I talked about my upstairs and downstairs radios in my article, Sharing the love (see article for photos). Since then that division of radios in two groups has been remarkably stable, except that two new radios have been acquired since then, a Tecsun PL-880 and a Tecsun PL-990, both of which are upstairs.
Among the upstairs radios, the most-often used are the Tecsun PL-880 and PL-990. I just can’t decide between those two. The Tecsun PL-330 is also there, but it’s now primarily as a travel radio.
I use upstairs radios outside, where I hook up my 20-ft wire up a tree antenna (WUT). These outings are used to try to grab a particular station that I’ve read about online. I use them to track down the changing frequencies of the Music 4 Joy broadcast. There’s just too much electrical noise to use them indoors where they’re stored. I’ll also grab an upstairs radio when I’m going somewhere, perhaps to the park, to try some listening.
The most-often used downstairs radios are the Tecsun PL-660 and the Eton Elite Executive. The other ones there are used for comparison and testing.
I use downstairs radios in three ways. Downstairs is where my MLA-30+ antenna terminates and so when I use that antenna, it’s most often with a downstairs radio and that’s more often at night. Downstairs is a walk-out basement that’s open to the north and east and there’s a spot that is relatively far away from electrical interference and sometimes I listen to radio in that spot using the receiver’s telescopic antenna. I also use those radios when I’m going outdoors and will be hooking up my 20-ft wire up a tree antenna (WUT).
My car has a built-in FM radio, but I also carry a Degen DE15 shortwave radio and a reel antenna that I can plug in and clip on somewhere.
The DE15 is an older digital signal processing (DSP) unit and it’s quite good for a shirt pocket radio. SW coverage is 2.3 – 23 MHz. It uses 3 AAA batteries that can be recharged in car with a USB cable.
The question for the future is whether to sell one of the high-end Tecsun radios (the PL-880 or PL-990) and cut down the number of upstairs receivers. Also, should I put the PL-330 in the car, a better radio that’s not getting much play these days? Alternately, I could put the upstairs Raddy RF75A in the car too, since it has weather band.
Soon I’m expecting a new radio, an HF F111 that looks like a Bluetooth speaker with a radio in it costing around $15. It will probably go downstairs.
Popular wisdom says that at this level all radios get the same stations, and the differences are found in features, operation and quality. I’m not going to dispute that. What I am going to do here is to investigate those differences and give my opinion on the value question.
Introducing the Radios
I’ve talked about these radios separately and in groups before:
At this price point, one might think that all the radios would have the same features, but that is not the case. All the radios receive LW/MW/FM/SW. They all support SSB reception. They all have clock/alarm/sleep timers. They all have display lighting and direct frequency entry, but there are also many differences. Here’s a feature comparison table to try to sort out them out.
SW Auto tune storage (ATS)
Time Zone set
Line out (AUX)
External MW antenna jack
Memory page labels
Feature difference matrix
Newer versions of the PL-660 have a frequency calibration procedure, but mine does not.
The PL-880 supposedly has a hidden feature to use the external antenna jack for MW/LW, but the procedure is incredibly convoluted, and it appears more a bug than a feature — one that is fixed in my firmware.
My new Model Y came with HW4, consisting of updated cameras and a new computer. Naturally I’m curious about what I got, and there is not a huge amount of information out there.
The new camera suite has two visible changes: first there is one fewer camera, a change from 9 to 8. The second is that camera lenses have a red tint when you look at them. Four of the cameras record to the dashcam drive, and here I was able to make some observations:
All camera’s file resolution was 1280 x 960. Typical 52-second video file size: 33 MB. Frame rate 36 FPS. Sample sum of all 4 camera’s file sizes: 101 MB.
Front camera resolution 2896 x 1876. Typical File size 52 MB.
Back camera resolution 1448 x 938. Typical file size 29 MB.
Side cameras resolution 1448 x 938. Sample file size 25 MB.
All cameras frame rate: 24 FPS.
Sample sum of all 4 camera’s file sizes for 52-seconds : 132 MB.
While the resolution of front camera recordings are much greater with HW4, the other cameras are only slightly higher. The frame rate has dropped for HW4 from 36 FPS to 24 FPS. Overall one might to expect 30% greater usage of the dashcam drive.
The actual resolution of the cameras is unknown, at least to me.
Tesla announced its then new Full Self-Driving Computer (what came to be called HW3) at its Autonomy Day event back in 2019. When Tesla introduced its first full self-driving computer, they mentioned that they were half way to creating a new one. The FSD computer has a massive amount of computing power, with Tesla proprietary neural network chips, general purpose computers on chips, memory and video processing. This computer also powers the car’s infotainment system.
