The Baofeng Experience
Last week I cleared the dust out of my blog and podcast websites and briefly discussed ordering the Baofeng UV5RA HT from Amazon. While this model was released several years ago, Amazon has them available brand new for $26.06. This includes the HT, charging stand and hands-free kit. Here’s the link to the Amazon product page for the Baofeng UV5RA HT.
I guess it’s been several years now since these cheaper (I guess less expensive might be the more PC way of describing these) Chinese made hand-held radios came onto the market here in the US. Fellow hams began showing these off at local club meetings and I began reading reviews of these radios on various amateur radio blog sites from around the world.
For the most part, the opinions expressed all seemed to have a common theme around pricing, ease of use and durability/reliability. Many viewed the low cost of ownership to be favorable over any durability issues. I guess the idea of use it, abuse it and toss it comes to mind. I also seem to remember a strong sentiment of “steer clear” when discussing these units.
I could see all sides of the argument. But I also fully understand some folks just getting into the hobby may be on a limited budget and may not have the resources to afford the latest and greatest from ICOM, Kenwood or Yaesu. As time went by, I really didn’t hear complaints regarding the durability/reliability of the radios. But certainly most everyone I spoke to all said that the programming of the radio was often a challenge and the provided user manual was of little to no help.
As for me and my reasons for not entertaining the idea of these cheaper Chinese made radios all boiled down to the fact that I really didn’t need another HT. I already own more HT’s than I have hands, so I just didn’t see the need.
So what changed?
Last week I was thinking about future topics to discuss on the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast and was researching just how many different HT models were available and the price range. This research led me to all the usual amateur radio dealers as well as a quick check of Amazon. I simply searched for Baofeng and that’s when the UV5RA popped up. With my Amazon Prime membership and a $3.00 credit, I could actually get this HT home for less than $25.00. Deal!
I decided I would gain some first hand experience with at least one of these cheaper Chinese made HT’s and share my knowledge with all of you reading this blog and later on the podcast.
Reverse Bait and Switch???
So my package shipped from Amazon as expected and was delivered on Saturday. I opened the package and inspected the contents. Immediately I noticed something was different.
If you look at the Amazon product page for the Baofeng UV5RA you’ll see the photo below. This is the Baofeng UV5RA. However, the HT shipped to me looked nothing like this.
Instead of receiving the UV5RA (as shown above), I received the UV-82 (shown below).
Initially I was slightly upset. We’ve ordered a lot of items from Amazon. While this was my first amateur radio purchase, it was also the first time I didn’t receive exactly what I believed I ordered. However, after doing a little more research I discovered the following:
First, while the Amazon store page for the Baofeng UV5RA doesn’t match what I actually received. If you carefully read the product description, under the section “What’s in the Box?” you’ll see the Baofeng UV-82 listed.
Second, from what I understand…the UV-82 is an upgraded (newer) Baofeng hand-held. If I read this Baofeng product comparison chart correctly, the UV-82 includes an updated PCB, commercial grade case and other enhancements as compared to the UV-5R models.
Third, the UV-5RA is a 4 watt model with the UV-82 offering 5 watts output.
Did I get what I paid for? Well…not really….but advantage appears to be all mine. I can’t guarantee what will happen if you order the same model I ordered…but from all appearances you’ll also receive the UV-82. Just no guarantees. Alternatively, you can purchase the UV-82 via Amazon (listed as UV-82) for $28.80. It’s a few dollars more than what is listed on the UV5RA product page, but you’ll be guaranteed to receive the UV-82 if that is the model you desire.
How I plan to use the new radio
Before I go into my initial thoughts/review/feedback (what ever you want to call it), I think I should clarify exactly how I plan to use this new Baofeng UV-82 transceiver.
This radio is not replacing anything I currently own. My main go-to HT is the Yaesu VX-8 which I have the GPS module installed. I also own an older Yaesu VX-6 (which I should probably sell) and also the ICOM IC-92 D-STAR HT which I also rarely use.
I actually plan to program a few local repeaters, simplex and NOAA weather frequencies into the Baofeng and leave it at my office. For less than $25.00 I am really just considering this a weather radio that will do a little bit more.
I’ve had the UV-82 now a few days and feel comfortable in sharing some of my initial thoughts on just what I think of this radio. I’ll break my thoughts down under a few different categories.
Over all Design
The overall design of the radio (my opinion) is fine. The radio fits nicely in my hand (not too small, not too big). It sort of reminds me of an older Nokia cell phone from the time when cell phones weren’t smart.
Channel Mode/Frequency Mode
If I’m honest, I really dislike having to power the radio off to switch from channel mode back to frequency mode. While it’s simple enough, just hold down the Menu button while you switch on the radio. All my other HT’s have a button which toggles between the two modes. However, as previously stated…this radio will be programmed with a few local repeaters, simplex and NOAA weather frequencies. For the most part, the radio will be used to listen to weather information from the national weather service.
While I’ve not taken a hammer to the case (nor do I plan to) and I’ve not performed a drop comparison from the top of my building (I don’t plan to do that either). The overall case quality appears to match that of my Yaesu rigs. As I’ve previously stated, the radio fits nicely in my hand. It’s easy to grip and the included belt clip has a nice firm spring. While I don’t plan to use this HT as I use my Yaesu, I also wouldn’t have an issue clipping this onto my belt or pack and heading down the trail.
Stock Rubber Duck Antenna
What’s In Your Rubber Duck? Well this was answered by Bob, KØNR and I would highly recommend reading his excellent review where he reveals the “inner workings” of several popular stock rubber duck antennas (including the Baofeng UV-5R).
But what can really be said about ANY stock rubber duck antenna? Regardless if the radio brand is Yaesu, ICOM or Baofeng, you will greatly improve the radio by installing an aftermarket antenna. I use the Diamond SRH77CA on my Yaesu VX-8 and it works great. But at the moment, I have no plans to replace or upgrade the Baofeng rubber duck.
The LCD screen on the UV-82 is slightly smaller than what I’m used to on the Yaesu VX-8. But to be honest, if I don’t have my reading glasses with me 24×7 these days…and the screen size doesn’t rival the Dallas Cowboys Jumbotron, I’m not able to see anything.
Dual PTT functionality
The UV-82 features dual PTT switch functionality. This is a bit odd (compared to my other HT’s). I suppose in time I will get used to it.
FM Broadcast Band
If this is something you care about, the UV-82 features a button on the side which switches the radio to the FM Broadcast band.
Built in Flashlight
If you are in the need of a hand-held amateur radio transceiver WITH a built-in flashlight, then the UV-82 is the rig for you. A conveniently placed button on the side will turn on/off the flashlight.
This is the radios weakest link and is perhaps not worth the paper they used to print it. It could be written in Chinese and even non-Chinese speakers would obtain as much knowledge by reading it.
But seriously, the entire user manual is 29 pages long. Not one page actually covers how to program the radio. Thankfully YouTube exists and many others before me figured it all out and shared their knowledge.
Ease of Programming
The UV-82 offers 182 different channels which can be programmed (once you figure out how to program them). Unfortunately, Baofeng (in their infinite wisdom) pre-programmed 20 channels (1-21). As you can’t edit a pre-programmed channel, you’ll need to delete these which can be done one-by-one in the menu.
While I believe it might be a daunting task for any brand new ham (or soon-to-be brand new ham) to sit down with an HT, User Manual and Repeater Directory and successfully program the radio. The Baofeng (unfortunately) really makes it impossible. This is part of what I was talking about during the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast (episode 70). As I’ve always recommended the Nifty Ham Radio Guides for ALL radios, I think it is a must have for the Baofeng.
Alternatively, if the UV-82 is going to be your primary hand-held and you’ll want/need to reprogram often. I would highly recommend purchasing the programming software and cable from RT Systems. While I don’t plan to purchase the the cable/software for the Baofeng, I do own the software and cables for all my other rigs.
While I’ve not discussed each and every feature/benefit of the Baofeng UV-82 in this blog article. I’ve identified a few key areas which I’ve discovered and most importantly have feedback/opinions on regarding. More importantly, as I’ve previously mentioned…I don’t plan to heavily use this radio. But having said that, I also wouldn’t have an issue with clipping it to my belt and heading down the trail either.
The opinions within our hobby of what makes a great first radio for a beginning ham are strong. Some are pro the HT and some are against the HT. If you are just starting out in our wonderful hobby, on a tight budget and looking to pickup a radio which won’t break the budget and allow you to enjoy the hobby…then I certainly recommend the Baofeng UV-82. After all, the package contains everything (transceiver, antenna and power source) you’ll need to get on the air. Get your ham radio license and join the fun of the worlds best hobby.
Until next time…
73 de KDØBIK (Jerry)