Category Archives: Baofeng UV-5R

Accessories for the Baofeng UV-5R

UV-5RI have had some comments wondering what accessories they should get with a handheld such as the Baofeng UV-5R. In general, you don’t need to buy anything else. You can use the radio out of the box, although some of the following items will make the radio more convenient or useful.

Programming Cable

None of the items on this page are essential, although many of them are nice to have. The one item that is almost essential is the programming cable. It is possible to do most of the programming directly from the radio, but it can be quite cumbersome. It’s much more convenient to use your computer to program the radio, and to do so, you’ll need the programming cable. In addition, you’ll need to install two pieces of software. The first software you’ll need will be the driver for the cable, so that your computer will “see” the cable plugged in to the USB port. That software is included in a little disk that comes with the cable. Once that’s done, you’ll need separate software to allow your computer to “talk” to the radio. The best I’ve found is CHIRP, which is available as a free download.

The current Amazon price for the cable is shown below:

Speaker Mike

My UV-5R came with a small combination earphone/microphone. You wear the earphone in your ear, and there is a small microphone/push-to-talk button the clips on to your shirt. I rarely use any kind of external microphone, but if I wanted one, one like the following would be much more convenient. It doubles as a speaker, which could be useful in a noisy environment.

Extra Battery

An extra battery can be useful. The following batteries can be charging separately while the radio is in use. You simply drop them into the charger that came with the radio. That way, you’ll always have a spare available. Note, different sub-models have different batteries, so look at the description carefully to make sure you get the right one. On a positive note, if you get the wrong one, they are all the same voltage, and you can usually make the “wrong” battery fit by carefully cutting away some of the plastic. But it’s best just to get the right one in the first place.

Alkaline Battery Holders

It will cost you more to use alkaline batteries, but this can be a good option to have available. If your power is out, you might still have AA or AAA batteries available. You can buy them anywhere, such as grocery stores and even toy stores. In an emergency, this can give you much needed flexibility. The following holders use either AAA or AA batteries.

Of course, you can buy batteries anywhere, but if you’re making an Amazon purchase and/or you’re an Amazon Prime member, just buying them from Amazon can be very convenient and economical:

Battery Eliminator

It is possible to plug the radio into the charger and charge it while you’re operating. In the case of the UV-5R, however, this is somewhat inconvenient, since the radio uses a drop-in charger. It’s also not the best way of doing things, since the batteries are still in the circuit, even though they are not in use. A better method is to run the radio directly off a power supply, without using any batteries at all. To do that, you’ll need the following accessory. As you can see, this plugs into a car lighter socket.

If you want to use the radio at home from AC current, you’ll need a power supply to plug this adapter into. You’ll need a power supply that puts out at least three amps, such as the following one:

Car Charger

To charge the radio in your car, you’ll need the following cord. This plugs in to the drop-in charger that comes with the radio, and you use it in place of the AC adapter.

Replacement Antenna

The antenna that comes with the UV-5R is not very efficient. It’s not designed to be efficient–it’s designed to be a convenient length. And for most uses, an efficient antenna is not necessary. But you might want to have a better antenna available, that provides a little bit of gain, rather than the negative gain from the supplied antenna. When you buy an antenna, make sure that it has a “reverse SMA connector” such as the following:

External Antenna

If you’re going to use the radio at home or in your car, then it will work much more efficiently with an external antenna. Either buy one of the following, with the “reverse SMA connector” already installed, or get the adapter shown below.

Note:  The UV-5R’s receiver is very sensitive to overload, so if you use an antenna that’s “too good”, you can actually cause more problems than you solve.  But for many applications, an external antenna can be extremely useful.

Antenna Adapter

If you already have an antenna, or if you’r buying a new one, it probably has a “PL-259 connector”. If so, you’ll need an adapter to connect it to the radio. You’ll need this cable:

Even if you plan to make your own antenna, you should get this cable. The PL-259 connector is relatively easy to work with, but the SMA connector is virtually impossible to install yourself without special tools. This cable will allow you to use an antenna with the PL-259.

