Thursday, March 30, 2023

X6100 activation of K-5220

I took the X6100 on its maiden voyage today. Prior to that, I worked several stations on both phone and CW from the home station, all with an external battery so as to provide a 10W output.

More than anything else, the X6100 makes me appreciate the IC-705 and the Elecraft KX2.

If you have one of those two radios (or, perhaps, others) and you begin to take them for granted, buy an X6100.

My one-sentence impression of the X6100 is: It has a lot of features, many of which are poorly implemented.

Yes, I did get BCB interference on 40m but I expected that. What bothered me was the fact that RIT is nonfunctional when CW message playback is enabled.

RIT is important to me on POTA activations - not just when someone calls me slightly off-frequency but also when numerous stations call at once. RIT allows me to adjust, centering (hopefully) one or two stations from the rest by centering them within the passband of the narrowest filter.

When the X6100 was first released, there was no CW message playback. You could record them in, but not play them out over the air. Somewhere between then and now, a newer version of firmware allows CW message playback.

This requires implementation of what Xiegu calls a 'CW Modem'. Enabling the modem, to enable message playback, causes RIT to cease operation. If you want memories, you can't have RIT. One or the other - not both.

And about the memories: there are 5 programmable memories available. Typically, for POTA operations, one would be used to call CQ, another for the report, etc.

Every now and then, an op will hit the wrong button and send 'CQ' when he should be sending "599 TX". On Icoms, Yaesus, Elecrafts, Kenwoods, PennTeks and dozens of other rigs, this is no problem - just hit the paddles to cancel the erroneous transmission. With the X6100, this has no effect - the erroneous memory is sent in its entirety.

I also found the 10Hz tuning resolution to be too coarse when the narrowest filter is selected. 10Hz gradations are fine when the bandwidth is set to 200Hz or wider - narrower than that, resolution should really be 1 Hz to get the full benefit of the filter without the clunkiness that comes from such a big jump in frequency compared to the bandwidth.

This is an issue that mostly manifests itself only with weak signals.

Yes, I know what some are thinking: all this from a single POTA activation and a few hours at home?

Here's the good: the radio only costs $600 new (cheaper used, cheaper still if it's a loaner).

For $600, it seems to offer decent performance if you can overlook details that might not even be an issue to many users, especially if they don't use CW. As I've said before, for all its implied simplicity, CW is a demanding mode in terms of transceiver design. Elecraft rigs are awesome because they are designed by a CW op. The X6100 wasn't, and it shows, glaringly.

If you've ever been tempted to buy an X6100, you may be inclined, like many, to compare it with an IC-705. Don't. They share the same form factor and that's it.

The rig that compares most favorably with the X6100 is the mcHF or its clones (RS-918, etc).

There are work-arounds for the X6100's issues. Instead of RIT, use A/B Split. Or instead of memory dis-functionality when RIT is needed, use an external memory keyer (I do that with my FT-891).

The internal ATU works very well, and is quick to find a match. The display is beautiful and presents a wealth of info. The CW decode function also requires the 'CW Modem' to be enabled - other than disabling RIT, it works about as well as that function in my mcHF (which is able to retain RIT functionality when in use).

50 stations were worked in short order this morning, with 10 watts and an EFHW for 10-40m.




  1. I did not follow your advice in a previous column about “buy cheap buy twice”. Went through two of them with various serious problems. Declined an offering of a third item from the vendor….

    1. I was hoping that after over a year (since the X6100 became available) that several obvious issues would be fixed. The playback of CW memories is overly complicated and disables other functions. Why, still, a year later?!

      I'm going to do a write-up on the mcHF soon and contrast it with the X6100.


  2. Hi, John,

    I concur with your assessment here completely. You can have a lot of fun with the X6100 for $600, but its overall performance and implementation leave something to be desired, especially if you're a CW op. In the end, I sold mine because I had an X5105 which I found had an edge on the X6100 in terms of performance. I also found that the X6100's internal battery had about 1/3 or less the life of the X5105 per charge.

    I'm curious what you think about the audio compared with your other radios (I'll look forward to your comp with the mcHF!). I find that Xiegu audio, in general, it sort of harsh and fatiguing over long listening sessions. Perhaps, though, they've improved the X6100 since I owned it. I believe there have been updates since then.

    Thanks for the assessment! Oh, and if you were using the X6100 when I most recently logged you as a hunter, I had the Xiegu G106 running in the shack. Just capping off my review of it for TSM.


    1. Good morning Thomas,

      Yes, I was using the X6100 for our contact. I had hoped to make a video of that activation but I couldn't find a shady place to operate and the display was so reflective there was no way to film it. Same thing with the mcHF and many other rigs. I need a shady POTA site or video doesn't work...

      I'm looking forward to your review of the G106 - those things are dirt-cheap but I think I'm done with Xiegu for a good long while unless I'm able to sufficiently pre-lower my expectations.