Tag Archives: Xiegu

Which would you choose as a first radio–the Icom IC-7300 or Xiegu G90?

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul, who writes:

This came to me from a friend; he is curious about choosing between the Xiegu G90 and the Icom IC-7300 for his first rig. He has money to buy the Icom which is $999 right now after rebates, but wants to know if he is really getting twice the radio for the Icom, vs the Xiegu, or are there other good reasons to get the 2016-introduced Icom, vs the newly introduced Xiegu.

Maybe this can be a posting to ask your readers? Greatly appreciate it.

Thanks very much
Paul

Thank you for passing along the question, Paul.

While I almost consider this to be an “apples to oranges” question, let’s approach this from a couple of different operator perspectives and truly explore the decision.

I like both radios for different reasons, but first, I’ll tell you what my decision would be if I were in in his shoes…

The Icom IC-7300 SDR transceiver

I would choose the Icom IC-7300

While the Icom IC-7300 does cost twice the amount of a Xiegu G90, it’s a much more versatile transceiver. There are almost too many IC-7300 features to list here, so I’ll mention a few that immediately come to mind, focusing on features the G90 lacks.

For one thing, the IC-7300 is a 100 watt radio, thus the max rated power output is five times that of the Xiegu G90.

The IC-7300 doesn’t require an external sound card for digital modes. Simply plug the radio into you PC with a USB cable, and with your favorite application (like WSJT), you can operate any number of digital modes. (I found configuring the G90 for digital modes to be a bit frustrating.)

The IC-7300 also covers the 6 meter band–the G90 tops out at 10 meters.

The IC-7300 has useful features for contests and field operation like:

  • voice and CW memory keyers with beacon mode,
  • native transmit and received audio recording,
  • a large touch screen display to quickly enter frequencies and adjust settings,
  • audio EQ on both transmit and receive,
  • a built-in bail
  • notch filters and Icom’s twin passband tuning

Again, by no means is this a comprehensive list–just some of the features that come to mind.

As a first rig, the IC-7300 can take you into any aspect or mode of the HF band your friend cares to explore. It must be one of the most popular HF radios on the market right now, so there’s also a massive user and knowledge base out there on the web.

The IC-7300 also has better transmitter specs, producing a cleaner signal than the G90, especially in CW (the G90 is known to produce key clicks and not recommended for use with an amplifier). It also can handle close-in signals better than the G90 and has a higher dynamic range. Overall, it has better specs than the G90.

For a more detailed look at the IC-7300, check out my full review.

Why one might choose the Xiegu G90 over the Icom IC-7300

The Xiegu G90 with upgraded encoder

Let’s get an an obvious point out of the way first: the G90 costs half that ($450) of the IC-7300 (generally $900-1,100). This could leave your friend with even more money to invest in an antenna. As I’ve said so many times before, a radio is only as good as its antenna!

If your friend plans to operate primarily in the field, the Xiegu G90 is much more portable option. The G90 is very compact and weighs a fraction of the IC-7300. The G90 also draws less current in receive mode, so is much kinder on a battery. It also has built-in side extensions to protect the front and back panels while being transported.

The Xiegu G90 has a detachable face plate which would come in handy for mobile installations (although, admittedly, there are a number of better mobile transceivers on the market).

My full review of the Xiegu G90 is in this month’s issue (Aug 2020) of The Spectrum Monitor magazine. It’s nearly a 4,000 word review so is one of the longer ones I’ve produced. If your friend wants to make a decision soon, he/she might purchase this issue to fully explore this rig.

Another option: Yaesu FT-891 and LDG Z-11 Pro 2 external antenna tuner combo

If your friend is seriously considering the Xiegu G90, then I have to assume he/she has portable operation in mind.

Making this assumption, I would also suggest they check out the Yaesu FT-891. Like the IC-7300, it has a full 100 watts output and also covers the 6 meter band. Like the G90, the front panel can be separated from the radio body for easy mobile installation.

Although I have never reviewed the FT-891 (although I plan to before the end of the year), the radio has an almost cult-like following among SWLing Post readers. It’s also a favorite rig of Parks On The Air (POTA) activators because of its 100W output, relatively compact footprint, and great audio characteristics. The G90 and IC-7300 both are based on SDR architecture, the FT-891 is a triple conversion superheterodyne general coverage receiver.

Unlike the IC-7300 and G90, however, the FT-891 lacks an internal antenna tuner (ATU) and I’m guessing your friend wants one based on the fact both the G90 and IC-7300 have one.