You might be able to find a similar adapter that does not include a section of cable. While such an adapter will certainly work, it’s generally not a good idea. The cable on the adpater shown above is extremely flexible, and much lighter than the cable on most antennas. Therefore, it will cause little mechanical stress to the connector on the radio. Attaching a rigid cable directly to the radio will probably cause the connector to eventually break.

When you get this adapter, you will notice that it’s somewhat difficult to screw onto the radio. Because it’s a “reverse” connector, you’ll find that you need to turn the radio rather than the cable. In other words, you need to “screw in the radio” instead of “screwing in the connector” as you might expect. The radio is small enough that this doesn’t pose a problem, but it does take a bit of getting used to.




Operating the VHF Contest with the Baofeng


Most people who buy inexpensive radios like the BaoFeng UV-5R are doing so to communicate through repeaters. A repeater is a station, usually located at a high location, which picks up weak signals and retransmits them over a much larger area. Therefore, with even a cheap radio, it’s trivially simple to communicate tens or even hundreds of miles. And if the repeater is linked to other repeaters with a system such as Echolink, then it’s possible to communicate worldwide.

Of course, it’s also quite simple to communicate worldwide with your cell phone. In both cases, you’re relying upon equipment supplied by someone else. In the case of the cell phone, you can call Japan because you’re paying your local cellular provider, and they provide the infrastructure to route your call to the phone company in Japan. In the case of amateur radio, you are relying upon the owner of the repeater, and the volunteers who link it up into networks such as Echolink. It can be interesting chatting with someone around the world with your $30 radio, but there’s nothing particularly remarkable about it.

It’s more remarkable to know what your radio is capable of, relying on nothing other than your own station, the laws of physics, and the equipment owned by the one person with whom you want to talk. This is why, in my opinion, HF (high frequency, the part of the radio spectrum below 30 MHz) is a lot more interesting than VHF. On HF, it is indeed possible to send radio signals around the world using simple equipment, and not relying on anyone other than myself and the station I’m talking to.

If you have only a $30 VHF radio, I encourage you to try out things like repeaters and Echolink, because they can be fun parts of the hobby. But eventually, if you have any curiosity, you’ll want to know what your radio is capable of. What is it capable of doing without all of that equipment supplied by other people.  You may want to do this because it’s an enjoyable hobby.  People enjoy fishing as a hobby, even though you can buy fish at the supermarket.  And many people enjoy communicating by radio, even though you can buy the same services from your friendly cell phone provider.

Some people are interested in knowing the capabilities of radio communications because they are concerned about emergencies in which the friendly local cell phone provider might be unable to provide those services.  In any event, it can be helpful to know what the radio can do by itself.

This is why I decided to try it out in this weekend’s VHF contest. Many hams who engage in “contesting” take the activity very seriously. They spend countless hours and hundreds or thousands of dollars making the best possible station. They can routinely make contacts of hundreds of miles using the same frequencies used by your cheap handheld. Barring very unusual conditions, you will not be able to communicate hundreds of miles directly with your handheld. But you can experience some of the same magic.

I did learn that there’s a reason why some hams spend thousands of dollars. The thousand dollar stations actually work better than the $30 stations! It turns out the Achiles Heel of this radio is the receiver’s wide front end.

In fact, it turns out that there’s really no sense in using an external antenna with this radio, at least in a metropolitan area, since strong signals in the area are going to render the receiver unusable.

Hams have a saying that “if you can’t hear ’em, you can’t work ’em,” and this radio proves the truth of that adage. I can confirm that this $30 radio is able to get out over 40 miles on simplex, because I was heard by a station that far away. But despite his having a much better station than mine, I was unable to hear him.

I hooked the radio up to my outside vertical and put out some CQ’s. I later learned that one of the stations coming back to me was in Red Wing, Minnesota, which is about 41 miles away. He was copying my five watts just fine, but I never heard him when he came back to me. I didn’t even know he was there, until another station about a mile away told me that he was calling. I switched over to the Kenwood mobile rig in my shack, and I was able to work him with no difficulty. In fact, he had a very strong signal, due to the fact that he has a good beam antenna mounted up high.

