Competent All-Around 2-Meter Mobile Transceiver
The Yaesu FT-2800M is a solidly-built and well-designed 2-meter transceiver. It is mechanically robust, and relatively heavy for its size. It is obviously built with mobile use in mind, and includes the brackets and screws required for mounting the radio in a vehicle. Yaesu has two lines of 2-meter mobile transceivers, this one, and the FT-1802 series which is considerably smaller. The FT-2800M differs primarily in size and cooling method, as it is built in a massive heat-sink casting, and is meant to be passively cooled (i.e. there is neither need nor provision for a fan). The display is quite large and readable.
Monica (N6PSD) and I own four of the FT-2800M radios, one for each building, plus one for each vehicle. Many years ago we decided that in order to get the best use out of our VHF radio equipment, that we should standardize on one model of radio, so that we both would know how to operate the controls on all of the radios. Our previous standard radio type was the Icom IC-28A/H, which served us very well for nearly 20 years, but which was not capable of some of the newer modes and features which we believed were necessary (multiple sub-audible tone squelch being the primary lack). So in 2006 we decided to upgrade all of the radios, and after some investigation, decided to standardize on the Yaesu FT-2800M. This has proven to be an excellent choice.
Very Well Built – The Yaesu FT-2800M is built on a die-cast aluminum alloy chassis, which incorporates the massive heatsink. The cooling is very efficient built this way, and all of the internal parts are very well protected. The rear panel connectors are protected by the heat sink, providing a bit of protection from damage which can occur in harsh mobile environments. Internally, all parts which need cooling are directly mounted to the chassis/heatsink, which allows heat to be removed efficiently. In short, the mechanical construction of the Yaesu FT-2800M is quite excellent.
Easily Understood Controls – Yaesu has made the front panel controls simple enough that the user does not have to understand every possible feature of the radio in order to use it. It is possible to set it up such that a less-technically inclined user can use the radio (set up by someone else, perhaps) without worry that something will go wrong. On the other hand, for the more sophisticated user, there are loads of features which may be access with just the push of a couple of buttons. Yaesu has done very well with the controls for the FT-2800M.
Large, Readable Display – The Yaesu FT-2800M has a large, clearly readable display, The brightness may be adjusted to suit the operating conditions. The user may choose to use or not use the alphanumeric channel displays, at any time.
Passive Cooling – I particularly like the huge heatsink, and the passive cooling system. For some time in my mobile setup I had a Yaesu FT-90, which was fine radio in many ways, but which relied on an internal fan for cooling. Even in a mobile environment, the constant cycling of the fan was annoying, and even with the fan running full blast, the radio still became very hot at times. The FT-2800M, on the other hand, is completely silent, and the heat sink does not heat up quickly because of its mass. The surface area is sufficient to allow for lots of heat transfer, so the cooling is not only silent but also efficient.
Lots of Receive Audio – The Yaesu FT-90 I had in my 2002 Chevrolet Impala had barely enough receive audio to be heard under even the most benign of conditions. Moderate rainfall would make the radio unhearable, even with the volume turned all the way up. On the other hand, the Yaesu FT-2900M has a powerful audio amplifier and a strong speaker which provides plenty of audio for all but the worst of conditions. The speaker is in the bottom of the radio case, which is optimal for under-dash installations.
Computer Configurability – I bought the ADMS-2J Advanced Data Management System (programming kit) for the FT-2800M, and it has turned out to do just exactly what we need. We have four radios in four places, and all four are programmed identically, so that either of us can walk up to any of the four radios and know what local channels, simplex or repeater, to expect where. I set up the frequencies, power levels, sub-audible tone squelch, which frequencies to scan, and every other feature using the computer software (it uses a spread sheet) and programmed all four radios identically. For anyone in our situation, I recommend the programming kit.
But It's Not Perfect...
RFI Susceptibility – We discovered that the FT-2800M installed in Monica's 2001 Chevrolet Blazer behaved strangely on transmit. Depending on the power level, it might have audio coming out of the speaker during transmit, or reset itself. Attaching a dummy load to the radio in place of the antenna made all of the problems go away, so the problem was associated with the RF in the vehicle. To fix the problem, I used two of the the ferrite choke forms from an MFJ-701 “RFI-Free Choke Kit” and installed them as follows: One choke was installed with two turns of the incoming power cable through the ferrite block; and one choke was installed with six turns of the microphone cable through a second ferrite block. This solved the problem entirely.
Microphone Connector – I have found that the plastic crimp-on microphone connectors being used on all of the modern mobile radios are not very reliable. Yes, it is very cost effective, as compared to the machined 8-pin connectors used until a few years ago. Nevertheless, I find that an inherently unreliable connector is simply unacceptable, period.
Front Panel Knobs Wiggle – The volume and squelch knobs are apparently on long plastic shafts that go “somewhere” inside, without having any mechanical support at the panel itself. The result is a knob which is mechanically “floppy” and which makes the radio seem much cheaper in construction that it really is.
The Yaesu FT-2800M is a very acceptable VHF radio for our use, and we are satisfied that we made a good choice standardizing upon it. It meets the users' needs, and is very cost effecive.
To view the sales brochure for the FT-2800M, click here.
To view the operating manual for the FT-2800M, click here.
To view the technical supplement for the FT-2800, click here.