The LDG Z-11 Pro 2 ATU

No problem! The Yaesu FT-891 is one of the best bang-for-buck transceivers on the market. The price at time of posting is $609 after rebates. That leaves room to purchase a benchmark portable HF+6 meter antenna tuner. I personally love the LDG Z-11 Pro 2 which would only set them back $169. I’ve owned one of the predecessors of this ATU for nearly a decade. It’s located outdoors, in an enclosure and serves as a remote antenna tuner for my multi-band sky loop. It has operated flawlessly through seasonal temperature extremes and powered by a 15 year old  12V gel cell battery that is charged off of a 5 watt PV panel and Micro M+ charge controller.

The FT-891 and Z11 Pro 2 ATU combo would total $778 which is a nice compromise between the $1,000 IC-7300 and $450 G90.

If your friend wanted a more compact option than the IC-7300, and better specs and more power output than the G90, this FT-891/Z-11 Pro 2 combo would be hard to beat.

Don’t Forget Antennas and Power

As I mentioned before, do your friend a favor and remind him/her to set aside a budget for an antenna.

If you build your own wire antenna, you can create an amazing one for $50 or so in quality ladder line and wire–at least, that’s about what I put into my sky loop antenna. Retailers like Universal Radio, HRO, and Gigaparts stock quality pre-made wire antennas that cost a bit more, but are pre-tuned, durable and very easy to deploy. The type of antenna you can install is totally dependent on the environment around your home, access to your radio room, and any local interference you might need to mitigate.

Of course, all of the radios mentioned above need a DC power supply. There are many on the market from lightweight switching power supplies to heavy linear supplies.

I would not choose one of the cheapest ones you can find because switching power supplies especially can inject noise. I’m a big fan of the Powerwerx SS-30DV which will typically cost around $110 at ham radio retailers (although, at present, it’s one of the many items out-of-stock due to the Covid-19 pandemic). It hits the sweet spot for me and is a little workhorse!

What do you think?

As I always say: radios are a personal choice. Specifications and features make for convenient points of comparison, but often choices are made based on a user’s own needs and operating style.

Between the Xiegu G90 and Icom IC-7300, which would you choose as a first rig? Can you think of a better compromise?  Please comment!


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How would an Icom IC-705 compare with the Xiegu G90?

Xiegu G90 with remote head detached.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul, who asks:

How does the Icom compare with the Xiegu G90, besides lack of a built-in antenna tuner, and having lower transmit power, and a better screen?

Good question, Paul.

The G90 is a great radio for sure and has better specs and features than I would expect from a $450 transceiver. I’ve taken it on a number of portable field operations and love it. My full review of the G90 will appear in the August 2020 issue of The Spectrum Monitor.

Keep in mind that at time of posting (July 21, 2020) no one has really reviewed and compared the performance of a production run IC-705 with any other radio as of yet. I will purchase an IC-705 for review as soon as they start shipping in the US, but I don’t expect to be able to do that until September or October at best. So we can’t really speak about performance at this point.

What makes the IC-705 unique in the portable radio market is the number of features it will sport.

Here’s a short list of features the Icom IC-705 has that the Xiegu G90 does not have:

  • Attachable battery pack
  • Lower current drain in receive per Icom specifications
  • CW memory keyer with beacon mode
  • Voice memory keyer with beacon mode
  • D-Star mode with built-in WiFi to connect to Internet/hotspot
  • Built-in GPS
  • Built-in TX/RX recording
  • Broader receive range: 0.030–199.999 and 400.000–470.000 MHz
  • Multi-mode 6M/2M/70CM TX and RX
  • Touch screen display that is customizable
  • Built-in WiFi and Bluetooth
  • Native to digital modes–no external sound card interface needed
  • Frequency stability less than 0.5 +/- ppm in VHF/UHF, making it ideal to drive an amplifier for demanding tasks like EME

The Xiegu G90 actually has a few features that the Icom IC-705 will not:

  • Built-in (very effective) automatic antenna tuner
  • Antenna analyzer function [Update: Geoff notes “The Icom IC 705 does also have a VSWR Plot/analyser in the menu same as the IC7300 and iC 7100, page 9.3 in the advanced IC 705 manual”
  • 20 watts of output power (the IC-705 has a max output power of 10 watts using an external 13.8V battery source)
  • 10.8 kHz AM bandwidth (the IC-705 maxes out at 6 kHz per specs)
  • Detachable faceplate which will likely make mounting it mobile even a little easier than the IC-705 (although in truth both transceivers are very compact and should be easy to mount)
  • Side panels that protect the front faceplate and rear connections

At the end of the day, though, the Xiegu G90 is an excellent little budget transceiver. It’s feature-rich compared with other transceivers in this price bracket, but basic compared with the IC-705 or Elecraft KX3 or KX2.

