Xiegu X6200 SSB Field Test: A Morning POTA Activation at Lake James

On Tuesday, June 18, 2024, I needed to make a morning trip to Hickory, NC, to take care of some family business and visit my father.

I started my day early because I also wanted to be back in the Asheville area by noon. Some quick calculations over morning coffee and I decided I had just enough time to fit in one POTA activation en route to Hickory.

I left the QTH around 7:15 AM and made my way to the Paddy’s Creek Access of Lake James State Park, arriving around 8:15 AM.

Lake James State Park (US-2739)

Two other reasons I fit in my activation en route to Hickory instead of on my way back:

  • Paddy’s Creek has a lakeside beach area that gets very busy in the summer, especially on clear, sunny days (like Tuesday).
  • Temperatures that day were forecast to push near 95F/35C.

When I arrived at the parking area, I was pleased to see I was one of the only cars there. This made it much easier to find a spot to set up!

I started my activation video (see below) then walked to a picnic table under some trees that would not only provide shade but also antenna support!

I deployed my KM4CFT end-fed half-wave kit that I cut as a 30M EFHW with a linked 40M extension. When I launched the arborist line into the dense canopy, I thought I snagged a high branch, but it turned out I hadn’t.

In the end, my 40M EFHW had more of a low inverted vee, almost NVIS-height, configuration. I was fine with that, though, knowing on the 40M band that early in the morning, I’d snag contacts in NC and the surrounding states.

My goal was to finally make some SSB contacts with the Xiegu X6200. My previous mid-day activation with the X6200 provided no results, so I was hoping I’d be more successful in the morning.

One other thing I did that I haven’t done in over four years: I started out my activation with more than 5 watts of power. I added an external battery to the X6200, turned off its internal charger, and ran the transceiver at its full output power of eight watts.

My goal was to see how warm/hot the chassis would become during the activation. This is one of the questions I’ve been asked the most about the X6200 so far.

Setting up the radio was simple. I was careful to make sure that the internal ATU was bypassed on the 40M (and later 20M) band.

Gear:

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On The Air

One of the other reasons I chose the Paddy’s Creek access of Lake James is that I knew for sure that I had mobile phone reception there, which I would need to self-spot in SSB mode.

I eventually found a free frequency on 40 meters and started calling CQ POTA. Within a minute or so, I started receiving contacts. In fact, within four minutes, I worked seven stations.

This is the thing about SSB: my exchanges are much faster than they are in CW where I operate at about 20 words per minute. On a good day, it’s not difficult to work double the amount of contacts on SSB as I would with CW.

Another thing I was reminded about SSB, though? Space is much more limited than it is on the CW portions of the band.

After operating only four minutes, a ham broke in and asked if I would consider QSYing because a net was about to start up two kHz away. He was very polite and I was happy to oblige. I don’t want to create interference on an established net frequency even knowing they don’t “own” the frequency. In fact, it’s not that my 8 watts of SSB would create a lot of interference, it was the hunters contacting me that likely would.

CW is such a narrow band that you really only need about 500 Hz of separation to keep from unintentionally interfering with other stations.

I decided to take the opportunity to move up to the 20-meter band for some more voice contacts.

I started calling CQ and logged four stations in four minutes.

When things got quiet, I looked at my watch and decided since I was running out of time, I would also fit in a bit of CW before packing up. Again, my goal was to see how hot the X6200 chassis might get running full-bore. CW might actually heat it up more than SSB.

I QSY’d to the 30-meter band.

Instead of lowering the antenna and removing the 40M link, I opted to see if the X6200’s internal ATU could simply match my 40M EFHW on 30 meters. I pressed the ATU button and within a couple of seconds, I had a near 1:1 match.

I logged seven more stations in seven minutes on 30 meters before calling QRT. I had simply run out of time for this activation, else I think I could have logged many more on 30 meters.

QSO Map

Here’s what this eight-watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map (note that the red lines are SSB, green are CW–click image to enlarge):

Screenshot

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Post-Activation Summary

I checked the X6200 and I’ll admit, it was pretty warm after this 30-minute activation. It was borderline hot, but not as hot as the Xiegu G90 gets. I do think if operating the X6200 at full power (8W) and in direct sunlight, the radio will get quite hot. I purposely set up in the shade so the sun wouldn’t be a factor.

The hottest area is on the top panel of the X6200 where, I assume, the finals are located.

I did find operating the X6200 in SSB to be quite pleasant. I think the receive audio in SSB is actually better than it is in CW.

Brian (K3ES) who I worked on both 40 and 30 meters SSB was running 100W into a large doublet. He told me that SSB signals, in general, were light that morning, but the audio quality of my contacts were “fine.” He noted no distortion or other oddities, which is a good thing. In truth, I haven’t tinkered with any of the X6200’s TX audio settings yet. I will do this from the QTH and have a friend check it for me over the air.

