KX3 for SOTA?: A Rebuttal

After reading KDØBIK’s blog post comparing the new KX3 with the FT-817 under the aspect of using it for Summits on The Air (SOTA), I felt I have to defend ‘my’ little radio a bit. No doubt, the KX3 is a great rig and has tons of new features and advantages compared to the FT-817. I also freely admit that I am not an experienced ham, nor did I ever have the opportunity to see and/or touch a KX3 in real life. My stated opinion is based on the KX3 manual, pictures, videos as well as my personal experience with the FT-817 and a few activations for SOTA. I am offering my view on the categories Jerry created in his article.

Weight – Advantage KX3:
Based on the numbers Jerry provided, the KX3 is indeed 20% lighter compared to the FT-817. Not sure whether this includes the optional 2m module (I doubt it, since it is not yet available). For a fair comparison however, we have to add the additional weight for the optional module, since the FT-817 has the 2m capability. As a result, the difference is a little less. In real numbers this boils down to an advantage for the KX3 of less than 0.5 pounds (< 226 g). Don’t get me wrong, carrying 0.5 pounds less to a remote summit is great, in my case however this can achieved with a few days of dieting :)

Size – Advantage KX3:
Based on the numbers provided in the article, the KX3 indeed has a huge advantage compared to the Yaesu. If my math is correct it takes up nearly 50% less space! That’s a lot… space in a backpack is always an issue and cannot be mitigated with a diet. What is unclear to me is whether the provided measurements are just for the case of the radio or if it includes the protruding knobs/buttons/dials etc. So maybe it’s not that big of an advantage after all… we will have to wait for an update on this issue.

Durability and Ruggedness – Advantage 817:
I completely agree with Jerry on this point. What bothered me the most on the KX3 when I did my research were the buttons/knobs/dials/paddle, especially under the aspect of taking the rig to a summit. I am curious to see how fragile/problematic these protrusions  are. Being extra careful might just not cut it… a backpack can be a crowded place on a longer hike.

LCD Display and Control Panel– Advantage KX3:
No kidding – the huge display and the control panel are certainly a huge advantage on the KX3. Even though I do not need glasses, seeing all the necessary info on the tiny display of the FT-817 can be a pain in the rear – and so is the fact that you have to push buttons and dial through endless menus to make adjustments.

Portability and SOTA Readiness – Advantage KX3:
I strongly disagree with Jerry on this point (keep in mind I never touched a KX3). The lack of a feature (2m module) cannot make it an advantage for SOTA! Specifically if you  substitute the missing feature with an additional radio, which adds weight and volume to your pack (eliminating the stated advantages above). At best it is a draw… in my opinion, the FT-817 has a clear advantage in this category mainly because of the protruding knobs/dials of the KX3 on the one hand, and the acknowledged ruggedness of the FT-817 on the other hand.

Speaker Audio Output – Advantage 817:
Can’t really judge this point but I am sure Jerry is right on the mark with this. Personally I am always carrying ear-buds to an activation (but I hate to wear them), just in case I have company on a summit – so far I was lucky and never encountered a soul.

Other Features and Functionality – Advantage KX3:
An increase of your output to 10W might be nice under certain conditions. It will increase your signal slightly but you have to carry extra power sources to the summit – again, eliminating certain advantages mentioned above (weight/volume) – I would say it’s a draw.

The huge VFO knob, certainly an advantage during operation, represents a drawback in terms of ruggedness (needs to be seen) and ability to pack the rig.

The ability of the KX3 to decode PSK/RTTY and CW is certainly a great feature – how useful this is for a SOTA rig I am not sure – time will tell.

A missing piece in this comparison is the price tag. Configuring the KX3 with a microphone and a charger, as well as with the 2m option will run you approx. twice the price of an FT-817.  If you can justify this for your SOTA rig – go for it.

Where the KX3 will shine are areas of less importance to SOTA activators. SDR and data mode features are great but have limited value if you are looking for just a SOTA rig. The wide open front end of the FT-817? Certainly better on the KX3.  For me, the KX3 does just not have enough advantages to say good-by to my FT-817 – but I am using the radio only for SOTA.

I am looking forward to KDØBIK’s updates on the SOTA readiness of the KX3 and his real-life experiences. It might just be the perfect rig after all.

73, Matt / KØMOS


ATTENTION !! WARNING !! There are old mountaineers, and bold mountaineers... there are no old-bold mountaineers. Hiking and mountain climbing are potentially hazardous activities particularly in Colorado with its extreme elevations. I am not accepting responsibility for any death or injury resulting from activations based on my trip reports. Proper training, experience, and personal capability assessment is required - enjoy!


KX3 for SOTA?: A Rebuttal — 3 Comments

  1. I appreciate your blog. One thing I really like about my KX3 is the fantastic built in tuner. I am a little different in the type of antenna I use on a summit. I string up a 200 foot long wire, connect it directly to the KX3 and away I go. I lay down one radial for each band I want to operate. 73, Frank, WA3RSL

  2. Thanks Frank. The KX3 is a fine radio, no doubt about that. With my rebuttal I just wanted to point out that as a SOTA rig, the FT-817 is still a contender. The tuner is a fine feature of the KX3 but other features are missing. The two radios are apples and oranges – hard to compare but there is certainly no need to just replace an FT-817 with a KX3 as a SOTA rig.
    73, Matt/KØMOS

  3. IMHO, the FT-817 is still clearly the winner. I did look close at the KX-3 but was put off by the overall fragility of it and the lack of native 2m/70cm. I also really like the airband & FM BCB capabilities of the FT-817, especially on long hikes & camping trips where I might want to listen to them.

    Folks have complained about the power consumption of the FT-817. Well, with today’s LiPo batteries etc. this really is a non issue now. I can easily carry enough power for several days (even with moderate TX time) on extended hikes. And the FT-817 can be optimized to consume less current – I’ve personally measured mine at 275ma with backlight off/nb off/front ant connector/etc.

    Over the last 8-10 years, I’ve used my FT-817 in places and situations which might have damaged or killed the KX-3, or that the KX-3 simply couldn’t do (an SSB QSO on 432.75 from atop 6300ft. Hogback Mtn. in Oregon comes to mind).

    Lastly, the KX-3 is WAY too expensive for what it offers – currently about $1450-1500 for the factory assembled rig with mic, optional 2m module, internal battery & charger options, etc.

    But although the FT-817 works so well for me, it certainly won’t be so for everybody :).

Leave a Reply