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Why I bought the IC-705

Why I bought the IC-705

Hi Everyone,

Max here, VK2XOR. Today I’m writing about why I just pre-ordered the IC-705, about a month before it’s due to show up at my local distributor, at the time of this writing.

There has been a lot of buzz and excitement about IC-705 in the lead-up to its release. However, I feel that it is certainly not the end-all radio that everyone is going to rush out to get, especially now that its retail price has finally been announced.

Owners of the IC-7300 or 9700 may see the 705 as a more limited version of those radios, yet with a price that is above rather than below that of the 7300, despite these limitations. Whether coming from the IC-7300, FT-817/818, or a KX2/3, many will be disappointed by either the price, lack of internal tuner, or maximum of five watts power output when using its internal battery.

It seems there are many reasons not to spend so much money on this radio. So, why did I just hand over my dollars for this radio which hasn’t even landed our shores yet? It is truly a combination of reasons. And if my combination of reasons wasn’t what it is, I might very well have not gotten this radio. So let’s dive into it, first with a bit of background.

I love operating outdoors. More so than indoors. That happens to be for a couple of reasons. One is that there is such a lower noise floor when operating away from my urban home environment – especially when I was living in Sydney. The second is that I’ve always loved the idea of still being able to get a message out when far from the reaches of mobile phone towers, and the environment I grew up in shaped this very much.

Since getting back into amateur radio again a few years ago, I’ve been wanting to upgrade from my humble Xiegu X1M Pro. The X1M was my second HF radio (the first was a RockMite 40), and has served me surprisingly well, even making a 2100km contact to the south island of New Zealand on 80m SSB recently. However, I’ve always run it off of a heavy external battery, and wanted a bit more functionality than it offers. So for the last few years, I’ve been having an internal conversation with myself (not without the input of external sources as well) that goes a bit like this:

“Boy, I sure do want a KX2. That would be just the nicest little rig to bring on the trail with me to have my portable radio fun. But it is indeed expensive, and at that sort of investment price range, I suppose I should probably really consider the KX3. It’s not too much bigger, and I could plug it into the computer for all that nice digital work I want to really get into. And the higher power output would probably be nice. But holy cow, does the price jump up if I bought that over the KX2! Especially if I get an internal ATU, etc. C’mon Max, get real. You know you should just keep watching the used markets for an FT-817/818. They’re really great little radios, very capable, and are a bit more rugged than the KXs. There are complaints about the KXs being marketed as such great SOTA rigs, yet having cases that are so susceptible to the smallest amounts of rain or dirt as to make the owner question whether to even take it out of the hiking pack.”

And so went this debate in a loop, many times over the years. And instead of buying any of those three great options, I’ve set my mind to just working with the gear I’ve got, and not spend the money. Now at this point, you may be thinking, “Yes, but the IC-705 still doesn’t necessarily justify itself and its price against those options, given what you’ve just said.” Well, the above was just some background about where I’m coming from.

Other factors in my decision are what gear I already have, and what activities I’m currently interested in doing. The current activities I’m interested in include getting outdoors more (with radio), digital modes such as Winlink, FT8, and JS8Call with a laptop or Raspberry Pi, CW/Morse Code, D-Star, and packet & APRS. Given those activities being my primary interests at the moment, the fantastic-value IC-7300 never made it into those options in my dilemma described above, although its price point/value did play into the arguments of that dilemma.

As for gear, I currently have the aforementioned X1M, an RS-HFIQ, a MTR3B, a TH-D74a, a TM-D710, an AT-D878UV Plus, a T1 ATU, and a few other hand-held and mobile rigs. I’ll also mention a few things I like having: redundancy, multi-use tools, fun. The acquisition of the TH-D74 late last year was a big decision. But after receiving it, I’m so glad I made the purchase. Yes, it’s an expensive radio, but it dropped me into three parts of this hobby that I’d been wanting to get into for a while – D-Star, APRS, and packet radio. All in one little device! I’ve had such a great time with it so far, and I’m still on the gradual journey to utilize all of its functionality. I did also want another APRS and another D-Star radio to partner with the D74 for doing various experiments and trialing those capabilities. The D710 was both an amazing upgrade over my first mobile rig, and also a great APRS & packet companion for the D74.

I’ve got the MTR3B when I really want to just throw something into my pocket for a day hike, or lunch-break/after work walk with some radio fun. So, that means the size of something like the KX3, FT-817/818, or IC-705 could be tolerated for a back-pack-able rig, particularly when using internal batteries. I do already have the RS-HFIQ as an SDR, but I liked the idea of the addition of a KX3 (or now IC-705) to my collection as it would allow me to “bring only one” radio on a trip that could really do all the modes I want. Currently, I have a case that houses the RS-HFIQ and X1M side by side, along with a 6ah or 9ah SLA battery, a tablet laptop for use with the RS-HFIQ, and some cables and things. Not a bad little two-radio station, and I was working on being able to swap the laptop out for a Raspberry Pi, controllable from my phone. Another thing for me is that my only HF SDR (the RS-HFIQ) and my only D-Star radio (TH-D74) are overseas for repair right now, and I really don’t know how long it will be before I get either of them back. The IC-705 may make it to me before they do, and will be able to get me back on the air in both of those aspects. Redundancy, eh?

