The Xiegu X6100 or the Icom IC-705? Making a purchase decision…

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.

Not comparable?

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

If you’re a field operator who would appreciate an affordable, truly portable SDR transceiver experience, consider 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

If you want benchmark portable transceiver performance and you have the budget, skip the X6100 and go directly to 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.

Video comparison

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:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thank you!

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!

22 thoughts on “The Xiegu X6100 or the Icom IC-705? Making a purchase decision…”

  1. It’s a fact though. Big electronic companies take the time and spend the money to make good or even great products. Then the Chinese copy it as cheaply as they can to siphon off the profits. While the lower cost of the Chinese knock offs will make their product available to more hams, especially those with a tighter budget I can see the day when the big electronic companies (there are only a few left) will just spend their time and money on cell phone or audio products, things that more people use every day. Look at all the big companies that USED TO make ham radio products. Where are they today? We are a niche hobby. Please don’t forget that. You vote with your hard earned radio dollars. And companies are listening.

    I still buy and use Chinese built products when needed but not the knock offs of American products. Some Chinese producers don’t even bother to remove the US makers insignia from their copy cat boards.

    Dave K8WPE

    1. I’m in agreement with you: I won’t knowingly buy a clone or illegal copy of any radio or transceiver. I never want my purchase to indirectly rob a proper radio manufacture of their R&D funds. This is why you’ll never see me use the Chinese copy of the mcHF for example, or any of the million clone SDRplay SDRs out there.

      To be clear: Xiegu does their own R&D and product development, their own marketing, and have proper distribution channels with retailers who support our ham radio world. Competitively speaking, they certainly target the big manufacturers and market themselves as a low-cost alternatives, but they are in no way shape or form a clone or illegal copy. To some degree, I actually believe they put some positive competitive pressure on other manufacturers. They have the advantage of lower wages and being in a country with insane manufacturing infrastructure, but that’s fair game in a free market economy.

      There’s no other radio out there that compares to their G90–it’s a unique design of their own. The X5105 certainly targeted the KX2 market, but it’s no KX2. And the X6100 may look like the IC-705 and share some SDR functionality, but it’s not in the same league and only has a fraction of the features, specs, and coverage.

      All this to say, though, that I am in agreement. I feel like we vote with our money in this market. If we purchase clones and illegal cheap copies, we’re supporting a retailer and manufacturer who has no vested interest in our ham radio world. Those folks are just out there for some quick cash.

      Again, great point!

      Cheers,
      Thomas

      1. Thomas, your comment about the appeal of either radio being subjective is the real point I pulled out your blog post. I am primarly a POTA CW operator. I own a KX-2, which is my one and only QRP/low power transceiver. However, it I was in the marker for a new QRP/low power transceiver, the X6100 would be a compelling choice. Why? Because it does what I need it to do. It’s value is in it’s meeting my specific needs. The IC-705 is overkill for me.

        1. Bingo!

          Honestly? I bought both the X5105 and X6100 and although I’ve much better radios (in terms of RX) in my arsenal, I love using both radios. They get the job done!

    2. Dave K8WPE, very good points.

      As for Ham manufactures like Drake, Hallicrafters, etc most of these were started by Hams, even Collins had Hams doing lot of their work in the early days, Mr Collins was a Ham and got started making Ham gear, his famous 30W AM transmitter built in his home. But then came their off spring who were more into accounting. Even distributors like Amateur Electronic Supply, sold off the HRO. Son took over and the bottom line was all he was into. Even maganzines like 73, Wayne Green was into Ham Radio, then a large mag company bought it and it went down hill fast.

      Yaesu and Icom are run by Hams, but as you said will probably go another way when their children or a large company takes over.

      73, ron, n9ee/r

  2. For me it comes down to a couple of factors, but the biggest ones are the 6100’s price and the internal tuner. The 6100 (I don’t have either one yet) seems good enuff for most activations. And the 705 is not better enuff to justify the added expense. And you would still need to add an external tuner. DStar, GPS and 2 meters aren’t that important to me and could easily be handled with an HT while still being cheaper than the 705.

    The 6100 has all the features you would need in a SOTA/POTA QRP radio. The 705 features that are missing from the 6100 (most are promised in future firmware upgrades) just don’t justify the cost increase.

    1. Just reread my words from 6 months ago. But….

      Ordered a IC-705 from HRO yesterday. Should be delivered today if I can believe UPS tracking.

      I will either keep the X6100 or the G90. It will probably be the G90 s that would give me a few more watts in the field for those times the IC-705’s 10 watts may be lacking.

      I am so happy to eat my words and can’t wait to try out the 705.

