Edit - see later IC-7300 review for my views on that rig ... http://gm4fvm.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/icom-ic-7300-review.html
Well the solar storm seems to have quietened down after 5 days of raging and weakening, then raging again. However, tomorrow looks interesting ...
There has been a storm raging in my head about my Flex 1500.
The problem is that I bought it to act as a transverter driver, and now I find myself not using the transverter. So the Flex has become an HF rig, and I do not need another HF rig. I am finding that it is not switched on for days on end.
When it comes to HF performance, it out-performs my FT-817, but as I already set out in this blog, the FT-817 is a definite keeper. Although the 817 cannot match the Flex for either receive performance or transmit power, it has other benefits, such VHF and an internal battery.
So basically, now that I am not using the transverter, I have two similar rigs. One of them, the one which was bought for the transverter, is surplus to requirements. It is a pity in a way, as the Flex is a very good radio. I like the idea of keeping an SDR in operation and being able to benefit from that excellent panoramic display, but not if it is just sitting here turned off most of the time.
Looking further ahead, the concept of putting a dedicated SDR into a rig case seems to be gathering pace. When we first saw SDRs, they were do-anything rigs which you attached to your computer. That is a logical way to go as it allows you to configure the radio in many different ways, and use the computer display for panoramic monitors, control, and so forth. But there are situations where a rig contained in a box which works without a computer is what you want. The development which makes this work better is the touch screen display.
Touch screen displays have been developed for the tablet computer market. They were troublesome to start with, but are much more reliable now. My IC-7100 has a black and white touch screen display. I find it easy to use.
A lot of the cost of making a rig is the cost of putting buttons and knobs on them - causing manufacturers to try to reduce the number of buttons - and hence Yaesu's infamous function table. So rigs with lots of functions cost a lot of money because they have so many buttons and knobs, rather than the functions costing a lot in the first place. With the touch screen you can reduce the number of buttons to a minimum.
Also, with a touch screen display you can provide access to a lot of functions, and thanks to the ever-falling cost of processing power, include a lot of the features which otherwise you would control on a computer with an SDR. OK, you are duplicating the display in the rig which you already have on your computer, but maybe that is what you want.
Latest rig to develop these ideas is the Icom IC-7300. This has just been announced in Japan and there are not many details. It looks like it will be at least six months before it reaches the UK and the cost is predicted as about £1000. It looks more like a £1200 rig to me, so we shall see what the exchange rate means for the price when it arrives.
It looks like a pretty standard HF transceiver but it has an SDR at its heart and a panoramic display as part of the colour touch screen. This panoramic display is small and no doubt restricted in what it can do, but it is still a step forward in a rig at this price. The SDR construction should allow updates and improvements to the firmware over the Internet.
The display may not look terribly advanced but the point is that either such displays were only available on rigs at twice the price, or were even more limited by requiring "sweeps" of the band. This one claims to offer full real-time panoramic display. Which means a display like the Flex and other SDRs, but without the computer being needed to show it.
Apparently, Icom are saying that you can touch the screen and using your finger, pull the rig frequency across to reach some signal you have seen on the display. I can do that with the Flex, but of course needing a PC and a mouse to do it. That is a very useful feature. However, is the screen so small that it might be difficult for amateurs with 60 year old eyes and stubby fingers to make it work?
Personally, I would like an option to do both approaches - allow the display to be output to a computer screen and allow control from there. And I still want it to work without a PC as well, if using it portable! It is not clear if that can be done or not, but I suspect not. Still, never mind about that, it looks a good prospect.
In my mind I have been comparing the IC-7300 with my FT-450. It would solve the 450s odd filter quirks, I bet it has a better receiver than the 450. It is twice the price of the 450, offers a panoramic display and covers the 4m band too. I am comparing a previous generation rig here (FT-450) with the latest technology (IC-7300). Newer looks better, but it is more expensive.
Maybe one day I would rather have an IC-7300 in place of my FT-450. But, my IC-7100 has various "issues". Would that put me off the IC-7300? No. I need to see that screen in action. But the general idea of an SDR style-rig in a stand-alone box with a display on the front rather than using a computer as well, strikes me as a good approach.
Fortunately, I do not need to think about it for a while and my present set-up is fine for now. Too good, as I have a Flex 1500 which I do not really l need. Still, it is something to think about, which always whiles away the winter evenings.