SDR needs more UX

Spotted a very interesting post from Tobias, DH1TW on his blog ‘Contesting & SDR‘ titled Does SDR really suck?. He wonders out loud if the performance, flexibility and cost of SDR is so excellent, why hasn’t it taken off? What possible barriers might there still be to it assuming a place matching its promise and achievement?

He identifies the missing link as adequate user interface. He mounts a case arguing for a similar level of investigation and development on the user experience front to match the investment and experimentation on RF and signal processing.

And he acknowledges that there may be more than one user interface solution. Contesting and HFPack have different UX demands as other experts understand. Look at Elecraft‘s K3 and KX1, or the Steve Weber, KD1JV designs, especially the ATS series. And now Tobias argues, SDR gives us the opportunity to re-think user interface design from the ground up.

Who says that the radio controls must be on the front of a black box and located perpendicular to your shacks desk? SDR allows us for the first time to completely redefine and optimize the radios User Interface! Are you serious into contesting? If so, you want to pay special attention to ergonomics. Why not having the control console directly next to your keyboard? Or do you prefer portable, backpack operations? Then your focus will lie on the limited physical dimensions. N2ABPs SDR-Cube is a nice example on this.

A very timely – and well illustrated – read.

Stephen Rapley, VK2RH, is a regular contributor to and writes from New South Wales, Australia. Contact him at [email protected].

3 Responses to “SDR needs more UX”

  • Fred W0FMS:

    Latency is another killer issue in SDR. It makes the rigs less responsive and modes like full break in CW at high speeds unusuable on current generation SDR’s, at least without trowing expensive computers at them.

    I think the “small microcontroller/DSP dedicated latency” approach of designs similar to and including the SDR-Cube will make this better but it’s a real problem on the Flexes and Softrocks out there. Alternatively, a RTOS on a “big processor” could be ok because one could guarantee a certain amount of processing time per sample that way.

    The Flex type UI might actually be better once one is used to it. I don’t agree that we need to necessarily need to have a “traditional” radio layout fot the UI to be “good.”

    Fred W0FMS

  • KB3VCQ:

    Check my blog entry “On the Design Of Rigs” published on 10/23.

  • N4LNE Phil:

    Hello All

    I know many will not agree with me but I have one great big problem
    with SDR and it has little to do with how it operates or what it looks like. My complaint is simple you are paying a fortune for a radio and what do you in fact have? You have nothing but a very over priced computer and you still have to provide the human interfaces needed to operate it. No thanks people I will take any real radio dollar for dollar over any SDR made today. At least if I have electricity, microphone, and an antenna I can get on the air.
    See ya

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