In my quest to find the next portable rig (I already decided), I made a comparison sheet with stats about the various rigs I was considering.
Here is my portable rig matrix (including handhelds). Hopefully this list could be of help to others.
Bear in mind, I had specific goals in this rig evaluation:
- Portability of station setup
- Ease of use in multiple modes
- CW practice wherever I was
- Expansion of my amateur radio capabilities into other modes, e.g. APRS, packet, digital HF, base and mobile antenna improvement
- Versatility and integration with my existing setup
While I was dead set on getting the Elecraft KX3 fully loaded, I decided that if reining in the budget, a single QRP rig was not worth all the other gear (antenna ideas) that I wanted to invest in. So I went with my second choice, the RS-918SSB mcHF v0.6 clone “Recent/Risecomm” RS-918SSB. It was a tie with the Xiegu X5105, but that mcHF screen!
In addition, I was able to save that money to acquire lots of other imporant items: a couple of hamsticks, a shiny new Kenwood DH-TH74A for APRS and D-Star work, a mini paddle key from American Morse, and a Bioenno LiFePO4 battery with solar controller and 2A LiFePO4 charger. I also ordered a military pole 36ft portable mast for my field and base station plans. All this and more by exercising a little bit of frugality against my Elecraft lust.
I was also able to get a Smiley Antenna Tri-band Whip antenna for the Kenwood, which enables amazing 220 resonance in addition to great gain on 440 and solid performance on 2 meters. (For when I am not attaching the Kenwood to my car mobile antenna.)
All in all, it was an exercise in cost-benefit analysis. I had certain goals, e.g. to get a primary APRS mobile setup while commuting, and also a very portable “EDC” (everyday carry) HF rig.
While the KX3 is in a class of its own with regard to receive filtering, modularity, and overall quality of radio, I thought I could live with a rig in equal (or smaller) size that enabled me to get on the air with more watts (15w vs. 10 on the KX3), a sweet touchscreen color display with much more info, daily CW practice without having to lug around my FT-857D, and less than a quarter of the price of the KX3 (picked it up for $450 with shipping vs. $2000 quoted from Elecraft website).
And with this, I’m now on D-Star, a digital mode I wanted to know more about, am able to work packet (via KISS bluetooth or USB on the Kenwoond TH-D74A), explore Winlink, ultimately get out there and work stations– on 2 more rigs with supporting gear!
It’s so cool to be positioning with APRS, and so far have made 300+ mile CW contacts from a crowded parking lot on 40m CW.
And with about $800 to spare!
So you tell me… Did I make the right choice? I’ve always heard it said that QRP is a luxury once you get your “real rig” established. In an EMCOMM situation. you’ll wish you had that extra power. I tried to choose the most versatility with the options before me.
Maybe one day I may still get the KX3. But it will be after gaining much wisdom having explored so many other aspects of ham radio.