The HW4 computer uses an AMD Ryzen™ chip for infotainment, making the touchscreen far more responsive. It also reduces the available infotainment RAM. A faster infotainment system is cool, but self-driving is the important thing, and here we don’t know much. A report on the computer from Munro and Associates notes that the new computer is faster and that there are 3 neural network processors, one more than with HW3.
Speculation abounds about the relationship of HW3 and HW4 and what it means to future Level 4 autonomy for Tesla cars. Elon Musk recently demonstrated an upcoming major revision of FSD (Version 12) on a car with HW3. He has also said on Twitter that HW4 software will lag HW3 by “at least another 6 months.”
But what does “lag another 6 months mean”? Today there are HW4 cars running Version 11.4.4 of FSD, which is on par or ahead of the large majority of HW3 cars. HW4 and HW3 can run the same software. What I think Musk is saying here is that HW3 cars and HW4 cars running HW3 software will get a production Version 12 of FSD in six months, and then Tesla will start working on a version that can take advantage of the unique features of the new hardware. And of course, Musk’s self-driving predictions are always late.
My recollection is that Tesla said at some point that the HW4 computer’s primary advantage was that it would be a larger multiple safer than a human driver than the HW3 is.
One possibility is that Tesla still thinks that — that HW3 can reach Level 4 autonomy and be 10 times safer than a human driver, but HW4 would be 100 times safer [conceptual numbers]. Maybe they still think that, but it’s clear that Tesla’s view of the problem changed radically in the past few months.
Remember Musk in May of 2023 talking about V12 and excusing its delay, tweeted, “
Arguably, v11.4 should be v12.0, as there are so many major improvements. v12 is reserved for when FSD is end-to-end AI, from images in to steering, brakes & acceleration out.
V12, according to Musk now, throws out the 350,000 lines of code that made up those V11 dot releases and replaces them with machine learning. V11 is, plain and simple, perceived by Tesla as a dead end. (This is not the first dead end / restart declaration from Tesla on FSD.)
The problem Tesla has with saying much about HW4 is that there’s [some big number] of HW3 cars out there owned by people who purchased FSD who will be VERY UPSET if it can’t reach Level 4 autonomy. If HW4 is necessary, then it’s in Tesla’s advantage to get it into as many cars as possible as soon as possible, but not to start a panic.
The alternate view is that HW4 just gives prettier dashcam pictures, plays games faster and costs less.
I’m an electric vehicle enthusiast. Today some website advertised Volvo all-electric vehicles, and I thought I would compare their XC40 Recharge offering with a Tesla Model Y. Both are hatchbacks. I want to see how they stack up.
Tesla no longer offers a single-motor Model Y and Volvo’s single-motor version of the XC40 Recharge starts with the 2024 model year. So we’re comparing dual motor versions for both.
The Bottom Line
When one thinks of an electric vehicle, the two things that seem to come up first are price and range. According to this Volvo company page, the XC40 Recharge has a starting MSRP of $53,550 (in another place it’s $54,645) and an EPA range of 223 miles. Just for fun, I clicked on their inventory link and found that the nearest Volvo dealer didn’t have any in stock, but one in Midlothian, Virginia, did (and that’s fairly close to where my nearest Tesla store is) and they had the Core model for $56,440. The Volvo comes in 3 trim levels: Core ($54,645), Plus ($57,345) and Ultimate ($60,595). The upper trim levels offer various features like a moon roof, 360° camera, adaptive cruise control and a premium audio system.
A Tesla Model Y starts at $47,740. I don’t use the term MSRP because Teslas don’t have suggested prices; they have prices. You order the car online and that’s what it costs. One can sometimes get a little off on what Tesla calls an “inventory car,” but there are not many of those; most Teslas are shipped directly to the customer delivery point from the factory. Teslas have an added advantage this year because they qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit. Volvo cars don’t because they are foreign made, so the Tesla this year in the USA is considerably less expensive. EPA range for the Model Y is 279 miles. (There is a Long Range variant of the Model Y with 330 miles of range for $2750 more.)
Performance? Volvo gives the 0-60 time of a brisk 4.7 seconds. Tesla is a little slower at 5.0 (the Long Range variant is 4.8). Volvo doesn’t give a top speed on its Learn More page; the Tesla’s is 135 mph. I have read that Volo in general limits all its cars to a top speed of 112 mph because of safety concerns.
Both cars have a central touch screen for controls. Here are photos:
I suppose one notices immediately that the Tesla screen is bigger (15″) and the overall layout of the controls much simpler. Which one prefers is a matter of taste.
