Before we get started, I encourage you to take a look at the first post in this series, https://oh8stn.org/blog/2020/08/23/discovery-tx-500-by-lab599/
I’ve spent nearly three weeks with this radio now, and it has been an absolute blast! It is extremely refreshing to finally have a ham radio manufacturer, come up with a rugged radio we can actually use in the field. This with very little fear of actually damaging the radio. In fact, I tossed this radio in a pouch, tossed that pouch in a backpack. Once I arrived in Lapland, pulled it out only to get deployed in light rain. Even at only a few degrees above freezing, operating was flawless.
These are the type of things you can’t test or observe, when doing a desktop review of this radio. This radio belongs out in the field!Julian oh8stn
Since testing of the Discovery TX-500 began, I’ve been asked a couple of interesting questions.
How does the Discovery tx- compare against the Elecraft KX series?
The Elecraft KX series is kind of the benchmark, for lightweight portable ham radio. Here are a couple of points where the TX-500 was better engineered than the KXx.
- TX-500 has an rx current draw of ~100ma with backlight on. This is all day, every day, no voodoo magic required.
- The TX-500 solves the well-known KX overheating problem, by implementing a CNC machined aluminium enclosure. The enclosure acts as a rugged housing, port anchor, and heat dissipation for the final stage of the radio. This as opposed to the plastic box used in the KX series.
- The TX-500 is HF/6m vs 80-10 meters for the KX2, or HF/6M with optional 2M with a KX3.
- Weather protection! With the tx500, there’s no need to pack up and go home, because of light rain, snow, …
How does the TX-500 compare to the FT-81x?
For someone interested in 2 meter and 70cm, they wouldn’t be considering the TX-500. For those looking for a reliable HF/6m option, here’s a few things to consider when compared to the ft-81x.
- Filters are already built into the TX-500. For the ft-818, they need to be purchased separately. Moreover, only a single filter board can be added to the ft-818. So you have to pick one, either CW 500 Hertz or 300 Hertz, or SSB which is wider. This is a non-issue with the tx500.
- DSP is included with the TX-500. With the ft-818, it must be added as a third-party aftermarket part.
- RX current draw is 1/3 of the ft-818. This means we can operate longer, while using smaller batteries.
- The TX-500 has 10 watts output versus the 6 watts of the ft-818.
- The well-known FT-817/818 overheating problem is solved on the tx500 with a machined aluminium enclosure, which dissipates heat effectively.
- The tx-500 has a large daylight readable display.
What antennas have you used with the discovery tx-500?
I’ve been using resonant antennas, primarily the super antenna mp1 with a longer whip. This is essentially a quarter wave vertical shortened with some loading. I’ve also use the chameleon mpas, with their new telescopic whip. The telescopic whip allows tuning for best SWR.
I’ve also used magnetic loop antennas. The tx500 does not have an internal antenna tuner, which is okay. So some thought must go into a resonant antenna, when you’re considering deployment of this radio.
I think the bottom line here is most of us have never heard of the company producing the Discovery tx-500. So the Distributors will take the risk, and be our primary sales and support interface. This is perfectly fine if you have a good relationship with your favorite Ham radio shop. The TX-500 tested came from Pileup DX. This is also where my preorder is coming from.
We certainly do have quite a few radio choices in the community these days. It’s nice to see smaller manufacturers stepping up to offer features and functionality, the larger manufacturers have failed to provide us over the years.
If you’d like to order the Discovery TX-500 from Lab599, you can get them from Pileupdx in Sweden.
73, Julian oh8stn