Another new radio that has been announced by the Xiegu Chinese manufacturer is the G106. This is a replacement for their G1M model but it is a full SDR with several similarities to the G90 but only with 5 watts output, not 20 watts.
It’s a smaller, lighter radio, (720g) more targeted towards the digital and CW markets but with SSB and AM as well.
No internal ATU, battery or noise reduction. Quite a basic 80m to 10m portable radio.
From what I have found rumoured on the web it’s thought it will cost around the US$350 price point, which seems a little expensive these days. Of course, who knows how long it will be before it is actually in stock and for sale?
I have often regretted selling my FT817ND about 5 years ago.
The “ultra-portable” radios are an advantage when travelling by air or when a lot of walking/climbing is required to get to a summit.
This SDR radio is even lighter than the old 817 (or the 818 replacement) but it does come with fewer features - it does not cover VHF, not even 6m. It doesn’t have a built-in battery tray.
Like the 817/818, the G106 does not have an inbuilt ATU so it really needs a resonant antenna to work with. Adding an external ATU would be possible however that would add volume and weight.
The relevant point is of course the price. the G106 costs half of what the FT-818 costs. So if it performs “OK for the price” I’ll be happy. with its 10-year newer technology, I expect the receiver in the G106 to be better than the FT-817/818 range but it will be interesting to see whether the front end suffers from the common SDR problem of signal overload.
It seems the computer interfacing on this radio is similar to on the G90 so apps and programs that support the G90 should either work or be able to be changed easily to work with the G106. The external computer interface that was released at the same time by Xiegu, the D-19 is specified for use with the G106 or the G90.
I to used the FT-817nd for a few years but wanted that extra 5w of power. So, I was tied between the Xiego X6100 and Elecraft KX2…… at the time the X6100 sounded a great buy being over half the price than a KX2 with a build in tuner and scope, plus it pushes 10w out with external battery.
I decided to push the buy it now button and try one out. In all fairness, it works a treat! The only one thing I noticed was the receive isn’t as good as the KX2, but for the price your getting a fantastic radio.
So, my theory is… the X106 technology won’t be far off, so I think you’ll be pleased with it! I look forward to your review feedback once tested in the field
About two years ago I bought a Xiegu G90 mainly because of its 20 watts output and built in tuner, I am very happy with that radio. The G106 is attractive because of its smaller size and weight. Although it is only 5 watts output and has no tuner, I know that when we are in the better part of the solar cycle these radios work fine in the field, from my experiences with the FT817.
Update: I know it wont be of the class of a KX2/3 or even an IC705 or Xiegu X6100 but I am already reading about some problems with the v 1.0 production boxes (as you have to expect as an early purchaser these days). There is already a firmware update on the way, so most likely I’ll be applying that before I even use the radio for the first time!
I received my new G106 two days ago and my initial impressions are that there are a few things that need to be fixed. Being an SDR radio some of these “deficiencies” can be addressed through a firmware update and indeed v 1.1 of the firmware has been sent to and reviewed by a ham in Canada (search on YouTube). At the moment the code hasn’t been generally released however - possibly by the time I post this - it will be soon.
I have submitted a dozen points to Radioddity, where I bought my unit, for them to pass on to Xiegu. Of the 12 points, they split roughly half and a half between what I call faults and requests. In the latter cases, some small changes may bring some good improvements to the radio.
Comparing the G106 radio to my Xiegu G90 I would say it is not in the same class. The G106 is a basic radio whose main advantage is its size - it IS very small for an 80m-10m commercially made 5w multi-mode radio.
If I were to be asked whether someone should buy the G106 or the $100 more expensive G90 - at the moment, I would say, unless space and weight are critical, even for summit work, pay the extra $100 and get the G90, with more features especially the amazing built-in ATU and the extra power of 20 watts, it’s a real bargain.
Of course, all radios reduce in price after their initial release, so this radio at a $50-$100 cheaper price would be hard to reject.
At the same time as releasing the G106, Xiegu also released their DE-19 digital interface controller. If you are thinking of running digital modes such as SSTV, RTTY, FreeDV, FT8, WSPR, DATV etc. with the G106 or the G90 (for which the unit is also designed), this box is a one-unit solution adding both audio and serial channels to the radios so that one USB cable goes back to the PC and it sees both the audio in and out as well as the CAT connection. The main competitor to the DE-19 is probably the DigiRig mobile adapter which does the same thing but costs more with the needed adapter cable. The DE-19 is Xiegu specific.
If you only want to do remote radio control of the radio, the USB-Serial cable supplied with the G-90 works perfectly with the G106 as well.
I have just received the version 1.1 firmware - so I’ll report on any changes although the list of items changed is small.
It is obvious that this is intended by Xiegu to be a “basic” radio and features are limited on it.
I’m am now considering which of the batteries and portable antennas that I have bought or built over the years, I might be able to “team-up” with this radio to make a very small portable station.
