Why I Chose The Icom 7610 Over The Flex 6400M

When the price of the Icom 7610 was announced in the US, many reservation holders started looking at the Flex 6400M as an alternative. The Icom 7610 is priced at $3,899.95. The Flex 6400M is $2,999.00 (add $300 for the auto tuner). That’s a pretty big difference and they are comparable SDR transceivers. The Flex 6400M has knobs too!

Why did I choose the Icom 7610 over the Flex 6400M? When I saw the price and researched the Flex 6400M, I almost persuaded myself to go with the Flex.

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Flex 6400M vs. icom 7610

Features I Like About The Flex 6400M

  • The Flex 6400M has a few knobs and I love the touchscreen. It is hands-down the best touchscreen on any HF rig. It’s an 8″ IPS touchscreen with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 and there is a HDMI output on the rear. The IPS touchscreen alone almost got me. See the Icom 7610 info below.
  • I wouldn’t have bought the auto tuner, so it would have been about $900 less than the Icom 7610 (not really a feature).
  • Two VFO knobs on the front. The Icom has just one, but you can add the RC-28 remote control USB encoder.
  • Flex 6400M remote operation with Smartlink looks like it’s a breeze. Use an iPad or PC without any hassles!
  • Full Duplex (with stipulations) The Icom doesn’t have it.
  • 7 MHz panadapter bandwidth. I would love to see that much of the bands on a 30″ monitor. It may be too much for me to handle 😯 The Icom 7610 has 1 MHz.

icom 7610 IC-7610

Features I Like About The Icom 7610

  • Dual RF Direct Sampling Receivers. Independent receivers, separate antennas. The Flex 6400M shares the same antenna with the receivers.
  • I/Q signal output from the USB connector (provided in future firmware). Both radios have I/Q output.
  • RTTY (FSK). The Icom 7300 spoiled me and I enjoy FSK. The filtering is superb. The Flex 6400M doesn’t offer FSK.
  • The Icom 7610 has a RS-BA1 server onboard. No PC required at the rig for remote access. Similar in both radios.
  • (2) USB ports on the front for either a USB stick, keyboard or mouse. There is an SD card slot on the front too. (2) USB ports on the rear, one is USB 3.0. The Flex 6400M has (2) USB 2.0 ports on the rear.
  • A and B external speaker jacks on the rear. Flex has one.
  • Microphone, phones and key jack on the front. The Flex has 3.5mm jacks on the rear.
  • Dual clock displays on the front. Convenient!
  • The Icom 7610 has a 7″ touchscreen that is 800 x 480 resolution. It’s much better than the IC-7300 and better than the IC-7600. I like the layout and Multi Function Meter display better than the Flex 6400M. There’s also a DVI-D video output on the rear of the IC-7610.
Meter Display - icom 7610

Just one of many display options.

Icom IC-7610 vs Flex 6400M

There is a lot more, and I mean A LOT MORE, to these radios than the few things I threw out there. As far as specs and features go, they look pretty equal.

After considering everything, this is what decided it for me:

  1. I enjoy using FSK with N1MM and MMTTY in RTTY contests. The twin peak filter is very effective in RTTY mode.
  2. My familiarity with Icom and the Icom 7300 is a big advantage. There’s not much of a learning curve for me.
  3. The IC-7300 really delivered and I’m confident the IC-7610 will too.
  4. My LDG AT-600ProII external auto tuner connects to this rig just like it does on the IC-7300.
  5. NR and NB are proven to be effective. I need this.
  6. The Icom 7610 front is not as software (menu) driven as the Flex Radio. Operating without a PC will be better with the IC-7610.
  7. The Icom IC-7610 just flat out looks better than the Flex.

That is what tipped the scales in favor of the Icom 7610. It was close between the two and I am sure I’ll have a Flex someday. They make great SDR transceivers in my opinion.

Surprisingly, I got a free Heil mic from HRO with the purchase of the IC-7610. It should be in my shack early December.

I’m keeping the Icom 7300. There is still more to do with it.

What do you think about these SDR transceivers? Did you decide on the Flex 6400M? Getting the Icom 7610?

Please comment below.

