What’s the difference between the Baofeng UV-3R, UV-5R, UV-82, UV-B5/UV-B6, etc.?
In China, there is a lot of passing around of designs, tweaking, improving upon, and re-branding.
In 2011 a company called VeroTelecom brought out a “UV-3R” radio which was picked up on by Baofeng and brought to a Western market where, eager for a bargain, it went down a storm. A year later, TYT made the TH-UV5R which again was picked up by BF and released in the West as the UV-5R. Initially meant as cheap SDR business band HTs, hams quickly noticed that they have a proper VFO making them perfect for our uses.
A year after that, Baofeng (now Pofung, internationally) designed and released their own radios based on the UV-5R; the UV-82, a more “professional” version of the UV-5R, and the UV-B5/UV-B6 with an entirely redesigned and far more selective RF front-end.
The first two are pants as radios go, with all kinds of weird bugs, overloading problems, and less-than-adequate phase noise and harmonic suppression performance.
The UV-82 crossed the line from “meh” into “good” with performance being on par with existing radios twice the price.
The UV-B5 blew all existing Baofengs out of the water, with on-air performance nearly matching that of Yaesu’s lower end Vertex (VX-**) series handhelds which cost five times the price. It has its quirks but for basic repeater ragchewing its value for money can’t be beaten.
The great thing is, all these radios can be had for under $35 if you know where to look: while not perfect they are a great way to get started, or to dip your toes into the hobby without spending too much. However, if you have the disposable income to put down on a more expensive radio, do – the Yaesu FT-60R is a good start.
If you’d like to read more about the differences between some of these radios, I go into a little more detail here.