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Chinese or Not? (1 reply and 1 comment)

4 months ago
DavidP 4 months 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 M6LKL
4 months ago
George M6LKL 4 months 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!


3 months 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.

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