Yeasu 817ND

Posted: 02/02/2016 in Communications

A reader recently asked if I would recommend the Yeasu 817 as an alternate for the Elecraft KX3, in the tactical HF radio role. In my opinion, if the KX3 wasn’t available, the 817 would be my rucksack radio of choice. After all, the original 817 (now the 817ND) is a time tested radio that has been around for nearly 20 years and is just about bullet proof.

The price point for the 817 is seductive, averaging about half the price for a maxed out KX3. That being said, there are a few differences. The KX3 is an SDR (Software Designed Radio) that has a ton of options available and so many functions that it can be overwhelming to a new radio operator, while the 817 is pretty straight forward.

My list of requirements for a rucksack HF radio primarily focuses on a few items.

First is weight; my motto being ounces is pounds. The KX3 comes in at 1.5 lbs while the 817 comes in at 2.6 lb.

My second requirement involves power issues. Power out: KX3 – 10 watts, 817 – 5 watts. Not a big deal if you are fairly experienced with QRP. If you are new to ham radio, you might be a little frustrated initially with the limitations of either of these low power radios.

Power consumption is major concern when in the field with no resupply. I don’t want to charge batteries after every contact and I don’t want to pack around large batteries. I charge the 8 Eneloop AA batteries for my KX-3 using a small Renogy solar panel and XTAR battery charger while in the field. The normal rx power consumption for the KX3 is 150 ma versus 300 ma with the 817. The 817 is well known as a power hog but the problem can be partially mitigated if you get rid of the 1400 mah nicad battery pack that comes with the radio and go with the W4RT 2700 mah battery pack built especially for the 817. Look here: How you would charge the battery in the field would take some thought. I would probably change out the crappy stock battery access door with the W4RT door at the same time. Here is a pretty good link regarding the power issues with the 817:

Third issue:  using CW and digital vice voice comms. Voice comms is pretty much out, this is a QRP rig after all. Both radios have internal keyers for CW and will support digital modes.

Fourth, is the radio rugged and waterproof. Neither is water proof or even remotely water resistant. Keep your radio in a dry bag. I would say the 817 is a little more rugged than the KX3 but you can rugged-ize the KX3 somewhat if you drop the extra bucks and buy the gemsproducts SIDE KX cover and side panels.

My fifth requirement is an internal antenna tuner. In a tactical situation, you shouldn’t use the same freq. twice. Unless you want to cut the antenna to proper length for each different freq. used, you need a tuner. You have that option with the KX3, but not with the 817. That problem can be solved by purchasing the Emtech ZM-2 ATU (Antenna Tuning Unit).  Find it here:

The 817 has more band coverage than the KX3, which tops out at the optional 2 meter band. The 817 also includes the 6, 2 and 70 cm bands. In certain situations, I would caution the use of a radio in those VHF/UHF bands.

Just my thoughts. Whatever radio you go with, get out there and get on the air.


Dan Morgan










  1. I personally like this option for the 817. It protects the rig somewhat, keeps it off the ground, gives you a kick stand.

  2. Chris says:

    The Elecraft T1 works well with FT817 for HF operations. It is an autotuner with memories, and usually it will retune in a couple of seconds. That makes frequency changes pretty easy. It runs on a 9V battery, and uses latching relays for long battery life.

  3. danmorgan76 says:

    A reader sent this to my email account:

    Hi M Sgt Morgan,

    Read your piece on the FT817, and I while I don’t want to nitpick I did find a few inaccuracies in it. I’ve used both of them as I have a 817 and a friend has a KX3.

    The first one is about weight. If you go by the published specs its correct, but elecraft and yaesu don’t weigh things apples to apples. Elecraft posts a stripped down weight without their mic or batteries or any options, while yaesus weight is with mic and batteries. I’ve put my 817 on the scale and its just at 1lb 15oz empty and without a mic. The other thing is that various add on’s from elecraft add some weight as well, I don’t have one to weigh out on a component basis, but as an example the CW filter for the 817 is about a oz weight wise, so I’m sure if you add an ATU to the KX3 or the 2M module it will definitely add some weight. I think in reality they are probably within a few oz, especially if you do things like add the ATU, filters, 2m module and handles and aftermarket heatsinks to the KX3.

    Also, to my knowledge the KX3 will not output 10W on the internal batteries, you need an external 12V power pack for it to do it, so really they are both 5W radios with the internal batteries.