Now for the tedious part, the specifications in tabular form
Seven years ago this month, I wrote Prius to Tesla transition about the experience moving from a hybrid electric vehicle to a fully-electric one. It talked about the decision making process, my expectations and the emotional ride. It made sense to write it then before there were millions of Teslas on the road. Since that was written, we traded in our 2nd car, a Toyota gasoline model, bought a 2018 Tesla Model 3 Long Range rear wheel drive. I drive the Model 3 now and my wife drives the larger Model S. I actually ordered my Model 3 in 2016 before it was available to get on a waiting list for delivery in the summer of 2018.
I bought the Model 3 with the intention of never buying another car. It had Tesla’s Full Self-Driving feature that would supposedly keep me mobile even after I was too old to drive myself. I’m still waiting for that feature to be fully implemented, but it’s improving. The battery was supposed to last 350,000 – 450,000 miles.
Both those cars were purchased before I had experienced a winter in Virginia where I live now, with a driveway I cannot climb after it snows, so the main driver to switch was to get an AWD car.
Here is a partial list of features I gain by switching to a 2023 Model Y:
Heat pump (greater efficiency, especially in winter)
Heated steering wheel
Higher resolution HW4 cameras
Faster Full Self-Driving computer
Faster infotainment computer (Ryzen chip)
Wireless phone charging
USB port in the glove box for dash cam SSD
Lithium ion 12-volt battery that should last the life of the car (rather than replacing a lead acid battery every 4 years)
External speaker, including pedestrian warning
Powered trunk lift gate
More USB ports. My Model 3 had 2 USB A ports in the front that had to be shared between phone charging and a dash cam drive, plus 2 rear seat USB A charging only ports. Model Y has separate wireless charging for two phones, a USB A port in the glove box for the dash cam, two USB C charging ports in the front and two in the back.
Carpet padding inside the doors and acoustic side window glass (overall the Model Y is reported to be quieter)
Heated windshield wiper channel
Dual jet wiper spray
12V outlet in the trunk
Matrix LED headlights
Better side support on the seats
Bioweapons Defense Mode
And there are losses:
Premium connectivity for life (ouch!)
Temporary unavailability of Full Self-Driving Beta and some regular FSD features, like Summon.
5 mph slower top speed (only 135)
Tesla pulled a demand lever in Q3 2023 by allowing owners to transfer Full Self-Driving to new purchases. Meanwhile the US federal government is offering a $7,500 tax credit for ordering an EV (a benefit I got on the other two Teslas also); a $22,500 incentive was pretty hard to pass up. The new car will be red, same as my 2007 Prius.
One reason for pulling the lever is that a new version of Model 3 is about to start manufacture, with Model Y not far behind. Without a little kick, folks might hold off buying a new car, and Tesla likes for those numbers to look strong. (Disclosure: I own Tesla stock, and I like those numbers to be strong too.)
Buying a Tesla is not like buying a traditional car. The car is ordered online; there’s no haggling; the price is the same for everyone. The buyer just picks the car and options, then clicks a button to place the order on the Tesla website, paying a $250 order fee. Once the order is placed, just about everything from sales to operation to service relies on the Tesla app. If you’re trading in a car, that’s through the app too. I filled in a few details, took some pictures and got a trade-in offer.
Tesla is notorious for low trade-in values for non-Tesla cars. When I tried to trade in my great-looking 2007 Prius with 144,000 miles and one accident, they offered $2000 for it. I decided to donate the car to the SC ETV Endowment and they got $4500 at auction! When it came time to trade in our Toyota Camry, I just sold it to CarMax for exactly what I wanted. This time I’m trading in a Tesla so I got an offer from CarMax and one from Tesla. The Tesla offer was $23,500 ($1,500 higher than CarMax), so I’ll take that. A trade in is convenient because I can just drive to the sales center, leave one car, and pick up the other. I won’t have to worry about timing the money transfers.
Payment and financing is also handled through the app. In this case with the trade-in, there’s not all that much money to change hands, so I’ll pay by bank transfer, and that’s through the app.
Buying a car at a dealership is always a stressful experience. You never know whether you’re getting a good deal. The negotiation is a one-sided contest between a trained professional salesman and someone who only buys a car a few times in their lifetime. I never want to go back to that.
