I just ran across CHIRP, a multi-radio programming software. I gave it a quick try on my Baofeng UV-5R and it seem to work great. It supports a number of radios from Kenwood, Icom, Yaesu, Alinco, and various Chinese models.
Last summer I sold my Yaesu VX-7R handheld transceiver due to lack of use. At the time, I decided I’d rather have the money than the radio, so off to eBay it went. I haven’t really missed having a handheld much, but when I caught wind of the Baofeng UV-5R selling for under $75 I was interested.
Reviews from users were generally good, with almost all of the negatives reviews from people that have never touched one, or who want to whine that it “can’t do DStar” or some other malarkey. I don’t care about DStar. I don’t even care much about having an HT since 99.9% of the time my Yaesu HT was sitting in the charger waiting to be used. I figured for $65 it would be worth having a handheld, plus the curiosity in me wanted to see for myself what a $65 dual band HT could possibly be like.
I bit the bullet and ordered the UV-5R from Wouxun.us, and also spent the $18.95 to get the USB programming cable. Shipping was $7.00. I placed my order on March 27, 2012, my order shipped on the 28th from North Carolina, and was received on the 31st, four days after placing the order. Shipping was via USPS Priority Mail.
- The build quality is poor compared to the Japanese radios. This was not unexpected. My unit had a bit of adhesive residue on the keypad that was easily removed by simply picking it off with my fingers, nothing sticky left behind. It was also missing the “Baofeng” name badge above the keypad.
- The “flashlight” LED could be mounted better. It seems to be a regular leaded type LED sticking out of the top of the rig.
- The antenna is somewhat flexible, but is still very, very stiff. There’s really not enough flex to it for me to consider it a “flexible antenna”.
- The back of the radio seems to be metallic looking plastic. If it’s actually metal, it sure doesn’t feel that way.
- For $65, I would say the build quality is acceptable. It’s not earth shatteringly good or bad.
- There is no user manual included, but it is available for download at the Wouxun.us website, as is the programming software and drivers.
- Programming cable is shipped loose, no drivers or software included. See point above.
- The programming software isn’t great, but it gets the job done. Reads/Writes seem reliable, had no problems (unlike RT Systems software for Yaesu radios) – EDIT I’ve found that CHIRP is a more elegant piece of software for programming
- The included drop-in charger can accept the radio with the battery, or just a battery by itself if you have a spare to keep charged.
- The Chinese to English translations can leave a lot to be desired. Especially the label on the bottom of the charger.
- The power switch is part of the volume knob. I like this. It makes it easy to turn the radio on or off without having to look at it, which can be pretty nice in certain situations.
- The included belt clip does not appear to be at all sturdy.
Drop in charger
Label on charger doesn’t make much sense after the translation from Chinese to English.
Front of radio showing a bit of glue residue and missing name badge,
Antenna connections. Male SMA on radio, female on antenna. Many hams are making a big deal about this, but it seems pretty standard outside of amateur radio, so I don’t see an issue with it.
I wasn’t able to run it through the paces quite as much as I had hoped as I discovered that my service monitor is badly in need of calibration. But here is what I was able to get:
- RF Output power on 146MHz is slightly over 5 watts
- Receive sensitivity is around -122dBm, which is right where I would expect it to be, as compared to other amateur and commercial gear I’ve worked on over the years.
- Maximum deviation was right at 5khz, a little hot, but within specs. This included a CTCSS tone.
- RF power on 444.500 was 3.7 watts
- Receive sensitivity was around -119dBm
- Deviation was closer to 6kHz, assuming my service monitor is reading correctly.
The only spurious emission I was able to detect on my spectrum analyzer were more than 55dB below the carrier.
I’m not going to go into much more depth on operating the radio. There’s plenty that’s already been said on forums like QRZ.com about this radio. My understanding is that it’s very difficult to program without the software. So was the Yaesu VX-7R.
Overall I’d say that’s it not a bad investment for $65. If you lose it, drop it off the tower, or otherwise damage it, you aren’t out much. I consider it to be a “disposable” radio.
I’m looking forward to seeing some of the Chinese made dual band mobile radios that are in the pipeline.