Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Farewell to the FDM-Duo
My initial frustration with the radio's functionality (posted here) only increased as I implemented more and more of the radio's capabilities. I came to appreciate that spec not often mentioned in reviews and lab reports - ergonomics. The Duo is capable of both stand-alone and linked-to-the-computer SDR - unfortunately, the sorry state of ergonomics is abundant in both modes.
In stand-alone, as mentioned previously, changing the CW speed of the rig's internal keyer requires the operator to either be transmitting or to access that function two menu steps deep. Some functions in SSB require the radio to be transmitting as well. If Flex, Elecraft or any other ham rig manufacturer had such a requirement in any of their radios they'd never hear the end of it. And rightly so. But Elad is new in the ham market so such mis-steps are evidently tolerated by those giving this radio favorable reviews.
I wish Elad well and hope the next iteration transceiver incorporates more sensible operation.
Still in CW, I had forgotten how much I appreciate (and need) QSK. Six years with a K3 and two with my Flex have spoiled me. It's 2017 - let's dispense with relay switching, especially in a QRP rig.
Moving from stand-alone to computerized-SDR requires three USB cables for what my Flex does with a single ethernet connection (in retrospect I should have seen this as a warning sign). And still, after all that, I have to access some functions on the Duo's front panel - they are not available to be controlled via SW2 (the Duo's software) on the PC - important things, like CW speed, RF output, etc. Almost anything to do with transmitting has to be done on the Duo itself rather than in the software. That is because long before the Duo, Elad only made shortwave SDR receivers - and they run the same version of SW2 as the Duo transceiver.
For Elad, transmitting is an afterthought and no dedicated software for transceiving exists. And it shows when you get to the nitty-gritty of actually operating this rig. The numbers look good, the ability to customize settings is fantastic...but actually putting this thing on the air for anything other than the occasional QSO is sure to have you pining for your other radio, whatever your other radio is.
A large number of the Duo's functions require keyboard shortcuts. Important functions like changing the frequency step of the mouse wheel is a keyboard-only function. There are others - you'll need a good memory and frequent operation so as not to forget (or a cheat sheet). On my Flex, that and all the other functions are built into the software as they should be. Click and be done - no cheat-sheet required, it's all right in front of you and completely intuitive and/or labeled.
I really wanted to like the Duo. It seemed to hold so much promise in that it could be used at home with the PC or afield like a KX2. But it is hobbled by its clumsy ergonomics and inability to easily implement even the commonly used functions necessary to operate a radio on a variety of modes.
So who is the Duo for? The eHam reviews are overwhelmingly positive and, for the life of me, I can't figure out why. Perhaps it's an issue of perspective and expectations. And maybe a bit of "we want Elad to do well" that we wish newcomers to our hobby.