Yaesu FT-70DR vs Yaesu FT2DR

Is the Yaesu FT-2DR worth the extra cost? Should you stick with the entry-level FT-70DR? Or should you go ahead and splurge on an FT-3DR?

Three years ago, I asked whether the Yaesu FT-70DR will make digital more accessible to radio amateurs. I had the chance to own my first FT-70DR around December of 2018, which was priced at PhP8,500 (around $170).

I also owned an FT-2DR prior, in 2017, which I sold before I downgraded to the FT-70DR. I got the FT2 for $360 when it first came out.

I made a decision to sell both radios, since I did not have much use for digital. During that time, I was connecting to a Wires-X node linked to a 2 meter repeater, but the link was intermittent. I had a DV4Mini and Raspberry Pi, which I also sold, since it was too cumbersome to carry around as a portable hotspot.

By 2019, DMR had taken the local digital ham scene by storm, with DMR portables selling for as low as PhP4,000 (around $80) and pi-zero based MMDVM zumspots for P3,000 (around $60).

I got hooked on digital again. I was able to do some experimentation on DMR, particularly bridges between platforms and with analog.

While my club, DX1ARM, has its named BrandMeister talkgroup, TG51518, our local repeater is a DR-1X running hybrid analog and digital. The C4FM side is linked to network through a YSF reflector (bridged to the DMR talkgroup).

In my mind, having to bring a hotspot + power bank (for the hotspot) + connecting it to a smartphone used with data sharing + the DMR radio itself was a bit cumbersome. I have experienced forgetting either the hotspot, powerbank, or DMR portable at several times.

Thus it made sense to have a C4FM portable, so that I can QSO without relying on a hotspot.

Some notes on pricing

With the local distributor, prices of the FT-70DR and FT-2DR have actually gone slightly higher than when they were originally launched. FT-70DR sells for PhP9,500 ($190), while the FT-2DR sells for P18,000 ($360).

Note: Affiliate earnings from these links will go toward maintenance of the DX1ARM website.

These prices exclude the desktop cradle, which I think are important accessories, since charging from the DC port takes around 8 hours!

You can find pre-owned radios for a reasonable price, and that will usually include accessories already, such as a desktop cradle and extra batteries.

Here are some observations I have so far between the FT-70DR and FT-2DR.

Comparison notes

User experience

  • FT70: While positioned at the entry-level, the FT-70DR is a newer radio, which means Yaesu already adopted some UI improvements and optimizations.
  • FT2: A big part of the UI involves the touchscreen. While this may have been an innovation in 2017, the touchscreen is actually a bit clunky and lacks contrast. The resistive screen reminds me of a Palm Pilot from the old days. I do believe the FT3DR solves this pain point.

Screen

  • More on the screen, the FT70 comes with a segmented display similar to that of the FT60R or FT-4X. A bit limited by 2018–2020 standards, if I may say so. I guess Yaesu chose to save on costs here, but if manufacturers like Radioddity can design their GD-77 with a dot-matrix display, and if Yaesu’s own FT-65 comes with dot-matrix, why can’t the FT-70?
  • FT70 alpha tags are limited to 6 digits, unless you use the programming software or CHIRP to program channels.
  • The FT2 does have a large screen real estate, but I think the UI and presentation of information is a bit dated. On dual-monitor, only frequency is displayed, and there’s no option to use alpha tags except in single receive mode.

Digital+analog handling

  • I think Auto Mode Select (AMS) is handled more smartly by the FT-70DR. The setting is saved on a per-channel basis, and the radio switches between analog and digital depending on the received signal. Using AUTO enables you to reply back using the last mode received, and you can quickly switch between modes using the MODE button.
  • Meanwhile, with the FT2, the mode is done independently of channels, meaning you need to remember to tap the MODE key on the touchscreen to switch back to AMS (the FM, VW, or DN with a bar on top) whenever you change channels. Also, you can only switch across manual or automatic or DN/FM-priority from VFO mode. Note: you can quickly switch between digital and analog modes by tapping on the PTT button then pressing again to transmit (while in TX M mode).

Dual-receive functionality

  • Here’s where the FT2 shines, since it has true dual-receive functionality. You can simultaneously listen in to two channels or frequencies, with independent volume settings. However, on dual-receive, you cannot see the channel’s alpha tags, and you can’t even hide displaying of the frequency in any mode.
  • Meanwhile, wit the FT70, it is single-receive only. My “hack” to make it dual-monitor (or more) is to save channels in a bank and do a scan across that bank. Scanning is pretty quick! But this not true dual receive. It just locks in to whichever channel receives a signal first.
The FT-2DR’s screen seems dated in terms of information layout.

Programming

  • Programming the FT70 was a breeze, since it’s CHIRP compatible out-of-the-box! With the supplied USB mini cable, you can use CHIRP to program channels and settings in ADMS mode.
  • The FT2 requires a programming cable. It does have CHIRP support, or you can get the Yaesu ADMS programming software. It does not support programming using the bundled mini USB cable, however.