This illustrates something that might be counter-intuitive to a lot of newbies: It’s quite easy to make a good radio transmitter, but it’s hard to make a good receiver. Almost invariably, the difference between a cheap transceiver and a good transceiver will be that the good one has a better receiver. There’s very little that one can do to make a transmitter work any better. Either it’s radiating RF or it’s not. There’s very little that you can do to make it more effective. When I worked the other station on my other rig, it really didn’t make much difference that I was using 25 watts instead of 5. I doubt if he was able to copy me any better. In fact, he probably didn’t even notice the difference.

The big difference was that I wasn’t able to copy his fairly strong signal. So the quality of the receiver makes a huge difference.

It’s not too surprising that the Baofeng’s receiver received so poorly. It covers a very wide range of frequencies. On VHF, it covers 136-175 MHz. It has very little filtering in the front end, and the filter is designed to let any frequency within that range through. And within that frequency range, there are a huge number of transmitters within the area. The receiver has to deal with those signals, and through a process called “desensing”, it deals with them by reducing the sensitivity to every other signal, including the one I want to listen to.

This isn’t really a defect in the Baofeng’s design. After all, it is a handheld radio, and it’s supplied with and designed to operate with an inefficient antenna. In normal operation, it’s not going to put out a very strong signal, because it’s only five watts going to an inefficient antenna. It’s a very reasonable assumption that the station on the other end is going to be more powerful, such as the output of a repeater.

Also, the receiver is relatively sensitive to start with, as long as it’s not overloaded with other strong signals. And when it’s used as intended–with the built-in antenna–those other signals aren’t particularly strong. That means that when it’s used with a cheap antenna, the receiver actually performs about as well as a good receiver would, if that other receiver were also used with a cheap antenna.

I’m able to see this from the weather stations that I’m able to receive with the stock antenna. My other VHF handheld, a Yaesu VX-3R, is able to receive only one weather signal, the strongest local one on 162.55. The Baofeng, on the other hand, is able to receive three of them from some distance, as long as it’s using the cheap antenna. But when I hook the Baofeng to an external antenna, those weaker stations disappear. They are still there, and in fact they are much stronger now. But all of the other stations in the area on 136-175 MHz are also much stronger. And the combined effect of all of those other stations is that they completely prevent reception of the weaker signals.

It boils down to the fact that the adapter for the external antenna isn’t particularly useful. The receiver actually works better with the inefficient “rubber duck” antenna. There would be very few situations where the external antenna would improve reception.

There might be a handful of situations where an external antenna could be helpful. For example, if you’re using the radio in a rural area with very few transmitters nearby, the advantage of an outdoor antenna might outweigh the desensing effect. But in general, this radio is probably most useful with the cheap antenna that was supplied with it. The situations where an external antenna would be an advantage are probably pretty rare.

I started this experiment to determine whether or not a $30 radio would be useful for contesting. And lo and behold, the shocking conclusion is that spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on gear will probably do a better job than trying to get by with a $30 radio.

But as long as you understand the limitations, you can have some fun with a $30 radio in a VHF contest. My best DX seems to be about 10 miles. Again, I was getting out much further than that, but it wasn’t possible to make a 2-way QSO. I made some of those 10 mile QSO’s with the mobile antenna on the car. But it turns out that I also made some of them with just the rubber duck antenna. And I probably would have made more if I hadn’t worried about the external antenna. If you live in a mountainous area, you’ll probably do much better than 10 miles by “hilltopping”–bringing the radio with you to a very high location away from other sources of VHF radio signals.

If you do have one of these radios, I encourage you to try it out during the next VHF contest. Some of the popular upcoming contests that could be worked with a radio like the Baofeng are:

During any of these contests, if you get on the air (the frequencies 146.55 MHz and 446.000 MHz would probably be the best starting points) and call “CQ Contest” from a high location, you’ll probably make at least a few interesting contacts, and realize that even a cheap radio is capable of producing some fun contacts over a longer distance than you would have expected.