Any of those primary three options described would be excellent upgrades from my X1M, but the IC-705 is an upgrade that brings with it many other things; Like the KX3, it provides great SDR capability when connected to a computer – but with only one cable. And without the computer, it also has built-in RTTY support like the KXs (though no PSK). It also will be a second D-Star radio for me, allowing me to play with more of that capability when paired with the D74. Like the FT-817/818 and KX3 (with add-on), it can also do VHF and even UHF, should those be of use. Now, I’ll generally have a separate dual-band HT with me for those two bands so I don’t require this, but the redundancy is an extra feature that I’m happy to have. The big built-in display with waterfall, etc. wasn’t a requirement for me either but another nice-to-have. And keeping in mind that you’d have the additional cost, weight, cables, and power supply of the PX3 panadapter if you wanted to add this functionality to a KX3.

Finally, I live in Australia. I have often been caught off guard whenever I start looking at the KXs again and think, “That’s not such a bad price. Maybe I’ll get one this year,” until remembering to do the currency conversion, shipping cost, addons (namely internal ATU and attachable paddles)… So the shipped cost of a KX3 with the add-ons required to feature-match the IC-705 would be far greater for me than buying the IC-705. Even the shipped cost of the smaller KX2 with only the paddle and internal ATU options, surpasses the shipped cost of the IC-705 for me, at the time of this writing. Yes, the IC-705 doesn’t have an internal ATU, and that is probably one of its main lacking features for me, but I mostly use resonant antennas or the fantastic T1 ATU. I’d still get the internal ATU for the KX2 so as to have less to pack, but lack of an internal one in the IC-705 is something I can quite happily live with, given my circumstances.

There are several other things that could be said when comparing these radios, which are all fine options. And I can totally understand all the reasons not to get the IC-705, and don’t argue most of them. (I’m sure there are some silly arguments as well.) But as I said, it comes down to my personal circumstances. If I didn’t have the T1, maybe lack of internal ATU would have been a deal-breaker for me. If I didn’t already have the Mountain Topper, maybe the size would have made it a no-go. If I lived in the US and made a similar salary there, maybe the KXs would feel more within reach. If I didn’t prefer to operate portable, maybe I’d have gotten an IC-7300 ages ago. Maybe if I’d looked into this radio last year when someone mentioned it to me, the wait time would have put me off. To me, the IC-705 feels like a lot of radio in one, small, hike-able package that I hope will provide me with years of fun experiences, opportunities, and contacts. Maybe you’ll be one of them!

The KX2 still holds a special place in my heart, and maybe I’ll get one someday, but for now I’m glad that the decision to buy the IC-705 felt like a no-brainer for me and has finally put my little dilemma to rest. I can’t wait to get out there and use it! Thanks for coming along with me on this buyer’s dilemma. I understand the IC-705 may not be for everyone, but I hope you enjoyed the read either way.

73, and take care,
Max VK2XOR

Addendum

This table shows a comparison of common traits of the four primary options that I was considering as upgrades from my Xiegu X1M Pro. I’ve left out features that are a bit extra and quite specific to only certain radios (e.g. D-star, built-in spectrum display, Bluetooth/WiFi connectivity, MicroSD slot, attachable paddles, built-in microphone).

(The original draft of this table has color gradients for the cells for best through worst. I’ll put that back in soon, if I can.)

FT-818KX2KX3IC-705
Price (now, in AU)CheapestSecond most expensiveMost expensiveThird most expensive
SizeSecond smallestSmallestSecond largestLargest
Weight*

* Found weight of KX2 battery and typical eneloop AAs to update the KX options. Haven’t found the weight of the ATUs or the KX3 NiMH charger, however.
Heaviest

1.2 kg including batteries
*Lightest

0.5 kg including battery, but no ATU, etc.
*Third heaviest

0.9 – 1.0 kg with typical choice NiMH batteries, but no ATU, NiMH charger, etc.
Second heaviest

1.1 kg including battery
Max power output (internal batt.)5 wattsUp to 10 wattsUp to 5 watts5 watts
Max power output (external 12-13.8v)5 watts12 watts15 watts10 watts
Avg. runtime on internal batt.2.4 – 4 hoursUp to 8 hours4 – 6 hours~3 hours
Internal tunerNoPurchasable as extraPurchasable as extraNo
DSPYesYesYesYes
Able to take mechanical filtersYesNoYesNo
Computer interface

* Generally will also require the addition of a USB sound card.
*Audio only via audio and CAT cables (3), plus intermediate device (e.g. SignaLink)*Audio only via audio and CAT cables (3)*Audio only via audio and CAT cables (3)Full SDR via single USB cable
Recharge battery in the fieldYes, if using stock battery pack. If external amperage is high enough, can keep operating while charging. Lower amperage can charge the battery, but the rig needs to be turned off. If using higher capacity AAs, they must be removed.No, must be removed and recharged with mains AC wall charger.Purchasable as extra option. Can operate whilst charging.Yes, via USB or 13.8v external source. Can operate whilst charging.
Band coverage160m – UHF80m – 10m160m – 6m

2m transverter purchasable as extra
160m – UHF
Ruggedness of caseKnown for being great in this regard. No big gaps, few buttons/knobs for ingress, small screen.The nice big display on the KXs are simply covered from impact by a panel of acrylic or similar. It’s a tight fit, but there is no seal around it. There are several large gaps in cases of these radios.Aftermarket case modifications are available for both, which can help, although full protection is more around impact rather than ingress, and also only fully in-effect with a cover attached, which prohibits use of the radio’s controls.Aftermarket case modifications are available for both, which can help, although full protection is more around impact rather than ingress, and also only fully in-effect with a cover attached, which prohibits use of the radio’s controls.
Internal real-time clock

* Need to verify whether it keeps time if the main battery is removed.
NoPurchasable as extraPurchasable as extra* Yes, and updatable from GPS
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