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Chinese or Not? (4 replies and 4 comments)

2 years ago
DavidP 2 years ago

Hello All.

I am about to take My foundation exam in June, and would like to know if it is worth buying a Chinese radio, or a Yaesu or Icom. The price difference is around £100-£200 on some radios.  I would like a Yaesu FT7900D or something  on that line.


George M0URB
2 years ago
George M0URB 2 years ago

Hi David,

Welcome to the hobby!

There seem to be two schools of thought relating to this. One is "you get what you pay for". A radio from one of the "big three" manufacturers (Yaesu, Icom and Kenwood) will be more expensive, but the build quality is better (and the aftersales support, in case things go wrong). I'm not saying all cheap Chinese radios are bad or of poor quality, and I cannot speak from personal experience either, but they have a reputation for suffering from a lack of consistency in quality control. I found an apt comment on another forum which compared cheap Chinese radios to Bic lighters: "When they work, they usually work great, but when they quit working, you throw them away because you can't fix them." They can also be difficult to program without a cable and programming software (especially for a beginner). Combine that with a poorly written instruction manual, and it'll be frustration guaranteed.

The other school of thought is "start cheap and work your way up". This is your first radio and if you enjoy the hobby, chances are you will end up buying other radios over time. Get an inexpensive radio first, this will get you on the air. Over time you may find that you want better filters, better selectivity, other features, digital voice modes, etc. and decide to upgrade.

If you are after a handheld, the price difference isn't that great - £25-30 for a cheap Chinese radio from Amazon, compared with an entry level Yaesu FT-4XE dual band radio (just over £60 at Waters & Stanton/Nevada Radio/others).
The Yaesu FT-7900 is a nice radio (I've got one). Bear in mind that this is a mobile radio, not a handheld, and therefore probably a bit more expensive than a HT anyway. It seems that the FT-7900 has been discontinued recently and replaced by the FTM-7250DE, which costs about the same (around £220) but also has C4FM System Fusion, which is Yaesu's digital voice mode.

The bottom line is - there are pros and cons to buying a cheap Chinese radio, and there are pros and cons to buying a more expensive Yaesu/Kenwood/Icom radio.
The decision is one that you will have to make for yourself. Do you want reliability, a good manual, ease of use, or is your top priority to get a low cost radio?

Good luck for your exam in June!


1 year ago

I passed my Foundation early this month (thanks to Pete and Essexham), and had a similar dilemma. Largely from Pete's recommendation of Yaesu gear on his Tuesday chats, I decided to get the Yaesu FT-65E handheld, VHF and UHF (£85.90 including postage from Nevada, similar price at others). This seems to give me all the basics to get started, it feels very solid and and not too expensive as handhelds go.
We are hoping to move house next year (a better radio location?), COVID etc. premitting, so I am happy to wait to get into HF until I can plan a permanent shack, and decent antennae, and in the meantime will start work on the Intermediate exam.
Interestingly the FT-65E is made in China, but this isn't now unusual for a lot of electronic gear and a "good" brand usually guarantees quality.....I'm told the more expensive Yaesu sets are made in Japan if that's important to you in choosing.

10 months ago

Funny that china can produce a DMR plus 2meter & 70Cm radio at a price under, or just over £100. I bought an Retevis RT3s and very pleased with it. Using a hotspot and Hull repeater to talk on Brandmeister, around the world. Thinking of a Yaesu mobile soon.

1 year ago
AdriHD 1 year ago

Also as a foundation license holder, the FT7900D is 40~50w output so you won't be allowed to broadcast at those levels until you complete your intermediate.


At foundation level, 10 watts erp, is your maximum. Personally I found that a cheap and cheerful handheld PMR was enough to start off with. All you need is a dual band V/UHF unit. You can pick then up for an extra nothing on amazon and other websites these days.


One issue though wit the cheaper PMR's is that there is zero support out there other than user forums and user groups..

1 year ago
DavidP 1 year ago

After I passed My exam I thought about this, and bought a Retevis RT3S. best investment, as I cannot afford £100s.  All the QSOs cannot tell the differance between Retevis and the more expensive brands.  Retevis has on online backup service as well.


Peter M0PWX (2E0PWX)
1 year ago

i have been thinking about my first rig since i thought about doing my foundation

noticed in the RSGB foundation book a brand called Xeigu, found they had a good online community on groups.io, settled on the G90 (20w HF rig covering all bands 160mtr to 10 mtr) under £400 new SDR based, as very little VHF/UHF activity near me 

i managed to pick on up a few months old, with digimode interface, stand with cooling can etc for a fair price

been running it RX only for a few weeks and very impressed, passed foundation today so looking forward to getting on the air in the next week or so :)

1 year ago

G90 is a cracking little rig, you will be surprised what can be done with one. The manual is a bit light but there is a lot of info out there if you surf the net. The facebook group has a lot of info and the UK importer is very helpful.

Peter M0PWX (2E0PWX)
1 year ago

thanks chris, got my certificate from RSGB today, so will get my callsign later and then find out what it can do :)
certainly receive side is cracking, i have heard 130+ countries including Australia and NZ on FT8, will love to see if i can get down there as well as hear them :)

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