Many thanks to Erik (KE8OKM) who kindly shares the following guest post:
Venus SW-3B Review from a newbie SOTA/POTA activator’s viewpoint
by Erik (KE8OKM)
My journey into amateur radio is relatively short (approaching 2 years now) in this short time I have become enamored with “in the field” QRP operating. Particularly SOTA/POTA.
When I started studying for my tech license I kept coming across CW–what the heck is that? After I learned it’s a mode using Morse Code (a highly effective one at that) I thought, “not interested” and “they still do that?”
Much to my chagrin, I find myself loving CW and obsessed with all things Morse! The CW mode is both a skill and an art. I am still drawing with crayons but hope to paint someday…at least like Bob Ross…
The Venus SW-3B is a small 3 band transceiver operating on the highly effective 20/30/40m bands: the SOTA/POTA activator’s bread and butter bands. To date I have logged over 450 QSOs with this little “black box.” I often come across some disparaging remarks since the transceiver is built in China.
The SW-3B’s design and manufacturing is overseen by Dale (BA4TB). Now having 3 of these, I can say the quality is fine across the line. Product support is reported very good in the rare event it’s needed.
I will not go into the tech spec’s which one can find here:
Operating the SW-3B in the field
Items used in the field with SW-3B:
- CW Morse Single Paddle key
- Bioenno 9v 3ah Lithium battery
- End-Fedz Trail-Friendly 10/20/40m (no tuner needed)
- BNC-SMA x 2 and 36” RG-316
- Throw line and water bottle (weight)
- Skull Candy in-ear headphones
The SW-3B operating voltage range is very wide (8-15 VDC) so no special batteries beyond what most QRPers use need be purchased.
With the Bioenno 9v I can expect @3w output. Some would argue a inline 1.5 ah fuse should be used but I have not used one and with the low 3W output have not had any problem. The SW-3B sips electrons with @45 mA-hour draw. (50/50) duty cycle
I can say that using the SW-3B is a joy. The radio once set up (wpm and CQ messaging if you like that) is plug and play. I can arrive at a summit or park and be CQing within 10 minutes of arriving.
I’ve used it in snow flurries and light drizzle on SOTAs with no ill effect.
Compared to my beloved stock FT-818 there is no doubt the SW-3B’s filtering is much, much better. In fact along side my IC-705 when set on filter #2 I notice very little difference operating in the field.
*For new CW operators the filtering is important since it separates close by signals from who you are trying to work. This helps tremendously as a newbie.
I have a couple other very similar transceivers, and with the exception of the FT-818, I can say to an untrained ear they all sound pretty darn close…and good! At least good enough for a POTA/SOTA activation. Where the SW-3B shines is it’s significantly lower price point ($188 US).
Now, not to spread rainbows and sunshine everywhere all my SW-3B’s exhibit minor quirks:
- When using the VFO knob the frequency may jump the opposite way if turned quickly.
- Similar to other transceivers of this type, a cell phone within 2-3 feet may cause RFI buzzing and clicking. (The SW-3B exhibits this minor annoyance the least of 2 other similar type transceivers I own.)
- On the 40m band I’ve heard on maybe two occasions very faint SSB or Broadcast in the CW portion of the band.
In this low spot in the Solar Cycle this transceiver has helped me cut my teeth in the Morse realm. My farthest QSO to date is 4400 miles South Carolina to Spain. The 3-5w output makes me work a bit harder in the goal to become a CW Bob Ross!
And lastly, the SW-3B can receive (readable) SSB which is a cool bonus!