Tag Archives: X5105

This radio is growing on me…

I just got back from an activation at Lake Jame State Park where I used the Xiegu X5105. Radioddity sent this radio on loan at my request for an upcoming review in The Spectrum Monitor magazine.

I must say that I underestimated this little radio…

Impressive play on the internal battery

I’ve now completed 3 activations with the X5105 on one battery charge made three weeks ago!

I charged it before this activation on May 17, then I completed this short activation on May 18. I never expected the battery to keep going, but it did.

This weekend, I used the X5105 in the shack for perhaps 30-40 minutes chasing a few parks and summits on that same charge. During that weekend time it was mostly in receive mode, unlike when I’m activating (and working stations or constantly calling CW).

I decided to see how long it would continue to play off of the internal battery, so I didn’t re-charge it. Instead, today (June 7), I took it to Lake Norman State Park and had an external battery at the ready if it failed mid-activation.

It didn’t fail, though, even after 1.5 hours on the air. The voltage, when I finally gave up, was about 10.2 volts. I ran out of time, not the battery.

I’m impressed.

Internal Microphone

Once I’ve uploaded the video and written the field report (in a week or two), you’ll see that at one point today, I switched to SSB operation. Thing is: I didn’t bring the X5105 hand mic with me–it was 2 hours away at the QTH!

I remembered that the X5105 has a built-in mic–meaning, built into the body–so I decided to give it a go. I mean why not–?

Turns out, it was very easy to operate: simply press the PTT button as you would a mic button and speak. I worked a few SSB contacts this way.

The only other radio I own with an internal mic is the Elecraft KX2.

This X5105 might become permanent

Herein lies the trouble with doing radio reviews: sometimes you get attached. I need to talk with Radioddity.

I’ve been hesitant to take this unit on a SOTA activation because the chances of it getting scratched, etc. increases.

I believe I’m going to add the X5105 to my HF radio arsenal. It’s a fun little radio and it would make the short list for SOTA runs along with the Elecraft KX2 and Discovery TX-500.

How to use Xiegu X5105 CW Memory Keying

As a follow-up to my query yesterday, and so that others can find this on the web, I’ve posted the procedure below for using Xiegu X5105 CW memory keying.

Many thanks to Gary (KE2YK) and many others for sharing the following method:

To configure the 10 CW memory messages:

    1. Go to Menu 3 by pressing the MENU button until 3 appears beneath the power meter on the display.
    2. Hit MSG
    3. Select MSG number with VFO (Tuning Knob)
    4. Press the EDIT button
    5. Scroll through letters / numbers with the VFO and hit INS for each selection
    6. When letter/number selections are complete,  press SAVE
    7. Repeat for each custom message and when done, hit QUIT

To play the 10 CW preset messages:

    1. Go to Menu 5 by pressing the MENU button until 5 appears beneath the power meter on the display.
    2. Select DIGI
    3. Select CWDEM from mode choices (leftmost button in menu 5) by pressing the button until CWDEM appears
    4. Repeatedly hit MSG to select specific message number
    5. Press PTT on body of rig or perhaps press PTT on mic. This will send the selected message one time.

To exit, hit MENU for other menu selections

No doubt, for CW memory playback, this is cumbersome. In fact, if Xiegu doesn’t update the firmware with an easier way to initiate playback (as they had in the original firmware version), I see that I’ll only use memory position 1 for calling CQ. I wouldn’t want to go through the trouble of selecting a different message for playback in the field and in the middle of an exchange. That’s just a little too clunky to be practical.

I’ve sent a note to Xiegu about this. With any luck, perhaps they’ll improve the firmware for easier operation.

Thank you again, readers for sorting out the mystery!

Xiegu X5105 CW Memory Keying: I could really use some guidance…

X5105 owners, I could really use your help!

[UPDATE: Thank you for the assistance! See procedure below.]

You may recall that I’m evaluating the X5105 on loan from Radioddity. Overall, I’ve been pretty impressed with this budget transceiver when I’ve taken it to the field.

I need a mystery solved though: How in the heck does one set up and use CW memory keying–?

The owner’s manual has been no help and I actually feel like it’s referencing an earlier firmware version.

In fact, from what I gather reading the earliest manual, it used to be super simple to both record and play back CW memory keyer messages. There were three memories labeled RE1, RE2, and RE3 that you could activate with three of the four quick menu buttons under the display. I would love that sort of accessibility, but I gather it’s no longer an option.

I’ve yet to find an explanation for using CW memory keying in the current version of the X5105 firmware.

Please comment if you could describe the procedure or point me to documentation that explains it. I could really use your guidance! Thank you in advance!


Update: How to use X5105 CW Memory Keying

Many thanks to Gary (KE2YK) and many others for the following procedure:

To configure the 10 CW memory messages:

    1. Go to Menu 3 by pressing the MENU button until 3 appears beneath the power meter on the display.
    2. Hit MSG
    3. Select MSG number with VFO (Tuning Knob)
    4. Press the EDIT button
    5. Scroll through letters / numbers with the VFO and hit INS for each selection
    6. When letter/number selections are complete,  press SAVE
    7. Repeat for each custom message and when done, hit QUIT

To play the preset messages:

    1. Go to Menu 5 by pressing the MENU button until 5 appears beneath the power meter on the display.
    2. Select DIGI
    3. Select CWDEM from mode choices (leftmost button in menu 5) by pressing the button until CWDEM appears
    4. Repeatedly hit MSG to select specific message number
    5. Press PTT on body of rig or perhaps press PTT on mic. This will send the selected message one time.

To exit, hit MENU for other menu selections

No doubt, for CW memory playback, this is cumbersome. In fact, if Xiegu doesn’t update the firmware with an easier way to initiate playback (as they had in the original firmware version), I see that I’ll only use memory position 1 for calling CQ. I wouldn’t want to go through the trouble of selecting a different message for playback in the field and in the middle of an exchange. That’s just too clunky to be practical.

I’ve sent a note to Xiegu about this. With any luck, perhaps they’ll improve the firmware for easier operation.

Thank you again, readers for sorting out the mystery!

Enjoying a casual trailside activation with the Xiegu X5105 and PackTenna 9:1 Unun

I love day hiking with radios.

When I pack all of my radio gear in a field kit that is compact enough to fit in a small day pack, it forces me to only take the essentials. This, in turn, makes for a quick deployment and pack-up.

I think this is one of the reasons I find Summits On The Air so appealing.

On Tuesday, May 18, 2021, I had a hankering to fit in a hike and, of course, play radio. I also wanted the option to fit in two activations, so needed a simple and short hike to minimize time.

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

I decided to head to Tuttle Educational State Forest–one of my favorite accessible POTA sites–because their two mile loop trail was just what the doctor ordered. In fact, I knew exactly where I wanted to set up on the trail.

Tuttle is rarely busy–especially on a Tuesday afternoon.

I arrived on site and, as I was pulling my backpack out of the car, I was greeted by one of the Tuttle park rangers. He was incredibly nice and provided me with even more ideas of places to set up in the future along the trail and trail extensions. We must have chatted for 15-20 minutes–he had a number of questions about amateur radio and I never miss an opportunity to be an ambassador for both ham radio and POTA/WWFF.

Gear:

On The Air

The hike was amazing and, besides park rangers, I had the entire site to myself. About 1.5 miles into the hike, I found the spot I earmarked for this activation: a little open area with three wood benches on the side of the path.

This particular deployment reminded me how thankful I am that I discovered the Arborist Throw Line last year. I had the PackTenna deployed in three minutes.

It was so…effortless.

I decided to take the Xiegu X5105 out for another activation. Radioddity sent this to me on loan for a full evaluation and review. The previous day, I activated the Blue Ridge Parkway with the X5105.  I wanted to see how many activations I could accomplish off of one charge of the X5105’s internal battery, so after the BRP activation, I didn’t re-charge the battery.

As insurance at Tuttle, I brought along my trusty QRP Ranger LiFePo4 battery pack and hooked it up to the X5105. If the X5105’s internal battery died on me, it would be easy to simply turn on the QRP Ranger’s power switch and hop right back on the air.

I started one of my real-time, real-life activation videos (see below), then called CQ on 40 meters.

Maybe that quick antenna deployment was foreshadowing the activation, because in the span of 13 minutes, I logged 11 stations all on 40 meters.

I was very pleased to work P2P (Park To Park) contacts my friends Steve (KC5F) and Scott (KN3A). Thanks, guys, for hunting me!

Here’s my log:

I didn’t even move up to 30 or 20 meters after working the string of contacts on 40 meters because Tuttle is far from being a rare site and I wanted to fit in one more activation that afternoon.

The X5105’s internal battery easily powered the rig for the entire activation (perhaps a total time of 15 minutes). I suppose I’ll have to take it to yet another park on this same charge!

Packing up was nearly as quick as deployment. I owe thanks to one of my YouTube Channel subscribers for suggesting that I pack the Arborist Throw Line pouch by winding figure eight bundles of line on my hand (much like I do with antenna wire) and stuffing them in the pouch one bunch at a time. This saved me a lot of time.

While the portable throw line pouch isn’t as quick to pack as the throw line cube, this method made it a cinch!  I can’t find who originally made the suggestion, but I’m grateful–thank you!

Video

Here’s a link to the full activation video:

Photos

During my loop hike, I snapped a few photos (click to enlarge):


Well hello there, little fella’!

I’m most grateful to the late Ms. Tuttle for leaving this amazing park for all to enjoy. Her legacy protects this land for all future generations.

When you’re doing a park or summit activation, don’t forget to stop and take in a good dose of nature and the outdoors.

It does us all a world of good.

More X5105 thoughts

This second activation had me warming up a bit more to the X5105. I do like its size, and I think it’s a good rig for CW ops.

CW operation is very pleasant, actually, and keying feels natural. I was impressed that the battery held for a second activation, even though this was a very short one.

Again, I think the internal speaker audio leaves a bit to be desired–I dislike the audio splatter I hear at higher volumes–but for $550? It’s really hard to be critical.

During this activation, I still hadn’t learned how to program CW memory keying. A YouTube subscriber recently described the process and it seems overly cumbersome and much more complicated than it was in an earlier firmware version.  I’m going to contact Xiegu about this. Unless I’m missing something, it really holds the radio back from being pretty stellar on CW for the field op.

Readers, if you own the X5105 and can describe the best way to use CW memory keying, please comment with directions! I’d really appreciate it!

Thank you

Thank you once again for reading through this field report and perhaps watching the activation video.

I’d also like to thank the readers and subscribers who’ve recently supported me on Patreon and via PayPal. I am humbled and honored.

Thank you.


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New radio day! A shakeout activation on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I learn a lot about a radio the first time I take it to the field. I’m not sure if it’s because being out of the shack helps me give it my full attention, or if it’s because field conditions vary and this allows me to see how flexible and adaptable the radio is.

On Monday (May 17, 2021), I was eager to hit the field with a new-to-me radio.

The previous week I didn’t log even one park or summit activation. Typically I’d hit at least two. There were a couple of reasons for this…

First, we had a fuel shortage in western NC and I didn’t want to burn any extra fuel for activations knowing we had some important family errands that week.

Secondly, I needed to hunker down and finish a number of projects I’d been working on including a lengthy two-part field radio kit feature for The Spectrum Monitor magazine, and a new in-depth TX-500 review for RadCom.  FYI: Part one of my feature for TSM will appear as the cover article in the June 2021 issue.

We also had a number of family projects to sort out. So a week at home perfectly timed with the fuel shortage.

The new radio

I collect reader and viewer suggestions and when I see that there’s a radio or product, in particular, folks would like to see tested, I try to obtain one.

One of the most requested radios lately has been the Xiegu X5105.

A number of readers have asked me to obtain an X5105 and take it to the field. Many are considering purchasing this (incredibly) affordable full-featured QRP transceiver, others own it, love it, and want to see how I like it compared with my other radios.

Last year, I came very close to purchasing the X5105 for review, but opted for the Xiegu G90 instead (here’s my review of the G90).

Even though the X5105 is only $550 US, I really didn’t want to make a purchase at this point because I’m budgeting for a new MacBook, new video camera, and I just purchased the TX-500.

So I reached out to Radioddity who is a sponsor over at the SWLing Post. I’d been in touch with Radioddity a lot as of late because I’ve been evaluating and testing the Xiegu GSOC for the past few months. They lent me the GSOC (and a G90 because I sold after my review) and I was in the process of packing up both units to send back to them.

I asked if they could lend me an X5105 for a few weeks. They were quite happy to do so and dispatched one in short order.

A clear relationship

Side story…

Back when I decided to place ads on the SWLing Post and QRPer.com, I worried about any inherent conflicts of interest. I read magazines that review products and can tell that they’re being gentle in their criticism because there’s a two page ad of the product immediately following the review. I don’t like that.

This conflict is something that’s almost inevitable with any radio publication that grows to the point of needing monetization to support it.

I made a few Golden Rules up front:

1.) I would only place radio-relevant ads on my sites. Period.

2.) My ads and sponsorships would be hand-picked and by invite only. I choose who can be a sponsor.

3.) I’m up-front with sponsors that my reviews call it like it is. If they send me product to review, I will give it an honest evaluation based on real-life use. If I don’t like it or can’t recommend one of their products, I’ll let my community know.

I’ve lost a couple of sponsors over Golden Rule #3 over the years. I’m okay with that because I’d rather not allow an advertiser on my site that can’t take customer criticism.

I invited Radioddity to be a sponsor of the SWLing Post last year after I had some positive interactions with them.

The Xiegu GSOC

Radioddity sent me the new GSOC to review in November 2020. I discovered in short order that the GSOC had some major issues and, frankly, I didn’t like it and certainly couldn’t recommend it. I communicated my concerns about this product with detailed notes and suggestions for improvement. I was open and honest about the GSOC on the SWLing Post (read the thread here).

Radioddity not only embraced my criticisms but sent them to the manufacturer and thanked me.

Impressive.

Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)

But back to the activation!

So on Monday, May 17, I had an errand in town that took me right past the Blue Ridge Parkway Folk Arts Center. The detour to do an activation was maybe two minutes, so there was no “fuel-shortage” guilt! 🙂

Also, I had a good hour to burn before I needed to go home and pack for a quick trip to visit my folks.

Equipment list:

I deployed the PackTenna 9:1 random wire antenna specifically because I wanted to see how easily the X5105’s internal ATU could match it.

I hopped on 40 meters first, hit the ATU button and it quickly found a 1:1 match–good sign!

This turned out to be a pretty easy and simple activation.

I started calling CQ and within 12 minutes I logged 11 stations.

I moved up to 20 meters knowing it would be a tougher band, but worked one more station–KG5OWB at K-0756–pretty quickly.

I was quite happy with  logging 12 stations in short order. A nice contrast to recent activations where conditions were so poor it’s been a struggle to get even 10 contacts within an hour.

I would have stayed on the air longer but (as I mention in the video) I wasted a good 20-25 minutes waiting on the landscape crew to finish mowing on/around the site before I set up my station. I didn’t want to be in their way.

Here’s my log sheet from the POTA website:

Video

Of course, I made one of my real-time, real-life videos of the entire activation. I’ve quite a long preamble in this one, so if you’re interested in skipping straight to the on-the-air time, go to 16:24.

X5105 initial thoughts?

So far, I like the X5105. It certainly accomplishes its goal of being an all-in-one “shack in a box.”

I performed this activation only using the X5105 internal battery. In addition, the ATU worked perfectly with the random wire antenna.

I like the size–it’s much smaller than I imagined. It’s also fairly lightweight.

It feels rugged, too–I wouldn’t be concerned about it getting easily damaged in the field.

The speaker works pretty well, but if the volume level is pushed too hard, it starts to splatter. I wish it could handle a little more volume before the splattering kicks in.

The ergonomics are pretty good. It didn’t take long to sort out how to use most of the functions.

One area for improvement? The owner’s manual. It’s poorly written and (frankly) reads as if it was rushed to print.

For example, I wanted to set up CW memory keying prior to hitting the field. Unfortunately, the owner’s manual was no help.

There’s actually a dedicated page regarding CW memory keying, but the first thing it does is reference a different section of the manual (without giving a page number). I followed the procedure, but it didn’t work. In fact, it didn’t make sense as it seemed lead me down the path of digital mode macros. I think the manual may be referencing a procedure before the last firmware update (which, it appears, changed the menu structure significantly).

If you can help guide me through setting up CW memory keying, please comment! I’m sure it’s a simple process, but I haven’t sorted it out yet.

Overall, though? I see why the X5105 is so popular. It appears to compete with a loaded Elecraft KX2. It’s a bit larger, heavier, and less “refined” but it’s also half the price of a loaded KX2.

I also think it’s a great radio for CW operators. The keying feels natural and responsive. It uses relays instead of pin diode switching, so QSK includes a little relay clicking. I don’t find it to be too loud, though.

I’ll be taking the X5105 out again very soon.  I’ve got it for 6 weeks, so it will get plenty of park and summit time. If you own the X5105, I’d love to hear your comments on this portable rig.

Thanks for reading!