Review of Yaesu FT-2900R 75-Watt 2 Meter Radio

Videos (scroll down for written review)

Yaesu FT-2900R Part 1 – Initial Impressions

Yaesu FT-2900R Part 2 – More In Depth Review and Thoughts


Review and Thoughts

Back in October, I finally got around to getting a big mamba jamba 2 meter radio. For years, all I had been using for 2 meter use were HT’s attached to a copper pipe j-pole, to a slim jim, or to a magmount antenna on my van. I’ve wanted a more substantial radio, with more power, and a better speaker and mic system.  I got it with the Yaesu FT-2900R.  Yep, there are a few issues with the radio, but the issues that impacted me were either fixable or are very tolerable.

Why The FT-2900R?

Well, there were many reasons, most of which I won’t go into here, but here’s a few. I’ve had good luck with Yaesu radios. Price. Power level options. No fan, so no noise. Big display.

I very much like Kenwood as well, and strongly considered getting the TM-281A since it had a feature list I liked, but it only had two power output options: High 65W or low 25W. 25W ain’t all that low for me, and I wanted a radio that had more power options, and the ability to go down to at least 5 watts for the purpose of power conservation in an emergency.

I considered getting a dual-band rig, but didn’t have the scratch for it.

First Impressions

Once I opened the box and started handling the unit, I was surprised how heavy it is. It has solid, tight construction. Some reviewers were surprised how big it is, but it is pretty much the size I had envisioned.

The beefy aluminum body is one giant heat sink. The top looks and feels like a George Foreman grill. I think it’s pretty cool looking.

When I first placed it on my desk, I was disappointed. It didn’t lay flat on the desk, it had a slight wobble. Pushing buttons or adjusting the knobs made the radio wobble just enough to make a small banging/clicking sound on my desk’s surface. It was as irritating to me as fingernails being scraped across a chalkboard. I tried multiple things to mask the problem, some worked and some didn’t, but I eventually solved the problem entirely by filing down a nub of casting/coating that had formed on the underside near the back of the radio. That nub, which had previously ben undiscovered, was just big enough to cause the annoying wobble.

Programing The FT-2900

I had planned on programing the radio using Chirp on my Mac, but after attaching the radio to my computer, I found out that Chirp does not support the FT-2900R. It’s my own fault for not checking prior to buying the radio. No big deal though. The radio is still easily programmed manually, it just takes a lot of button pushes.

The labels on the radio’s buttons, as well as the labels of the menu structure, don’t make much sense. The included user manual helps with that.

Using The Radio

I love it. Plain and simple. Once I got it programmed, and everything attached to it, I immediately started transmitting. I got great signal reports, great audio reports, and envy from other hams in the area. I had several lengthy QSO’s within the first 24 hours of getting the radio, never once had a problem. I was net control for my club’s 2 meter net the day after I got the radio. No issues.

What about transmitting and receiving capabilities? Well, that’s more related to the antenna system, and I have a decent one. It sends and receives very well.

Heat

Prior to getting the radio, I had read several reviews that reported heat issues with the unit. The body of the radio does get hot, but that is what it is supposed to do. It’s a heat sink. I had several QSO’s which were well over 20 minutes, and not once did my radio beep at me warning of excess heat. The internal temp did rise several times to 130 degrees, but I didn’t know if that was normal.

Although I wasn’t getting heat warnings, I wanted to try to get the temperature under control. The feed line I was using was old line, with connectors that had been soldered on by someone who did a poor job. I got new coax, new connectors, made a balun, and got everything connected to my radio and antenna. Helped a little. The internal tempp didn’t climb nearly as fast, but it still got up to 130 degrees.

I ended up moving the radio. With it being mounted under my desk’s shelf, heat was likely being trapped in the radio, and there was little air circulation around the unit. I ended up placing it on top of my filing cabinet. This created more issues, but these were resolved with little effort. See part two of my video review for more about the issues.

With the radio on top of the filing cabinet, with nothing restricting the heat from escaping the heat sink, the temperature rarely gets above 120 degrees. It also helps that I keep most transmissions on 5 watts of power. In most instances, 75 watts is overkill, not necessary, and an FCC rule violation. I can hit virtually all repeaters in my area with less than 5 watts of power.

Daily Use

Now that I’ve been using the radio for three months, I never have to stop and think how to perform every day tasks. Switching to memory banks is a snap. Checking the temp is as easy as pushing a single button. Changing into “reverse” mode could not be easier, and scanning is fast and straight forward.

I have several QSO’s every day, some using repeaters, and some via simplex. I get good signal and audio reports when I ask for them. The mic is comfortable to hold, and solidly put together.

Issues With The Radio

If you are going to be constantly using 75 watts, have high SWR, or if the radio is going to be surrounded by solid material (desk shelf, dash, furniture), you are going to potentially have a heat issue.

Most of the buttons on the DTMF mic are flush with the shell of the mic, small, and therefore a bit difficult to push. I’m used to this and don’t think about it much anymore, but it does take some effort to activate most of the buttons on the mic.

Some options in the menu are labeled or organized non-logically, sometimes making menu surfing challenging.

The mic connection is a Yaesu only connection, and from what I have read, it may even be a connection type that only the FT-2900 uses. This means using unmodified third party microphones is likely a no go.

Some don’t like the built in speaker. I think it sounds fine though.

Conclusion

There has not been an instance in which I have thought, “I really wish this radio could do XXXXXXXXXX.” It does everything it’s suppose to do, everything it claims it can do. I have no worries about its longevity. It’s a solid radio, it’s easy to use.

Check out the videos for more.

About Kyle (W7KBX)

I became a licensed ham in May of 2013 with a class of General. I have since upgraded to Extra. If you are really bored and want to learn more about me, please click here
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One Response to Review of Yaesu FT-2900R 75-Watt 2 Meter Radio

  1. Jon Ruzicka says:

    Hi Kyle,
    Just found your website, and I have enjoyed reading about your Ham Adventures!
    I also read your review on the Yaesu FT 2900, and I agree 100 percent. Great radio, although it can get hot….I was experiencing the same thing and a found a solution, one that gave me a project to do, and it actually works! Which is good for me!
    I bought a fan from radio shack, 12 volt, one of those 5 inch ones that I think is designed to mount to your computer equipment and keep components cool. It measures 5×5″ and about 1 inch thick.
    So what I did was mount the fan to the radio mount bracket that comes with the FT 2900. Then it attaches to the radio without any holes drilled and mods needed using the screws they gave me. I bought a cable from Powerwerx called a BY-T and it allows me to plug in using an Anderson power pole to power the fan while the radio is plugged into power.
    I have monitored the power and temp and this thing really works to keep it cool!
    If I could figure out how to send a picture of this project I would/will if that would be helpful…anyway, just passing that along if that helps you or someone else.
    73’s and take care!
    Jon. KF7BRI

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