As a new Ham, you should be playing with every radio you can get your hands on before you buy one.
You should ask these questions:
-How easy is it to adjust TX power level (if you have a tuner or amp, you will do this often)
-How easy is the DSP to use, and how well does it work? (NB, NR & IF Shift)
-How many antenna connectors does it have? (Do you need more than one?)
-Does it have an internal ATU?
-Is it nice to listen to? (You’re going to spend a bit of time doing that!)
-Is the radio big enough for shack use comfortably? (the FT-857D is a pain to use)
-Does it have a built in Equalizer, for transmit and receive?
-Does the radio have a reputation for ‘sounding good’? (the IC-7300 definitely does)
-Are there any extras? Eg, real time band scope?
-Does it come with all the filters you need, or are they extras? Eg, the K3
-Can it be plugged into a computer via USB for Audio & Control? (you won’t need a digital mode interface then)
-How long is the warranty? Is there a local factory authorized service center? (accidents happen)
-Does it decode RTTY? CW without a pc?
-Can it SEND RTTY? CW without a pc?
-Does it have any recording features?
-Does it have a Voice Keyer (eg, you record ‘CQ 40’ and then just press a button)
Don’t worry about Sherwood lists, or other comparisons that focus on a single aspect of a transceiver. Those appraisals are targeted to specific audiences (eg, CW Contesters).
Your first radio should be an ‘all rounder’ – if you later on find you’re only interested in CW Contesting, then sure, buy a radio that excels at that at the expense of other features.
IMHO, the current best entry level rigs are the Icom IC-7300 and Kenwood TS-590SG. The reasons for this are as follows:
-Both have receiver performance beyond their price class
-Both have USB connectors so you can plug them into your computer and use digital modes without other adapters
-Both can do voice keying (with the optional board installed in the kenwood)
-Both have built in Antenna Tuners.
-Both are decent enough in size to use as shack radios, and both offer decent ergonomics
-Both get pretty nice sound quality reports on air
-Both are pretty nice to listen too
-Both have the ‘basics’ like IF DSP (NR & NB), IF Shift
-Both have a built in compressor, and adjustable TX bandwidth & equalization
There are a few significant differences:
The TS-590SG has 2 antenna connectors, and a really handy ‘tune’ button (transmits a low power carrier).
The IC-7300 has an exceptional real time spectrum scope & audio scope.
I’ve used both – I like both very much. Personally, the real time spectrum scope and the fact the Icom service center is 5 minutes drive from my workplace pushed me towards the IC-7300.