Many areas have a radio club that will promote activity and provide guidance to new hams wanting to try out contesting. You can find a list of local ham clubs on the ARRL website.

In Minnesota, the club that is focused on VHF contesting is the Northern Lights Radio Society.  If you’re located in Minnesota or the surrounding states, it’s a good idea to check in with them before the contest for some pointers and encouragement. Even if you can’t find a local club, it’s worthwhile getting on the air during a contest to see if anyone’s around. You’ll probably make a few contacts, learn the capabilities of your radio, and have some fun in the process.

For more information:

 



Getting the Baofeng Ready for a Contest


When I ordered the little BaoFeng UV-5R, one thing I neglected to get was a method of attaching an outside antenna. The “rubber duck” antenna that’s supplied with most handheld radios is typically extremely inefficient. More importantly, the single most important thing that can be done for VHF and UHF is to get the antenna up high, so being able to use an outside antenna is a must.

The reason why I wasn’t able to hook up an antenna is that the Baofeng has a “reverse” SMA connector for the antenna. Most radios (at least in the amateur world–the commercial world seems to be different) come with a “female” connector on the radio and a “male” connector on the antenna. The Baofeng is the other way around. And since most antennas use a “PL-259” connector, the best way to deal with the problem is to use an adapter of the type shown here. This adapter is available on Amazon, although I bought one similar to the one shown at the local ham radio shop, Radio City in Mounds View, Minnesota.  The advantage of this type of adapter is that it has a length of thin flexible coax, which is less likely to put a mechanical stress on the radio’s antenna connector.

I don’t operate two meters a great deal, and my only antenna at home is a vertical dipole.  It consists of nothing more than a piece of coaxial cable.  At the final 19 inches of the cable, I separated the center conductor from the outer braid so that one could run in one direction, and the other one in the other.  I have a PVC mast supporting my HF antennas, and I simply taped the antenna to the mast.   The center conductor goes up, and the outer braid goes down, all at the top of the mast.

This isn’t an ideal antenna, because the coax is also taped to the mast, just a couple of inches away from the bottom half of the antenna.  Ideally, in a dipole, the feed line should run perpendicularly away from the antenna.  This undoubtedly messes up the antenna’s pattern somewhat.

But perfect is the enemy of good enough, and this antenna is good enough for the little bit of FM operating I do.  The antenna has been in place for ten years now, and it performs its job adequately.

As I noted above, the single most important factor for a VHF antenna is its height.  VHF radio waves travel in a line of sight, approximately as far as the eye can see.  Therefore, the higher the antenna, the better.  A poor antenna at a high location will outperform a good antenna at a lower height.   I have a poor antenna up as far as I can get it, and it performs relatively well.

This afternoon, I decided to give it a try, and scanned the 2 meter band for any activity.  I hear the end of the HandiHam net on the 145.45 MHz N0BVE repeater in Minnetonka.  I believe the repeater is about 17 miles away from me, and I seemed to be getting into it just fine.  Of course, the other stations on the net were considerably further away.  I would have had little hope of working a repeater that far away with just the rubber duck antenna, so even my crude outdoor antenna made a world of difference.

There are interesting people to be talked to on local repeaters, and in the 1970’s, two meter FM was known as the “Fun Mode” because of the availability of repeaters.  But today, there is often little activity on many repeaters.  And if using repeaters was the only thing I could use a radio for, I’m not sure that the little Baofeng would be worth the $35 I paid for it.  Amateur Radio can be a very interesting hobby, and I want to demonstrate some of the other interesting things that one can do with even a cheap radio.

