Vertex VX-1210 Manpack

 

Vertex VX-1210 HF Manpack

This radio is a new favorite. It's pretty much optimal for pedestrian mobile HFPack type operation. Simple to operate and very rugged, it's fun to grab for campouts and hikes.

VX-1210 Technology:

The combination of lightweight Li-Ion batteries and frugal RX current drain make make the VX-1210 ideal for portable operations.

The antenna tuner is wide range, and will tune short whips to long wires with ease. The radio has 500 memory slots, which save frequency, mode, power level, selcal, and a display label for easy access. Any memory can be dumped into the vfo and the rig then tunes in .1 or 5 khz steps.

The squelch is better than most on HF, and works very well.

The construction is very rugged, and key areas are gasketed making the rig "splash-proof" if not submersable. There is a balance between mechanical integrity and heavy weight, and the VX-1210 has found a very usable "sweet spot" in this regard. (It is half the weight of many military manpacks).

Operating Experience:

When sitting side by side with a full feature base station the VX-1210 is a little underwhelming. No DSP, no big VFO, etc. Even compared to rigs like the FT-857, the VX-1210 just does not have the bells & whistles.

But once you slip it in a pack, and take it for a walk, you realize what the radios is made for. For portable ops in the real world, it's very fun to use, and there are just enough controls to do what you need to do. The speaker mic is ideal for cliping on a backpack strap, and with the built in jack it's easy to add headphones.

Unlike rigs & kit where you have to strap on & jack in, you can simply use the VX-1210 with with an over the shoulder carry strap. It's that light. Going farther? Use a quality daypack. 

VX-1210 Resources:

Currently, the VX-1210 may the best option for commercially available "No assembly required" manpack operation. It is difficult sometimes to find a dealer who is knowledgeable. Most will sell to you at 20% of list, and some can beat that price on the radio by selling you their demo unit.

The VX12 Yahoo Groupis the best source of information on this radio.  

Programming:

The VX-1210 must be programmed using a hardware interface and Veryex software. Many of the difficulties hams have had with operating the VX-1210 stem from improper programming. The programming loads frequencies, settings, and button configuration. If set incorrectly the radio does not perform well, functions may not be accessible, and can be tedious to change frequencies. 

A recommended radio configuration & programming file is available in the VX12 Yahoo Group, and it should be used as the starting point for customization. The button configuration it provides is optimized for amateur usage, and allows all functions to be used. 

The software can be tedious to get working with USB serial ports. The trick is to identify the port number and make sure it's set correctly. You may have to delete the device and re-add it, or manually set it to a lower Comm port number. It also helps to use the same usb port for your serial device, as that can change the comm port number.

Modifications:

Bonnie KQ6XA has documented several good mods on the VX12 Yahoo Group. I have a couple in progress which will be posted both on this page and their when complete.

Antennas:

The VX-1210 has a ruggedized SO-239 jack on the front panel which can be used with Vertex sourced whips or traditional coax antennas. The SO-239 equivalent is machined and when used with the YA-61 whip provides strain relief other adapters do not. Because of this it is strongly recommended to only use whips via the YA-61 or similar!

Vertex YA-61 whip

This whip is the best method of attaching manpack style short whips. It's purpose made for this radio, and protects the SO-239 from abuse. While the factory YA-61 whip is usable on higher bands, you will need a coil for lower bands to radiate well. There are at least two methods in use to adapt this base to 3/8-24 loaded whips. Bonnie KQ6XA documented how to machine the tip of the YA-61 base to accept 3/8-24 antennas. As many do not have access to machine shops, I developed the approach at the left using "Off the shelf" parts to achieve the same goal.

With the mod at left, you can use hamsticks, MP-1, and other light whips with no problem. Though the 1/8" stainless whip looks small, the spring bends before the short whip segment does, especially if just a few inches long.

 

Wire Field Antennas

I use the normal suite of HFPack field antennas as discussed on my HF Portable page.

When not using a whip, I leave a silver plated UG-2737/U BNC adapter on the SO-239 to save wear & tear. Most importantly, the center pin is loose and will not damage the SO-239 on the VX-1210. BNC's are lighter for portable antenna usage, and it saves the threads on the SO-239 with repeated attach/detach cycles.

Watch cheap adapters to make sure the pin is not too long, and forces the center pin to rotate when you attach the adapter!

FNB-66LI Battery Pack:

The FNB-66LI for the VX-1210 is a sealed 14.8 volt 4.8 Amp-Hour Lithium-Ion battery pack. It is charged by the PA-26/CD-17 charger, and can be charged without removing it from the radio. 

This pack will operate the radio for 10 hours in normal SSB operation, and approximately 24 hours in receive only.

One aspect of the Lithium-Ion chemistry is that there is a fixed service life independent of the number of cycles. Just like modern laptops, there is typically noticeable degradation in 3-4 years, and many have seen pack failure in the 4-5 year timeframe.

The pack is composed of individual cells, and has successfully been rebuilt. This is critical as the 1210 is technically out of production, and there is a concern that remaining factory battery packs in the parts system are also approaching end of life due to age. 

Carrying Cases & Backpacks

The VX-1210 is quite small, and will easily fit in a daypack. It will need some padding, as the case is not quite as heavy-duty as the military manpacks: