I’m new to SOTA with only two activations so far. I currently carry a Yaesu FT-897D and LiPo 15a battery and everything else to my activation point. A fellow Ham suggested purchasing an X5105, it would certainly reduce the weight in my pack. I’ve been on a couple of Xiegu Facebook pages and noticed there are still open issues with the software. For those of you who may have this radio, would you recommend it, is 5 watts adequate, do the software updates address known issues and are you notified when a software update is released? Thanking you in advance for your comments.
First I must say that you must be in good shape to lug that '897 up a hill! I have not used the X5105 so cannot comment on it. For small and reliable the market is not large but well covered with the Yaesu FT-817 which is a decent radio; also to consider is an Elecraft KX2 which ‘sounds expensive’ but a much better HF platform than the FT-817 and the cost while higher is not a bad route for it’s features. A more minimalist would be the LNR radios, though most models currently available are CW only.
I know, it’s not a direct answer but hope it gives you a few things to look at and consider.
Good Luck & 73,
So yesterday I had my first opportunity to get on the air with a friends 5105. These are not light radios…? With the heat sink and the battery it’s every bit as heavy as my 817nd (maybe a little more). The speaker had this odd “ringing” quality that we could not correct. While the CW seemed OK there was this odd delay that would spring up randomly causing errors.
When the time comes to replace the FT-817 I think I’ll pay a little more for the KX-2 and call it a day…
73 de KG6LI
This new radio looks quite interesting:
It has 10w output, so more than the X5105. No idea what the price will be, possibly a bit more than the Xiegu. There are more rigs than ever that are specifically designed for SOTA, do plenty of research first before making up your mind.
73 de OE6FEG
Welcome to the fun!
We need to know what kind of op you are to make a good recommendation. CW? SSB? VHF/UHF?
I’ve played with a few of the Xiegu rigs and have not been impressed. It is hard to beat the FT-817 due to it’s ability to do HF and UHF/VHF. That said, I now use a KX2 for HF and a Yaesu H/T for VHF/UHF and APRS spotting. This combo has worked great for me and allows me to monitor VHF while doing HF. The KX2 is a top quality HF rig and has been fantastic.
When I go backpacking, I use an MTR3B which is 3 band, ~5 watt, CW only. My backpacking setup is under 2 lbs and can easily run for a week off the small 3 cell lithium battery (same one I use in my KX2).
Lots of options out there. Good luck!
5 watts is sufficient power to make the contacts on SOTA though it does help to make good use of sotawatch, both as an alert with at least a few hours notice and when actually ready on air, as a self spot notifying the frequency you are calling on.
The extra power of a 10 watt rated radio must be viewed in context as a 3 decibel increase in output power, ie. it isn’t much extra and doesn’t make much difference to the signal received at the other end.
Put another way, 5 watts is only 13 db less signal than the 100w the 897 can produce. That may be a lot in some band conditions, but it is barely over 2 S points in theory. (Radios vary greatly in the accuracy of their S meters though. )
But very few SOTA activators are carrying a rig of that size and weight up hills. Most are carrying far lighter radios and correspondingly lighter batteries, yet managing to make the required contacts with ease. So you are on the right track.
If you are using cw then the suggestions above are worth considering. For HF ssb and vhf/fm the ft817 is as yet not surpassed as a general purpose SOTA radio. 5w is enough power and some of us have operated it at even lower power levels very successfully. It comes down to your operating style and preferences.
Over time you will probably use a number of radios. They all work and give you contacts and fun. Use whatever you like the look of, sound good to you on air and that you can afford.
73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH
For data mode (FT8), the X5105 works well and 5 watts is sufficient.
It has ATU and lipo 3800mAh : it’ s sufficient for 3 SOTA activations FT8 on the same day !
The KX2 is superb, lightweight but expensive (in Europe) with supplements
The FT-817/818 : is good but not ATU nor battery
All 3 works well with 5watts for FT8
erratum : the new battery of ft818 (internal) is only 1900mAh
73, bruno F6HHK
This is a good point. I never used the NiMh internal battery when I had an FT-817. Instead I would use an external lithium battery (MANY to choose from). Much lighter with far more capacity.
I never found the lack of tuner to be an issue with the 817 as all my antennas are resonant. If you need a tuner, you have a lot of nice QRP options (but it is more crap to carry and set up!). This is of course another topic entirely =)
I use the kx2
What I really enjoy is the volume of the package:
Transceiver, wire antennas, plugs, cables, earphoses, ropes, key, mike, powerbank, paper, pens,… everything on it s place in small case (Lowe viewpoint cs80)
I recommend the Windamp LiPo accumulator for the FT-817. It is noticeably lighter than the original Yaesu accumulator and has much more capacity with 3000mAh.
… and don’t forget for SOTA : lightweight, lightweight, lightweight …
So, compare weight : Tx + battery (internal or external) of same capacity and quality + cables and connectors and see specs of transceiver for current consumption (Rx and Tx) +++
Lightweight means under (at the very least) 7kg for day trips and under 15kg for trekking. If you’re not hitting those weights then go back to the drawing board and rethink you gear.
73 de OE6FEG
I’d pass on the X5105 as I’ve read just too many negative reports on it. Here’s another rig that looks interesting: https://www.aerial-51.com/alt-512/ Not sure iffen it’s available yet or not. Been saving up the pennies and might pull the trigger on one. If you find the KX2 a little price inhibitive, try looking for a used Elecraft K1 or KX1. Both rigs are good choices for SOTA and backpacking/camping…Good luck and let us know what you end up with. Lots of great help here on the boards…73, Todd KH2TJ
That radio looks quite like the LNR LD-5 and LD-11 radios that are no longer available! If like the LNR radios performance wise I suspect it will be welcomed by the SOTA and QRP community
Big plus is it’s built in sound card - making portable digital modes pretty easy…Todd KH2TJ
If you are using an FT-897D on battery, I assume the max. power has dropped from 100W to 20W - as this is how the 897 is designed. Therefore, if you opt for a 5W rig, you will be dropping power to 25% which equates to 2 S points for anyone receiving you. So, if a station is barely able to copy you with 20W, dropping 2 S points probably means the other station won’t copy you. On the other hand if you were S9 with 20W and drop to S7 on 5W, you will probably get through.
Only advice I can give is you is I would go for a 5W smaller/lighter rig just because I know 5W is adequate at height and with a reasonably efficient antenna (e.g. dipole) you will get contacts. However, if you genuinely don’t mind lugging the extra 6.5+ pounds that the 897 weighs, the extra power will help on occasion. Personally, though, I would leave the extra weight at home and stick with my 817 which I know is reliable rugged and there’s no need to worry about software updates.
I started out with the same heavy Yaesu and I switched to a KX-3. On SSB I doubt 5W would be enough. I run 15W and I get a lot of 3-3 reports that probably wouldn’t of been heard on 5W. I carry a 3600 ma LiFe battery and I have done two long activations on the same day (several times) and still have plenty of battery power left over. I’m assuming my 3.6 amp battery is much lighter than your 15 amp… so I’m saying in a friendly way, “lighten up dude”! (you won’t be sorry). I also use to carry a 6 pound vertical, now I use end fed wire antennas with a fishing pole. Now my antenna package is less than 1.5 pounds. I learned the hard way:sweat_smile: My one complaint on my KX-3 is that I have to carry a powered speaker, which adds a few ounces. The KX-3 speakers are made for a VERY quiet environment only. Good luck and enjoy your new found hobby!
Only if you use the Yaesu battery packs for the radio. Powering the 897 with an external battery will allow full output depending on battery.
20W to 5W is a 6dB drop or 1 S point. 80W to 5W is 2 S points (There are plenty of caveats regarding S points but de-facto use is 1 S point is 6dB)
As for a Xiegu X5105 vs KX2 vs KX3 vs FT817 vs FT818 vs Chinese radios well I have a different view. If I spend my hard earned money on a product will I be able to fix it or buy spares for it for a period that justifies the purchase price. e.g. Yaesu will be in business for some time and if I buy a 2nd hand 817 for £300 I know that Yaesu has sold a squillion billion 817s and they will support it with spares for some considerable time. Or I can buy up part functional 817s from the used market to use as a donor chassis. Similarly Elecraft will be in business for sometime. The total number of KX2 sold is less but again I don’t forsee problems getting parts for many years.
If I buy a radio from the LuckyGoldenShiningStar Radio Corp of Shenzen, will they be trading next week? Next month? Next year. It may be their product is an absolute stunner in performance and use but if I have to spend over €500 on something then I want some kind of warm and fuzzy feeling that it will last out the warranty plus a few years and support / parts will be available. And with some new company that is not a given.
So I’ll buy and build kits (QCX for example) or I buy from companies with some longevity such as Icom/Kenwood/Yaesu/Alinco/Elecraft etc.
Yes, my mistake, apologies. 20W to 5W is 6dBW or 3dBV which is a 1 S point reduction. In terms of the original question though, I would still argue that a drop of even 1 S point can make a difference if copy is marginable. Often when chasing a weak SOTA Activtor, 1 S point makes a lot difference.
Just for fun, I thought of a school boy (or girl) physics question:
If the extra weight of an 897 is assumed to be 2Kg more than an 817, how much additional energy is required to carry the additional mass up a 1000m summit for a 2 hour activation? Also, if it takes 2 hours to climb the summit, what is the additional average power output required from the hillwalker?
If we assume the downward force of 2Kg mass is 20N, the Energy is mass X height or 20KJ. 2 hours is 7200 seconds. So, this means our hillwalker has to expend 2.8 Joules/second to carry the extra 2Kg up the mountain. 2.8J/s is a constant additional power output of 2.8W. So, if the Activation lasts for 2 hours, the extra 2.8W of “hillwalker power” to carry the 897 yields an additional 15W of “radio power” (possibly even 95W if on external battery? ).
I know this assumes all sorts of ideal conditions. However, it’s like getting an additional 12.2W for “free”?