Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

Digital magazines

Still in the bag
The last time I renewed my QST magazine subscription not only did I get my monthly print addition of QST but I would receive an email about a week or so before the print copy arrived informing my digital copy was waiting for me to download and view. I will admit I was one of those ham's that just wanted to feel the pages, hold an actual copy and ear a page to come back to it later. I had some spare money in my Paypal account and I decided to once again subscribe to CQ magazine but this time I decided to only go with their digital version of the magazine. In the past I had big issues with the delivery of the magazine so I wanted to avoid this again. It was the reason I cancelled my CQ subscription some years ago. As the CQ issues started to arrived I was forced to get used to reading the subscription on line. I found out over time the best method of delivery for me was on my Apple iPad pro. For me it worked seamlessly and to be honest it was the viewing of the occasional QST on my PC that frustrated me with the digital age of magazines. As I read my paper copy of QST each month ignoring the email about a digital copy waiting for me in my inbox! Those at the ARRL who publish the QST magazine are very clever in that they tease you with tidbits "you can view more content in the digital version" "Here is a video of the review that can be viewed in the digital version" I began now and then to download QST's digital version to my iPad pro (once I downloaded the app) After a very short time I was hooked on the digital version. Now the print copy stays on my night stand and sometimes a month goes past and it does not even get removed from the shipping plastic. Why not just subscribe to the QST digital version you ask??  I have now as I found in their FAQ how to unsubscribe from the print version. There is no savings to the member for doing this but I am told that the money saved QST puts that to good use. I have no issue with this and am happy to my this "donation" to the ARRL.
For those of you where like me and have not as of yet jumped into the digital magazine world I will say it's a very interactive way of reading. CQ uses a program called Zinio to view their magazine and QST uses Pagesuite It may just be me but I find Pagesuite easier to use, nice graphics and well laid out and I hope one day CQ will start to use them as well as Zinio.
Some of the advantages I find with having a digital copy are:

  • Ability to view videos (QST often has product reviews and a video to along with it)
  • Web links that can take you to more content. 
  • Ability to enlarge the print which is good for me. 
Some of the disadvantages:
  • You can't just roll up the tablet or PC under your arm and take it with you. 
  • To download a new addition the internet is needed. 
  • To take full advantage of the digital copy again the internet is needed. 
For me I find the Apple iPad pro does an amazing job as I am sure any other tablet would but I am  an Apple fan. As for carrying around my iPad I use the Otterbox product to protect it. The way I look at it if you are going to spend good money on a tablet or phone at least spend 1/4 of the price on something that is going to keep it safe. 

Chameleon CHA P Loop review

The Chameleon CHA P Loop antenna
I had a chance to once again use my new Chameleon CHA P loop antenna  and it's now time to give this antenna my humble review. To begin with I shopped around for a loop antenna and looked at the following brands. The Alexloop walkham  loop, the Caras HF 315 loop, Alpha loop antennas and finally Chameleons CHA P loop antenna. Most of these antenna had good reviews for the most part but I chose the Chameleon CHA P loop for it's rugged construction and slightly better reviews. The loop comes with very easy to follow instructions that contain in-depth details about the antenna. I ordered it from DX Engineering and the delivery time was GREAT along with their customer service. The loop does not take long to assembly and wth practice I have it up and running in under 10 minutes. Below is a list of the positives I found with antenna:

