Yaesu has finally discontinued the Yaesu FT-818. For me, this was long overdue!
I have been a Yaesu FT-81x owner since just after its European release, more than two decades ago. I have great memories taking this radio along on my travels through North Africa, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Czech, Poland, Estonia, The Alps, Italy and most places around and in between.
At the time, this radio was cutting edge! With its size and capabilities, it would be a while until the little Yaesu radio had any competitors. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t without its issues, though we all found ways to make do.
Yaesu says “parts availability” is the reason for discontinuing the radio. I can’t prove or disprove that statement, but the release of the Elecraft KXx, Icom IC-705, Lab599 Discovery TX500, Xiegu X5105 and X6100 could also have something to do with it. Here’s why.
The FT-817 had
- Too high RX current
- Extremely poor battery life
- Ridiculously slow charging
- A difficult to read display
- Could accommodates only one filter
- Poor buying options for filters
- No DSP
The aftermarket did a great job coming up with accessories for the FT-81x. We could find everything from DSP boards, compressor microphones, dual filters, lithium-ion battery packs, antenna tuners, amps, … The aftermarket (and brand loyalty) helped keep the little pragmatic Yaesu going, long Beyond its sell-by date. It’s demise is bittersweet.
When the FT-818 was released, that too was bittersweet. Yaesu had ignored every single bit feedback, users had given them. It was essentially the same radio, although the change in model number would make an original owner think otherwise. I did a video on the release of the 818, calling it a fail. The fail was in terms of expectations from the original owners. No faster charging, no filter capacity increase, no antenna tuner, no lithium based battery,.. the marketing team did an excellent job! So good in fact, I swore never to buy another Yaesu! If they would simply have called it FT-817mk3, no one would have complained!
Despite my urges to do so, my Yaesu FT-818 release video didn’t bash the radio or the company. Instead, it focused on what the rig lacked. Surprisingly, that list of missing features was exactly the same as it was for the 817. When a company ignores it’s customer base long enough, the customers will eventually say goodbye. I did!
After watching Yaesu kill off the excellent FT-897 field radio, I suspected their field radio division was under attack. Yaesu also sold off Vertex Standard. Vertex Standard is where much of their field radio expertise came from. Even today, the current consumption of rigs like the vx1210 is epic. Rugged radios designed for rugged conditions. The 817 and 818 were born of this lineage. This is also true for the 897. Yaesu, what the heck were you thinking?
Yaesu placed its focused on contesting radios ever since! Somehow I believe they thought we were such fanboys, we would never abandon the little 81x. For those with a smaller budget, that may have been true. Thinking they really had no choice other than to stick with an 817 or 818, only to find out what a money pit the radio actually was. For those willing to risk it while still on a budget, the Xiegu X5105 & X6100 plus a V/UHF handheld we’re much better options. For those with bigger budgets, Elecraft KXx, Icom IC-705 & Discovery TX500 collectively abandoned the now substandard FT-818.Don’t get me wrong though! I loved the freedom I had with the 81x. Unfortunately, it was easy to outgrow unless one was willing to dump lots of cash into it for the extras.
People often say I sound bitter, but I’m not. Disappointed by the Yaesu marketing bull**** is a better way to describe it. They hyped the 818 so much, it was easy to believe we were finally getting the features we asked for. When the Icom IC-705 found a new home in my go bag, the idea was switching between them, for field radio ops. Honestly, that didn’t happen! After using the 705 in the field, using the 81x was like trying to drink water from a bucket of sand. It certainly isn’t fair to compare the two radios. One was designed in the late 90s while the other one, is The Cutting Edge of today’s technology. Even with this stupid MicroUSB port on the 705, I wouldn’t trade that radio for a dozen 818s. The 818 can’t hear! It’s receiver is ridiculously poor. There are things I can hear with the IC-705 and the TX500 that are completely inaudible on the 81x. The Fanboys will say, “just wait until the propagation comes back”. This is utter nonsense! I’m using my radio right here right now. So it has to have the tools needed to pull those weak signals out of the noise. The 81x just can’t do it efficiently!
Okay let’s finalize this blog. Yaesu may very well be “working on something” in the background, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Parts availability is a good out for the 818. If they are working on a new 818 alternative for the field radio operator, it will be nearly impossible to outdo performance and capabilities of the IC-705, TX500, KX2/3 & x6100. Yaesu should probably try to buy out Lab599. This way we won’t get another current hungry contest radio with a side handle so they can call it “portable”.