The Chinese Puxing PX-777+ and the PX-888K

The entry of Mainland Chinese manufacturers into the commercial and amateur radio markets has started a downward spiral in pricing and healthy competition in quality and features.

This article will compare two Chinese manufactured handhelds suitable for ham radio use. Compared are the Puxing PX-777+ and PX-888K.

The proper pronunciation of PUXING is: pooh-sheen. Don't let a Chinaman catch you saing pook shing. Notice the sheen has a SOFT ending. Chinese is a very melodious, singsong sounding language, not the grunts and clicks of Russian or English.

Puxing PX-777+

If you are looking for a single band radio, this could well be the best of its class.

Be aware of a few nuances in the advertising:

  • There are two models, the PX-777 and the PX-777+

  • Make sure the + or "plus" refers to the model, not "plus accessories."

  • Typically the PX-777+ is a VHF radio, but they are also made UHF.

Puxing PX-888K

The dual band PX888K is very similar to the PX-777+. In fact, they share microphones, charger and batteries, and are virtually identical in physical size and appearance. Sometimes they are hard to tell apart!

Be aware, that like the "777+", there are some nuances in the advertising:

  • There is the older PX-888 with other suffix letters. Get the "K" suffix!

  • There are such things as UHF, VHF and dual band versions. Get the dual band.

  • There are Green radios and Black Radios. And, of course, my red one! The green variant is newer than the black, but much the same. The red is a special order, hard to get. It's heart is all green or black, no choice!

Comparisons and Details

Software Defined Radios

These are software defined radios. There is one big computer chip inside them, and some r.f. circuitry, but for the most part the radio simply takes the r.f., slices and dices it for digital processing. There are analog amplifiers for audio in and out. All buttons, knobs, display, backlight etc. are hardware pins on the CPU chip.

This type of design allows the manufacturer to make minor or drastic changes in the innards of the radio, its frequency coverage and performance. Some changes would require new button and/or front panel labeling.

Unlike more conventional radios, this type of design allows a factory to be set to produce a circuit board and innards for a variety of radios, and with the addition of software, plastic case and a couple other items, call it Model so-and-so. This means that production remains stable for quite a while, making these radios cheap to produce.

In China and other various asian countries, they have such radio services as our Family Radio Service, but on different UHF frequencies. These radios look totally different, they may or not have a touch pad. But the guts are the same!

This also means that you can expect the PX-777+ and the PX-888K to be followed sooner or later with newer models, differing only in software. One possible change is that the new FCC rules for commercial services require the radios to be shipped with only Narrowband modulation allowd. Expect some sort of software change. If done properly, the Ham bands will be able to use Wide modulation, and the rest of the radio band (outside the ham band), to use only Narrowband modulation. Exactly how this will be implemented is not clear; and I will write about it when I find out.

The Accessories

These Puxing radios have a two-pin microphone connector. It is the same as the two-pin Kenwoods, so the Kenwood accessories will work fine on the Puxing's and vice versa. Some other chinese brands have the same pinout.

Both radios have the industry standard SMA connector. Male on the radio, with internal threads, and Female on the rubber duck antenna, with external threads.

I am often asked, how come it is male with internal threads?

The answer is that the threads have NOTHING to do with the gender of any connector. The gender is defined by the center pin, male or female.

This antenna gender is pretty much an industry standard for the SMA connector. But you should be aware that Yaesu implements it backwards! Thus, antennas and adaptors made for Yaesu will not fit each other. Not following standards has been a feature of Yaesu, and they are the ones with weird microphone connectors, antennas etc etc that work only with the Yaesu/Vertex stuff. Yaesu Vertex is not a particularly noted manufacturer of commercial radios, although with their heavy handed advertising have secured a strong foothold in the Amateur market.

The Puxing's and many other Chinese and Commercial brands follow the same standard: the one Yaesu does not!

The battery for these radios are Lithium Ion Oxide or LiPO batteries. They are rechargeable. Lithium is a rare earth that is extensively mined in China, whereas in the USA mining is almost a dead industry. As a rule, Chinese made batteries are inexpensive and perform very well indeed.

Both radios share the same battery. You get the standard 1,200 MAH battery when you buy the radio; there are aftermarket and Puxing units rated at 1,600 MAH.

When I tested the PX-777+, I got 36 hours of standby time, with about a 60 second transmission every hour while I was awake and home. I figured 15 to 20 such transmissions. At the end of the 36th hour I was unable to make any further transmissions, although the unit continued to receive/standby for another hour or two. I call this performance as "36 hours" because it represents a typical use of the radio and battery during an outing.

I did not test the 1,600 battery for usable hours, but I would expect it to be in the 48 hour region.

The PX-888K uses up more battery power, and I would expect only 20 - 24 hours of standby/on from the stock 1,200 battery, and perhaps 30-36 from the 1,600.

The supplied charger is intelligent, and will not cook the batteries. You can leave the radio in the charger indefinetely. Also these batteries have a longer longevity than brand Y. The Puxing batteries are now well over year old here, and none have failed, whereas brand Y batteries often give up the ghost after a few months.

Perhaps if these radios have a flaw is that the batteries do not attach very firmly to the radio. I have had a few pop off. What I discovered is that if you inspect the latch mechanism of the radio and the battery, you can see that some are warped this way or that, but that it is possible to get them to work properly if you use your brains and work on it yourself.

Lastly, unlike brand Y batteries that like to cost $35 - $70 each, these Puxing Batteries run $11 - $20.

Much is made by Yaesu of their waterproof construction. Some of this is relative. If you leavea rubber plug or cap off, it is no longer watertight. They get a lot of money for this feature.