Built and durability

  • Very rugged IP-54 construction wit the FT70. What I like with the FT-70DR vs the FT-2DR is that I’m not worried about bumping into a corner or sharp surface and breaking the screen.
  • The FT2 does seem ruggedly built and is IPX5 rated. However, that is except for the screen, in my opinion. It’s an accident waiting to happen. The resistive membrane is prone to getting scratched, and the screen itself is only protected by this resistive plastic membrane. I hear it’s cheap enough to replace (around $30), and can be done DIY. But I keep the radio in a soft case — hardly something I want to drop or hit.

Audio quality

  • FT70DR has better audio than the FT2DR. For a cheaper radio, the FT70 delivers loud audio with good bass levels. In comparison, the FT2’s audio is a bit on the trebly or even tinny side.
  • In terms of transmit audio, both have adjustable gain, and you can play around with the settings to achieve good quality transmit. I find that digital users have different audio levels, which can be annoying if you have to constantly adjust volume levels when listing to stations with varying audio levels.

Receive range

  • FT70DR receives from 108.000 MHz to 599.990 MHz.
  • FT-2DR receives from 500 KHz to 999.990 MHz.

Bells and whistles

Here’s one area where the FT2 has an advantage over the FT70. Key features include APRS, APRS messaging, WIRES-X messaging, photo messaging, SD card support for backup and photo storage, GPS, etc.

APRS on the FT-2DR. It also has GPS, but I usually just use manually-specified location for APRS and QSO purposes to save on battery.
APRS messaging
Band scope
Receive from 500 Khz to 999.990 MHz. Also has AM broadcast radio and FM broadcast receive.

Hardware notes

  • Charging using DC adaptor takes around 6–8 hours to finish on both radios.
  • FT70 belt clip is situated high in the radio, which gives it a low center of gravity when clipped to your belt, strap or shorts.
  • FT2 has two types of belt clip: a spring loaded clip and a slimmer plastic clip. Both attach to the battery, and thus situated toward the top third of the radio, which makes it a bit prone to tipping over when clipped.
Spring-loaded clip. Clip attaches to battery, so you need a clip for each battery.
Slim plastic clip. Clip attaches to battery, so you need a clip for each battery.

Some notes on user interface

  • You can type in memory alpha tags using the keypad with the FT70 — a nice touch compared to scrolling letter by letter using the dial (which is also an option).
  • Text input on the FT-2DR is very clunky. The on-screen keypad is multi-tap, and the alphanumeric entry is hit-or-miss. I like the multi-tap capability of an actual keypad. Text input on the FT-70DR is actually faster with multi-tap on its physical keys. Too bad there is limited use of the text entry, particularly on memory tags or callsign entry.
  • There is no dedicated volume dial on the FT70. You need to press the VOL sidekey plus turn the dial to change audio levels.
  • On the FT70, WIRES-X implementation is simplified to choosing rooms via number (also works with YSF through hotspot or connected repeater).
  • The dual-LED is a nice touch: Green+Green for analog receive. Red+Red for analog transmit. Green+Blue for digital receive. Red+Blue for digital transmit. This makes it significantly easier to see what kind of signal you are sending or receiving at a glance.
  • FT2’s LED lights Green for the “A” VFO or channel receive and Blue for the “B” VFO/channel. The LED is very small, though, compared to the FT70’s large dual LED in front of the radio, which also has a “flaslight” option.

So which is the radio for you?

Frankly, I had been content with the FT-70DR as a daily radio for use on our club’s C4FM repeater. I sometimes also use it with my zumspot on YSF mode. I like the portability and ruggedness, as well as the ease-of-use of keyboard shortcuts.

I have a preference for radios with an actual keypad instead of touchscreen, since I do not like fiddling around with a large screen on a radio.

However, someone offered me their used FT2DR with cradle, extra battery, and soft case for a good deal, and I took it. My main intention was to take advantage of dual receive (since I have three C4FM repeaters within reach). I ended up also exploring the different features, including APRS, and I might try connecting to WIRES-X using PDN mode at some point in the future.

If you don’t need APRS or dual-receive, then the FT-70DR should be good enough. If you prefer a more rugged radio, then FT-70DR should be better. If you want something you can throw in your go-bag orclip on your belt without worrying about a broken screen, the FT-70DR is for you.

The Yaesu FT-3DR is supposedly a worthy upgrade to the FT-2DR, with a colored capacitive (instead of resistive) screen and Bluetooth for audio accessories.

Priced at $455 (affiliate), the FT3DR is certainly an attractive option over the FT-2DR. The FT3 is priced around PhP 24,000 locally ($480), though so still a bit pricey here.

What I recommend

If you don’t need APRS and dual-receive, go for the FT-70DR. It’s simpler and more rugged. Best to use the extra funds toward accessories like a desktop charging cradle and extra battery.

If you have the budget and you want the bells and whistles, go for the FT-3DR. I’d go for the FT-2DR only if you have a good deal in terms of pricing and accessories. Note that FT2 and FT3 share the same battery (same with the VX-8) so you can share accessories if you have both radios.

For more info, get in touch with me through the comments or at qsl@n2rac.com.

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