73’s Rich, K0PIR

Sources:

Icom America – Icom 7610

Flex Radio – Flex 6400M

IC-7610 Yahoo Group

Icom IC-7610 Facebook Group

Flex Radio Yahoo Group

Comments

  1. Thanks for this, I know its a simple look but you have to start at the 50000ft view and drill down! Like you I have a number of radios here, I have the 7300 sitting next to a TS990 and a TS590SG. I sold off a Flex6500 and 6300. I’m watching the Flex guys closely, as well as how the 7610 will roll out. frankly I was more than surprised at the $3900 price but this is Q4 for Icom as well as the resellers, so orders at a high margin are at the top of the list!! the hobby is fun for a lot of reasons, new Technology is always a blast! and using the TS990 in SS Contest is smooth and clean!……and the 7300 is holding his own! 🙂 and running the SPE 1.3 its easy to hold a freq with either radio.
    I’m glad Flex and Icom are working on keeping investments in to Ham Technology!
    73! aa9nn

    1. Author

      Hi Jim,

      Nice to hear from you. Yes, when I started digging down and looking at the real specifics and capabilities between the two radios, some information is hazy at best. For instance, SO2R, SO2V, full duplex, independent receivers and so on. I went with what I knew.

      I understand Flex just started new pricing structure of sorts. Maybe that’s why the Flex 6400M is $2,999. I’ll be watching them close too.

      Other’s commented that Icom influenced Flex to add knobs. It’s not a separate unit like the Maestro.

      Thanks for commenting Jim and hope to hear you on. 73! Rich

  2. I have been a 100% SDR guy for a long time now, but I have to say, the Flexradio ‘aint a looker. The 7610 looks like a ham radio. The 6500 looks like they made the box bigger and glued a Maestro to the front. It actually has a better touchscreen than a Maestro but the layout is the same. that said the Icom looks like they put the case on upside down. Why the curves on the bottom and not on the top?

    Personally I would say, if you want the knobs buy the Icom, you wont be disappointed. If you don’t need the knobs, buy the FlexRadio6500 model without the knobs.

    Great website Jim, keep up the good work. 73 Andrew ZL3DW

    1. Author

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks Andrew. Nice to hear from you and I thought the same thing about the 7610 case hi hi. Then I look at my 7300 and the curves are on the bottom, just no silver (chrome) trim.

      I think you’re spot on. If a guy wants a SDR traditional style radio, it’s the Icom. For software or computer guys the Flex will be great and they’ll save a lot of money on the Flex 6400 without the knobs on front. The resolution is what get’s me. It’s going to look really nice on a big screen.

      Thanks again and take care.

      73’s,
      Rich, K0PIR

  3. Thanks Rich,
    As a digital operator mainly I am disappointed that both receivers can’t be outputted to a USB port on the 7610. You can on the Flex.

    My solution to full diversity and twin receivers on digital costs only $995 at the moment and that’s a second 7300!!!

    1. Author

      Hi David,
      Nice to hear from you. There are two USB ports on the rear and one is a USB 3.0. Maybe there is a workaround somewhere in the works???

      I remember before the 7300 came out, no one I talked to knew it could do FSK. When I received mine it didn’t take long to have RTTY (FSK) setup and running on MMTTY.

      Hopefully, there are a few nice surprises with the Icom IC-7610 and something to address your point. I’m keeping my IC-7300, so maybe I’ll have to use it.

      Thanks for coming by and commenting and I hope to hear you on the air.

      73’s,
      Rich, K0PIR

  4. I had a quick review and I wanted to comment on a few items. While the 7610 will have IQ data available, the 6400 has IQ data available on both Slices today. Since you will be feeding the IQ data to a PC program, no addition cables are required. IQ DATA is provided by the Flex DAX (Digital Audio eXchange).

    The 6400 does have 3rd Band Pass filters which make it great for Field Day or other high HF RF areas. I am not sure if the 7610 has similar. The 6400 does have an amazing Wide Noise Blanker that has done a great job on urban noise especially on the low bands. Look at YouTube for some examples of a dead band going to a usable band. Cool stuff.

    The front panel is a very personal preference. Some find them too cluttered some find them to not have enough buttons.

    Don’t kid yourself about the 7610 not being as much ‘software driven’. There is as much software in the radio as any radio, especially an SDR.

    Flex does have a similar multifunction meter so you can see Power, Audio Level, Compression, SWR, ALC, and S-Meter at the same time on the M models and the Maestro.

    You can add an external monitor to the M models for 1920×1200 display which is very cool.

    Anyway, I do know the Flex series very well. Good for you on your 7610. Also a good choice. Good DX

    1. Author

      Hi Michael,

      Nice to hear from you and thank you for adding the additional information.

      With Flex coming out with the new pricing and the 6400/6600 radios, I’m certain they will be a success.

      As another Ham on here pointed out, the 6400 would be a good option and it’s only $1,999. I think that would make a good companion for the Icom IC-7610.

      Thanks for the nice comment and I hope to hear you on the air.

