I’ve had the Xiegu X6100 on loan from Radioddity since December 23rd, 2021. In that time, I’ve used it heavily in the shack and I’ve taken it on three field activations using a variety of antennas.
Overall, I think it’s a great little field radio.
I’ll be producing an in-depth review of the X6100 for The Spectrum Monitor magazine, but in the meantime I’m trying to bring up any points in advance that might help others make a purchase decision.
On that note?
Let’s face it: receiver strong signal handling and overload performance are important factors when you choose a radio.
No one buys a new radio and says, “I really hope it overloads easily!”
As the title of this post implies, the biggest negative with the Xiegu X6100–in my humble opinion–is that it is prone to overload when in the presence of a strong signal. It’s a shame the front end isn’t more robust.
I’ve noticed this from my QTH, especially when tuning the X6100 outside of the ham radio bands. Indeed, I recently made a post about this on the SWLing Post. In truth, though, all bets are off when we move into the broadcast portions of the HF spectrum. Transceiver manufacturers usually don’t guarantee performance outside the ham bands. It makes sense as the focus is placed on ham band filtering.
But I have noticed overloading on the ham radio bands as well.
Earlier today, I did a park activation in Pisgah National Forest with the X6100. Before my activation started, I could hear a local AM broadcaster punching through the X6100’s front end all over the 40M band. I think it was a station on 1010 kHz which is only about 4-5 miles away from the site as the crow flies.
Was it an issue? Not really. Not for me.
Once stations started calling me, the X6100 shifted attention to the loudest signals: my chasers. There were times when I believe the local AM station caused the X6100 audio to temporarily deafen–perhaps when the broadcaster transmitting higher gain audio? I’m not sure. It sounded like an AGC hangup and you’ll be able to hear it for yourself when I upload the activation video. [Note to Xiegu: I think the X6100’s AGC could be adjusted to better cope with this.]
Elephant in the room?
It’s worth noting that over the past two weeks, I’ve seen comments here on QRPer and have gotten emails from readers who’ve also experienced X6100 overloading.
For hams who live near blowtorch stations, the overloading may be bad enough that the radio isn’t terribly functional from home unless you’re willing to implement external band pass filtering.
My free advice
On the other hand, if you plan to primarily use the X6100 in the field? You may still consider one.
From my perspective, in the field, overloading is much less likely to be an issue unless you’re planning a summit activation and you know in advance you’ll be among a large cluster of broadcast towers. I’m not sure I’d trust it in that situation. I also wouldn’t trust the X6100 during an RF-dense event like field day and certainly not on a Field Day site with multiple operators on the air simultaneously.
If the X6100 were in the same price class as the Icom IC-705, Elecraft KX2, or Elecraft KX3–? Overloading would be unacceptable and a deal-killer for me.
But the X6100 costs less than half of those radios when similarly outfitted. I don’t expect a $630 radio to place at the top of Rob Sherwood’s receiver test table (like the others mentioned). The X6100 was designed around field use, not contesting.
Still. Overloading isn’t good.
I don’t want to downplay this.
Unless Xiegu can do something to address the overloading in firmware updates (I’m guessing this is more a hardware thing?) I won’t readily recommend the X6100 to new ham radio operators who plan to use it as their primary rig. It would be a shame for them to receive their new radio only to find they can’t hear stations at home because the front end of their receiver can’t handle the local RF.
Yet I bought one…
Yes, I placed an order for a new X6100 from Radioddity fully aware of the overloading issue. I’m hoping my unit will arrive in the next few weeks because I’m soon sending this loaner to the next reviewer.
And you might be thinking…”But Thomas! You hypocrite, you! One of the reasons you sent the uSDX back was because it overloaded.”
That’s a very good point, imaginary person! Thank you for bringing it up.
Frankly, I worry about people making purchase decisions based on what I might or might not say. I don’t consider myself an “influencer”–that implies persuasion and a focus on sales. Rather, I attempt to be a reviewer…a reasonably objective one.
But back to the uSDX…
The uSDX overloaded in the presence of normal CW and SSB signals. And when it overloaded, it sounded awful. My particular unit (not all are this way) was simply unusable. Period.
The X6100’s front end is much better than the uSDX. I can personally live with and work around the X6100’s overloading. Sure, it’s annoying when it happens, but it hasn’t happened often and I can still hear my target signals without an issue.
Today was a good example: even with some overloading, it was one of the busiest activations in recent memory and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were pileups in both CW and especially SSB. Over 60 stations logged pretty effortlessly in very short order.
And thanks to my buddy Scott (KN3A), I can hear what the X6100 sounded like on the other end of the ether.
He recorded the following video as I worked CW stations. (You may need to turn up the volume):
And he recorded this one while I was operating SSB:
I suppose what I’m saying about the X6100 is that, for me, the other pros of this radio (price, built-in ATU, built-in battery, excellent display, compact/rugged design, good audio, built-in microphone, good electronic keying, digital decode, etc. etc.) make up for the weak front end.
This might not be the case for you, and that’s why I’m making this post now so that it might help guide your purchase decision.
As with most things, it depends on the operator and their own unique context.
If you think it’ll be an issue, give it a pass or at least wait until I post the field report and activation video from this particular outing. It’s a great example of operating with a bit of overloading in play. I hope to have this video uploaded within a week.
I would love to hear from X6100 owners. Some have commented on other posts about overloading and, much like me, are still happy with the radio. It’s funny because I also had mixed feelings about the X5105, yet I bought one and enjoy using it.
So there you go.