The reason I bought the antenna adapter now is because one of those fun activities is coming up, namely, the ARRL January VHF Contest.  The reason why Amateur Radio is a fun hobby is not because one can talk to other people.  Certainly, that’s part of it.  But the main draw is that it’s a technical hobby.  Some fairly amazing things can be done with extremely simple equipment.  The most fun is operating HF, where it’s possible to bounce signals off a giant mirror in the sky, known as the ionosphere.  I often bounce those signals off the mirror in the sky while camping, using a battery powered radio.  HF (the frequencies below 30 MHz is still the most fun part of Ham Radio.  But there are also interesting things that can be done on VHF.

For a contest, the general object is to contact as many stations as possible during the contest period.  VHF contests are generally more laid back than their HF counterparts, but the idea is still the same–contact as many stations as possible.  Normally, that entails use of slightly more sophisticated equipment and antennas.  And normally, that entails use of modes such as SSB and CW, of which a handheld radio like the Baofeng is incapable.  But it’s possible to make contacts of a non-trivial distance with a cheap radio, which is why I plan to make a few contacts this weekend using just the Baofeng.  Yes, I’m limiting my capabilities quite a bit.  But I want to show what’s possible with even a cheap radio like this.

I’m convinced that even this cheap radio is good for more than just talking to a handful of people on a handful of repeaters (in other words, be the equivalent of a primitive cell phone).  It’s possible to have some fun with it, which is what I’ll try to do this weekend.  The fact that it’s primitive is actually the thing that makes it fun.

In the future, I’ll show some other things that a cheap radio like this can be used for, such as making contacts directly through a satellite.  If you want to get involved in Ham Radio, you’ll eventually want something more than just a handheld.  In fact, if you’re just starting out, I would recommend starting with something more.  But even if your resources are limited to a handheld, there’s still quite a bit that you can do with it.

Check back in a couple of days, and I’ll let you know how I did in the contest.

 



Baofeng UV-5R: First Impressions

My BaoFeng UV-5R arrived today, and I’m quite impressed with what I’ve seen so far.  The radio is pictured here.  For some reason, the Amazon picture shows a European-style plug adapter next to it, but understandably, this was not included.  For just over $35, I received the radio and the separately purchased programming cables.  The radio itself included the antenna, the battery and charger, a headphone which apparently doubles as a through-the-ear microphone, and a belt hook and carrying strap.  The cable included a little disc with the drivers, but apparently no programming software.

Since I’m a ham, immediately upon opening the box, I moved the little manual aside, installed the battery and antenna, and turned it on.  I grabbed another handheld, my Yaesu VX-3R in order to test the new radio.  There was an orange button marked VFO/MR, which I correctly assumed switched between memory and VFO mode.  I put the radio in VFO mode and proceeded to enter a frequency, 146.520.  Sure enough, it tuned in the frequency, but I noticed that the radio put itself on 146.500 instead of 146.520.  Undaunted, I tuned the other radio to that unusual frequency and determined that the new radio could, indeed, both transmit and receive.  It didn’t sound half bad.

After a bit of trial and error with the keypad, I determined that the radio must be set for 25 kHz channel spacing.  To changed the channel spacing, I correctly surmised that the “MENU” button would probably be required.  I pushed it, and it showed me that I was on menu #0, used for setting the squelch.  Using the up and down buttons, I found a menu entitled “STEP”.  and hit the menu button again.  Sure enough, the radio’s built in voice announced “frequency step”, and I used the up and down buttons until the display read 5.0K.  I hit “MENU” again, and the voice told me “confirmed”.  I hit “EXIT” and tried entering the frequency again.  Lo and behold, this time, 146.520 took when I entered it.

Emboldened by my ability to enter the frequency, I decided to try a local repeater.  I successfully entered the output frequency, 146.850.  I then started scrolling through the menus looking for a method to enter the offset frequency.  I found a menu reading “OFFSET 00.000”, and I correctly surmised that I needed to change this to 00.600, which I was able to do quite easily.  Unfortunately, I had to resort to the manual to determine how to turn the shift on and off.  It turns out that menu item is named “SFT-D”, which I’m told stands for “direction of frequency shift”.  I set this to minus.  Upon hitting the push-to-talk button, the display read 146.250.  And upon releasing it, the squelch tail of the repeater came back to me.

