 mA. The FT-818, at about 400 mA, is nearly three times higher. The KX2’s lower current, combined with the larger battery size, works out to over 4 times longer operating time RX-only, or 2 to 3 times longer for typical transceive operation.

--- Built-in ATU ---

   The KX2 has a wide-range internal ATU option that allows multi-band use of ad-hoc field antennas, whips, etc. There’s no need to carry a separate antenna tuner, loading coils, or even coax: just attach a wire or collapsible whip directly to the radio, and let the ATU do the work.

--- DSP ---

   Unlike the ‘818 or ‘817, the KX2 includes digital signal processing (32-bit I.F. DSP). This provides a wide range of features typically found only on desktop radios, including: adjustable noise reduction and noise blanking, auto-notch, variable filter bandwidth/shift, audio peaking filter for CW, full stereo receive, and RX/TX EQ. You can even listen on both VFO A and B frequencies at the same time (dual watch).

--- Built-in data modes ---

   The KX2 offers built-in PSK31, PSK63, RTTY, and CW encode/decode, with text displayed on its alphanumeric LCD. CW and data-mode QSOs can even be logged internally, then sent to a PC when you return from a field outing. A computer can be connected to the KX2 via the supplied USB cable (for text display/keyboard) or via the headphone/mic jacks (for FT8 and other audio-based data modes).

--- Built-in mic, keyer paddle, and tilt stand ---

   You can use either an external mic (MH4) or the KX2’s internal mic. The internal mic is positioned optimally for HT-style operation. In CW and DATA modes, you can use an external paddle, or directly attach our KXPD2, which weighs only one ounce and uses the rig itself as the base. For table-top use, the KX2 features a fold-out tilt-stand. This creates a 3-point mount that also works well on rough surfaces (ground, rocks, etc.).

--- Large, easy-to-read display ---

   The KX2’s display is five times larger than the FT818’s, with separate VFO A and B fields, S/RF-meter and DSP passband graphic, icons showing operating state, and alphanumeric text capability. In addition, the KX2’s LCD is transflective; it is highly readable in direct sunlight. The backlight is highly efficient and can be turned off to further increase battery life.

The KX2 starts at $769, factory assembled. For additional details, see:

A few notes on the KX3

The KX3 is a bit larger than the KX2, though still smaller/lighter than competing all-band portables. It includes the following additional features:  160 and 6 meters; 2 or 4 meter optional internal transverter; nearly twice as many direct controls; and RX I/Q outputs for use with our PX3 panadapter or computer sound cards. The KX3 is available factory assembled or as a no-soldering kit.

KX3 details:

So there you have it.  I know, I'm biased! And while I readily admit that I am indeed biased towards Elecraft, I would never denigrate anyone's differing opinion. My passion is portable ops and I just feel that as far as that goes, Elecraft gives you some of the best options available - especially for portable ops!.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


  1. Nice hate on Yaesu column Larry. This is very much out of character. What were you thinking? I get that you are all in on the KX line, but geez, lot's of other folks are doing the 817/818 gig too.

    So are you going to change your tag line to "Elecraft QRP - The only way to send the very least" ?

  2. I usually don't get into answering comments - but I can;t let this one go by, because I said that I would never denigrate anyone's differing opinion:

    For the record - I stated - "Now don't get me wrong - the FT-817 has been a very fine piece of Amateur Radio equipment. It has a large fan base and a loyal customer base. It is a top notch performer and there are a lot of very satisfied users."

    That I like Elecraft is no secret. But I would kindly ask you to search this entire blog - all 13 years of it and point out where I have torn apart, put down, or otherwise panned ANYONE else's brand of Amateur Radio equipment.

    Mike, seriously ....... if you've bought into the idea that my personal opinion which can differ from yours is "hate", then why would I say the FT-817 is a top notch piece of equipment? I respect your opinion and I respect that it may differ from mine - but I'll refrain from the snark and sarcasm.