  1. It has a very small foot print when setup and is very portable which makes it easy for traveling on foot or bike. 
  2. In very little time you can get very proficient as setting up the antenna. 
  3. The Loop (LMR-400) section and PL-259 connectors are very good quality and also they are fitted with heat shrink to add a nice water tight fit. 
  4. The tuning box is sealed and weather proof just for those days when Murphy decides to bring some rain on your portable operations. 
    The tuning box 
  5. The 6:1 reduction gear makes tuning accurate and finding the peak noise level very fast. On the tuning box I added a 40-10 meter decal to remind me of tuning direction. Also I added the DX Engineering sticker as I am blown away with their customer service. 
  6. I was able to successfully tune the loop to at least 1.3:1 on all bands wether is was 10m or 40 meters. 
  7. Once the antenna was tuned to the lowest SWR and you move away from the antenna the SWR does not change. In the past with other loop antennas I have used the tuning know was on the top of the tuning box. Your hand being in the loop would affect the SWR and once your hand was removed the SWR would change and this made tuning frustrating. Other loops did not have the 6:1 gear reduction and finding the sweet spot and lowest SWR was a challenge. The slightest touch of the tuning knob threw the SWR off and often you would have to start over again. 
  8. On the base of the handle is a 1/4-20 female thread that makes putting this antenna on a tripod a breeze. Other loops I have used do not have this and I had to make up a homemade mount. 
  9. RG-58 with integrated RFI choke feed-line decouples the Faraday coupling loop from the radio which is essential to prevent SWR fluctuation while rotating the antenna or moving the coax cable around.
  10. If you have an HOA situation and getting on the air is a challenge this antenna could be the answer for you. 
    Quality PL-259 on Loop
Some of the drawback I found with the antenna are:
  1. The coax that runs from the antenna to the rig is only 12 feet and longer would had been better but that is my humble opinion. In all fairness the other portable loops I have own I had the same issue. Now Chameleon does offer coax with the RF choke in a 50 foot length for 65.00. 
  2. The telescoping mast seems a bit delicate and could if your not careful become damaged making the antenna unless until it's replaced. 
  3. I noticed right away the PL-259 connectors on the feed line are the crimp type and look of low grade quality. In my opinion this makes for a very weak point in the antennas construction. The loop section has quality grade PL-259 but this was skipped with the feed line. 
    Crimped PL-259 
  4. The carry bag it comes with is defective right off the self and admitted so by Chameleon. I'm not going to go into detail about that here but you can read my post about it HERE.
In conclusion I am very happy with the antenna and it's built quality, easy deployment and reduction gear tuning. It is pricey but in all fairness all the loops of similar characteristics are in around the same price. 

Chameleon CHA P Loop review

The Chameleon CHA P Loop antenna
I had a chance to once again use my new Chameleon CHA P loop antenna  and it's now time to give this antenna my humble review. To begin with I shopped around for a loop antenna and looked at the following brands. The Alexloop walkham  loop, the Caras HF 315 loop, Alpha loop antennas and finally Chameleons CHA P loop antenna. Most of these antenna had good reviews for the most part but I chose the Chameleon CHA P loop for it's rugged construction and slightly better reviews. The loop comes with very easy to follow instructions that contain in-depth details about the antenna. I ordered it from DX Engineering and the delivery time was GREAT along with their customer service. The loop does not take long to assembly and wth practice I have it up and running in under 10 minutes. Below is a list of the positives I found with antenna:

  1. It has a very small foot print when setup and is very portable which makes it easy for traveling on foot or bike. 
  2. In very little time you can get very proficient as setting up the antenna. 
  3. The Loop (LMR-400) section and PL-259 connectors are very good quality and also they are fitted with heat shrink to add a nice water tight fit. 
  4. The tuning box is sealed and weather proof just for those days when Murphy decides to bring some rain on your portable operations. 
    The tuning box 
  5. The 6:1 reduction gear makes tuning accurate and finding the peak noise level very fast. On the tuning box I added a 40-10 meter decal to remind me of tuning direction. Also I added the DX Engineering sticker as I am blown away with their customer service. 
  6. I was able to successfully tune the loop to at least 1.3:1 on all bands wether is was 10m or 40 meters. 
  7. Once the antenna was tuned to the lowest SWR and you move away from the antenna the SWR does not change. In the past with other loop antennas I have used the tuning know was on the top of the tuning box. Your hand being in the loop would affect the SWR and once your hand was removed the SWR would change and this made tuning frustrating. Other loops did not have the 6:1 gear reduction and finding the sweet spot and lowest SWR was a challenge. The slightest touch of the tuning knob threw the SWR off and often you would have to start over again. 
  8. On the base of the handle is a 1/4-20 female thread that makes putting this antenna on a tripod a breeze. Other loops I have used do not have this and I had to make up a homemade mount. 
  9. RG-58 with integrated RFI choke feed-line decouples the Faraday coupling loop from the radio which is essential to prevent SWR fluctuation while rotating the antenna or moving the coax cable around.
  10. If you have an HOA situation and getting on the air is a challenge this antenna could be the answer for you. 
    Quality PL-259 on Loop
Some of the drawback I found with the antenna are:
  1. The coax that runs from the antenna to the rig is only 12 feet and longer would had been better but that is my humble opinion. In all fairness the other portable loops I have own I had the same issue. Now Chameleon does offer coax with the RF choke in a 50 foot length for 65.00. 
  2. The telescoping mast seems a bit delicate and could if your not careful become damaged making the antenna unless until it's replaced. 
  3. I noticed right away the PL-259 connectors on the feed line are the crimp type and look of low grade quality. In my opinion this makes for a very weak point in the antennas construction. The loop section has quality grade PL-259 but this was skipped with the feed line. 
    Crimped PL-259 
  4. The carry bag it comes with is defective right off the self and admitted so by Chameleon. I'm not going to go into detail about that here but you can read my post about it HERE.
In conclusion I am very happy with the antenna and it's built quality, easy deployment and reduction gear tuning. It is pricey but in all fairness all the loops of similar characteristics are in around the same price. 

A review of the Elecraft K-Pod

When I first opened the box I noticed it was packed very well and as I held the K-Pod for the first time I noticed it had some weight to it. The K-Pod is built very solid and would not move around on the radio desk as you used it. There is a tilt stand that places the K-Pod at a very nice operating angle, this stand can be removed if you would rather have the K-Pod sit flat on your desk. The VFO is very smooth and the user is able to adjust the drag if need be but I was very happy with the VFO right out of the box. There are 8 buttons on the K-Pod that can be programmed with macros, each button has a tap and hold function you therefore have 16 macros. Macros are a great way to have a one button push (or hold) to control a commonly used button on the K3. Also Macros can be used to preform a multi task function. For example I have programmed a CW Split macro that puts the K3 in CW mode, sets VFO A and B to the same frequency, moves VFO B up 2 kHz, sets the filter to 400 Hz, clear both the RIT and XIT and locks VFO A on frequency. All this is done with the push of one button. The instruction manual gives you many Macros to choose from. You can program your own and try them out using the K3 utility program on your PC. On Elecraft's website you can download free of charge their programers reference to learn more about macros and programming them.
There is a rocker switch that will allow you to smoothly switch from VFO A (LED D1 lights up) to B (LED D2 lights up) and then to RIT/RXT (LED D3 lights up) adjustments. The manual says that LED4 is user programable and you can actually control the on/off function of D1, D2 and D3 as well.
On the top of the K-Pod there are 4 connection ports:

  1.  Auxiliary outputs that the manual says can be used for an external antenna switch, amplifier and so on.
  2. DATA connector is used to connect an RJ12 cable (supplied) to the K3. 
  3. USB connector (USB cable is supplied) is used to interface the K-Pod with your PC for firmware updates and for what Elecraft calls "future" PC control. 
  4. Power connector (cable supplies) can be used to supply the needed DC to the K-Pod and I say "can be used" because via a simple mod
    (parts supplied) to the K3 and K3S  you can power the K-Pod via the DATA cable.
This was a nice addition to my K3 as for me it's handy to have the VFO control right beside the key. For contests I am able to program the first 3 (or more if needed) macro buttons for contest macros. The K-Pod worked right out of the box once powered up and connected to the K3 you had immediate VFO control, A/B VFO switching and RIT/XIT as well. It was then time to learn about macro programming.
There were just some minor issues I have:

  1. The provided USB cable provided is 3 feet which I found a bit to short, even with the front USB ports on my PC 3 feet was still very tight fit. 
  2. On first start up D4 on the K-Pod constantly stayed on. This was not normal and to correct this issue a Bata firmware had to be downloaded to the K3 or K3S if you have that model. I'm not to keen on loading Bata firmware as there could be some bugs with the software. 
  3. I have been spoiled by Elecraft and how easy it was to upgrade their products with new firmware. With your rig or P3 connected to your PC via a USB cable and a couple of mouse clicks using the Elecraft utility software you were good to go. For some reason the firmware update procedure for the K-Pod is much different.
A. All cables have to be disconnected from the K-Pod
B. Connect the USB cable to your PC
C. While holding F1 and F4 on the K-Pod plug in the other end of the USB cable to the K-Pod.
D. You now start the K-Pod utility program and update it's firmware.
 
