The RTL-SDR Blog V3

Published at 10:35 on 6 August 2020

I purhased this device recently in the hopes it would solve the issues I’ve been having with attempting to decode P25 signals. Those hopes proved overoptimistic, but I’m opting to keep it. Despite costing approximately three times as much as the inexpensive one I ordered from an eBay seller in Asia over four years ago, we’re talking $25 versus about $8, not a huge price premium in absolute dollars.

The new device behaves basically as advertised: it is much cleaner and more stable, with vastly fewer birdies to contend with. It has a standard SMA antenna connector (I already have SMA adapters in my box or RF connectors and adapters), instead of an oddball (in the USA) PAL connector. It still has the same 8-bit analog-to-digital converter inside, so it has the expected dynamic range issues.

It’s over four times less expensive than the least-expensive 14-bit device I’ve been able to locate, and it works well enough for my purposes, so paying nearly $100 more for the next step up is not a justifiable expense. Just playing around in GQRX I was able to easily spot an automated marine weather station on 161.65 MHz that I had up to this point been unaware of, because on my old dongle it was lost in a forest of birdies.

That said, I have no complaints about the cheapo dongle I ordered years ago. It was a very inexpensive way to find out what software defined radio was like, and given the rock-bottom price, it was not realistic to expect top-notch performance. I still recommend ordering a dongle from Asia as a good, penny-pinching introduction to SDR. Just be careful and get one with the right chipset that can be put into general-purpose mode; some of them are useless for anything but receiving DVB television broadcasts (which makes it useless in North America, which uses ATSC and not DVB).

On the subject of GQRX, it has improved in the past four years. (I assume the gaggle of Windows-only SDR clients have also improved, but radio is a hobby for me, hobbies are for fun, and fighting with Windows is not fun.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.