    Have a great day and a great weekend!
    Larry W2LJ

  3. Thank you for the response Larry. Your statement, "But I would kindly ask you to search this entire blog - all 13 years of it and point out where I have torn apart, put down, or otherwise panned ANYONE else's brand of Amateur Radio equipment." is exactly the point I was trying to make. I've not known you to be so harsh before. Ever.

    I think we are on the same page. I'm certainly not trying to start any kind of flame situation.

    BTW I do not own an FT817. I'm strictly a cw only guy with a very tiny HB-1B, so I've got no skin in the game.


  4. As a keen Yaesu man over nearly 40 years I am EXTREMELY disappointed by the FT818. It looks like they have done the very minimum possible. Yaesu looks like a company in deep trouble. Much as I hate to say this, it would not surprise me if Yaesu went bust within 5 years. I was expecting so much more. They have lost the plot in my view. I love the FT817 but, like many, I expect to give the FT818 a miss.

    1. Indeed, deeply disappointed with the 818.
      I keep a KX2 now, having sold a plethora of QRP kit recently.

  5. Perhaps Michael was just saying that the comparison was too biased and one sided. A truely useful comparison doesn’t only showcase the areas in which one radio excels. We can turn to compony liturature for that. When a user posts a comparison blog, readers expect a little more fairness and honesty in the comparisons than they might get from a manufacture comparison. Maybe a mention of yeasu’s toughness or the additional bands, for example. These items might be of little importance to you but as an honest and helpful reviewer, you should not asume that they are of equally little importance to your readers looking for some good, helpful, honest, side by side comparisons online so that they can make a truley informed purchase.

  6. Except that this wasn't a product review. As I explained, it was the reposting of an article found on the Elecraft reflector. So granted, yes, it was "one sided" if you will. For the record, again..... nowhere was it stated or implied that Yaesu equipment is inferior or anything other than some of the finest Amateur Radio gear available today. Personally, I have owned Yaesu VHF/UHF gear and never had anything but the highest regard for their equipment. Yes, I did post an article that pointed out areas where Elecraft can exceed in areas of portable operation, but these are all factual, it's not like they were made up or manufactured. So I'm sorry I'd I offended anyone, but please .... let's not make this post to be something it isnt.

  7. I love my KX3. (Sorry, don't have a KX2.) I use it just about every day, while my FT-817 is in a box right now. If I had to get rid of every rig but one, which one would I keep? (I have several Kenwood and Yaesu rigs besides these, BTW.) I would keep the FT-817. Despite being heavier, using more current, having a less sensitive receiver, and less output power than comparable choices, it's a more universal rig with 6m, 2m, and 440. I can use it on HF/VHF/UHF, and it's a very satellite capable rig. And it's a fun rig.

    N6KR's analysis is technically correct, but I think it's typical of an analysis that one might see from an engineer. There is more to the comparison than pure numbers and not everyone is looking for ultra-portability, all the time.

    What I would really like to see from Elecraft is a rig that would truly beat the FT-817/818, looking at this more holistically: include VHF and UHF natively (no expensive add on boards), have a robust chassis like the FT-817 but be lighter, and have a speaker that doesn't exhibit resonances like the KX3 speaker, be closer to the FT-817 in price, and not require a host of options to be installed. Also, how about a USB audio codec built in, or {gasp} Bluetooth included?

  8. The article would be more appropriately called "A KX2 praise", as it is way too polarized to be considered a "comparison". None of the advantages of the FT-817/8 are mentioned (bands coverage, price, ruggedness, you get a complete working product etc) and some of the flagrant flaws of the KX2 are deliberately left out (a portable/field radio with holes in the case so the PCB is visible ? remove the battery every time you need to charge it ? proeminent & fragile buttons ? poor thermal design ?). Also, some of the KX2's options (battery, ATU) are considered advantages but they are not taken into account when talking about weight or price ?!

    Also, there is confusion between battery power, battery capacity and current draw. It doesn't affect the numbers too much (RX time is about 3.6x not "over 4x"), but it's another thing that leaves the impression the article is just a big Elecraft ad.

