Monday, July 23, 2012

Baofeng brothers

Back in February I bought a Baofeng UV-3R+. It came after an unusually long wait for products from China, in March. In that time, eBay vendors had begun advertising the new Baofeng UV-5R which had double the output power and a key-pad that could be used for DTMF. To add insult to injury the price of the 5R was less than I paid for the 3R+.

As the months passed the knowledge that the UV-5R could still be bought for an absurdly low price niggled away at me, until eventually I gave in and ordered one. Unlike its little brother the 5R got here in little more than a week. So now I have two Baofeng HTs. A ham can never have too many radios, especially at this price!

Baofeng UV-3R+ and UV-5R
After I sold my original UV-3R to make way for the Plus I had a few regrets. The original had the advantage of being lightweight and tiny. Although the Plus was only a few millimetres larger and a few grams heavier the difference felt more marked. It lacked the cuteness of the earlier model. But the drop-in desk charger was a nice standard accessory. The accessory port was the same as used by Kenwood and Wouxun, enabling some standardization. It is a nice little radio but functionally almost identical to the original 3R.

Baofeng UV-5R unboxed
The UV-5R is quite a big improvement over its little brother. It isn't a lot bigger or heavier than the 3R+ but the extra size and weight gains you double the output power (4W compared with 2W) and a keypad which supports both frequency entry and DTMF. The latter makes the radio much more useful on Echolink.

The 5R feels solid and well built like the 3R+. In fact it feels like a radio that cost three times the price. I think Baofeng has hurt sales of the basic handhelds made by the Japanese "big 3." Only rigs with ham radio specific extras like supporting D-Star or APRS will be able to justify a higher price. As neither of those things are useful for the typical Chinese business buyer of these radios I can't see Baofeng starting to compete in that area. So Yaesu, Icom and Kenwood can breathe a sigh of relief.

Other things I like about the UV-5R are:
  • 4W maximum power out
  • Alphanumeric names for memory channels
  • Backlit keypad - a classy touch
  • DTMF - ideal for Echolink
  • Analogue volume control with proper on-off switch .
I like the way the display (and keypad) lights up when a signal breaks the squelch and stays lit for a few seconds after the signal has finished. If you have more than one handie in use this feature lets you know which radio received the call. My Wouxun also does that.

There are a lot of other things to like, such as the voice announcement (my ham rigs don't have that) and the fact that accessories and spare parts being really cheap. The same computer interface cable works with both Baofengs and the Wouxun. Headsets and speaker-mics work with two Kenwood radios as well.

Judging by the comments of some buyers in the user groups, "Baofeng quality" is still an oxymoron. You are taking a chance that the radio you receive will not have any faults. Sending the set back to Hong Kong But if you are prepared to take that risk (or pay a bit more and buy from a local dealer) then the Baofeng UV-5R is worth a lot more than you pay for it.

10 comments:

Speedmaster said...

Very nice!

I bought my son the UV-3R and we like it. A question about the UV-5R, does it receive wide-band stuff like my Yaesu VX-3? I like the fact that the Yaesu can listen to shortwave, and just about anything else.

Thanks for the great review!

Julian Moss said...

No, the UV-5R can only receive on the frequencies it can transmit, i.e. 136-174MHz and 400-470MHz, and receive only FM radio 88-108MHz.

Speedmaster said...

Thanks, Julian. I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I JUST CANT DO BUSINESS WITH CHINA . I AM ANTI COMMUNIST . MY HF SET IS 100% USA MADE. THE HT AND MOBILE RIGS ARE KENWOODS AND YAESU . MY FRIEND HAD THE FIRST UV-3R SERIES , I DONT THINK HE EVER USES IT . HE CANT HIT THE LOCAL REPEATER , SO IT IS A LISTENING POST ONLY . GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR ELECRAFT KX3 AND WITH THE NEW UV-5R . WAITING FOR THE OLYMPICS TO START .

NormfromAZ said...
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Julian Moss said...

Hi Norm.

I didn't find the UV-3 hard to program manually, but after I got the programming cable I did all my programming from the PC. When the 5R came I transferred all the memories across using the software so I have no experience of what it is like to do it manually!

NormfromAZ said...
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NormfromAZ said...

I sold the UV-5 as I had problems programing it, just like I did with the UV-3. Did hear back from the individual you bought it, that he had trouble with most of his computers and pulled out an old laptop with XP and was able then to program the radio.

Despite reading any thing I could find on programing the radios manually, I could not get either radio to work.

The VHF and UHF bands for now will just have to get along without me.

Norm

Anonymous said...

This message is for N4UED: China is actually a socialist-capitalist society. You are thinking of the China you learn from history books. Don't judge a book by it's cover and don't expect a $500 HT when spending $50, As long as a buyer is aware of its limitations, they will be happy that they saved some money. By the way I still don't understand the 'Made In USA' attraction in terms of quality. I work in the U.S., the entire office is full of Americans. Some of the work they do is pretty bad. So buying domestic just means you are pumping money back to OUR economy, doesn't guarantee quality IMO. You know that clothing brand 'American Eagle'? the CEO of the company wanted all the jobs to be in the US. Do you know who makes these clothes? It's in a Los Angeles factory with a bunch of 'minorities'. Something to think about. 73