Well before the new Xiegu X6100 transceiver was actually in production, I was already getting questions from readers and YouTube channel subscribers if they should plan to purchase the X6100 or the Icom IC-705.
The X6100 has been in the hands of early adopters now for about two months, so we have a good idea what the radio is capable of and how well it performs–at least, with the current firmware revision (January 18, 2022).
I’d planned to make a comparison video in a couple of weeks when the X6100 I purchased arrives, but as I was packing my loaner X6100 to ship to the next review last week, I got yet another email and made the decision to unpack the rig again and film a video comparison.
Without fail, each time I do a radio comparison I get at least one email (often several) stating in no uncertain terms: “Thomas, you can’t compare those two radios!“
The fact is, any two radios ever produced can be compared and contrasted. They might not be in the same league or be targeting the same market, but they can certainly be compared.
With that said, I get it.
I think what these hams are really trying to express is that they find it hard to believe someone would be debating the purchase of one of the two radios in question. To them, the choice is crystal clear.
This is why I stress so often that our enjoyment and appreciation of a particular radio has more to do with our own particular operating style than anything else. In other words? It’s subjective.
In the case of the Xiegu X6100 and the Icom IC-705, from my point of view, these radios are in completely different leagues performance-wise, but they both share the same market: portable operators who want a true portable SDR transceiver experience.
Plus, let’s face it: in terms of layout and design–even the placement of the power button–the X6100 looks a lot like the IC-705.
The price difference is vast: the Xiegu X6100 retails for $639 US, while the Icom IC-705 retails for $1,370 at time of posting.
To the point…
My unscripted video below goes into a fair amount of detail regarding the similarities and differences between the X6100 and IC-705–at least from the point of view of a CW and SSB field operator.
If you’re looking for a quick answer and want to skip the video, here’s my advice painting with rather broad brush strokes:
Choosing the Xiegu X6100
The X6100 has a lot of features as-is, but Xiegu promises to add many more via software updates. If you’re okay with a bit of receiver overloading and/or perhaps have a good external BCI filter, you should find the X6100 a capable field radio.
If you’re a CW operator who doesn’t require full break-in QSK and PIN diode switching (the X6100 uses relays which click) you should be pleased with the X6100’s feature set and electronic keyer.
If you’re an SSB operator you’ll be pleased with he X6100’s feature set as the built-in microphone on the transceiver chassis. I’ve used that microphone to make a number of SSB contacts and it works well.
If you’re a digital mode operator you should also be pleased, but you might wait a couple months to see just how wirelessly you might be able to connect to the X6100. Much of that wireless functionality has not been implemented. Users do report that it’s simple to set it up and connect to a computing device using IC-7000 command settings.
Since the X6100 has a built-in rechargeable battery, built-in microphone, and a superb built-in ATU, it gives the user a proper “shack-in-a-box” experience. The X6100 chassis also feels pretty darn rugged.
Choosing the IC-705
As a CW operator, I’ve been incredibly pleased with the IC-705. It has beautiful full break-in QSK and relay clicks are hardly noticeable. The IC-705 has more accessible CW message memories that any other radio I’ve tested.
As an SSB operator, I’ve also been incredibly pleased with the IC-705. I get great audio reports and it sports a load of voice memory messages as well.
As a digital mode operator, I consider the IC-705 to be the best portable transceiver on the market. I so easily paired it with my Microsoft Surface Go tablet to play FT8 and FT4. If I wanted to, I could purchase Icom’s remote software and actually connect my tablet and IC-705 wirelessly. In theory, the X6100 may be able to do this in the future, but in practice the IC-705 does it now, and does it well.
If you’re looking for a radio that is multi-mode, includes D-Star, and has full, high-stability VHF/UHF coverage as well, you’ll want the IC-705 (as the X6100 is HF only).
The IC-705 receiver is superb, sporting a low noise floor, excellent dynamic range, and has a pretty bullet-proof front end. The audio via the internal speaker is best-in-class for a portable HF radio.
Keep in mind that this video was very much last-minute and unscripted. This should come as no surprise to my subscribers! 🙂 I assume I’ve left a number of details out, so feel free to note them in the comments. My videos are all ad-free:
As always, I’d like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and I’m most grateful!