I put out a call, but nobody was around.  Therefore, I gave my wife the other radio and tried to work her.  Interestingly, I was making the repeater quite well, but the VX-3R, with less power and a smaller antenna, was extremely noisy.  She could hear me, but I couldn’t hear her.

Another ham came back to me and gave me a favorable signal report.  It turns out he was also using the same radio, and he congratulated me on getting the thing to work without resorting to the programming software.

Since this radio isn’t really designed for amateur use, it’s not really optimized for things such as repeater splits.  Therefore, I realized that to get the full potential, I would need to program it, which is why I ordered the programming cable.  Before resorting to the software, though, I decided to try out the receiver.  As expected, it received the NOAA weather broadcast on 162.55 MHz quite well.  But much to my surprise, it also received signals from Clearwater, Minnesota, and Red Wing, Minnesota with just the rubber duck antenna.  In short, the receiver seems to work quite well.

Programming the radio with the computer wasn’t particularly difficult, but I did have a couple of false starts.  The guy I worked on the repeater warned me something about when I should turn the power on.  I forget whether he said that I should turn the radio on before or after I hooked it to the computer.  He also said something about using the COM3 port with the Chirp software.

I downloaded the Chirp software from http://chirp.danplanet.com/projects/chirp/wiki/Home.  In my exuberance, I didn’t really pay attention to what I was doing.   I dutifully clicked on a big green button marked “download”.  After downloading some worthless software that slowed down the computer until I uninstalled it, I realized that this was just an advertisement, and I had to actually click on the correct text link.  So after uninstalling the worthless software, I got Chirp installed uneventfully.

I plugged in the radio, but the program apparently had nothing to communicate with.  It turns out I had to install the driver software from the little disk that was included.  I did so, and was getting closer to programming the radio.

I had a few more false starts.  When the software still didn’t seem to be communicating, I remembered the other guy’s comment about the COM3 setting.  I changed this, and it seemed to help.  However, I still wasn’t able to communicate with the radio, even though the lights did seem to be flashing in some random fashion.

I tried jiggling various wires.  And remembering the other guy’s comment about the power, I tried various strategies, such as turning the power on, then plugging into the USB port, or vice versa.  None of these seemed to work.  Eventually, however, I realized that there was also an option for “COM4” in the software.  Sure enough, this one worked.  I was able to upload the radio’s current configuration to the computer.  And after I did so, I then had the option to download any changes I made.

The Chirp software is very intuitive, and I think I figured it out without recourse to any documentation.

I programmed in one repeater, one simplex channel, and NOAA weather.  When I programmed in NOAA, I set the corresponding transmit frequency to inside the ham band, and with low power.  It would be very easy to transmit out of band with this thing, and that step should prevent it from happening, at least when I’m using one of the memory channels.

I also programmed in some satellite frequencies, for the SO-50 LEO satellite.  I’ve never really operated any satellites, but I want to give it a try, and I may as well try it with this radio.  There’s an excellent primer on the subject at www.work-sat.com.  At this point, I don’t have any way of connecting an external antenna.  The radio, it turns out, has a “reverse” SMA connector.  In other words, the radio has a male connection, and the antenna has a female connection.  Since I don’t have the correct connector on hand, I’ll have to use the rubber duck antenna for the time being.  But I know that people have worked the FM satellites using just a rubber duck antenna, and I intend to give it a try.

FInally, I did a bit of reading on the web about my new toy.  The best site I’ve found so far is http://www.miklor.com/uv5r/.  In particular, that site contains an expanded version of the manual.  After getting familiar with the radio, I did sit down and read through the manual.

Overall, my first impression of this rig is that it’s an extraordinary value for the money.  It seems well built and extremely versatile.  I was very impressed with the quality of the receiver, and it seems to get out just fine.

