With a wet weekend ahead and little danger of the wife dragging me out somewhere I didn't want to go, I thought I'd take the time to have a play around with my latest acquisition - the XIEGU G90 SDR QRP Portable HF Radio.
I'd seen these around the internet and mentioned in the magazines quite a few times and I didn't pay them much attention at all - to be honest, I'd kinda ignored them because I already have the fabulous YAESU FT-818, so what did I need another QRP transceiver for?? Well the truth is, I don't need another QRP transceiver, but what's that got to do with anything? Like most other Hams, I just like getting new radios and experimenting.
The thing that triggered this little purchase was an online conversation with a friend. He'd just acquired one and was telling me about it, so I then started to read/watch a few reviews and discovered that people really did rate this rig - a lot! And it wasn't a scary chance-purchase from China like all those unbranded amps and stuff that you constantly see on eBay. The Xiegu has partnered with MFJ, so it's not going to be an overnight fling.
So soon after, I found one that an old mate was selling one and it was actually brand new in the box and I got it for a saving of £165 on RRP with extras!! How could I say no to that?? In all honesty, I probably wouldn't have bought one at full price because of the 818 sat in my ruscksack, but at this price I just couldn't resist.
|Built just a couple of months ago|
I was immediately impressed with the heft and quality of construction - it seemed much nicer built than I'd expected. Mind you, there's some really crummy images of the rig on the internet so that probably effected my judgement previously. Now that I can see it in the flesh and handle it, I have to admit that it's a nice bit of kit. Sure, it doesn't have any sexy contoured styling (it's quite angular and sharp-cornered) but it is still very well presented.
The switchgear is well laid out and most buttons have multiple functions which, like I said earlier, are very intuitive. At the rear of the unit, there is a single SO239 and various ports for a key and other accessories and input/outputs. The power-connector is quite unusual and some people may have never have seen one like it before, but it is actually a common connector in the RC world and is made by Tamiya - very easy to get hold of. And just below that is the GROUND connector which is a nice, easy to use thumb dial - no screwdriver required!
You'll notice from the photos that the radio is fitted with guard rails front and rear. This is another nice touch from Xiegu and something that you normally have to pay extra for. It does seem a little odd though, that they didn't incorporate some sort of folding feet in the design of those rails. They don't even include any rubber feet on the base 😮
On the left front side, there's a couple of 3.5mm jack plugs - one for headphones and one for firmware update of the head unit (there's a matching jack plug on the rear of the base unit for programming that). It's not uncommon for separate units to need separate updates. It's worth noting that although the headphones on QRP radios are often heavily used, they may not be so on this radio because it has a fantastic speaker built in, with very good volume levels. Elecraft would do well to take note from Xiegu in this respect!
The spec of the radio is really quite impressive, not least of all because of that amazing TFT screen. Yes, it's tiny at just under 2" but so too is the 818's screen. The G90's screen is full colour and razor-sharp! It really is quite impressive and the waterfall and panadapter are fantastically usable even at this size.
The update process was fairly straight forward as long as you follow the instructions to the letter. There's a point in the update were you have to switch on the radio and then press a key on your computer's keyboard - do it quickly or you'll have to restart the process.