Taking The Xiegu G106 on Its Maiden POTA Activation!
-- by Thomas K4SWL
Last year (May, 2022), Xiegu announced a new compact field radio that would be added to their line of transceivers: the Xiegu G106.
As I was capping off my summer in Canada (August, 2022), Radioddity started shipping the G106. Radioddity had me on their list of folks to send a loaner G106 to, but I didn’t have time to even look at the radio I was so busy upon my return, so didn’t immediately request it.
I did watch, however, K8MRD’s initial review and updated review of the G106. It was less than stellar [understatement alert!] but more than relevant to me because Mike shipped his second unit to me on behalf of Radioddity.
I connected that G106 to a dummy load, checked the transmitted signal, and it simply didn’t look very clean. It looked worse than it did when Mike checked it only a couple weeks prior.
I shared my results with Radioddity, told them I didn’t feel comfortable putting it on the air for testing in the field, and they asked to have that unit returned and checked out.
Fast-forward to January 2023 when I was once again contacted by Radioddity to see if I would like to field test an updated G106. I was happy to do so, in fact, because I was curious if the whole G106 experience had improved.
In the spirit of full disclosure: keep in mind that Radioddity is a Xiegu retailer/distributor–they are not the manufacturer nor are they owned by Xiegu. They are a sponsor of QRPer.com, but have no say in what I post nor any sort of editorial input. Indeed, this is always a condition of sponsorship from day one.
To Radioddity’s credit, some of my most critical reviews have been of products they’ve sent me on loan (especially the GSOC). They take criticism on the chin and keep on moving forward. This is why they are still a sponsor and I like working with them. They understand that I call it like it is and stand by what I publish.
This G106 has been sent to me on loan for a few weeks to review. I plan to take this unit on a number of activations and pair it with a variety of antennas and accessories.
Very early impressions
I will eventually publish a full review of the G106 (likely in The Spectrum Monitor magazine first) once I’ve put in a lot more field and shack hours with the G106. In the activation video, below, I do make a lot of comments about the radio–thinking out-loud–so if you’re considering purchasing the G106, you might at least listen to a few of my initial impressions.
I will say this: for a modern SDR-based transceiver, it’s pretty bare-bones. It lacks a number of features I assumed it might have despite the incredibly affordable $320 US price point:
- No SWR meter
- No Power meter
- No CW or Voice message memories
- No RF gain control
- No AGC control
- No dedicated headphone audio output
But, again, it has more features than many of the bare-bones CW-only QRP transceivers out there, so for the price perhaps expectations should simply be in check–?
Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)
On Tuesday, January 31, 2023, I took the G106 on its maiden POTA activation to K-6856.
The G106 doesn’t have a built-in ATU (which I would never expect at this price point) so I decided to pair it with a resonant antenna. Since it was a very rainy day and the area/ground where I tend to deploy my wire antennas at Vance was squishy and soft, I opted to deploy my Chelegance MC-750 next to the picnic shelter.
I adjusted the MC-750 whip for resonance on 20M.
Oh yes! Another new piece of gear I took to the field during this activation was my new-to-me Begali Traveler paddle.
This gorgeous key was sent to me by Jackie, who is an avid CW operator, DXer, and QRPer. She’s a reader/subscriber and noticed I mentioned my interest in a Begali Traveler. Indeed, I planned to buy one at the 2023 Hamvention (yes, I will be going this year).
It was a huge surprise receiving this box in the mail. I had no warning it was incoming so it was like Christmas in January for me!
She sent a very kind letter with it basically telling me that she knew I was planning on buying one and that hers was getting very little use because she had other keys she used more often. It came with the original box and all originally-included items.
I was gobsmacked! And incredibly grateful.
Thank you so much, Jackie!
This activation was the first time I had a chance to take the Traveler to the field.
SSB & CW
Set up was quick and painless. I simply plopped the MC-750 in the ground next to the picnic shelter, set it for 20 meters, then connected it to the G106.
I powered the G106 with a Bioenno 3Ah 12V battery. I also connected both the Begali Traveler key and the small handheld mic that ships with the G106.
Since my goal was to give the G106 a proper POTA workout, I planned for both SSB and CW.
- Xiegu G106
- Chelegance MC-750 (DX Engineering US, WIMO EU, Moonraker UK)
- Key cable: Cable Matters 2-Pack Gold-Plated Retractable Aux Cable – 2.5 Feet
- Begali Traveler
- Bioenno 3 aH LiFePo Battery (Model BLF-1203AB)
- Ham Radio Workbench DC Distribution Panel Model HRWB101
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch
- Moleskine Cahier Journal
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera
On The Air
I started calling CQ POTA in the SSB portion of the 20 meter band. Within five minutes, I worked my first ten stations.
This was a reminder of just how quickly SSB POTA contacts can be worked in succession compared to CW POTA contacts!
Since CW POTA ops don’t run in “contest” mode, each QSO takes roughly 50 seconds or so.
In the end, I logged 24 SSB contact in about 15 minutes before moving to the CW portion of the band for a spell.
I will add here: it’s awfully fun to work one of my regular CW hunters in SSB and hear their voice for the first time!
Next, I started calling CQ POTA on 20 meters in CW and the RBN/POTA auto spot system caught me. Within 11 minutes, I worked 12 more stations.
Here’s what this 5 watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map.
Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation. As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.
Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:
This was the first time I’d used the G106 in SSB mode and it seemed to work pretty well. That’s great because there aren’t a lot of ways to tweak the TX audio. No one reported poor audio (I could kick myself for not asking for an audio report–!) and it seemed to have an adequate amount of punch for a five watt radio. I need to do a proper audio check, though.
In CW, I find that the keyer timing is perhaps even more solid than that of my X5105. Again, it doesn’t really have full break-in capabilities–you can’t hear between elements–but it’s pretty pleasant.
The audio, as with most Xiegu products (in my humble opinion) isn’t terribly refined. I understand there’s a constant AGC running, but it almost seems like there’s no AGC when in high dynamic range environments (competing loud and soft signals).
Receiver overloading didn’t seem to be a problem during this POTA activation, but it certainly is at my QTH (and was at a yet-to-be-published POTA activation).
If you buy a G106, I’d encourage you to build or purchase an external BCI filter.
Again, it’s early days and I’ve many more activations planned with this little radio before I send it back to Radioddity.
Side note: In the video I mention that I would confirm current measurements. According to my variable power supply, the G106 uses roughly 1.05A on transmit high power, 320 mA in receive without backlighting, 330 mA in receive with the backlight on.
Thank you for joining me on this activation! I always enjoy getting to know a new radio in the field.
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.
Thanks for spending part of your day with me!
Cheers & 72,