The Icom IC-705 will have a retail cost well over two times that of the G90 but will sport features that no other QRP transceiver has up to this point. In fact, the list of features above is only a sampling.

If none of the unique features of the IC-705 appeal or apply to you and your operating style, save a little money and grab the G90. Or consider spending a bit more for an Elecraft KX2.

If you want an incredibly feature-rich transceiver and are comfortable with a price point in excess of $1100-1200 US (estimated at time of posting), you might delay purchasing until you’ve read a few user reviews of the yet-to-be-released Icom IC-705.

Thanks for your question!


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Upgrade the encoder on your Xiegu G90 for about $8.00 US

Shortly after posting some of my initial impressions of the Xiegu G90, SWLing Post contributor, Guy Atkins, encouraged me to upgrade the stock G90 tuning knob/encoder with one that is highly recommended by the G90 community.

While I didn’t really have an issue with the stock plastic knob, I couldn’t resist a larger, slightly heavier aluminium encoder with a dimple.

The stock G90 encoder knob (before pic)

I’m so happy I splurged for this $8 upgrade. Not only is the encoder much easier to use now, but it also gives the G90 a proper face-lift:

The upgraded aluminium G90 encoder knob (after pic)

Thanks so much for the tip, Guy! I, too, highly recommend this affordable upgrade!

Get your upgraded encoder knob from:

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The Xiegu G90 as a shortwave broadcast band receiver

After publishing a couple of posts about the Xiegu G90 QRP transceiver, I’ve gotten a number of inquiries from readers asking about the G90’s ability to receive AM broadcasts. Although I’ll address this in detail in my upcoming TSM review, I thought I’d also share a few notes with you.

One of the main reasons I decided to review the Xiegu G90 is I found so little information out there about how well the general coverage receiver worked for HF broadcast listening.  The G90 has a frequency range of 0.5-30 MHz (SSB, CW, and AM), but I couldn’t find a specification showing the maximum width of the AM filter. I had seen a few display photos with the AM filter width indicated as 5.4 kHz–that’s not terribly wide, but workable.

Only moments after opening the box and putting the G90 on the air, I tuned to the Voice of Greece (9,420 kHz) and learned how to change the bandwidth.  I was very pleased to find that in AM mode, the indicated filter width is actually half the actual width. This means, the G90’s AM filter can actually be widened to 10.8 kHz–brilliant!

In addition, the bandwidth adjustment is variable, meaning you’re not locked into pre-determined, stepped bandwidths as with so many other transceivers.

In this short video, I widen the AM filter while tuned to the Voice of Greece:

Here’s another video of the G90 tuned to Radio Exterior de España on 9,690 kHz. Although the REE transmitter is located across the Atlantic Ocean in Spain, they sound like a local here in North Carolina:

Overall, I’ve been very pleased with the G90 on the HF bands.

Of course, there’s no synchronous detector (although users have requested this in a future firmware version) and there’s no notch filter as of yet. While I expect Xiegu may consider adding a notch filter, I doubt they’ll ever add a sync detector as this rig is primarily aimed at QRP ham radio operation. Of course, I could be wrong.

I also haven’t found a way to completely disable the transmitter or set the power level to zero watts. It’s quite possible I simply haven’t discovered the appropriate setting for this yet.  Disabling the transmitter adds an extra level of protection when I use receive-only amplified mag loop antennas, for example. Also, some G90 owners may purchase the rig for listening purposes only and would rather not accidentally key the transmitter or engage the ATU.

Retailers

I purchased my Xiegu G90 from MFJ Enterprises because I wanted to support a US retailer. There are a number of other G90 distributors across the globe. Here’s a short selection:

I’m sure there are many other G90 retailers across the globe.  Before placing an order, I would suggest you double-check availability as some retailers are on back-order.

Post Readers: Have you used the Xiegu G90 on the broadcast bands? Please comment with your thoughts!

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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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Taking the Xiegu G90 QRP transceiver to the field!

Earlier this week, I took delivery of a new Xiegu G90 general coverage QRP transceiver. I’m reviewing this portable rig for The Spectrum Monitor magazine. Although this Chinese manufacturer has been around for a few years, this was my first purchase of a Xiegu product.

I’ve had the G90 on the air from home for a couple days, but I feel like the best way to test a QRP transceiver is in the field!

Due to the Covid-19 lock-down and a number of our regional parks either being closed or severely limiting visitors, I haven’t made many POTA (Parks On The Air) activations this year.

Recently, however, North Carolina has been opening state parks and allowing visitor access to hiking trails and picnic areas, but keeping all facilities (stores, cafes, visitor centers, and restrooms) closed to the public.

