Just about a month ago, I pulled the trigger on the Yaesu FT5D. As a satisfied user of the VX-6 (my first ham radio of any kind), the FT2D and the FT3D, I figured I couldn’t go wrong. I ordered it from Ham Radio Outlet, who had it in stock at a slight discount off of MSRP. I’ve had really good experiences buying from HRO and this was no exception. The radio, the spare battery I ordered and a couple of other items all shipped the next day and were on my doorstep three days later. I wasn’t a ham in the days before the Internet, but I’m guessing that buying new gear was a bit more involved back in the day!
So, what are the differences between the FT5 and FT3?
- The case and screen are physically larger, which I like. Not as big as the FT2D (the size of which I really liked), but noticeably bigger.
- The menu buttons have changed and are illuminated differently. The DISP button has been removed and the Menu button introduced. I’m not sure this was a necessary change, but I learned my way around fairly easily and more importantly I can switch between the two without much confusion.
- There are two LEDs to indicate activity, rather just the one on the FT3 (and FT2).
- There is a plastic ‘fence’ around the base of the antenna on the FT5 which I can only imagine is meant to protect the connection where the antenna screws onto the SMA connector.
- The FT5D is designed to be used with an included plastic belt holster, unlike the battery-mounted belt clip that was standard with the FT2 and FT3.
- The biggest difference, and probably the reason so many have upgraded is that the audio output on the FT5 is considerably louder. If you need to use it in a noisy location or just can’t get enough volume from your FT3 or other HT, this one will howl for you.
Yaesu wisely (I think) made it so the accessories, batteries and chargers from the FT2 and FT3 work with the FT5. I’m thrilled by this. This is a big win for me. My lovely YL is now the designated user for the FT2. It sits on a a charging base in the kitchen where it’s convenient for her to grab on her way out the door. Any of the batteries, AC adapters and car chargers work between these three radios.
I won’t attempt to compare these radios to offerings from Kenwood or Icom. All the makers are pressing on with their designs, and frankly, I would accept that you would do as well with the flagship HT from either of those makers as you would with the FT5. For me, I’ve learned the menus and operating modes of Yaesu HTs, so I continue down that road. I’ve had great luck with the quality and performance. The FT5 is roughly similar in range, reception and battery life compared to it’s predecessor. I’ve run the GPS and APRS on it, which of course consume battery faster.
In conclusion, I’ll observe that if you have an FT3D and like it, the FT5D won’t offer anything revolutionary (except the audio!). I like to have more than one of anything I use regularly (life is better with a spare), so I figured getting an FT5D would make my FT3D the spare-or-share radio so I have the best of all worlds. If you already have a high-end HT that does everything you want, there’s not a lot this one will add. But if you want a flagship product with all the features, and you like Yaesu Fusion and other digital features like APRS, this one is a winner.