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.
Several subscribers asked if I tried using the attenuator and RF gain to mitigate the level of overloading. Attenuators and RF gain can be an effective means of mitigating noise levels, but they essentially affect everything on the band–all signals somewhat equally.
A better approach is to use a BCI Filter.
BCI filters reduce or notch out AM broadcast band signals so that they don’t overload your receiver.
BCI Filters are placed between the radio and the antenna. They can have a dramatically positive effect if you live near a broadcast station and/or if you have a radio that’s prone to overloading.
I see them as a more “surgical” approach to solving broadcast band interference.
On Thursday, January 6, 2022, I woke up with one goal in mind: take the Xiegu X6100 out on a proper hike-in activation!
While I’d had this radio on loan from Radioddity since December 23rd, I hadn’t had an opportunity to truly hike it into an activation site. Between the weather and my tight schedule, I haven’t had an opportunity to plot out a proper Summits On The Air (SOTA) Activation. SOTA activations that involve hiking usually take a much bigger bite out of my day and, lately, I’ve been to busy to plot one.
I do live near a vast trail network, however, and it so happens that much of the trails run through overlapping public lands: Pisgah National Forest and Pisgah State Game Land.
So I packed my Spec-Ops EDC tactical pack, grabbed Hazel’s harness, and headed out the door.
I’ve had the Xiegu X6100 on loan from Radioddity since December 23rd, 2021. In that time, I’ve used it heavily in the shack and I’ve taken it on three field activations using a variety of antennas.
Overall, I think it’s a great little field radio.
I’ll be producing an in-depth review of the X6100 for The Spectrum Monitor magazine, but in the meantime I’m trying to bring up any points in advance that might help others make a purchase decision.
On that note?
Let’s face it: receiver strong signal handling and overload performance are important factors when you choose a radio.
No one buys a new radio and says, “I really hope it overloads easily!”
As the title of this post implies, the biggest negative with the Xiegu X6100–in my humble opinion–is that it is prone to overload when in the presence of a strong signal. It’s a shame the front end isn’t more robust.
I’ve noticed this from my QTH, especially when tuning the X6100 outside of the ham radio bands. Indeed, I recently made a post about this on the SWLing Post. In truth, though, all bets are off when we move into the broadcast portions of the HF spectrum. Transceiver manufacturers usually don’t guarantee performance outside the ham bands. It makes sense as the focus is placed on ham band filtering.
But I have noticed overloading on the ham radio bands as well.
Earlier today, I did a park activation in Pisgah National Forest with the X6100. Before my activation started, I could hear a local AM broadcaster punching through the X6100’s front end all over the 40M band. I think it was a station on 1010 kHz which is only about 4-5 miles away from the site as the crow flies.
Many thanks to Scott (KN3A) who recently commented with his thoughts and impressions of the Xiegu X6100. Scott writes:
When you published your X6100 [field] report, I could not wait to see the video! You tipped me off when we had our QSO that you were using it! As you said in your YouTube comment, a X6100 to X6100 was accomplished at your activation!
I am an avid POTA/SOTA QRP operator and mostly use my Icom IC-705 on activations. It is a superb radio and no intention of ever selling it. The reason I was attracted to my X6100 was the fact it’s an SDR, has a very nice display screen and has a built in ATU. I use many different antennas on activations, and some require a ATU, like my Sotabeams Bandhopper 3. I like using it when I go backpacking and activating due to how easy it is to deploy and lightweight.
To those who attempt to compare the X6100 to the IC 705 is like comparing a Ford F-150 to a Toyota Tacoma. I had an X5105 for a few months and went on a few activations with it. I would mostly compare the X6100 to the X5105 and call it a big upgrade to the X5105.
I got familiar with the X6100 in my hamshack the past 3 weeks, and although I know of it’s shortcomings, which I did share with Thomas prior to it’s arrival at his QTH, I am very pleased with the radio even with the features that are not enabled yet.
On Christmas eve, I went hiking and afterwards did a quick POTA activation inside my car using my IC 7100 and 50 watts. The temperature was getting warmer and warmer out, so I made a hasty decision to go home and get the x6100 and take it to another local park and sit outside on a picnic table. I decided to use my spark plug antenna and use my 17 ft. Shakespeare fishing pole. I had almost 1:1 SWR on 40 and 20 meters and had to use the ATU as I was having about a 3:1 on 30. The ATU kicked in and had a perfect match in seconds, which is also the same response as the G90 and x5105. Continue reading Xiegu X6100: Scott’s thoughts and impressions→
Many thanks to Josh for sending me this X6100 so promptly and performing the first firmware update!
I took delivery of the X6100 last week after returning from vacation in the Outer Banks. It was bittersweet as I was soeager to check out this new radio but simply had too many projects on the table to complete before Christmas day.
