A quick look at the Baofeng UV-5R

When I decided to get my amateur license, I did a lot of reading before deciding on what radio to buy. Based on a lot of negative things I found written about Baofeng radios, I decided to get a Yaesu VX-60R. It’s a nice radio, but finally the low price of the UV-5R (less than $30 on Amazon) was to much to resist, so I got one just to check it out. For $26, I am pretty impressed.

First, I’ll get the “bad” out of the way. According to some sources, Baofeng radios are prone to spurious rf emissions and/or transmitting out of band. I’m not a radio tech and I don’t have a spectrum analyzer, so I’m unable to test mine to see if it suffers from this problem. I know that I get good signal reports, both in simplex mode and when hitting the local repeaters. Another alleged problem is receiver selectivity/sensitivity. This also hasn’t been a problem for me, but radio traffic where I live is pretty sparse. The final issue is warranty coverage. The only company offering US-based warranty support for Baofeng radios appears to be BaofengTech, and they don’t carry all models. If your radio isn’t one they do, it will have to go back to China if warranty work is needed.

OK, so now for the good. First of all, it’s less than $30. For that price you also get a charger with drop-in charging tray (something that is a $40 extra for the much more expensive VX-6R). It’s a dual band transceiver (2m and 70cm) and can also receive FM broadcast band. There are 200 memory channels and it has a built in flash light. Battery life with the included lithium ion (1500 maH) battery seems better than my VX-6R as well. The only thing you’ll need to make the UV-5R useful is a programming cable and Chirp programming software. You’ll have to buy the cable, but Chirp is free.

Programming and using the UV-5R is easy. First, just plug in the programming cable, fire up Chirp (you can ignore the warning message about Baufeng’s firmware), set up your channels/frequencies, and you’re ready to rock. If you don’t know what frequencies to put in, contact your local amateur radio group for a list of local repeaters which will give you a good start. Power is controlled by a power/volume knob on top of the radio, which is also something I like better than the power button on the VX-6R. The orange VFO button controls frequency/channel mode, and the up and down arrows step you through your stored frequencies or channels. The numeric keypad lets you manually enter a frequency in VFO mode or a channel if in Channel mode. There can be a lot more to it, but that’s all I’ve had time to play with so far and anyway I like to keep things as simple as possible.

Bottom line? I really like this radio. It’s easy to program, easy to use, and the built in flashlight is nice to have. It’s not as solidly built as the VX-6R, but it also didn’t cost $265. Considering the price and what you get, the UV-5R is an incredibly good value.

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