I think it’s time I get it out and use the G106 portable. Using it in the shack I have found it to be a “simple” radio and I think that was the intent of Xiegu. A “no fuss” portable radio.
It has limited settings to change (especially on SSB).
It has no switchable audio filters on anything apart from CW.
You can’t even change the output power level - it’s “all or nothing” at the moment.
The transmit audio quality from the supplied microphone is not good and that is because Xiegu has supplied the smallest speaker microphone that I have ever seen. Smaller than the external microphones that you can get for HTs. The result is that the microphone element is really, really small.
I am building a small adapter cable and will try some of the HT external speaker microphones that I have with it.
The radio is rated at 5 watts output but it is nearer to 7-8 watts, perhaps that is to make up for the fact that in a portable operation your “resonant” antenna might not be as resonant as at home.
If someone is looking for a radio with lots of features and the “best of its kind” the G106 isn’t it but if someone is looking for a small, solid, simple-to-use radio for use after climbing a summit where you have enough happening just trying to stand in the wind and fill in your log, then the G106 is worth looking at. It’s not 'idiot-proof" but it is easier to operate than some of the better (and more expensive) portable rigs.
Now to get it out portable and see who I can work with a simple small antenna…
Update: I have indeed added the needed RJ10 curly lead to a speaker microphone that would normally be used with my Baofeng RD-5R DMR radio and as well as better audio, there is also more drive and hence output. The microphone, although labelled with Baofeng on the front, is not from Baofeng rather the rear says “Microphone KMC, made in China”. this is a typical “after-market” microphone and being a little larger does not suffer the restrictions of the stock microphone.
This is the model that I used: Kmc-21 Speaker Microphone for Kenwood Two Way Radio - China Microphone and Speaker Microphone price
There is a version 1.2b02 Firmware update on the CQXiegu website - unfortunately, the documentation within the RAR file is for a much older firmware version. I am trying to find out from Xiegu what this latest update has changed. I have installed it and cannot find any changes over the previous 1.1b01 version.
In the meantime, my pedestrian mobile bag containing the G106, a loaded HF whip (Diamond RHM-8B) and a small LIPO battery is ready to be tested outside. It worked from within the shack, at least on receive.
73 Ed. Update1: I just received confirmation from Xiegu that the change in v 1.2b02 of the firmware is to improve the transmitted audio from the microphone and that the version number and date at the top of the release notes text file is incorrect and from an earlier update. Update2: After tests in a park yesterday where I could hear lots of stations on 40, 20 & 10 metres but none of them came back to my calls, I have decided to move the antenna away from the radio to avoid signal absorption from my body. I am looking at mounting the antenna base on a small tripod.
You can use a “tuner” to match the impedance from your antenna to your radio but please realise you cannot make a bad antenna into a good one using a tuner - they’re great for “trimming” an antenna that may be resonant at one end of a band to work at the other end or to make the best you can out of what antenna you have with you.
The downside to using a tuner rather than a resonant antenna is the extra weight of the unit and its cables. In the case of an auto.tuner (rather than a manual one), some level of extra power is required to run it (albeit small). In a super-lightweight pack as I have put together with my G106, every gram is counted. An external tuner is also something else that can go wrong due to damaged or badly fitted cables.
I used to use the N7DCC 100 watt version of the ATU you list with my X-108 radio, so I would expect you should be able to interface the ATU-10 with the G106 if the interfaces are similar.
An update on the lightweight pack. I now have a set of J-antennas for 20-10m and a simple dipole for 40m. All of these are hauled into the trees with a cord from a throw-bag. My experiments with loaded HF whips directly on the G106 did not work out as I had hoped. Having the antenna separate and erected when I get to a summit works a lot better.
The G106 audio is also a little weak and mine now has a very small DF4ZS RF-Clipper RF speech processor module in-circuit in the microphone lead to give the radio some more “punch” on SSB.
Thank you for your opinion Ed.
Yes for the antenna I know very well that a tuning box is only a decoy for the transmitter… Personally I use a JPC-12 or an EFHW cut for 40, 20, 15 and 10M. Even if the UNUN point of RF losses it does not prevent that this antenna works very well but it does not do the WARC bands and I actually need a tuner in this case. Concerning the G-106 I do not do SSB but only CW. But maybe the module you are talking about could be an improvement in my case too. Do you have a link where I could find it? 73
If you are referring to the RF-Clipper module. Unfortunately, DF4ZS died a few years back. Interestingly his design for the desktop version (which I also have) is in the RSGB Handbook as an example of speech processing at RF (which avoids causing the splatter that the audio-only versions can produce).
He sold his company to two other hams shortly before he died however I have not heard a lot from them either of late, so my guess would be that the product is no longer available except on the second-hand market.
The “Box-73” (Funkamateur) / SOTABeams external compressor for FT817/8 does not work as well as this RF-based module however it “should” also improve the audio level on the G106 but you will need to rewire the cables and provide 5-8v to power it.