My second Tesla delivery was pretty low key compared to the first one. With the first I got swag — a coffee mug and an umbrella. Nothing came with the Model 3. I just sat around a little while while they completed the paperwork. They still gave a little training on operating the car, pairing the phone with the car (the phone acts as the key) and answering any questions. I was already pretty familiar with Tesla when I got number 2. Model 3 and Model S are pretty much the same car except for the shape, and Tesla keeps the older cars up date with firmware downloads. I probably won’t have many questions. [Update: no training this time, just signing the paperwork and inspecting the car. During the ordering process Tesla sent links to videos on basic operation and features.]
There are some loose ends. The Model Y doesn’t come with the HomeLink feature my Model 3 has to open my garage door. It has to be ordered and installed after delivery. I’m not able to order it yet. A Tesla advisor said there was a known glitch in the Tesla app, which is the only way to order this particular option. [Update: I think the Tesla advisor just made that up. Tesla is intentionally not allowing this item to be ordered until the purchaser takes delivery of a car compatible with it. As soon as I accepted delivery, I was able to order HomeLink through the app, and Tesla Mobile Service will come out and install it.] [Update 2: Then installed it.]
I have to figure out Premium Connectivity — mobile internet access built into the car. Older Model 3s came with Premium Connectivity for life; now it’s available for a monthly free ($9.99 + tax) with the first 30 days included. I’m going to try to do without it, using my mobile phone as a mobile hot spot to give the car internet access if I need it. Satellite maps require it, but I never use that feature. I normally listen radio rather than stream. Connectivity for the app and navigation is included and I can probably connect to Wi-Fi at places where I charge the car on the road. I can use the mobile hot spot from my phone. I could also pay for Premium Connectivity in the month for any road trips I take.
If I recall correctly, I have a week or so to transfer my insurance, and I’ll to enroll the car in VA Mileage Choice to pay my road use fee based on odometer readings rather than an average mileage that’s more than I drive. They can take odometer readings remotely.
I got Tesla’s FSD Beta Christmas Day in 2022, a limited release to owners who purchased the feature and passed a safety score test. Today it’s available to everyone who buys it; however, there is a complication. My car will come with a new version of the FSD cameras and computer (Hardware 4 it’s called) that only works with the latest versions of the Tesla FSD Beta software, and that software only comes with slightly older versions of the car’s firmware. New cars come with new firmware, so it’s entirely likely I will temporarily lose FSD Beta. That leaves me with the older FSD feature that doesn’t do automatic driving on city streets; basically, it doesn’t do turns. I hope that the delay will not be too long. I hope the announced Beta V11.34.7 will be available soon and available to me. [Update: as of September 12, I still don’t have FSD Beta. Beta V11.4.4 is compatible, but very few cars have gotten a firmware update including it.]
I got some bad advice on the internet that said I should purchase FSD with the new car, and when I picked it up, they would reduce the price based on my transfer from the old car. That may work, but it adds complication to the delivery with them having to change the price and recompute tax. The correct procedure is to order the car without FSD and obtain, sign and submit an FSD transfer form from Tesla in advance. A Tesla advisor was able to remove FSD from my order and upload my form very efficiently.
Talking to a human being
This isn’t the easiest thing I’ve done. Sometimes and in some situations you can chat online during the sales process, but most of the time you fill out a form and someone calls you back, sometimes days later. What I did was to locate the phone number of the nearest Tesla Store to me, and call that. I’m fairly sure my call was transferred to corporate offices, but it still worked and I got all the information I needed, including adjusting the time for the delivery, something you schedule through the app, but cannot change there. Delivery is 2 PM, August 25.
I had all my ducks in a row and delivery was simple. A delivery specialist got me to sign a pile of paperwork (mostly to do with my trade in and title transfer) and he told me that my car’s “birth date” was August 6. The last time I bought a Tesla I think that the car didn’t show up in the Tesla app until some hours later, but now it appears the moment you click “Accept” in the app and your “phone key” starts working immediately. The firmware I received is 2023.20.200.
Just a few minutes after accepting the car, FSD transferred from my old Model 3 to the new Model Y. After the cameras calibrated I had original FSD — basically Navigate on Autopilot plus stop light control. It’s pretty basic stuff for someone who has driven the Beta for almost 2 years. I will have to wait until the FSD Beta makes it into a current firmware branch that I can download. [Update: Version 2023.26.11 has started to roll out with V11.4.4 in it. There is some delay between delivery and Teslas starting to get firmware updates. Hope springs eternal.]
Naming the car
Tesla cars can be named (it’s a setting). Choosing a name is not as momentous as naming your first-born son since it’s changeable at any time, but I did think about it for a couple of weeks with nothing coming to mind. I arrived at some clarity on the 50-mile drive to the Tesla store and named the car “Nell-E.” The reader will probably have guessed already that the “E” is for “electric.” I’ll leave the first part as a puzzle.
