January 4, 2022
Xiegu X6100 QRP Radio
—Kevin Grantham N5KRG
Partly based on our excellent results with the Xiegu G90, Andy Parcel, KE5KOF, and I recently purchased the new Xiegu X6100 QRP radio. This is a battery-operated Software Defined Radio (SDR) 10-watt HF radio that covers 160m to 6m.
The X6100 appears to be the G90 SDR, with the X5105 transmitter upgraded to 10W, and the remote controller (GSOC), all rolled into one. In typical Xiegu fashion, it shipped with a bunch of partially finished features and capabilities. At this writing, Xiegu has released the third firmware release that reportedly fills in most of the gaps. I will install it in the next few days.
Andy and I went out to Isle du Bois at Ray Roberts Lake Park for a Parks On The Air (POTA) activation. I brought the X6100—fresh out of the box—and set up a “frankantenna” vertical cobbled from Chameleon MPAS and Buddipole components. It read 1.7:1 SWR in the phone portion of 15 meters so I did not use the 10:1 built-in tuner of the X6100. That’s right! The G90 and the X6100 both have an excellent internal 10:1 antenna tuner.
I was able to make contacts with Canadian stations running a contest, some California, Florida, and New York stations, and a guy in Mexico. The X6100 is much easier to operate than the G90 and the G90 isn’t all that bad. The 4-inch, 800 x 600 color display and simple menu structure are very nice and very readable in daylight. The biggest annoyance is that the tuning steps are either 1KHz or 100Hz, which are too large for fine tuning SSB or tuning CW. I was able to compensate on CW by messing about with the sidetone setting, but it was unpleasant.
The receive audio was excellent in the park. Some on social media complain about the lack of an effective noise blanker and automatic notch filters, but I haven’t had a problem. The new firmware is supposed to improve that issue, but some online comments aren’t satisfied with the changes. If the G90 is any indication, there will be several more firmware releases over the next six months that will add the remaining features and capabilities, and address user concerns. Xiegu does monitor the online forums and responds well to user comments.
The X6100 has a BNC antenna connector. It runs 5W on its internal battery and up to 10W on external power using a standard 5.5mm/2.1mm coaxial power plug. The kit includes a built-in microphone, plus an external hand mic (an ICOM knock-off with most, but not all, the buttons working). It’s designed so that one can use it as an HF HT! I’ve never had an HF handi-talkie, so that’s an interesting possibility for “pedestrian mobile.”
When 10W just isn’t enough, it’s compatible with Xiegu’s excellent HPA125B 125W linear amplifier with 10:1 antenna tuner using a single cable—I’m thinking Winter Field Day and similar. The amplifier also works with the G90 and with my Yaesu FT-817ND and probably—although I haven’t tried it—with my ELAD FDM-DUO SDR.
The rig has an internal sound card that should be active with this next firmware release and responds to ICOM IC-7000 and IC-7100 CI-V commands. I don’t know if the Bluetooth can be used as sound card interface or just with headphones.
The X6100 will decode CW. That was hard to test because of the tuning step issue but it did work, and if it’s based on the same firmware as the G90, it should work well. It will also decode PSK31 and RTTY. Like most SDRs, the filters are extremely sharp and easily adjustable. It has a preamp that I didn’t need because of the excellent sensitivity of the receiver as well as an attenuator for heavy QRM environments like Carrollton city parks.
It was fun to use, even with the unfinished software. By Winter Field Day I expect the X6100—coupled with the HPA125B amplifier—to be a worthy contender.