Flex 5000A

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Equipment Reviews' started by k2cm, Sep 22, 2008.

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  1. k2cm

    k2cm Guest

    Have had my Flex-5000A for about a week now and am very impressed with it!
    1. The receiver filtering is superb. The best selectivity I have ever heard. I operate a lot of CW and am able to emilinate more QRM than I ever did with my 756P3.

    2. The 25HZ filter for CW is stunning. Separates close stations very well.

    3. It does take a "high end" computer. I am using a Shuttle with a 2.6GHZ quad core processor board, and an Nvidia video board.

    4. As you probably already know, tuning across the band is with the mouse. I love it!

    5. The "bandscope" is the best part. you can see where the signals are and get to them quickly with the mouse.

    6. For whatever reason, the receiver is picking up far less noise than with the 756P3. Am able to hear weak signals that I couldn't hear before.

    7. You have to be able to follow instructions to set up the radio and computer up the first time. Takes about 15 minutes. There is no real skill required other than the ability to read a manual and follow instructions.

  2. K1HS

    K1HS Ham Member QRZ Page

    >>It does take a "high end" computer. I am using a Shuttle with a 2.6GHZ quad core processor board, and an Nvidia video board.<<

    That's probably still cheaper than shelling out the bucks for the 5000C, or is it?
  3. k2cm

    k2cm Guest

    Not really sure if it is cheaper

    In my case, I had a lot of parts for a hi-end computer system. Had the video card and a big hard drive, had a monitor. Only had to get the Shuttle and a quard core board and some memory.

    I was tempted to buy the complete package; but, thought about the future...when the Powermate SDR program got larger or offered a lot of new capabilites...would the "pre-packaged" computer in the "C" version be powerful enough. Not really sure, so I built my own...which can be replaced or upgraded at any time.

    Probably not the answer you were looking for. I think it is better to "build your own" rather than have an integrated computer.

    George, K2CM
  4. K1HS

    K1HS Ham Member QRZ Page

    >>would the "pre-packaged" computer in the "C" version be powerful enough<<

    That's a very good point, and yes, that was the answer I was looking for.


  5. W6GS

    W6GS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Their website says the "C" just has a mini-ITX motherboard in the case. It would probably be easy enough to pop it out and pop a new one in. It's probably more cost effective to build/buy your own though. The "C" is $1500 more than the "A" and the built in PC only has 1G of RAM, a 160G disk and processor speed isn't specified...
  6. K1HS

    K1HS Ham Member QRZ Page

    >>The "C" is $1500<<

    It's more like 2 $G's isn't it? At any rate, it's a lot of money for an underpowered computer.
  7. W6GS

    W6GS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yeah, $2500 more... Typing is hard.

    $2500 and half an hour on NewEgg will get you a very, very nice computer.
  8. ZL3GSL

    ZL3GSL Ham Member QRZ Page

    You mean it's not "user fiendly and intuitive" ? Reading manuals seems a bit radical. :D

    (I'd love one).
  9. WY6K

    WY6K Ham Member QRZ Page

    What he said about the positive aspects of the Flex 5000 are certainly true. It is not intuitive either, but it could be a very good system.

    However, there is a lot to hate about the Flex 5000. Is it an experiment or is it a radio?

    To wit:

    I think the way to sum it up is that I never know if it is going to work or not.

    1) The most annoying thing is that you must turn the radio on and wait at least two minutes before starting the software. Only that two minute delay is sometimes more like 6 minutes. If you start the software before the radio is ready, it gets stuck and the rig has to be turned off and the computer rebooted. If you try hard enough, and waste enough time, you can get usually get it to go.

    2) The software cannot deal with sound device conflicts of any kind. So for the 5000 to work, all sound cards and devices such as the Edirol must be disabled with the Device Manager. This means the PC cannot make any noise - iTunes or web sites or wav files or whatever. So, in practice, I am always turning some devices on and others off (struggling to remember which SDR needs which device) and then rebooting - and then I turn on the Flex 5000, wait some indeterminate and variable time, then start the software and hope it gets all the way through and starts.

