Sunday, 5 March 2017
FLEX-6300 Review for contesting users (another 8 months on)
Could it be that we are finally there? The focus return issue between SSDR and N1MM+ was my finger trouble and I was helped by an flex elmer to get it working. The experience of using this functionality for contesting filled me with hope that there was a future where SDR would take over from conventional rigs for contesting. The automatic focus return functionality is essential in SDR contesting as this allows you to make adjustments in SSDR (such as RF gain) and then not have to point the mouse and click back into the N1MM+ call field before you can type in a call sign. This functionality seems fairly benign, but it is essential when under pressure to efficiently work through any pile-up. I'm using the current version of SSDR v1.10.16 (at the time of writing) and have completed several contests (including the ARRL DX CW as MM3T) with it, without being able to complain about funnies. Ok, that's not quite true, I reported a bug (lack of PTT in CW) about 5 months ago and then lost interest for a while. When I realised it still hadn't been fixed in a recent update, I went back and asked the question again only to be told it had been fixed (which of course it hasn't). Here's a quick resume of the bug - Using N1MM+ to pass PTT to SSDR CAT which then should apply PTT on the radio doesn't work in CW mode (whilst using SSDRs winkey emulator functionality). Instead, the Flex is in semi break-in mode and ignores the PTT command allowing the tx to rx switch-over after a predefined delay. To avoid this happening, you have to increase the delay which has the annoying side effect of holding tx on after the message has been sent (effectively masking the first letter of any fast returning stations). If you set up the delay to avoid tx/rx switch-over at a specific key speed (say 32 wpm) and you get a slow speed caller and you reduce the sending speed accordingly you are rewarded with tx/rx popping as it switches to tx on every letter. The practical solution for the meantime is to never play with the sending speed and just put up with missing the occasional fast return. You'd imagine this would be a simple bug to identify and fix if you were a radio ham and a developer of SSDR but alas no... After my last finger trouble (ahem!) I'm still hoping that some kind elmer will show me the error of my ways, but still no fix 8 months on). However, I have to honest with you, I am so much happier with the stability of the basic functions of SSDR (the NR, NB etc still don't function as well as the big three) I am beginning to enjoy the experience of contesting with the Flex. An opportunity came up to purchase a 6500 and in a moment of sheer madness (due to it being a bargain) I sprang the cash! The good news is that this is the radio I should have got in the first place. I'm very much happier with the receive performance during contests (note: not worth the price difference between the 6300 and the 6500 however) and the K3 now hasn't been out the box in a few months. I guess I would now have trouble going back to a conventional rig without a good panadapter. I still wouldn't trust SDRs in a multi-multi contesting environment with RF flying around, but for casual contesting from home, I recon it now could beat conventional set-ups.