    The current drain is also a bit misleading, typical current draw for the KX3 is more like 230 or 250ma vs the 300ma for the 817 (i.e. lights on volume up in both cases) you can trim both down significantly by using headphones, and turning off all the lights. And you can use enloops in the internal battery tray for the 817, I did that for many years. These days I’m using a windcamp LiPo battery that is a few ounces lighter and has about 30% more capacity.

    I agree on tuners, and the internal ATU on the KX is quite nice. There are several other popular auto tuners for the 817, including the Z817, Z817H and the Elecraft T1 tuner.

    You also have a typo in that last sentence with the KX3 topping out at 20m (pretty sure you meant 2m with the optional module)

    You might also find this article on the 817 interesting

    My response:

    I think we are approaching the Ford vs. Chevy argument. I would use and trust either radio for QRP.

    Some info. you might find useful.

    Weight: I put my KX3 on the postal scale at work. Without batteries 1lb, 15 oz. The 8 AA Eneloops added 8 oz for a total of 2 lb 7 oz. This is with every add-on that Elecraft made for the KX3 installed and with the after-market, ruggedized cover and handles. I have no use for the mic so It is not part of my comms load out. As you said, probably not much difference between the two when you start splitting hairs.

    You are correct, the KX3 will only transmit to 5 watt on internal battery power. I have, however, had the occasion to connect my KX3 to a vehicle battery in order to get that extra 5 watts out. (Actually, I have measured nearly 12 watts out of it in my radio room connected to a 13.8 volt power supply). Better to have it and not need it and all that……

    Regarding current drain, you are correct in that the drain of either radio will depend on the operating techniques one utilizes. For operational considerations, I do not use the back light (I prefer to use a red lens flashlight) and always use an earbud vice the external speaker which I have disconnected internally (just in case the earbud jack were to come loose). So, on the RX side, I’m pretty close to the listed amp draw, which can be displayed.

    The scope and scan functions on the 817 are handy. I find the CW receive display on the KX3 handy also. I use it to verify my copy of incoming CW messages.

    I will say that the 817 is a lot sexier looking radio than the KX3, which closely resembles a brick.

    Thanks for the info on the Lipos.

  4. mtnforge says:

    Hey Sarge you where talking about recharging in the bush, here’s an interesting piece of kit. Ordered these to compliment Icom IC-V80 HT’s. Have not tried them out yet though.

    “Will recharge up to 6 AA rechargeable batteries in about 2 hours – 15 times (Re-charging 6 AA rechargeable batteries 15 times is like carrying 90 batteries in your pocket”
    Unlimited shelf life stored dry

    If you needed a long uninterrupted run time, you could probably wire a couple or more in series or parallel as a mini battery bank, and just run right off the set. The batteries would act like a capacitor and buffer the charge rate down service voltage. Like how an off grid solar/wind system does with a big fork truck battery set.

    ps, any eta on the next chapter of The Patrol?
    That is a seriously good bit of wordsmithing you got going, looking forward to reading more.

    • danmorgan76 says:

      Thanks for the info. If you or any of the readers try it out I would be very interested in the results.

      I don’t have a solid date on the next chapter yet. I have several chapters in the works and had planned on polishing them off during the winter lull. However, things have been out-of-control busy with local training requests in my AO. Local (my clan) is definitely my priority. As soon as I get some breathing room I will finish them off and get them posted. Thanks for asking and for your encouragement.

      • mtnforge says:

        Ten-Four on how they function.

        Hear you on the local priorities first. Wish I had that problem. Everyone is asleep around my AO. Even the most common sense absolutely basic concepts of being ready is avoided like the black plague. I’m basically a singular patrol. It don’t stop me from having my act together, and I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I have without all the great contributions guys like yourself have made to the cause, but sometimes the reality hits me when I’m out reconnoitering or making other preperations, strikes me as astoundingly pathetic. What is the pathetic part is not the lack of training, it is the lack of comprehension of how serious the imperatives of why. Lord love a duck.

        I’m just getting into the comm end of things, boning up for the technician’s test, been acquiring the components for a 2 meter system to start with. Really excited about getting that operational. Situated up on a 3000ft ridge line, it should be a great advantage with HT’s. Got a lot of good solid info off your blog, Brushbeater and Dialtone helped a lot too. I couldn’t do this without you guys. Really appreciate you, thanks.

  5. TJ says:

    M Sgt Morgan,
    Thank you for the wealth of information on your blog! Can you elaborate on your your Eneloop recharging setup?

    • danmorgan76 says:

      Thanks for the question. I’ve been meaning to post my setup and now you’ve forced my hand. Hope it helps.

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