Unfortunately, most people who buy this sort of radio seem to use it for little more than chatting on repeaters.  While that can be fun, the novelty wears off quite fast.  It seems to me that there are many more fun things that can be done with this radio, and over the next few weeks, I’ll let you know what some of them are.

 



Trying Out a Chinese Radio

If you came to this page looking for information about the SNAP Challenge, you’ll find those posts at this link.


I consistently get a lot of traffic on my Cheap Chinese Handhelds page.  There, I have a fairly comprehensive listing of all of the cheap VHF and UHF handheld radios that have become available in recent years.  When I started that page a couple of years ago, these radios had just started to appear at what seemed like insanely low prices.  At that time, you had to order directly from retailers in China.  None of these radios was certified for sale in the United States.  Therefore, it was not legal to sell them in the U.S., nor was it legal to use them for public safety or commercial uses.  It was, however, always legal to buy them, and it was also legal for licensed hams to use them on the ham bands, as long as the individual ham realized that he or she was solely responsible for any spurious emissions.

In the last couple of years, two things have happened.  First of all, many (but not all) of these radios have been certified for use under Part 90 of the FCC rules.  This allows them to be sold legally in the U.S., and it also allows them to be used legally by commercial or public-safety users.  Also, the Part 90 certification gives some assurance (but certainly not a guarantee) that the radios comply with the spurious emission limits for hams under Part 97 of the FCC rules.  They will easily transmit out of band, so I routinely warn buyers of such radios that if they use them to listen outside of the ham bands, they should program a corresponding transmit frequency inside the ham bands, to avoid transmitting out of band if the push-to-talk button is inadvertently bumped.

The other fairly recent development is that these radios have shown up on Amazon, being sold by third-party sellers. And most recently, some of these are now being sold directly by Amazon.

The reports I’ve read about these radios have generally been favorable. They are still insanely cheap, and they appear to be well made. Most of them seem to consist of a single chip, and are essentially software defined radios. (So they’re not one tube radios, but at least they are one IC radios.) The near universal complaints about most of these radios are the poor quality of the instruction manual, and the difficulties with programming. I’ve only seen one of these radios in person, one owned by another K2BSA staffer at the National Jamboree. From what little I saw of his BaoFeng UV-5R, I was quite impressed at the value for the money. And there’s a wealth of information about this radio on the internet, and programming software is readily available. Therefore, the poor owner’s manual and programming difficulty are both non-issues as far as I’m concerned.


Despite the popularity of my web page showing the available radios in this category, I don’t actually own one of the darn things. I decided to change that so that I can give a proper review to one of them. Therefore, I decided to order the same model, a BaoFeng UV-5R, which is pictured here.  It’s listed as being both sold by and shipped by Amazon, and shipping is free. It appears to include a drop-in AC charger (with plugs for both American and European outlets). According to the FCC database, it is certified under Part 90. (Copies of all of the certification documents regarding this radio, including the full users manual, can be found at this link on the FCC website.)

Amazon recently raised the limit for free shipping (unless you are an Amazon Prime member) from $25 to $35, and the cost of the radio was just under the $35 limit. Therefore, I added to my order one of the programming cables. I’ve never programmed a radio using a computer before. To the extent that it’s necessary, I’ve managed by using the radio’s keypad. In fact, since I use FM so rarely, I normally just use the VFO dial or enter the frequency directly.

I needed something to put me over the $35 limit, and I was mindful of the horror stories I’ve heard about programming the radio from the keypad. Also, it appears that the correct repeater splits for North America aren’t pre-programmed into the radio, as is the case with radios from Yaecomwood. Therefore, the cable might come in handy, and I ordered one of those as well.

From my earlier experiment involving Amazon Mechanical Turk, I had the money in my Amazon Payments account. Therefore, I’ll get the radio without even incurring any out-of-pocket expense. The total price, all of which I earned from taking surveys, transcribing business cards, and writing marketing fluff, was under $40. Amazon promises that it will be here between November 18 and 21. When it gets here, I’ll put it through the test and see how well it performs.


 

Books by Richard Clem:

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