I think if I were primarily an SSB operator, I would enjoy the X6200 overall. Like the X6100 and X5105 before that, it’s an all-in-one, shack-in-a-box transceiver. It even has a built-in microphone.

Many have asked me which is better: the X6100 or X6200. I don’t have a good answer yet as it’s still early days and at the time of this activation, we’re still on version 1.0 of the firmware.

I’ve gotten comments from readers noting disappointment that the X6200’s highest power setting is 8 watts instead of 10 watts like its predecessor, the X6100. I’m not sure why this design choice was made. Personally, as a CW operator, this would have no influence on my purchase decision. I doubt two watts would make a big difference on SSB either, but X6100 owners will, no doubt, give this consideration before selling their X6100 to purchase the X6200.

I can say that I’m very pleased the X6200 has a removable battery pack. I wish they also sold a rapid charger for the pack, though, because charging it to capacity takes many hours using the supplied power supply/wall brick.

Post-activation, I packed up my gear quickly and hit the road. I did manage to run all of my errands in Hickory and get back to Asheville by noon…just! It was close, but I did it!

I hope this is helpful! Let me know if you have any other questions about using the X6200.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me during this activation!
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them!

Of course, I’d also 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 not a requirement, as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo makes it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.
Thanks for spending part of your day with me!
Cheers & 72,
Thomas (K4SWL)

11 thoughts on “Xiegu X6200 SSB Field Test: A Morning POTA Activation at Lake James”

  1. The loss of 2 watts of power is certainly a let down, but it isn’t my primary reason for my dislike of the x6200. The main reason I have is that the price went up by almost $200 when quite frankly the x6100 was a hard sell. At the price of the x6200 you could buy an FT-710 which is one of the best base station radios you can buy. Certainly not an apples to apples comparison but Chinese products are supposed to have a price advantage which the x6200 doesn’t really have.
    Maybe if they can drop the price to the $600-700 range like the x6100 it will be a good deal.

  2. I’m guessing that they reduced the max power from 10 to 8 watts to keep everything running a bit cooler. I have operated my X6100 at full power in direct sunlight for extended times and it does get quite hot, though not to the point of failure.
    It’s surprising how hot a heatsink can get while not exceeding the allowable junction temperature of the transistor, which is typically well above 100 degrees C.

    Thanks for the detailed review, Thomas, I’ll be watching for more as the development cycle continues!

  3. I had a QSO with my ham radio hero the other day. He was the reason why I learned CW. I had a few minutes to spare, so I grabbed my Chameleon TDL and my KX2 and set up in a shady spot in the backyard. I like to hunt POTA activators backyard portable while I build up enough courage to do an activation myself. I spun the dial on 30m and heard K4SWL calling CQ. It has been a long journey but I feel like I’ve come full circle. Thanks for being on 30m that day Tom and for sending me down the CW path. It has been a blast. 72

    1. The honor was all mine! Thanks for hopping on the air in such short notice to hunt me!
      Wonderful job you’re doing with CW. Keep up the amazing work and I hope to log you many, many more times this year!

      Best,
      Thomas
      K4SWL

    2. Doing an activation is easy — it is fun to go to a park and set up. Use a simple antenna. If you forget to bring something the first time, that’s normal (smile). The activation part is easier than hunting, as people find you. When they don’t, it is not a problem: just look around and enjoy watching whatever is happening at the park. As far as the number of contacts, it’s like this: ten contacts are needed for a valid activation, but it only takes one for a successful activation. Try it and see what you think.

  4. Hello, I don’t know how to ask questions, or, in the case of nvis, how to set this half-wavelength antenna, or just adjust the height? I don’t know if my translation is accurate bh1sxj

  5. Thanks for the field report–I love real-world trials of new radios. We may have to wait for the ARRL Labs evaluation, but I noticed what you described as “audio clicks” when transmitting CW. I know that some Xiegu radios have shown marginal transmit performance in tests, apparently generating key clicks in some cases bad enough to “get noticed” by Volunteer Monitors. Would your evaluation have detected such a thing? Do you suppose those “audio clicks” might have been “key clicks” on transmit? Anyway, thanks again. 73 Skip K4EAK

  6. Hey Thomas,

    Thanks for the report and video.

    The highest-dollar rig I have is the G106 and I also don’t like the QSK on it.

    I ended up changing the ‘hang’ time to something like 300 milliseconds because 1) I don’t want to wear out the T/R relay by having it engage / disengage with nearly every CW element and 2) hearing the relay clacking while trying to send coherent CW is really annoying (autism thing, I guess). So usually it will not go back to receive mode until a dah’s worth of time goes by after sending.

    Hopefully firmware updates will make the X6200 a little more bearable on CW — it sounded rough in the video.

    72 / 73 and God bless you from Will – AF7EC! 🙂

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