At Dayton Hamvention 2019, the CSI Group announced a special deal on the Xiegu G90. The G90 is the first model of the new Xiegu G-series and is from a Chinese manufacturer. It is a man pack style portable 20W HF 10-160 meters transceiver with handles. The G90 uses 24-bit digital SDR architecture. It also includes an internal automatic antenna tuner.
Why another QRP radio in your collection?
I wanted a radio that had enough HF power (20 watts) to run off a reasonably sized Bioenno battery (the 4.5 or 9A) to make up for bad band conditions. 20W is about an S unit down from a typical 80-100 watt base station so no penalty for field operating (5W would be another S unit). I have found the military man packs all run around 20 watts on HF and my practical experience shows it to be a great trade-off. I can drop the power down for sanctioned QRP contests but 5w SSB can be tiresome whereas 5W CW works very well. OK, I also wanted something small with a form factor similar to an FT-891 and the G90 does this and adds handles for free ($100 option for the Icom 7200).
I have spent an hour on the radio and am just making some quick comments until Sherwood Engineering gets their hands on one.
A front and center 1.8” Color TFT LCD Display shows: ± 24 kHz bandwidth spectrum and waterfall. It is bright with adjustable levels. The sweep/refresh rate is very fast. The status of all functions are shown on the LCD display. The ability to see SWR and battery voltage is an excellent user feature. This was a selling point for me.
The microphone has two configurable and several dedicated function buttons and looks like the Icom mic from the 7000. I/Q outputs are available. The G90 has a removable display head that can be separated from the main body.
Modes: SSB / CW / AM
RF Output Power: 20W (SSB/CW), 5W (AM Carrier), 13.8VDC, stepping 0.5W
Voltage range: 10.5-16.5 V DC (voltage must be in 13.8-15V if need 20W)
Transmission frequency: All amateur bands in the range of 1.8 to 29.999 MHz plus 60 meters in USA
Receive current draw: 500mA
Transmit current draw: 8A max.
Size: 4.75″ x 1.75″ x 8.25″ (main body without handles)
Weight: 2.3 lbs
Right off the bat I added an Anderson Pole connector to the lightweight power cord. There is an inline fuse on the positive lead. I am not sure if there is any power drop but I would love to swap out the Molex for an Anderson pole connector to simplify my life.
I was able to figure out the radio interfaces in order to make some changes without the manual. The manual is typical of Chinese brands with chinglesh and incomplete sections. However, even the Japanese brands can have bad manuals. Xiegu has released an improved manual with some charts showing the FUNC and Mic buttons.
I tossed a homebrew EFHW wire across the deck and swept up 20m and landed on K1M in a little pile up. OK let’s try this before I run to my base set up, I hit the tune button and the tuner was quite fast and did not make a racket. Hit PTT a few times and added him to the log. WOW That’s Happy Day Ham Radio Today.
K1M is a special event station for the Apollo 11 and 1st Landing on the moon. He was 59 plus and he gave me a 57 for 10 watts (which makes perfect sense).
Therefore, my first contact is truly memorable on this man pack radio.
Like the Icom 703, the battery pack or power source is external.
One thing I noticed right away is the lack of a mobile bracket. I was hoping to mount this radio on a backpack and now I found that the inner foam packaging material fits into a Pelican 1400 box very nicely. Therefore, this radio will live life in a Pelican box. I also do not seem to have any CW memories in the G90 so I will have to use my Pacific Antennas keyer.
The radio lacks an adjustable leg or bail so I just added some rubber feet. Maybe, Windcamp or a 3D expert can solve this problem.
The radio is missing an RIT control. Hmmm, I am not sure if I will miss this or it gets added in the next software update.
CW decoder seems to operate fairly well but the radio only accommodates a Paddle keyer and not a straight key.
Not sure how FM mode works as I cant seem to access the menu for it and it needs a extra device. Who cares about this as no one bothers with 10m FM anymore.
Bandwidth is adjustable for each mode.
I did some basic IMD tests and it seems to hold up OK and will have to investigate further.
No drift was noticed.
Radio was slightly warm after an hour of use.
No external speaker jack. The internal speaker is ok and audio output is very good. I will look into the mic assembly and will have to investigate further (no schamatics) if this is a Yaesu mic interface or Icom. Actually, for a field radio the need for an external speaker jack would mean lugging one more item. I think the audio is louder than the Elecraft KX series.
The external Mic has some feature buttons like direct entry and up/down and they did add a Tune button. This could be a work in progress or a better manual may explain it better.
The spectrum display is always on and not that useful but then I do not bother with that on 7300/7610 or 991 radios. I am forced to use it on my SDR Play but I tend to hunt up and down looking for stations using a VFO knob. The 24 kHz bandwidth is not that great anyways but the display looks nice if not highly functional for those that need a band view.
There are two tuning controls: a 100 KHz and then one that can click in to vary the step that is a bit quirky to use but it just takes a bit of a learning curve.
It receives better than the Yaesu FT-817 and has better front end performance and DSP filters. Whatever I hear on the Icom 7300, the G90 hears.
This a great radio for the price point, has enough power to make it usable for SSB with low sunspots and has a rugged build and feel. I was surprised how heavy it was. 20 watts output at 8A 13.8V is battery friendly and an EFHW with the zippy internal tuner makes it a wonderful field radio.
My version came with the latest release 1.6 and Xiegu has listened to its customers with some incremental improvements and bug fixes. I hope to see some enhancements down the road.
As usual, Jerry Wagner and the team at CSI (Connect Systems) group shipped it out after a quick check over and with awesome customer service. When you call, Jerry answers the telephone and his initial shipments sold out quickly.
I think this Xiegu G90 is going to be a popular little radio.
For a new ham in the hobby with a $1000 to spend could get a G90 for HF $450, a $200 dual band DMR handheld, a $150 Yaesu 2m FTM-3200DR mobile (Fusion), a Zumspot and a local club ham can donate a 2m mobile antenna. Bioenno battery and charger, Add a PackTenna 9:1 Mini antenna by brown bagging lunch for a week and think of all the fun you will be having.
This radio makes for a cost effective SDR Field radio. During a lunch break, take it out to the picnic table at the back of the building, toss a wire into a tree, hit TUNE and go make QSOs
Ham Radio is not a Hobby it’s a Way of Life!
Tin responded with some clarifications and tips:
- The G90 does support straight keys. Wire the dit and dah contacts together in the plug (or wherever is convenient) and use the Manual key setting. The manual (even the crappy basic one) has a pictorial showing how to do this.
- FM is not available until you add the GSOC large screen, which is supposed to be on sale later this year.
- The power plug is a Tamiya (as used in radio controlled drones etc). Avoid buying ready-made cables as they will not be the same polarity. There are discussions in various Xiegu Facebook groups on this subject, and also a description of how to swap out the Tamiya for powerpoles. Also, check that the inline fuse is assembled correctly, A lot of G90s went out with the spring inline, which overheats and melts the assembly. I believe Connect Systems fixed this or at least provide a different cable on their stock.
- You can connect an external speaker to the headphone jack on the left of the front panel. The output is a bit low though.
- The manual is indeed not much help. Connect Systems manual is based on a crowdsourced version, and is way better – and you’ll find another really good one on Radioddity’s website.
- I bought a Windcap FT817 stand. It’s a fraction bigger than the G90, but supports the rig quite well. I added some padding and rubber feet to stop the thing from slipping around.