Sunday, January 11, 2015

HamGadgets - Ultra PicoKeyer KIT - Build Result

Back in 2006 I assembled my first CW keyer kit. It was the PicoKeyer from N0XAS. Eham still stores my enthusiastic review. Back in the day (July 10, 2006) I wrote:

"Got home after work to find out the kit on my mailbox. Everything was neatly packed and nothing was missing.
Delivery was also fast! The kit made it all the way across the Atlantic in just a few days.
Anyway, I sat down, fired my soldering iron and about 20 minutes latter I heard my kit say "73".
After that I dug up my paddles and started playing with it. It works just great!
So, if you're looking for a keyer kit that offers a great price/quality relation... you just found it!"

It's now 2015 and, gladly, N0XAS kit's are still around. The original PicoKeyer has evolved and it's now part of the history of a placed called Hamgadgets.
The original PicoKeyer has served me well but in some aspects it was a bit lacking. As I was browsing Hamgadgets I came across PicoKeyers's lastest incarnation, the Ultra PicoKeyer kit.
This post contains some photos of this kit and it's assembly. After the pictures you can also find a bried review. So, here are the photos:

The kit as received. Components and PCB on one plastic bag. Plastic box separated. Both items were properly padded withing the box (on this picture I had already removed the padding material).

Kit parts, sorted out for assembly:

The kit already assembled:

And now, some comparison photos, side by side with the original PicoKeyer:

An there you have it, The finished kit:

So, my initial impressions of this kit:

  • It's a beginners kit. All the parts are very easy to solder so you should have no problem assembling it. Just follow the excellent building instructions (available online).
  • The assembly takes about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • A CR2032 battery is also included with the  kit.
  • Kit parts are all of good quality, including the battery (mine was a Panasonic).
  • The PCB's quality is very good.
  • The box, although made with plastic, is well designed and fits the kit very well.
  • The controls are well layed out, Connections on the back. Setup on the front.
  • Relation between quality and price is good but not excelent (kis costs 29 USD + Shipping)

For a CW paddle setup, if you are right handed, it is customary to set up the dit for your thumb and the dah for your index finger (dit left paddle, dah right paddle).
If I have to mention a less positive point about this kit (at least my kit) it would be the fact that, by default, the dih is on the right paddle and the dah is on the left paddle. This is the opposite of the original Picokeyer.
Of course, the keyer is configurable and you can change this via the menus, so it's not a major problem as it does not require any cable/paddle rewiring.
In any case I will contact N0XAS about this and if any further information is provided I will place it here.
On and all, a very pleasant experience and the pleasure of having a all finished kit with a box inclued (this is where many kits fall short; many do not include a box).
Until then,


Update 12/01/2015
After a couple of hours using the kit here are two missing features that I find missing:

  • External, or at least internal, volume control for the headphones. The kit ships with 3 capacitors and you must choose the one that better fits your headphones. By doing this you will be favoring one headphones setup. This may be OK if you have or work only with one pair of headphones. I use two, one for shack use and one for portable use. They are different and the same setup does not work well for both.
  • External, or at least internal, volume control for the internal speaker.

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