Yesterday, our family decided to pack a picnic lunch and head to Mt. Mitchell State Park (POTA site K-2747). My wife knew I was chomping at the bit to play radio in the field and actually made the suggestion. (She’s a keeper!) 🙂

There were only a dozen people at the park so we essentially had the place to ourselves. Better yet, it gave me the opportunity to pick out the most ideal picnic site to set up and deploy my EFT Trail-Friendly 40/20/10 antenna.

The G90’s backlit color display was actually quite easy to read in the field. My phone’s camera filter made it look darker than it actually was.

My POTA activation was unannounced and I didn’t have Internet access to self-spot on the POTA website, so I started the activation old school by calling “CQ POTA” until someone happened upon 7286 kHz.

After perhaps 10 minutes of calling CQ, Greg (KE0HTG)–a helpful POTA chaser–finally found me and spotted me on the network.

I worked a few stations in succession, but summer QRN levels were incredibly high and I believed static crashes were cloaking would-be contacts. The G90 has no RF Gain [Actually, thanks to this feedback, I now know the G90 does indeed have an RF Gain control (firmware version 1.73 and higher).] I asked one kind operator if he would hold while I switched over to my trusty Elecraft KX2.

The KX2 did a much better job managing the noise and that same op was easily readable where with the G90 I could barely copy him. I suspect I could have tinkered with the G90’s AGC levels to better mitigate the noise, but I didn’t want to do this in the middle of an activation.

I worked about fifteen stations with the Elecraft KX2 on 40 meters.

One real advantage of the KX2 during a POTA activation on SSB is its voice memory keyer (of course, it also has a CW memory keyer). I simply record my CQ and have the KX2 repeat it until someone replies, then I hit the PTT to stop the recording. Not only does this save my voice, but it also gives me an opportunity to eat my lunch while calling CQ!

I eventually moved up to the 20 meter band and switched back to the Xiegu G90.

On the 20 meter band, the G90 handled conditions like a champ.

Someone eventually spotted me on 20 and I worked a few stations.

The 20 meter band was very fickle and unstable yesterday. For example, I struggled to finish a contact with an operator in Massachusetts, yet got a solid 59 report from Spain with only 20 watts.

No activation is complete without brewing a cup of coffee on the alcohol burner!

I had a great time with the G90 in the field. I can see why it’s become such a popular transceiver as it offers incredible bang-for-buck (it can be purchased new as low as $450 US shipped).

This week, the noise levels on the 40 meter band should be very high here in North America, so I plan to spend more time with the G90 settings and see if I can mitigate the QRN a little better. I’d welcome any tips from G90 owners.

And yes, I’m already eyeing a couple of parks to activate next week!

Post Readers: Please comment if you’re familiar with the Xiegu G90 or any of the other Xiegu transceivers.


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The Xiegu X5105: a new QRP portable transceiver in development

Xiegu-X5105

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Mike, who writes:

I thought your readers might like to know about the new Xiegu X5105 [HF] transceiver which is being developed by the Wouxun group out of China (the same company who produces an inexpensive line of amateur HTs).

According to YaesuFT817.com, the X5105’s receiver is a double-conversion superheterodyne design and is made portable by way of 3 rechargeable lithium batteries of 1.8 mAh each. Native output of 5 watts.

I’ve read that the price will be around $500 US.

The X-108 forum also has the following message, I assume, from a company representative…

“Xiegu Tech will launch new products. I’m very pleased to share relevant information with you:-)

I. X5105 short wave transceiver

  • X5105 is a highly portable transceiver working at HF+6m band, with a built-in power output of 5W.
  • Technical features: double-conversion superheterodyne, fitted with up to 3 lithium batteries of 18,650mph each.
  • Expandability
  • A standard main unit (embedded with one 8-pole 2.7k-SSB crystal filter)
  • An optional high stability, high precision TCXO module
  • An optional 500Hz narrow band crystal filter
  • An optional plug-in 5W antenna tuner module

II. XPA125 integrated amplifier and antenna tuner

  • XPA125, with a built-in antenna tuner, amplifies the output up to 125W.

Technical features:

  • 125W linear power amplifier + combined LC antenna tuner.

Expandability: 

  • A standard 125W amplifier, An optional 125W automatic antenna tuner.”

Thanks for all of the info, Mike!

That’s an interesting portable design. I like the display–reminds me of the Icom IC-746.

I’ll be very curious how well it performs as a general coverage receiver. I don’t see any specs regarding AM mode or the maximum bandwidth. The price is certainly competitive; nearly half that of the Elecraft KX3. I seriously doubt it could give the KX3 a run for its money, performance-wise, but who knows? Looks like we’ll have more info by the end of the year when the X5105 hits production. Thanks again for the tip!

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