    Leaving all that aside, the FT-818 is a joke, but for completely different reasons. Yaesu has lost touch with reality and unless they have a complete new line of products based on technology that came out after Y2K, their future looks terrible. The FT-991 was a major failure (partially fixed by the FT-991A), the FT-65 is a rebadged Baofeng and their latest radio is designed in 1998, while in the meantime they struggle to push useless commercial technologies to amateurs by subsidizing repeaters that no one really needs.

    Razvan (M0HZH / YO9IRF)

    1. Absolutely. Couldn't have said it better.

  9. Razvan, I share your sentiments in regards to the 818. It's a major disappointment from Yaesu. They shouldn't have given it a new model number, it should be the FT-817NE or FT-817ND+ or something. While I love my 817, it's long in the tooth in several ways. I would never invest in a new one right if I was on the market for one, it's an Ebay rig. (I may get another used one just to have an 817 "stack" for portable satellite operation.)

    Everyone has been asking for years when there would be an 817 replacement. Apparently Yaesu marketing and product line management people aren't in tune with their customers. This FT-818 along with their discontinuance of the FT-897 with no apparently replacement has me scratching my head. Kenwood could walk right into this market segment, if they had the wherewithal. From the looks of their Dayton teaser advertisement, they're going to be releasing another multi-kilobuck HF desk rig.

  10. Anonymous12:03 PM

    I have a KX2 and FT-817non-ND. Both are good radios but very different. Backpacking, I take the KX2. Any other kind of portable operation, I take the FT-817. The KX2 is delicate and has been back to Elecraft several times for repair. The 817 is bullet proof and has never needed service. I'll buy a 818 when the 817 no longer functions. I'm happy Yaesu has continued to offer the radio, upgraded with obsolete parts replaced.

  11. I've been an FT-817 user for many years now and for my needs the Elecraft offerings and the Chinese rigs wouldn't do. But, I too am WAY disappointed in the new FT-818. My FT-817nd is exactly the same and I feel that Yaesu really missed the boat here and lost a grand opportunity to stay king of the hill in the QRP all-band all-mode arena.

    I am glad though that Yaesu chose not to end the FT-817 line altogether.

  12. Thomas F4HPX4:26 AM

    I have both radios too and I must say KX2 is the one I am taking on holidays overseas, because lighter, less energy consuming, higher power (mainly SSB) and I have an optional tuner inside.
    But I do not plan to sell my 817ND because I prefer to have VHF/UHF all together including SSB and baofeng does not fill that gap plus additional charger to carry and so on.
    Of course FT817 feels much better on harsh conditions than pretty delicate KX2 and was not really disappointed using it apart when noisy conditions maybe (mine does not have any external DSP circuit added and that would solve this issue). So for bad weather 817ND goes with me.

  13. Anonymous5:34 PM

    The KX2 has excellent modern technology but is delicate and vulnerable with cheap knobs and construction v the dated but Multi purpose featured FT817/818 in a comparatively robust construction.
    The 817/818 has a very compact paperback form factor while the KX2 is more of a light brick.

  14. I appreciate this comparison. I do not own any rigs yet. I am simply studying for my technician and general along with learning Morse Code. I am a retired science teacher who decided to study amateur radio simply as my next interest of learning. I have about thirty e-books, mostly ARRL, that I want to read before taking the exams. My wife is on this journey with me as well, so we will enjoy learning Morse Code together. Until about a week ago, I was not going to buy a rig at all. In my readings, I had not found any specific niche in this hobby that I was prepared to delve into. It was SOTA/POTA through QRP CW that hooked me. I have narrowed down my search to an Elecraft KX2, but I keep looking because I do not plan on a purchase for about a year. We plan to finish reading "Zen and The Art of Telegraphy" before starting our training program. We have bought two paddles and a practice oscillator that will allow us to grow together in our skill.

    So... This was a very fair and fact filled comparison. It was helpful for me to understand the differences in the two units. I disagree with those who believed it to be a knock on the brand or model. However, I have come to understand allegiances cause us all to see things through stain glassed windows.