      W4MKH
      https://w4mkh-qrp.com/

      1. You’ll really love the IC-705 and it’ll serve you well at/around the new QTH!

        Cheers,
        Thomas

  3. Very good article Thomas, one of the best so far when comparing rigs, thanks.

    I have had the IC705 for over a year, just received the X6100 and have been playing with it for at least 20 hours.

    From what I know now if had only one of them to choose from it would be the IC705 even at twice the price. It would be that for just HF, I have not used my IC705 on 2m or 440 just as I did not use my 2004 FT817 on those bands. But is nice to know they are there for SSB/CW on VHF/UHF can be fun. But we are talking POTA operation here so this is my interest.

    I do like the X6100, would not sway anyone from getting one. Upgrading is so easy, I have done one, the 12/30, but waiting for more for the X6100 needs more features like tunable IF filters and getting the CW memories working (can program them, but cannot use, but I am sure this is coming). I am not so into remote operation, I like playing with the knobs, but to each their own.

    The IC705 is direct sampling tech, the X6100 is old IF. But my main problem with the X6100 is the tuning. It is either way to slow or way to fast. The upgrade did add 10Hz tuning. Have to turn the tuning knob many times to get anywhere. Also the band scope does not track the tuning well, it lags so when trying to tune to a station can just go thru it if using the band scope as a guide. IC705 works much much better. I am not sure if this can be fixed in software. The tuning steps and rate can, but the band scope is more difficult. If use for tuning to stations without a band scope one will not see this, but the IC7300, IC7610 and IC705 spoiled me with their nice band scope especially being able to set the band width, from +/-2.5kHz to +/-400kHz in many steps. The X6100 now is fixed to either +/-50 or 100 kHz. During like Field Day with stations every 1kHz nice to have very narrow scope. The Icom band scope are the most advanced I have seen although I am sure other new rigs have good ones like the FTDX101.

    I am looking for improvements thru upgrades for the X6100. Xiegu does have some work to do and I hope they will address them although from what I have heard of the GSOC, not so sure.

    73, ron, n9ee/r

  4. That’s the reason because I choose Elecraft, because the three big Japanese companies don’t have a support development for the software of their own products. You buy an Elecraft radio and you have improvements every six months or less, you buy from big Japans and you have a bunch of promises or rumors of improvements that never reach your shack.

  5. I have a question: what was that signal on the X6100 band scope just below the center frequency without an antenna connected? Was that an AM broadcast station breakthrough or a spurious response of some other kind?
    Gary
    W9TD

    1. That’s a great question. As I was making the video, I noticed the signal below center frequency and assume it was noise from the light dimmer. I made that video in our vacation rental and I recall that dimmer spewing noise that’s pretty much limited to inside the house. There is another signal that pops up though and I didn’t notice it during filming. I’m not entirely sure what it is.

  6. I have a KX3, 705 and X6100 purchased in that order. I would say that price dictates quality in each of these radios. They are all fun to operate and they all have their own characteristics. Had the 705 came out before the KX3 I probably would not have bought the KX3. It’s a pain to get it all wired up if you are going to use the PX3 with it. I think once we get spoiled with a waterfall you always want to use one. The receive on teh KX3 is superior tp all three radios. It was not a deal breaker for me that the 705 did not have a tuner and the he bolt on tuner works seamlessly. The tuner in the X6100 has very limited range and I find myself using my external Elecraft T1 tuner for a couple of antennas that I use. The KX3’s tuner will tune anything but also adds to the price of the radio.

    At this moment in time price-wise the 705 with an external tuner is probably the best option for most. Don’t get me wrong the X6100 is a fun radio to operate and I’m glad I bought it. I suspect after a few more firmware updates we’re all going to be really surprised at how well it works with the exception of the chance of it overloading. I don’t see them fixing that ina firmware upgrade but easily resolved by a broadcast band filter. For the price difference between the 705 and the X6100 and the 705 the X6100 is hard to pass up if you are on a limited budget. Just be sure at this time you are able to accept the possibility of it overloading and these couple of things at this moment in time, 01/19/2022. Wi-Fi not working properly, CW messages can be entered but not transmitted. Voice messages can be recorded and played back but cannot be named. Audio feedback when recording voice messages unless you first turn the volume down, RF gain doesn’t clean up the waterfall like an Icom radio, mic can probably use a pop filter installed. I suspect most of those will be fixed in a future firmware update.

    1. Bolt on tuner for the 705?

      If I had my way I would buy the 705. I can afford it or all three. But my wife would probably divorce me. The only real chance I have of getting a new radio this year is probably the 6100. And I’m not sure I can get that approved.