Here are my first impressions from a 60-mile drive home from the delivery:
I like the red color.
The car is really easy for me to get into and out of.
The car is tall. When I got it into the garage, I realized for the first time how really bit this car is!
The old Full Self-Driving software (not Beta) is a huge step backwards.
Regenerative braking is noticeably stronger in this dual motor Tesla.
I was not impressed at the noise reduction over Model 3. I’m sure part of that is going from 18″ to 19″ tires and perhaps from Michelin to Continental tires.
When I activated the turn signal, the side car image appeared on the touch screen and remarkably the sky was blue! (This is supposedly due to a change in firmware and not the HW4 cameras.)
Some if the controls, like the window switches look rather plain and flat compared to my Model 3.
I really miss the shelf in the center console. The prices for some Tesla accessories are more expensive than I think they’re worth. I found a pair of center console shelves on Amazon for $23 that I will try.
It’s hard to park in the garage because the sides of the car aren’t visible from the driver’s seat and it’s difficult to gauge your position. (I’ve had parking problems with most new cars.)
Those matrix headlights are really something. My old Model 3 headlights weren’t very good. The new matrix lights look like there is a straight line across the horizon between where the lights illuminate and where they don’t. But the completely different appearance will take some getting used to.
I like the car a lot so far.
August 21: State Farm is sending me a Drive Save & SaveTM transponder.
August 22: The car is now paid for through the app.
August 25: Picked up the car (see below)
August 27: Installed the DS&S transponder and hooked it to the State Farm app
August 30: Tesla Mobile Service installed HomeLinkTM garage door opener.
August 30: Center console organizer inserts arrived from Amazon — installed.
August 31: Trunk mats arrived from Tesla, made by WeatherTech. Amazon has less expensive ones.
September 1: Removed old car from Virginia Mileage Choice program
September 1: Installed first firmware update to car (2023.26.9, but it doesn’t have a version of Full Self-Driving I can use.
September 13: Installed second firmware update to car (2023.32.4) with V11.4.4 of the Full Self-Driving Beta. Yea!
There are still some things to do:
Waiting for registration documents from the state of Virginia.
Install permanent license plates.
Add car to Virginia Mileage Choice program (it reads odometer to get road use tax information).
Get barcode for my subdivision.
Get Full Self-Driving installed.
Remove screen protector from touchscreen.
OK. Everything’s done. I am transitioned.
So why did I trade for a Model Y again? Model Y is bigger, meaning bulkier. It takes up a little more room in the garage. It costs a little more. The reason I got Model Y, I remind myself, is because it’s easier to get in and out of and I’m getting older — and more importantly at this moment, it’s easier for my older friends to get in and out of.
After the roaring success of my Battle of the under $50 shortwave radios (36 views! ROFL) I’m inspired to up the ante and review models that could be purchased today with shipping between $50 and $100. The contestants this time are definitely more interesting:
The R-9700DX is about $55 with shipping from Kaito USA on eBay. The PL-330 is around $80 on Amazon. The ATS-405 can be found on Amazon for $73; its price varies. The XHDATA D-808 has become popular with shortwave listeners and it’s price has shot up about 30% in the last 5 months. It can still be purchased direct from the XHDATA website for slightly under $100.
Breaking news! The ZWS-A320 was defective; the antenna joints were frozen together in two places. I returned it and reordered. The second one’s antenna joints were frozen together in one place. I returned it. I’ve given up on this radio. ZHIWHIS customer support says that I’m the only one reporting the problem. (What are the odds?)
Here I compare 4 great Tecsun radios; Three are still in production, and the PL-660 can still be purchased new.
The PL-660 was introduced in 2010 and I’ve owned mine since December of 2011; it’s been a great radio and continues to perform magnificently. The PL-660 is a dual-conversion phase locked loop synthesized superheterodyne analog radio that covers LW/MW/SW/FM and AIR bands (this is the only radio on the list with AIR band). It receives SSB and supports synchronous detection. It has auto tune storage (ATS). Mine is firmware version 6601, an earlier model that doesn’t have the memory sorting and duplicate deletion feature; the other radios have the feature.
It’s been included in several articles at Blog or Die!:
My next acquisition was the PL-330, introduced in 2021, and bought soon afterwards as a travel radio to replace my PL-380, adding some useful features, most notably SSB and frequency coverage up to 29.999 MHz. The PL-330 is an all-digital radio based on a digital signal processing (DSP) chip. Mine is firmware version 3306. I haven’t done a proper review of the PL-330, but I have included it in some articles: