Tag Archives: X5105

A review of the Xiegu X5105 QRP “shack-in-a-box” field transceiver

The following review was first published in the August 2021 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine:


Recently, I found myself in an embarrassing situation: I was being interviewed on the Ham Radio YouTube channel Red Summit RF, when someone in the chatroom asked how many HF QRP radios I currently own?

How many…?  It dawned on me suddenly that I didn’t know the answer.

Throughout my life as a radio hobbyist, I’ve owned a number of transceivers, but I’ve never owned so many at once as I do currently. Since I was licensed in 1997, I’ve owned up to two or three transceivers at once.  But things really started changing for me in 2020. And I blame the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our family loves to travel––but during the pandemic, we were essentially grounded. I keenly missed the travel.  So, as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I turned my attention to more regional destinations––and often took the family along––by activating local parks through the Parks On The Air (POTA) program and local summits through the Summits On The Air (SOTA) program.

As a result of this activity, I also began reviewing and evaluating more and more QRP transceivers––and, if I liked them (as I all too often do) purchased them following the review period.

Fact is, I thoroughly enjoy trying out radios, putting them through their paces and engaging all their bells and whistles; I enjoy shaking up my field activations by employing different radios with different antennas and accessories on each outing . I also enjoy writing up field reports and including activation videos on my blog, QRPer.com. Altogether, radio activation gives me a great deal of satisfaction, as does encouraging others to give it a go.

Continue reading A review of the Xiegu X5105 QRP “shack-in-a-box” field transceiver

POTA Field report from Fort Dobbs State Historic Site

It’s funny: when I started my POTA journey in earnest during February 2020, I plotted out all of the state parks in the part of western North Carolina where I travel the most.

At the time, POTA had only a wee fraction of the community it does now and many of the parks and game lands were still ATNOs (All-Time New Ones)–parks that had never been activated. Fort Dobbs was still one, in fact, and I had marked it on my POTA game plan spreadsheet.

My mission back then was to rack up unique-to-me parks as I explored the region; in doing so, I ticked off quite a few ATNOs. It was fun!

I focused on parks a little further afield first. This provided me with a sense of adventure and travel during the first round of Covid-19 lockdowns.

At the end of 2020, I realized I had never activated Ft. Dobbs State Historic site which was, ironically, one of the lowest hanging fruit sites around. It’s only, perhaps, 30 minutes from where I travel each week.

I suppose Fort Dobbs has been “out of sight, out of mind” until I saw a tweet from Andrew (N4LAZ) who activated Dobbs on August 6, 2021. I mistakenly assumed that the only spots to set up on site were around the periphery of the parking lot. This time of year, in the middle of the hot and humid summer? I’m less enthusiastic about open parking lot activations.

Andrew mentioned that the site actually has an excellent covered picnic area where he was allowed to perform his activation.

That’s all I needed to know!

Fort Dobbs State Historic Site (K-6839)

On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, I traveled to Fort Dobbs State Historic Site and quickly found the covered picnic area Andrew had mentioned. It was, indeed,  ideal for POTA!

Continue reading POTA Field report from Fort Dobbs State Historic Site

POTA Field Report: Attempting to deplete the Xiegu X5105 internal battery at Lake Norman

Each time I head to a park or summit, I have a goal in mind.

With summits, it’s getting to the summit and activating it because, sometimes, that can be a challenge in and of itself. I’m not exactly Sir Edmund Hillary, so I’m happy when I make it to the top of any summit!

Parks, however, offer me the chance to experiment with transceiver/antenna combos, test gear, and explore hikes. Parks tend to be more accessible and spacious than summits and even have shelter options if weather is questionable.

I don’t even attempt afternoon summit activations if they require a decent hike and there’s a good chance of pop-up thunder storms.

On Monday, June 7, 2021, it was hot and incredibly humid in the Piedmont of North Carolina. That early afternoon, little patches of showers were passing through the region delivering brief, isolated downpours.

The weather forecast also predicted a high likelihood of thunderstorms that afternoon. (Turns out, they were correct.)

Those were not conditions for a SOTA activation, rather, I decided to pick out a park I knew could offer up some shelter options. Lake Norman was an obvious choice–there’s a very nice covered area at their visitor’s center and also two large picnic shelters at the other side of the park. Lake Norman it was!

Goal

I drove to Lake Norman State Park with one goal in mind: deplete the Xiegu X5105 internal battery. I had assumed the battery would only power the X5105 for perhaps two activations on one charge.

Boy, was I wrong.

I charged the X5105 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.

Now three full weeks later, I decided I would deplete the battery at Lake Norman because that afternoon I had a decent amount of time to play radio in the field. In my head, I was prepared to squeeze perhaps 30-45 minutes more air time out of that one May 16 battery charge.

Lake Norman (K-2740)

I arrived at Lake Norman State Park and scouted out a site. Fortunately–it being a Monday in the early afternoon–it wasn’t busy and all three shelters were available.

I chose to set up at a shelter at the far end of the main picnic area.

Gear:

The humidity was so thick that day,  I was sweating just walking around the site. I noticed in my activation video (see below), I was breathing as hard as I would hiking to a summit even though I was just tooling around the picnic shelter.

I had no doubt in my mind that if a thunderstorm developed, it would be a doozie! (I was right about that, too–keep reading.)

On The Air

I paired the Xiegu X5105 with my Chameleon MPAS 2.0 mainly because I wanted to see how easily the X5105 ATU could match this multi-band vertical. Turns out? Quite easily.

I expected the X5105’s battery to deplete to the point that I would need to use an external power source to complete the activation, so I connected my QRP Ranger battery pack, but didn’t turn it on. I knew that when the radio died, I could flip the QRP Ranger’s power switch and perhaps only lose a few seconds of air time.

I hopped on the air and started calling CQ. I planned to operate the X5105 until the internal battery died, then (if needed) continue operating with the QRP Ranger until I logged my 10 contacts for a valid activation. Post activation, I planned to hike one of the Lake Norman loop trails.

Normally, I would mention the number of contacts I made perhaps noting the bands that were most productive. Instead, if you’d like to experience this activation with me, you might consider watching the activation video.

Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life, no edit video of the entire activation including my full set up.  My summary of the activation follows–keep scrolling if you’re open to a spoiler.

Please note that this is the longest video I’ve ever published, so don’t feel any pressure to watch it in its entiretity:

Impressed

Let’s just say that the X5105 sold me.

The activation was incredibly fun and I logged 20 stations (18 CW and 2 phone) from Alaska to Spain with my 5 watts and the MPAS 2.0 vertical.  Propagation conditions were only “meh” but since I had the time to play radio longer, I was able to take advantages of little openings as they happened.

X5105 Battery

The X5105 won.

I simply gave up on trying to deplete the internal battery because I was running out of time to fit the activation and a much needed hike that afternoon before thunderstorms moved in.

I operated over 90 minutes with constant CQ calls and the battery never made it below 10.2 volts.

A most welcome surprise.

No mic, no problem!

During the activation, I remembered that I had been asked by readers and viewers to include more SSB work.

Problem was, I left my X5105 mic at the QTH (nearly 2 hours away by car).

I remembered though that, like the Elecraft KX2, the X5105 has a built-in microphone.

I decided to give that mic a trial by fire and, by golly, it worked!

Not only did it work, but it worked well.

The X5105? A keeper.

It was at Lake Norman that day, I decided the X5105 was a keeper.

That evening, I reached out to Radioddity–who lent this X5105 to me–and offered to pay full retail price for it either in cash or via ad credit

Since Radioddity is a sponsor on my other radio site–the SWLing Post–we decided that, since their ad was coming up for renewal soon, I would simply extend their ad time an equivalent amount of months as the full value of the X5105 ($550 US). This saved them from having to cut a check in two months.  Worked for both of us.

I have much, much more to say about the X5105 and will do so in an upcoming review.

In short, though? It’s not a perfect radio by any means, but I feel like it really hits a sweet spot for the QRP field operator.

I enjoy putting it on the air and it’s an incredibly capable little transceiver.

I’m very pleased to now put it in rotation with my other field radios. Look for it in future reports!

QSO Map

Here’s the QSO Map for this activation (click to enlarge):

Hike and dodgy weather

After packing up my gear, I walked over to a nearby trailhead and checked out the trail map. I was prepared to take a very long hike that afternoon despite the heat and humidity, but I also knew conditions were ripe for a thunderstorm.

I decided to take what appeared to be a fairly short loop trail along the lake. Looking at the map, I assumed the trail might be 1 mile or so long.

The hike is well-worn and well-marked, so there’s no getting lost here. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t bother looking at my GPS map or even consulting the trailhead map in detail.

Instead, I simply started hiking the Lake Shore Trail loop. It was gorgeous. Here are a few photos (click to enlarge):

The skies started getting dark, though, and I heard a little distant thunder.

I decided it might make sense to consult my phone for the weather map.

A line of thunderstorms had developed and they were sweeping toward me. Time to pick up the pace of hiking!

It was at this point I realized I had underestimated the length of this loop trail. Part of me was quite pleased that it was longer than I anticipated, but the part of me that didn’t want to be caught out in a t-storm wanted to get back to the car ASAP.

I checked another weather map a few minutes later.

I decided that jogging the rest of the trail made sense!

Turns out the 1 mile loop was something closer to 3 miles when I included the walk back to the car.

I did make it back to the car in time, though, right before the heavens opened.

It’s no exaggeration to say that I was sincerely concerned about the possibility of tornadoes in that storm front.

The skies were dark enough that streetlights turned on and the rain was incredibly heavy with strong wind gusts. I saw flash flooding and driving conditions were nearly impossible. I parked next to a brick building in the town of Catawba and waited for the strongest part of the storm to pass. I was also very grateful I wasn’t still on the trail by the lake!

Of course, the storm passed and I expected conditions to be a little drier behind that front, but I was wrong. I think the humidity level increased to 150%. Ha ha! No worries, though, as I was on my way to air conditioned space!

Thanks so much for reading this field report and stay safe out there!

73,

Thomas (K4SWL)


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G4USI has fun testing the matching ability of the Xiegu X5105 ATU

Many thanks to Stephen (G7VFY) who shares the following article posted on G4USI’s blog:

Xiegu ATU’s – just how good are they?

Preamble: Based on some social media comments, let me say at the outset that: a) I know that the ATU does not tune the antenna, but provides a good match to it; b) resonant antennas are more efficient; c) that you can tune a dummy load; d) just because you can tune something doesn’t make it an effective radiator. I do know these things. This post is intended as a bit of fun and to see just how much of a mis-match this ATU can handle to press objects into service as an antenna, even a very inefficient one. Please don’t take it too seriously!

Ask any Xiegu owner of the X5105, G90 or the XPA125B linear amp, and they will all tell you that they have great auto-tuners. Well, I own a X5105 and recently was lent a G90 for review for Practical Wireless. I decided to put the ATUs to the test using my X5105.

But what challenge to give it? Well, how about trying very, very long and very, very short antennas? What about metal gates, a cow shed roof, the framework of a polytunnel and a stock trailer?

Read on to find out how it really performs.

Click here to continue reading…

I love G4USI’s philosophy with this fun experiment: see if it’ll match, then see if you can get spotted!

Xiegu ATUs certainly have a wide matching range–so do the Elecraft KX series ATUs. Indeed, having a super capable trans match means that you don’t necessarily need an extra inline transformer to make matching a non-resonant wire easier.

And I see why G4USI mentions that there’s a difference between a good SWR and efficiency. It’s an important note because, yes, dummy loads will yield perfect SWRs!

Many, many moons ago, I used to participate in a fun contest where the idea was to make as many contacts as possible from not-so-standard antennas. The rules of the contest really pushed the operator to metal objects that, in no way, resembled an antenna. They didn’t allow electric fences or even gutters, if I recall correctly.

One year, I remember loading two identical small trampolines and my in-law’s house. I think I ran them QRP with my Elecraft K2 and used a ZM-2 manual tuner to match them. I’m sure they weren’t efficient, but it worked! I made several contacts with other contest stations and it was amazing fun!

Have you ever had success with a non-traditional antenna? Please comment!

A Xiegu X5105 Field Test by KN3A

I told Thomas I would do my own field test of the Xiegu X5105 doing a couple of Parks on the Air activations and what I thought of the radio.

I have had several radios I’ve used on POTA and SOTA activations over the past year and without a doubt my favorite radio for out in the field is my ICOM IC-705. It has everything I want in a portable radio, however I’m also enjoying it alongside my ICOM IC-7300 in the shack. Therefore I’ve looked at other portable radios for field use.

My latest acquisition was a used Xiegu X5105 that I purchased used on QRZ. The radio works fine and for the most part the menu system with it is very easy to understand. As Thomas has pointed out, the CW memory is absolutely insane to use. It just makes no sense to me why with the 10 memory slots that it’s really impractical to use more than the memory in Slot 1, which for me is the CQ POTA.  I would never even have known how to set it up in the first place without instructions to Tom that was shared in Tom’s post regarding the X5105.

I got the radio on June 3, played around with it in the shack to get familiar with it and programmed in the memories. I went to K-5481 (Wm. Penn State Forest), which has several parts scattered around eastern Pennsylvania. It has a very small 10 acre tract in the Cornwall mountains between Lancaster and Lebanon County, which is also at a SOTA summit. I used my Sotabeams EMCOMM III antenna and turned on the radio to start calling CQ POTA. For the life of me I could not get the CQ message to send, so I gave up on that and used my CW Morse paddle and did it the old fashioned way. I also spotted myself on the cluster and made 3 QSO’s on 40 meters fairly quickly. I had success on 30 and 17 meters as well. In total, there were 10 QSO’s made in about 45 minutes.

Other than my disappointment not being able to easily send the CQ from memory, overall I was pleased with the activation. When I got home I investigated again how to send CW. I also learned how to use the DSP to make it more narrow on CW, which I was thankful for. I then started to see if I could go hands free using my Heil headset that I was able to use when I had the G90. Unfortunately that did not work at all using the AD-1-iCM adapter as it would not transmit with the foot pedal. I did use the Heil headset in the side jack and put the radio in headset mode. I was disappointed to find that I had to increase the volume up the whole way to be able to hear CW loud enough for my old ears. When I unplugged the headset suddenly the radio RX was very loud. (If anyone can offer a solution, please let me know).

Today I took it to my local POTA park near my house, K-1418 (Samuel Lewis State Park). I used the same Sotabeams antenna and was on the air in no time. Band conditions were not so good and I ended up with 18 QSO in just over an hour. It was nice having the CQ function working, however I am used to the interval where it would automatically send every 7 seconds like the IC 705 does. Not a big deal, I just had to press the PTT button on the top.

I never tried using the radio on SSB before so I called unsuccessfully on 20 meters and went to 40 where KM4JEG called me and gave me a 55. Sadly, I had to take my headset off because when I keyed the mic I was hearing my distorted voice through the headset. So, headset was removed. I didn’t expect that was going to happen, so now on SSB, I’m not able to use the headset, at least on TX.

The Good:

I really like the internal battery in the radio. I did not have to bring the Bioenno 12v 3aH battery along. The internal battery works great!

It is very portable. I watched a YouTube video, and unfortunately I cannot find who it was, but they had an Osprey UltraLight Roll Organizer which I purchased on Amazon. This is perfect for storing the X5105 and the few accessories it needs, in my car so I’m always going to have a portable radio available when I travel.

The ATU is great on the radio. I can tune all the bands I want to work with the Sotabeams antenna. This also saves having an extra wire and external ATU like I would have to use on the IC 705 with this type of antenna.

The radio is nice and portable and will store nice in my car when not in use and will be ready to go.

The Bad:

The CW presets are almost worthless and not easy to get to. Once I found how to send from the memories, it only really makes sense to use one of the memory slots. I wouldn’t easily be able to switch to a 73 menu shortcut, then go back to the CQ memory.

With the headset plugged in, when I was transmitting CW, I could hear some distortion while it was sending, however it was not too bad, but something I’m not used to hearing.

The Ugly:

The headset for SSB could not be used at all due to the distorted noise it made. Also, the volume for the headset and the volume through the radio are night and day. As I mentioned before, when I unhooked the headset and the audio came out of the radio again, I had to quickly adjust the volume down.

My Opinion:

Overall, my opinion of the radio is this: For the price and the features it has, I would say it’s a good field radio, as it is easy to store in the car, it has the built in ATU if being used on a random wire antenna, and for 5 watts, people had no problems hearing me, even with poor band conditions and QSB. I hope this radio grows on me, and in the back of my mind don’t find myself thinking during the activation, gee I miss my IC-705 out here.

I know comparing the X5105 to the IC-705 is like comparing apples to oranges. Each radio has it’s good and bad. For the price difference, the Xiegu definitely is worth the price. I would never use it as a first HF radio in the hamshack if I were a new ham. This radio is also not going to be used by me on digital modes. If I want to do digital or work a contest while doing a POTA, then there is no doubt the 705 is coming along for the activation. The Xiegu will be used by me when I want to use a random wire antenna since it has the built in ATU, along with the fact it will be light in the backpack if I am hiking to a summit, and the IC 705 will be used with one of my end-fed half wave antennas or the Hustler vertical array so I don’t need the mAT-705 which I’ll use in the hamshack. I’m trying my best to get away from wires all over the place when I  activate, so the laptop computer is staying home. I really like the HAMRS logging program, which I highly recommend, on my Android Samsung S-20.

If anyone who reads this who has some insight into some of the issues I mention, please reply so I have a better understanding of this radio.

73!
Scott KN3A

Scott Lithgow (KN3A) is a contributor on QRPer.com. Click here to check out his previous posts.

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!