    3) If you happen to turn off the radio (or lose power to it) before shutting down the software, the drivers hang and you can never get it to start again until you turn the rig off, reboot, turn the rig on, wait some indeterminate and variable time, then start the software and hope for the best. This is particularly unforgivable! I don't know of any other USB or Firewire drivers that hang up like this. But they don't consider it a problem! They just say, "Oh yeah, just turn the radio off, reboot, wait, turn the radio on, wait, then start the software". Truly Bush League! Amateur Hour, in the worse meaning of that phrase.

    4) The radio exhibits a huge number of images outside the ham bands. When brought to their attention, it was explained away and no indication was given that they accept this as a flaw that needs to be fixed. Specifically, the region below 500khz is useless - despite their specs. Images are only 10 db down and make that segment of the spectrum useless. It also makes the receiver unreliable - one cannot be sure one is hearing the real signal or an image. I have to use the 756PRO as a sanity check.

    I've got a 2.8 Ghz dual processor machine that has been optimized per Flex's guidance and it is still lame - can't use top sample rates etc. And it is fussy on buffer length etc. A crude nuisance.

    All this translates into: it's a PITA!!

    Personally, I think the Flex guys should spend less time patting themselves on the back and more time making a system that is highly useable. The mistake they are making is to think that the product will win on its specs. In truth, it will win if people love it and fail if people find it an irritant. It is not a mission critical system, so it is not enough that it works well. People will have to like the experience of using it.

    Do you think we would all be collecting 75S-3s and 75A-4s if we had to reboot them all the time? Would Art Collins allow this to go on? Would Steve Jobs? Do we like Collins gear because of the number of products they brought out, or because of the quality of the small number of products that they brought out?

    And before anyone comdemns me as a simple minded appliance operator: I'm an accomplished EE with a number of patents, six of which are for software. I've also run high tech companies, including software companies, and system companies that encompass both hardware and software. I still design and build things and soup up various rigs from time to time. It's not that I'm reluctant to mess with gear - but I don't like having to waste my time rebooting all the time just because the guys deciding which bugs to chase are blinded by the the light.

    My complaint is that Flex has put their emphasis on features rather than usability issues. For the software product manager or company CEO, it's a matter of one's world view as to what is important - and a matter of discipline. A pro makes it solid, an enthusiast (also frequently known as a crazy entrepreneur) puts up with crappy operation in order to rush toward his (or her) vision of the ultimate feature bundle. Flex is not the lone ranger, many entrepreneurs fall into this trap. It's just that most of those don't survive. I hope I didn't buy a nice idea that turns out be an unsupported stub in a few years.

    Another indication of this problem is Flex's recent release of a couple of new products. Rather than putting their attention on making their current product usable, they rush out additional products that will further dilute their ability to provide tech support. This is a well trod path to failure. If I were one of their investors I would be raising hell and firing the CEO.

    Don't get me wrong. I like the fundamental promise and capability of the 5000, and I like SDRs, and I like fiddling with things trying to improve them. And I would like to see Flex survive. But I don't like the danger signals coming from Flex. It is still bush league - a number of unaddressed usability issues and ignored (or denied) bugs.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2008
  10. G4ILO

    G4ILO Ham Member QRZ Page

    Ham radio means a lot of things to a lot of people. To some it's about getting on the air. To others, it's just a permit to use radio that gives them interesting opportunities to build things and tinker about with stuff. I think SDR appeals to people in the latter category. I have never used a Flex but all the reviews I have read talk a lot about having to update things and tweak various settings and my feeling is I get enough of that hassle from computers already without my radios getting in on the act.

    The day you see the big gun contesters and DXpeditions using SDRs you will know the technology has reached maturity.
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