      Best 73’s,
      Rich, K0PIR

  5. I will chime in with one comment about using external monitors with the 7610 or 6400M – The 6400M has HDMI out which supports 1920×1200. The 7610 output uses DVI which will support 800×480. The Flex will look much sharper than the 7610 when on an external monitor.

    The other thing to clarify is operating either radio can be done easily without a PC. There is no need for a PC when using the 6400M. Your statement “operating the 7610 without a PC is better” is a false statement.

    The 7610 will be a fine radio if you choose to go that route but I just want to clarify some statements you made.

    1. Author

      Hi Dave,

      Nice to hear from you and thank you for the information on the Flex 6400M HDMI. I agree it is much better than the output on the IC-7610. 1920×1200 external output won’t do me any good right now. Neither of my monitors are capable of it.

      I understand the IC-7610 DVI-D output is capable of 800×600 or 800×480. I’m anxious to try it out.

      Thank you again for visiting and please signup. I’ll have some more information on the Icom 7610 when it arrives. No unboxing videos, I promise 🙂

      Best 73,
      Rich, K0PIR

      P.S. VK’s are reporting the Icom IC-7610 is selling and “flying off the shelves”.

  6. Thanks for your review. Allow me to clarify a few things –

    Hardware wise, the 6400 to 7610 is not an apples to apples comparison. The 6400 only has one ADC because it’s the lower end of the Flex-6000 line, replacing the 6300. A more appropriate comparison would be the Flex-6400 to the icom 7300 where the 6400 would win in nearly every category except that it’s a bit more expensive. And the 7610 should be compared to the 6600. The 6600 starts at $4000 list, just like the 7610. Yes, you do need a computer for that model but I have never found that to be a hindrance. For $5000 you have the 6600M which adds in the built in control panel. So please, let’s not compare a BMW 5 series with a Ford Explorer. Let’s not forget that with the 6600 you’re getting four slice receivers with the two ADCs. With icom you only get two. This is helpful to me because I can work DX split on one band while rag chewing or monitoring FT8 or WSPR on another.

    Has anyone confirmed exactly how much I/Q out you’re getting from a 7610? I’ve heard that they tap it off at the final IF so it would only be 12kHz. That is a really small amount of bandwidth. Even the cheapest $10 softrock gives you more than that. With the Flex 6500, 6600 and 6700 you can get as much as 192kHz. That’s most of the CW portion in most bands. It would be helpful if they released that spec.

    There is NO full duplex on the icom 7610. If you have two receivers in a flex you can transmit on one and receive on another at the same time. This enables things like SO2R in a single box, and monitoring your transmitted signal for making easy adjustments. Or…

    … multi client. In the near future you will be able to have two or more clients accessing a flex-6000 radio at the same time. This is a killer feature for multi single contesting. It simplifies wiring and allows someone to use one radio for a complete M/S solution. You need full duplex for this to happen and icom doesn’t offer it.

    I also have a number of different interfaces available to me with a flex 6000. I can take a maestro and go outside, use a PC or Mac, or use my iPhone and iPad. I’m not tied to RS-BA1 and windows. I’m not tied to the front panel. But even though icom makes a pretty radio, their display is only 800×640. With the 6400M and 6600M it comes with 1920×1200 and can display this on an external monitor via HDMI.

    Finally – FSK. I don’t get why many hams are hung up on FSK. With DAX (digital sound card) on the flex you get the same signal purity as FSK RTTY. In fact with DAX receive I get superior signal decoding. Working weak as dishwater 9U4M on 30 RTTY while my friends didn’t get any decodes made me smile from ear to ear. But, if hams want FSK, I have already relayed this to the flex dev team. I don’t see it as a deal breaker. The most popular FSK mode on HF is FT8 and 99% of people are using AFSK for it.

    The 7610 is a nice looking radio, well laid out and will sure to appeal to many but if you want the best of the best, Flex still is it.

    Hope this clears up some things.

    73
    Ria, N2RJ

    1. Author

      Hi Ria,

      Thank you for your nice comment and the information you provided. I have seen comparisons of the Icom IC-7610 with the Flex 6600, but I didn’t want to get into that, hi hi. I agree with everything you said. You provide some deep and valuable information.

      Thanks and please stick around. I’ll have some hands on experience with the IC-7610 when it arrives.

      Best 73’s,
      Rich, K0PIR

  7. I just bought a 7300 for $999 after rebate. I figure that is a pretty good price and will hold me over until prices drop on the 7610 and reviews roll in on both radios. Not sure why Icom had to come in so high on that radio, had one on reserve but $3900 is out of my budget.