 4. I found having the power cable and the RJ12 cable coming from the K-Pod a bit cumbersome. One of the main reasons for me doing the modification to the K3 so the K-Pod is powered via the RJ12 cable. 

A review of the Elecraft K-Pod

When I first opened the box I noticed it was packed very well and as I held the K-Pod for the first time I noticed it had some weight to it. The K-Pod is built very solid and would not move around on the radio desk as you used it. There is a tilt stand that places the K-Pod at a very nice operating angle, this stand can be removed if you would rather have the K-Pod sit flat on your desk. The VFO is very smooth and the user is able to adjust the drag if need be but I was very happy with the VFO right out of the box. There are 8 buttons on the K-Pod that can be programmed with macros, each button has a tap and hold function you therefore have 16 macros. Macros are a great way to have a one button push (or hold) to control a commonly used button on the K3. Also Macros can be used to preform a multi task function. For example I have programmed a CW Split macro that puts the K3 in CW mode, sets VFO A and B to the same frequency, moves VFO B up 2 kHz, sets the filter to 400 Hz, clear both the RIT and XIT and locks VFO A on frequency. All this is done with the push of one button. The instruction manual gives you many Macros to choose from. You can program your own and try them out using the K3 utility program on your PC. On Elecraft's website you can download free of charge their programers reference to learn more about macros and programming them.
There is a rocker switch that will allow you to smoothly switch from VFO A (LED D1 lights up) to B (LED D2 lights up) and then to RIT/RXT (LED D3 lights up) adjustments. The manual says that LED4 is user programable and you can actually control the on/off function of D1, D2 and D3 as well.
On the top of the K-Pod there are 4 connection ports:

  1.  Auxiliary outputs that the manual says can be used for an external antenna switch, amplifier and so on.
  2. DATA connector is used to connect an RJ12 cable (supplied) to the K3. 
  3. USB connector (USB cable is supplied) is used to interface the K-Pod with your PC for firmware updates and for what Elecraft calls "future" PC control. 
  4. Power connector (cable supplies) can be used to supply the needed DC to the K-Pod and I say "can be used" because via a simple mod
    (parts supplied) to the K3 and K3S  you can power the K-Pod via the DATA cable.
This was a nice addition to my K3 as for me it's handy to have the VFO control right beside the key. For contests I am able to program the first 3 (or more if needed) macro buttons for contest macros. The K-Pod worked right out of the box once powered up and connected to the K3 you had immediate VFO control, A/B VFO switching and RIT/XIT as well. It was then time to learn about macro programming.
There were just some minor issues I have:

  1. The provided USB cable provided is 3 feet which I found a bit to short, even with the front USB ports on my PC 3 feet was still very tight fit. 
  2. On first start up D4 on the K-Pod constantly stayed on. This was not normal and to correct this issue a Bata firmware had to be downloaded to the K3 or K3S if you have that model. I'm not to keen on loading Bata firmware as there could be some bugs with the software. 
  3. I have been spoiled by Elecraft and how easy it was to upgrade their products with new firmware. With your rig or P3 connected to your PC via a USB cable and a couple of mouse clicks using the Elecraft utility software you were good to go. For some reason the firmware update procedure for the K-Pod is much different.
A. All cables have to be disconnected from the K-Pod
B. Connect the USB cable to your PC
C. While holding F1 and F4 on the K-Pod plug in the other end of the USB cable to the K-Pod.
D. You now start the K-Pod utility program and update it's firmware.
 
 4. I found having the power cable and the RJ12 cable coming from the K-Pod a bit cumbersome. One of the main reasons for me doing the modification to the K3 so the K-Pod is powered via the RJ12 cable. 

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