The Puxings here in Nome have fallen on water puddles, completely submerged for a few seconds, with no ill effect. My advice is not to take a chance and in the rain put the radio inside your coat pocket. But it is good to know that a radio that gets a bit wet will not fail immediately.

There are a colossal variety of mikes, headsets, bone mikes, throat mikes, etc. available for these units. Some are flimsy affairs indeed, and if it seems too good a deal to be true, probably is! However, at the prices asked on eBay, it would be worthwhile to experiment.

I have ordered a couple of regular hand mikes, but when I saw the "Rainproof" mike, I got one. Then another one. I have several now. They are indeed rainproof, and make carrying your radio inside your coat very practical. Alas, they are not freeze proof and if they get cold soaked, the push to talk rubber membrane gets so stiff that you don't know if your were transmitting; or vice versa. Perhaps this will be fixed in the future.

You *need* a hand mike! I do not make this statement idly. The usefulness of a Handheld radio is enhanced by a hand mike. It frees your hands, you can drive, cook, eat, etc with a handmike clipped to your lapel. You can attach the radio to something sturdy inside your car, and reach for and drop the mike as needed. You would be loath to drop a whole radio inside a vehicle, specially an ATV. The mike will just dangle from its coiled cord. You will find infinite uses for a hand mike.

Some specifics on the radios

Displays. The PX-777+ has a single line display while the PX-888K has a two line display.

This means that for any given channel, the PX-888K can display more information about that channel.

The PX-888K display shows to lines, one line says "ANVIL", which is the name of the channel, and the second line "147.150" which is the receive frequency of the radio.

This is a great feature of the PX-888K over the PX-777+, and to me, a great selling point!

[Note: The tiny hole labeled Hole in the picture is the hole for the microphone. When you speak, the sound from your mouth goes into this hole and into the microphone. Some radios are reported to have low or weak transmit audio. Making this hole ever so slightly larger will fix that. You can dissasemble the radio, or just drill it so carefully that you don't drill into the mike!]

You can set your radio to display channel name, channel number, receive frequency. In the 777+ you can only display one of these at a time, but on the 888K you can display any two. Furthermore, on the 888K you can display TWO frequencies, or channels etc when the radio is in "Dual Watch Mode."

Dual Watch. Please do not confuse this with "scanning" or scanning two channels. In scanning, the radio changes from one frequency or channel to the next on the scan list. You can scan any number of channels, you can add or delete channels to the list, and you can set any channel to be priority. Priority means that the radio will scan the list, but between each step will check the priority channel.

Example, you have your radio set to scan CH-001, CH-002,CH-003, CH-004 and CH-005. In regular scan it will go 1-2-3-4-5-1-2-3-4-5-1-2-3-4 ... etc.

If you designate channel CH-001 to be priority, then the scanning will be 1-2-1-3-1-4-1-5-1-2-1-3-1-4 ... always checking back to the priority channel.

Both radios can do scanning. In dual watch, which only the PX-888K can do, the radio will receive TWO channels at the same time. This is because the PX-888K has two internal simultaneous receivers. It receives two channels at the same time. You can set this up in a number of ways: You could mix both channels on the speaker and when both channels are active you will get a jumble of the two voices. Or you could set one channel to mute the other channel when it is active.

Dual watch channels are designated A and B. The A or the B is only displayed when that channel is the master one; ie, the one that mutes the other:

A   147.150
    147.270

or

    147.150
B   147.270

or

A   147.150
B   147.270

In the three examples above, you will see that 147.150 is master on the first example, secondary on the second example, and mixed up on the last example.

There is no reason instead of displaying 147.150 you could not display "Anvil". Or CH-007.

When only one letter is displayed, that will be your Transmit channel, it will never transmit on the non lettered one. I am not sure on the behaviour on the third example.

Now, you may ask, how is that different from just scanning two channels?

Good question! Mainly in that scanning involves a delay while the radio changes channels. First it tunes in the first channel, then the internal computer tells it to change channels. When it does, the new frequencies and parameters are set up and the command is given to change. This change takes a bit of time; perhaps close to one second. Thus, scanning is slow, and there is a discernible delay as the radio steps thru the channels.

With dual watch, there are already TWO radios in there ALREADY set up so the switching is instantanous; in fact, there is really no switching as both radios are receiving simultaneously.

The PX-777+ has only a single receiver and does not have dual watch. But it will scan and priority scan.

FM Broadcast Reception

The PX-888K but not the PX-777+ receives FM broacasts, like KICY-FM. They will not receive AM or TV sound signals. The received FM station can be one of the ones for dual watch. You can be listening to Beethoven's Third Philarmonic on FM, when a call comes in. The music stops, the radio call on the ham channel comes through the speaker. There is a delay before it resumes listening to FM music. This allows you to start talking. After the QSO is finished, and a brief delay, the music comes out the speaker again.

Programming the Beasts!

Although the two radios are closely related, they differ in some regards.

You can program the radios using a computer, and a table of details much like an Excel spreadsheet. If you are managing more than a handful of channels, this is much easier to do than keyboarding channel information.

Programming from a PC requires a programming cable and software. The cable costs about $15, and the software is free. While the cable and the driver for the cable is the same for either radio, the Excel-type programming software is different for each model. This cable will also program other Chinese radios and some Kenwoods.

If you are programming from the radio keyboard itself, the PX-777+ wins hands down as it has the self programming mode. Basically, self programming means that when you enter that mode, you select the channel and the radio will ask you questions about that channel that you enter, and then step to the next question until done.

Both radios will support a VFO mode, and the VFO selected parameters can be assigned to a specific channel.

How to do all this is beyond the scope of this article, but will be featured in subsequent articles.

Copyright © 2013, Ramon Gandia. All rights reserved.