    1. Author

      Hi John,
      Nice to hear from you and thank you for commenting. Yeah, that’s a great deal on the IC-7300. There will probably be some more to be had on the used market.

      I thought about selling mine, but I’m going to hold off for a while. I have more to do with it and I think I want to put it in my camper full time. That way I can check into my early morning nets while camping.

      That $3,900 was out of my budget too. I bit the bullet and will see if it is worth it.

      Thank you again John, best to you and yours this Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas, hi hi.

      73’s
      Rich, K0PIR

  8. R&L is already offering the 7610 for $3,499 so Icom is already discounting the 7610 because at $3,995 it is clearly not competitive with the Flex 6400M which is a better and more feature packed radio at $2,995

    Of course, the Flex 6600M and 6700 totally blows the socks off any Icom offering period

    BTW… I run RTTY on a Flex.. there is NO NEED for FSK in a MODERN SDR because the entire RTTY path is totally digital already and no complex interfaces or setups are needed. A further benefit is that I can typically hear about 6dB better on my Flex because the entire path is digital so there is no analog to digital to analog conversions needed. This really shows up on FT8 where I always hear about 6 dB better than non SDR radios hear me.

    BTW… I hope you asked for the $500 discount?

    1. Author

      Hi Howard,

      Wow, that’s great to know, glad I used my Discover. Maybe that’ll work in my favor.

      It’s a sale price and Icom did not discount it, the radio store did.

      I’ll see what HRO does with the price too.

      Thanks again for the info Howard and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

      73,
      Rich, K0PIR

      P.S. Glad to see my website is making it into the Flex community. I’ll be back there regularly someday.

  9. Hello! Nice assortment of information on the Icoms and the Fkex radios.

    I have had many, MANY Flex radios, my last being the Flex-6500. I presently own two of the IC-7300 radios, and i have an IC-7610 ON ORDER. (I have owned two of the Flex-1500, one Flex-3000, two of thre Flex-5000a, two Soft-Rock SDR, a Flex-6500 (signature series) in total.)

    My point is that you might also consider the APACHE-LABS radios. I have an ANAN-100, and I have owned an ANAN-200D. To me, the HPSDR , as it’s feature rich software package (which is being upgraded at a rate that it is hard to keep up with!) is the major selling point as well as the versatility of the BNC ports on the rear of the radio. It was the SOFTWARE that caused me to get rid of the Flex-6500.

    As I said, i have owned many SDR’s and the ANAN is the king of the hill for ME. The IC-7300 and IC-7610 offer a compelling set of facts such as the fact that you can run these radios without a computer, and the 7610 has a server built in for remote operation.

    73; Mike, K0JTA

    1. Author

      Hi Mike,

      Sorry you were having trouble with the fields. I’ll look into it. Thank you for mentioning it.

      Yes, the ANAN is on my list too.

      If I run across a used one, I might get it. I would love to see what it could do receiving and I’ve seen HPSDR, it looks fantastic. I tried to run it with my RTL-SDR and DX Patrol, but to no avail. I’ll have to look into it some more.

      Thank you again for commenting and adding value with your information.

      Best 73. Have a great holiday season and I hope to hear you on the air.

      73’s Rich, K0PIP

  10. Thanks for the reviews. It seems that there are quite a few of us, including myself, who have decided that one of theses two radios will be in our future. I’m leaning toward the Flex, because of the company’s long history of producing SDR radios, vs. ICOM’s rather recent entry into the field.
    PS: Is the 7610 a kind of “hybrid,” rather than a “full” SDR?

    Best, Dan/KC2TRX.

    1. Author

      Thank you for leaving a comment Dan. It was a close call for me, but the Icom 7610 just felt like the right one for me at this time. It slid right in place of the IC-7300 perfectly. No hassles and almost no learning curve to get it on the air.

      I look forward to getting a Flex, hopefully sooner than later. I really like the IPS touchscreen and HDMI out at high res.

      For the question, I can just refer you to this fine article.

      Thanks Dan. Best wishes to you and yours this holiday season.

      Rich, K0PIR

    1. Author

      Hi Matt,

      Thank you for coming by and thank you for commenting. It’s nice to meet you on here.
      You mean the Icom 7610. I got it last Thursday and love it. It is a fun radio to operate and as I suspected not much of a learning curve from the Icom 7300. Almost plug and play.

      I have some videos on YouTube, please take a look. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBDk9lmKMHPSAX2_7Ya262F77DPgo-6g4

      It is very quiet and I am very, very happy with it.

      73’s for now,
      Rich, K0PIR

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