Monday, April 11, 2022

The rig I want to want, but don't

I learned about the FX-4C back in January and thought, "I want one of those!"

But back then, the delivery time of a January-ordered FX-4C coincided with a planned move to Florida - so I didn't order it.

That's good, because it gave me time to compare prices and read the owner's manual, which is now available for download.

Every time I shop for a rig, I ask myself: What does it do that no currently-owned rig does? 

The answer to that, in the FX-4C's case is: It's lighter and smaller than any 9-band, 10 watt rig that I have.

So far, so good. Sounds like a good POTA candidate.

But this statement on the designer's website gives me pause: Optimized for Digital. Hovering over that statement, new text reveals that the FX-4C provides "Simple digital operation with a single USB cable".

And herein lies the rub (and no, it's not because I am personally optimized for CW!).

If the radio is "optimized for digital", CAT control should be available on the same single USB cable. Just like it is with my now-obsolete mcHF (described here). But there is no CAT control with the FX-4C - band changes must be made on the rig, not via WSJT-X or whatever software you're using.

So to change bands when operating digital, you must change the band in the software and then again on the radio itself. This is not optimization.

Also, even in digital modes, the volume (AF Gain) of the FX-4C must be adjusted per band. Again, in the ancient mcHF, once the rig is placed into DIGital mode, the front panel AG gain is (correctly) out of the picture and has no effect.

These oversights (or are they features?) would be easy to overlook in a $250 radio. But, depending on who you buy from, the FX-4C is anywhere between $520 and $670.

If this counts for "optimized for digital" one can only imagine how it might perform on CW.

There's a part of me that would like to buy the rig just to put it on the bench and see how it looks in terms of harmonic output, receive sensitivity/selectivity and actual power out. But, at $520, I'm just going to have to keep wondering.




PE4BAS, Bas said...

Hello John, if I read you post about this it is just a gadget that you just want or like to have. A digital mode optimized radio without CAT control is useless. I think there will be better tiny lightweight radios on the market in the future. Personally I still hope this will include CAT control and audio transmission to the PC with bluetooth (possible already with the IC-705). 73, Bas

John AE5X said...

Hello Bas,

I think Chinese designs are a few generations behind those from other countries, both in terms of feature implementation and firmware. That will change soon and in the meantime, it's interesting to see the evolution in progress.

As much as I would like to have an FX-4C, it's current price doesn't provide adequate compensation for its flaws.

Maybe the FX4D will be a winner...


Dave New said...

The QRP Labs QDX is 'optimized for digital' mainly because that's the ONLY mode(s) it runs. Any single-toned digital mode is game for that radio, and it does do CAT over the USB, as well. I find it amusing that the FX-4C can't even figure out how to do CAT over USB. The first rev of the QDX sold out in about 15 minutes. The 2nd rev (of which I managed to snag one) sold out 1000 units in less than five minutes. Hans is planning to release another 3000 rev 3 units in a few weeks. Check his list as he will make an announcement of when the sales will open, but be quick on the trigger, or you might miss out!

John AE5X said...

I check Hans' site daily, hoping to see that the 3rd batch of QDX's are now available. I'll buy one to replace the one I foolishly sold. I don't know what I was thinking - maybe my parents shook me as a kid...