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!
8 thoughts on “Guest Post: Erik’s Review of the Venus SW-3B”
Thank you for sharing this review, Erik!
I actually have an SW-3B on order right now. It’s supposed to arrive sometime next week, in fact! I look forward to checking it out.
I love how simple your field kit is, by the way!
Thanks Thomas! I look forward to seeing what you think of this transceiver. I’ve been activating with the MTR4BV2 as well. If I had to pick between the two it would be tough (if cost is no issue.)
I got this radio for Christmas and love the size and price! I used it on a POTA activation and had great success including a DX contact to Finland. I’m using mine with a bioennno 4S battery at 13.8 volts which gives about 6 Watts output.
I did experience the cell phone interference, but that’s good to know it is common across other QRP rigs. The good news is just keeping it a short distance away fixes it.
I picked up one of these radios last spring and am very pleased with it. I primarily use it for SOTA ops but I have used it to chase at my QTH. I use a 1000mah lipo battery and it lasted an entire 4 day SOTA adventure. My longest contact was with S57S from Washington State on a 4 point summit (about 5400 miles). I generally use a linked dipole or linked endfed with this radio but I have paired the CHA MPAS lite with the Elecraft T1 Tuner. Nice work on the write-up and 73!
It has been years since I was active, but the lower end of 40M had then both annoying broadcast and SSB activity as certain regions of the planet do not have it allocated to exclusive Amateur Radio service. Some hams have even been prosecuted in the past for attempting to interfere with these activities. The best CW filters of the day did not have much impact on hearing remnants of these artifacts so I just remember trying to live with it. I look forward to trying this radio out to see how it compares to my old KD9JV ATS3B.1. Cheers, Dave – KU9L
Does anybody know how many characters the CW keyer function holds using the current firmware (as of 3/19/23)?
I managed to get 16 characters in memory – when I try to add ‘k’ at the end, it doesn’t retain it…
I just received my SW-3B and it seems to work very well. I know that it needs an SWR of 2 or lower. I read that if you transmit at an SWR over 2, it can damage the rig.
If that is the case, it appears that it can only be used with a resonant antenna. To use a non resonant antenna would require an external tuner, and most require a constant carrier to tune, at least my Elecraft T1 does. Doing that might damage the SW-3B while it finds a match.
Am I missing something? Have any of you used it with an external tuner in some way?
Thanks so much,