That is the question I see posted so often in forums and groups. Do you go for the Yaesu FT3D or the Kenwood TH-D74? Well I actually chose the D74 and then later added the FT3, so I'm in the fortunate position to be able to compare both of them side by side AND compare DSTAR with FUSION.
Let me say right from the start that this is no technical test and there'll be no oscilloscopes involved, 😂 - it's just plain old amateur me and my very amateur opinions. You will have your opinions and I will respect them, so please respect mine 😉
I fully appreciate that not many people can afford (or even want) to spend £600 (at launch) on a handheld transceiver, but I was lucky enough to have the funds available and I was obviously happy to spend it, since I am the owner of what is probably the most expensive Amateur HT every made - the Kenwood TH-D74.
The 74 is an awesome bit of kit and it just oozes quality! Kenwood's cutting-edge piece of portable technology is the first to incorporate APRS and DSTAR.
In the US markets, the D74 is a tribander with 144/220/430MHz coverage, but here in Europe we don't get the 220. It has a wideband, multimode receiver covering 0.1 to 524MHz.
Operating modes include CW, LSB, USB, AM, FM, WFM and DSTAR of course. Being able to listen to HF stations on SIDEBAND is a MASSIVE PLUS to me and I now struggle to take a portable HT out with me that doesn't have this facility.
Just a couple of months ago I was sat in the lounge playing with the D74 when I heard a station calling on 20M. I had previously been sat in the shack with an expensive base station and an EFHW complaining that the band was dead, and here I was now, sat on the couch with a little hand held and a ferrite rod, picking up a station (IZ6BXV) some 1800km away! I returned to the shack and got the caller in my log. Don't get me wrong, the HF receiver is no TS-590 lol, but if you're out and about on the hillsides, you're going to have some listening fun that wouldn't be available to you if you took the FT3.
The D74 turns out to be a superb Airband Scanner too and is extremely sensitive. The memory-scan speed is fast enough not to miss any juicy transmissions and the only downside of using the D74 at air shows/ports is that it's an awfully expensive thing to risk dropping/losing when your mind is on so many other things. I suggest you buy a leather case and shoulder-strap! Obviously, the radio allows you to listen to both Civil & Military airband transmissions, AM & HF. How cool is that?
The APRS facility is fully featured - probably the most comprehensive available and the built-in GPS is super fast at locking on to satellites even indoors. The only bug-bear for me is that the GPS icon flashes when it's locked on and is solid when it has not acquired a lock. A bit annoying and counter-intuitive!
The radio has built-in Bluetooth and it works pretty well with a variety of devices for TX/RX, but it goes one (or two) steps further by allowing you to Read/Write memories with the FREE Kenwood software MCP-D74 and even for controlling the radio via the FREE Kenwood software ARFC-D74.
|ARFC-D74 free software|
|MCP-D74 free software|
Both the D74 and the FT3D come with a USB lead but the BIG DIFFERENCE is that the one which comes with the FT3D does not allow you to connect to your PC for running any software other than firmware updating.
In fact, in order to do something as simple as editing your radio memories via a PC, you have to purchase a £70 lead!!!! That is shocking and Yaesu should hang their heads in shame!
At the end of the day, one of the biggest deciding factors for buying one of these radios is going to be whether you are a DSTAR fan or a C4FM fan.
I was interested in both modes but having experienced them side by side, I find DSTAR much more user-friendly and easier to obtain a connection and maintain it. Also, I find DSTAR audio much more pleasant to listen to and more intelligible.
That's just my personal opinion and there are thousands upon thousands who would swing the opposite way - making the FT3 the clear winner for them.
|Kenwood TH-D74 & Yaesu FT3D|
I have no reachable DSTAR/C4FM Repeaters in my area so I am not biased in favour due to accessibility. I actually use an OpenSpot2 for both radios (although I have a DVAP dongle for the Kenwood too).
On the subject of audio, let me tell you that there's a world of difference between the D74 and the FT3's speaker performance. The 74 wins hands down!! I've read a few stories where people actually sent their FT3 back to the store after hearing the audio output and I understand why.
And even with both radios plugged into their OEM speaker-mics, the Kenwood wins again - easily! The Kenwood speaker-mic also has a handy rotary volume control where the Yaesu doesn't. Why use a speaker-mic in the first place if the D74's internal speaker is so good? - because it's good to get some separation between the radio and head/body and it feels so much more natural to operate with a fist mic.
The FT3 is wide and stumpy, and although I don't particularly like the D74's shape and size, it feels better in the hand. The negative thing about Kenwood's handheld is that you're always worried about dropping it because of its value.
The battery life on the Yaesu seems to be significantly better than the Kenwood, so I ended up buying a spare battery for the 74 - a negative for the Kenwood.
This is beginning to sound like I'm an FT3D Basher. I'm not. I paid strong money for this radio and I'm not here to slag it. It's a beautiful radio with a gorgeous, colour touch-screen (although the fact that it's recessed makes some menu options awkward to select) and superb VHF/UHF performance. It's Yaesu's flagship HT and is the perfect portable for C4FM users. It's also about two thirds of the price of the D74 which is very significant!
But money aside, the 74 is the clear winner as far as I'm concerned. It just does everything so well and so easily. It has so many features and facilities which suit me and of course, it has that HF SSB/CW receiver.
The 74 feels great in your hand, looks good, has a high resolution screen, richly featured APRS, fast GPS, superb audio (including adjustable TX/RX filters) and much much more.
I think I may sell my FT3D because I just don't use it enough. And Yaesu's System ConFusion just doesn't float my boat for some reason - we all have our own preferences and biases and I guess mine is DSTAR. I also LOVE how Kenwood provide everything you need from the get-go including fully functioning cables, drivers and software (memory-management and control).
Having said that, one of the Radio Clubs I joined has just been granted permission to build a 70cm Fusion Repeater, so I'll wait to see if I'm in the catchment area before selling. If I can join my pals and others easily and without any problems, then hey, it'll be a keeper!
Kenwood D74 Quick Review
Yaesu FT3D Quick Review
UPDATE 1 : Since writing this post, my local radio club has erected its C4FM repeater but sadly I still can't reach it, not even with a 10-element Yagi antenna. I will probably keep hold of my FT3D though, because I've got an SCU-39 cable-kit CHEAP so I can connect it to Wires-X on my PC. I've also now added an FT-991A to my shack, which has got Fusion capability, so the FT3D has won a stay of execution LOL
UPDATE 2 : I ended up buying an FTM-300 and use it as a Node (with a dummy load) connected to my PC running WIRES-X. As a result, I use my FT3D a LOT more now, by running the lowest power setting and connecting to the WIRES-X network via the FTM-300. So basically, I use this handie a lot more now - to the point where I might even think about selling the D74! How's that for a 180?