That and in the morning light after our return, my daughter pointed out that one side of my horizontal delta loop antenna had fallen to the ground. Fortunately, I was able to fix the antenna in short order. It’s certainly time to push the schedule up for completely replacing this 10 year old wire antenna!
X6100: Known issues
I had gotten a few messages from X6100 early adopters like Scott (KN3A) and Rich (KQ9L) noting that the current firmware version (the December 7, 2021 release) had taken care of a few initial bugs, but there were still a few outstanding points that specifically affect CW operators. Most notably:
Noise reduction (or DNR) in CW mode severely distorts audio
CW message memories can be stored and saved but cannot yet be played back on the air (SSB message memories are fully functional, however)
Fine tuning is limited to 10 Hz steps at the moment
Someone had also noted possible CW keyer timing issues.
At the same time, I had read mostly positive comments about SSB operation from QRPer readers and subscribers.
Frankly, knowing Xiegu’s history of pushing the production and distribution timeline ahead of a radio being fully-functional and properly tested, I expected a few bugs and issues that would need to be sorted out in firmware updates.
To be very clear: I’m not a fan of the “early adopters are the Beta testers” philosophy. I wish Xiegu would thoroughly Beta test their products so that they were more polished and fully-functional right out the door much like we expect from the likes of Elecraft, Icom, Yaesu, and Kenwood. There are almost always minor post-production bugs to sort out even with these legacy manufacturers, but issues should be of the variety that somehow slips past a team of Beta testers who actually use the radio.
I’m very pleased to see that Xiegu has addressed some of the issues found in their pre-production model. Most encourgaing!
I look forward to checking out the X6100 soon and putting it through the paces in the field. Although I say this with some apprehension, the X6100 does look promising.
I know that Scott (KN3A) will have his X6100 soon and also will share his thoughts and field experience. [Update] Scott comments with some unfortunate news:
“Sadly, I received mine on Monday morning, and I had to return it to HRO last evening. Intermittent problems with transmit/receive on all bands except 40 meters. Did a couple of videos to document the issues before returning it last night. Hopefully it was just a fluke and there will be a replacement. There are a lot of things I liked about the radio in the short time I used it on Monday. It certainly does have potential.“]
Josh (KI6NAZ), over at the excellent Ham Radio Crash Course YouTube channel, has just published a video demonstrating a pre-production Xiegu X6100.
If you’ve been interested in the X6100, I highly recommend checking it out.
Josh compares the X6100 with the X5105 in terms of size and functionality, and even makes a QSO with it. For CW ops, he also demoes the relay clicking sound (spoiler alert: it uses relays instead of PIN Diode switching).
His particular unit is really a pre-production unit–it sounds like the first production run (that many early adopters should soon be receiving) will have upgraded software and even hardware.
Josh (rightfully so) holds out on making a recommendation until he’s able to test the first production run unit–the same version early adopters will receive–which is being sent to him soon.
I’ve gotten so many questions about the X6100 from readers and YouTube subscribers. Fear not! I will get a chance to check out the X6100 in the near future. In fact, Josh is sending me the Radioddity loaner unit he’ll be testing. I’m not sure how long I’ll get to hold onto it, but I’ll give it a thorough workout.
In addition, I know Scott (KN3A) has purchased one of the first production run units and will give us his impressions–since he owns the IC-705 and has owned the X5105 in the past, he should have some valuable insight. Stay tuned!
If you’re considering purchasing the X6100, you might check out Radioddity’s upcoming Black Friday sale. They have a sign-up form on the X6100 product page. I have no inside information, but I must assume the X6100 will either be discounted or come with extra goodies (or both?).
Do you already have an X6100 on order? Curious if it looks like the X6100 is on track to meet your expectations after watching Josh’s demo.
It seems folks are now finding out about the new Xiegu X6100 HF & 6 meter portable transceiver.
There have been a few rumors about it, so I thought I’d share some of the few details that have been confirmed.
What is the X6100?
If the Xiegu X5105 and Xiegu GSOC had a baby, it would look like the X6100.
The X6100 is a completely self-contained SDR QRP transceiver much like the X5105. The X6100 sports a 4″ high-resolution color capacitive touch screen and is built on on a quad-core processor, 4G ROM, and 512MB RAM. I assume this will run on a similar Linux version/distro as the GSOC.
The X6100 will include an internal automatic antenna tuner (ATU) and a 3500 mAh internal rechargeable Lithium Ion battery pack.
Power output will be 5 watts when using the internal battery pack and 10 watts when connected to an external power source.
Modes: USB/LSB (J3E), CW (A1A), FM (F3E), RTTY (F1B), AM (A3E)
Pricing and availability have not been determined at time of posting. I will post an update when that information can be confirmed.
I can only assume bringing this new radio to fruition will take time. Most radio manufacturers are struggling to keep up inventory levels as we work our way out of the C-19 pandemic supply chain issues. Parts availability has become a real issue.