I have a soft spot for handheld transceivers. And I should — 80% of my VHF or UHF QSO’s are made during some kind of outdoor activity. I became very picky when it comes to HT’s and there’s a good reason for that: I live exactly in the middle of three big radio towers. These are used for commercial purposes, such as police, public transportation or digital TV, and the power output of the latter is a whopping 10kW. Take a poorly designed receiver and your hobby is basically toast.
Unfortunately I had a few crappy HT’s. The Alinco DJ-40T for example, proved to be completely useless here. The Yaesu FT-60R did a better job, but still got overloaded on (too) many occasions. Eventually I replaced the FT-60R by a Yaesu VX-170 and a VX-177. Although it’s not impossible to overload these models, it proved to be very difficult — it required other radio amateurs with HT’s pumping out 5 Watts and keep their antennas close to the Yaesu. Good stuff.
And now there are Chinese HT’s, for a price lower than you might spend on the average visit to the supermarket. I decided to give them a try and ordered both the VHF version (FD-268A) and the UHF version (FD-268B). Apart from the model number and the length of the (SMA-F) antenna, you can’t tell them apart. They’re small, but not too small: 56mm wide, 96mm long and 30mm deep. The Li-Ion battery has a capacity of 1200 mAh. The box also included a desktop charger, earpiece, metal(!) belt clip, USB cable and programming software. A funny feature is the built-in led flashlight.
It is good to realize that these handhelds were designed with commercial use in mind, not the average radio amateur. You can force the FD-268 into the ‘commercial mode’ by pressing the F-key while switching on the transceiver. Only channel numbers will be visible in this mode, and most menu items become unavailable. The frequency range is either 136-174 MHz or 400-470 MHz, and the Feidaxins will happily transmit anywhere you want. Some might like that, but personally I’m no fan of ‘out of band’ possibilities. It does mean however that one set of these Feidaxins will cover all your HAM, MURS, Marine, PMR, FRS, and GMRS needs.
Many Chinese HT’s don’t support DTMF nor 1750Hz burst tones, and these Feidaxin models are no exception. Programming a repeater shift however isn’t a problem, nor working with CTCSS or DCS. Power output varies from 3.5 Watts at the edges of the frequency range to 5.5 Watts somewhere in the middle. When low power is selected, the output is about 1 Watt. Both models are rain proof. The manual is easy to follow and doesn’t suffer from ChinEnglish. Good job.
This was something I was really worried about. To be honest, I expected the FD-268B to collapse completely when listening to 70cm stations. It didn’t. Now this was a surprise — a dirt cheap Chinese HT outperforming a Yaesu FT-60R? What is this world coming to? Well, maybe the receiver is deaf, right? I did the test and compared the FD-268B to my Yaesu VX-177 and my Icom IC-U82. I hardly noticed any difference at all. On the contrary — the Feidaxins did slightly better, and further testing revealed that this has something to do with the efficiency of the stock antennas. Unbelievable. On top of that: RX audio is very, very good. Loud, clear and no distortion whatsoever, even with the volume cranked up to the max. There’s a scanning feature, but the speed is way too slow to be of any use.
I already mentioned RF output, so let’s skip that (rather uninteresting) subject. More interesting is the quality of the modulation. I’ve heard worse (some older TYT and Puxing models) and better (Yaesu, Kenwood, Icom). If you have ever heard someone talking with certain Chinese handhelds, you might have noticed that quite a few sound muffled. That is not the case here, fortunately, but the audio level could be a tad higher. The cause is the rain proof construction. If you don’t like the audio level, just open the case, widen the tiny hole in front of the microphone and you’re done.
When you’re just listening, the battery will last a week or longer. I can use the Feidaxin for about two days before I need to recharge. That is on par with my Yaesu VX-177 and much better than my Icom. Spare batteries cost less than $15 shipped, so buying a few spares won’t break the bank.
+ low price (about $60 – $70 on eBay, shipped)
+ rain proof
+ construction according to MIL-STD-810C/D/E
+ good quality TX audio, great RX audio
+ selective, yet sensitive
+ long battery life
+ PC programmable
+ Easy ‘direct menu access’
+ FD-268B model supports 6.25KHz spacing, needed for PMR use (European FRS equivalent)
+ cheap accessories
– No DTMF
– No 1750Hz burst tone
– No VOX
– The keys next to the display are a bit stiff
– transmit audio level a bit low (but can be modified)
– Scanning speed way too slow to be of any use, except in channel mode
Both the FD-268A and the FD-268B are way better than the price tag would indicate. Reception is great, sensitivity and selectivity are on par with the big names. Build quality is superb. The lack of DTMF and 1750Hz burst tone could be a problem for some users.