Taking the Xiegu G90 on an impromptu Parks On The Air (POTA) activation

Yesterday, I was in my hometown helping my parents with a few projects. Around noon, I realized that I had a good four hour window of free time–a true rarity these days!

I had two fully-packed go bags in the car: one with my trusty Elecraft KX2, and one with my recently acquired Xiegu G90.  On the heels of a successful POTA activation this weekend, I was itching to activate a new POTA site.

I did a quick check of the POTA site map and decided a trip to the South Mountains State Park (K-2753) was in order. The park was a nice 30 minute drive on back roads, so why not?

I posted a quick announcement on the POTA website, and jumped in the car.

When I arrived at the park, I noted an excellent, easily accessible picnic site with a nearby tree to hang my EFT Trail-Friendly antenna. Since I hadn’t been to this park in many years, I continued driving to check out other potential POTA sites.

In the main parking lot, I spotted a ham radio operator’s car with a prominent callsign on the back window and a POTA bumper sticker. I couldn’t see their operating site from the parking lot and since we’re all trying to social distance these days, I didn’t bother searching for them to introduce myself.

While it’s certainly allowed to have two activators running a park at the same time, I really didn’t want to impose and certainly didn’t want to cause any QRM by operating on the same meter band.

Contingency plan

I had a “Plan B” in mind in case the park wasn’t accessible.  On the west side of South Mountains State Park there was another POTA site: the South Mountains State Game Land (K-6952). I started driving in that direction, then used Google Maps to help me locate the entry road. Turns out, it was an additional 35 minutes of driving! Still, it was a beautiful day so no complaints from me.

The road was typical of game land roads: gravel and washed out in places. I had to ford one creek. My Subaru had no problem doing this, of course. (I actually love off-roading, so secretly I hoped the road would be more challenging!)

About four miles in, I found a pull-off that was big enough for my car and had an ideal tree to hang the antenna. I backed into the site, opened the hatch on the Subaru, and used the trunk/boot as my radio table.

Within ten minutes I had the G90 on the air.

I started calling CQ on the 40 meter band and thanks to buddies Mike (K8RAT) and Vlado (N3CZ) I was spotted on the POTA website.

Although there was a fair amount of QRN on 40 meters, now that the G90 has an RF Gain control (with latest firmware v 1.74), I could easily mitigate it.

I worked a number of stations on 40, then decided to move up to 20 meters.

I was very impressed with the response on 20 meters as well. Fading (QSB) was very deep, however, so I kept contacts brief. At times, stations would call me, I’d give them a 59 report, and when they’d reply I could barely hear them (and vise-versa). It took a little patience and good timing, but I believe I worked everyone who called me.

In the end, I had a total of 27 contact in the log with about one hour of operating. Here are my log sheets:

After transmitting steadily for an hour at a full 20 watts, the G90 body was pretty warm to the touch, but it had operated flawlessly.

A great field radio

The G90 is a gem of a transceiver and has some features that make it ideal for field use.

For one thing, I love being able to keep track of my battery voltage on the display:

Also, the G90 has excellent selectivity. On both 40 and 20 meters, at times I could see adjacent stations on the spectrum display that would have bled over and created QRM on less robust receivers.

I also like the ability to control all of the major transceiver functions without  having to dive into an embedded menu. Adjusting the filter, RF gain, attenuator, and pre-amp, for example, is super easy.

I love the spectrum display, too. In the field, it’s nice to be able to find an open frequency by simply watching the display for a minute or so before calling QRL or CQ. It also allows me to see when folks are tuning up nearby to make contact with me.

Although I’ve been using a resonant antenna in the field, the G90 has a very capable built-in ATU.  Back home, I’ve used it and have been very impressed with its ability to find good matches. Yesterday, for fun, I was even able to get it to tune up the EFT Trail Friendly antenna on 80 meters! I doubt it would be efficient, but the ATU did find a 2:1 match.

The only two features I feel like the G90 is missing are a notch filter (both manual and auto) and a voice keyer. I’m sure a notch filter could be added in a future firmware update (others have been asking for this as well), but I doubt a voice keyer could be added as easily. In truth, the voice keyer is a bit of a luxury, but it’s a feature I use without fail on my KX2 since park and summit activations often require constant CQ calls. Being able to record a CQ and have the radio automatically send it allows the op to drink water, eat lunch, and relax between contacts.

This is a lot of radio for $450 US shipped. I’ve also learned that the G90 has a very active community of users via this Groups.io email list.

I had planned to sell the Xiegu G90 after my upcoming review in The Spectrum Monitor. I must admit: this transceiver is growing on me. It might be hard to let go of it.


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6 thoughts on “Taking the Xiegu G90 on an impromptu Parks On The Air (POTA) activation

    1. Thomas Post author

      The G90 is a great little rig, I must admit. It will be hard to sell once I’m done with the review. In fact, I might just “forget” to sell is and, instead, keep it in my car. 🙂

      -Thomas
      K4SWL

      Reply
  1. TomL

    Glad to see you could get outside, you have a very busy family life! And so many SDRs to choose from now, not just receivers but QRP type transceivers seem like the next evolution. Here is a different type of QRP SDR I just stumbled upon designed in Ukraine but also made from Chinese parts in collaboration: QRPver Minion – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7BjcUvk_Cc (Note: the CW problems he had ended up being stray RF on his antenna, not the radio, updated in a later video).

    Did the G90 have a general coverage receive option? Many of these new QRP Transceivers only have amateur band only designs.

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      Hi, Tom,

      It does have general coverage receive. Indeed, that’s why I bothered doing a review. And I must say, I’m impressed so far. It’s no R8B or anything, but the AM filter widens to over 10 kHz and it sounds quite good. I posted a couple of short videos on Twitter recently.

      Here’s REE:
      https://twitter.com/SWLingDotCom/status/1269042415626682369

      Here’s VoG:
      https://twitter.com/SWLingDotCom/status/1269398580646809609

      And the Minion? I came *so* close to grabbing that little transceiver a couple months ago. It’s super cute.

      Cheers,
      Thomas

      Reply
  2. Vince

    Looking forward to your review of the G90 in The Spectrum Monitor.

    Making a purchase of this amount from an eBay seller in Asia makes me ‘nervous’. Just letting you know that the G90 can be purchased closer to home, from HRO ( https://www.hamradio.com/detail.cfm?pid=H0-016772 ) and Connect Systems ( http://www.connectsystems.com/products/top/radios/G90.htm ), to mention just two.

    Disclaimer: I have no connection with either, but I would not turn down a free G90 for the unsolicited ‘publicity. LOL

    Reply
    1. Thomas Post author

      Ha ha!

      Yeah, actually I include the eBay link because it’s the lowest priced one from a seller that has a stellar reputation. I would not at all be put off by the purchase from China as I do this quite regularly for review items. (At the moment, I’m eyeing the Ailunce HS2 which requires a $500 pre-order–gulp!)

      As I will mention in the G90 review, I purchased my G90 from MFJ Enterprises. It costs a wee bit more (like a modest $20 more with shipping?) but I did this because I wanted to support a US retailer during the pandemic. I think the delivery time would be about the same since the eBay seller uses DHL. I’ve been very pleased with MFJ purchases in the past.

      I didn’t realize Connect Systems sold the G90! Thanks for that tip!

      Cheers,
      Thomas

      Reply

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