      We are just 10 days shy of our 38th wedding anniversary and I value her advice on money. Plus we are looking for a house in the Upstate SC or western NC so I can make do with my current radio setup for a while longer.

  7. The radio that really excites me is the TX-500, a truly revolutionary design that appears to be the ultimate field radio if it is as rugged as it looks. I don’t own one and have not played with one as of yet but given the reviews I plan on purchasing once the supply loosens up and the development is farther along. If the Ruskies can keep up the development, supply, support and add on with features, improvements and options I, for one, will purchase. The price has risen by $50 at HRO since introduction (never any in stock) and hopefully will remain stable but who knows in this market!

  8. Hi Thomas.
    Can you compare these radios with the Discovery TX-500?

    It is priced between the X6100 and the 705 but would it be a good alternative to the other two?

    Thanks.

  9. For me the real issue is after warranty service. I contacted HRO & Radiooddity, and neither one offers after warranty service, which means that if you have a problem, your radio becomes a paper weight or a door stop.

    If you plan on doing activations in the field, sooner or later something is going to fail, then what? I couldn’t even find schematics on line much less a parts list or a repair manual for the X6100.

    At the present time while this rig is under warranty, they just exchange it for a new one, but when these radios get beyond the 1st year and have problems there are going to be some very unhappy owners out there.

    If I could be assured that there will be after warranty service, or even a flat rate exchange policy I probably would step up and buy one, but until this is resolved, count me out.

  10. Right or wrong I just made a decision.

    I just ordered the Xiegu X6100 from Radioddity. It will be my POTA/SOTA QRP rig. I also have a Yaesu FT-891 for QRO.

    My goal was to literally be able to walk into anywhere with everything I need in my hands. This was the last piece of the puzzle as I already have the antennas and a Bioenno battery.

    I have been working on this for about a year now. I had a plan and I have been focussing on acquiring the pieces as money was available or sales popped up. It pays to have a plan and work the plan.

    I also had the X5105, the IC-705 and the TX-500 on my list. But the latter two of those were more expensive and didn’t have a built in AT which would have added to the cost. The 5205 is an older model that hasn’t had any recent upgrades or new firmware. The 6100 may not be perfect but its open SDR architecture means it has the most potential of any of the radios on the list.

    Anyway, I’m excited to be part of the gang now. Thanks for the inspiration Thomas.

    Next steps aer to get my Extra ticket and learn Morse code.

    1. Good on you!

      Something I firmly believe is that fun and “success” (however one might define that) has more to do with the op than the rig.

      The X6100 will serve you well and, frankly, you may find even more possibilities as people start to hack and modify it.

      You’ll appreciate the fact that with that radio (and its internal battery charged), all you need to do is hook up a wet noodle, match it with the ATU, and play radio! 🙂

      Let us know how it goes and congrats!

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  11. All great information above. Thanks for taking the time to post it.
    After doing my extensive research on both the IC-705 and the Xiegu X6100 and listening to everything you said about both radios, I knew the IC-705 would be the best choice. Three weeks ago I ordered and received my IC-705. What a great radio.
    I felt the X6100 had too many short comings.
    The following web page are some of my comments pertaining to my IC-705.

    https://www.ku3x.net/portable-qrp/icom-ic-705

    Barry G. Kery, KU3X

  12. I mentioned this in my comment on the X6100 vs IC-705 video, but here in Phoenix, Arizona there are numerous stations 10-50kW, some remaining at 5kW+ at night. These destroyed my attempts to listen with my FT2DR and TH-D74a HTs with an amplified antenna, and it would seem the X6100 would be the same, making it useless unless quite a distance out of the city or with a filter screwed on (which I have for my SDRs, but still).

    Beyond this, there’s the fact that I’m not a *OTA guy, but am interested in satellite, weak signal, and am a Linux guy; this last makes me want to get the X6100 (which has been jail broken and runs Linux inside just like an Android phone, but not Google’s Android user space); however everything else (including just being a long-time Icom guy) leans me towards the 705. I have other tuners / couplers, so this isn’t a big deal for me; and adding an amp makes it roughly equivalent to a 7300.

    As pointed out on the SWLing blog, though, the big thing is the big screen, awesome receiver, and all bands through 450 MHz (except 220), all fitting in your hand. I was laughed at before because I envision this as an HT replacement as well as QRP HF transceiver, but now people that try it aren’t laughing so much, and the long mic cable helps here; this also helps justify the hefty price. I use the WiFi, BT, and D-STAR, both with repeaters and hot spots, and with the ability to cross-mode on recent hot spots, you almost don’t need another radio; this one does it all.

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