The Baofeng UV-5R is an entry level dual-band amateur radio from China. Its best feature is its price! It is very cheap indeed. However, with some care, it can be a great entry level radio, or radio used to hand out to licensed radio operators in survival groups, communities, or as your first entry level amateur dual-band HT.
As I mentioned in the intro, this radio is cheap to get into. Prices are usually around 40$ for the basic radio and programming cable. other than the price, there are no other advantages for buying this radio, but you should still buy some. Although well promoted by the survival community, that isnt reason enough to invest in these radios. Still as long as you educate yourself, and understand what you’re getting, there i sno reasonr not to buy them.
Things I like about the radio
Voice prompt is nice and easy to understand. It’s actually in English
The display is big enough, bright enough, and easy to read.
This radio enables people who are on quite a tight budget, to get comms active at a below entry level price.
Uses kenwood accessories like speaker mic and uses the standard Kenwood speaker Microphone input. (many forums tell you its motorola, but its not).
Baofeng branded batteries and accessories are inexpensive, but sometimes also poor quality. One has to balance it out.
Built-in FM broadcast radio
Built-in flashlight torch
Things I don’t like about the radio
As a dual-band amateur VHF/UHF radio, there are a few things to be concerned about.
There is no DC charger port on the radio. This means you wont be able to charge the radio without the charging dock when away from home. I do have a solution for this! You can get an extended battery which has a DC charging port on it. However, that port has no over voltage protection! This means if you keep DC power plugged into that extended battery for too long, the battery could be damaged or even explode.
Transmission is not clean on this radio. If you are transmitting on a single simplex channel, the splatter from your radio can be heard many tens of kilohertz from your transmission frequency.
Receiver sensitivity is quite poor. However, if you are using this mainly for repeaters and not weak signal work, this is not a problem.
Radio firmware cannot be upgraded!
Radio memory management is not consistent from one version of the radio to another.
Radio can be remotely disabled with “Master code”, even if you have disabled this feature in settings!
Too complicated for non-comms users, who are used to PMR, FRS, CB, or other types of license-free radios. There are many videos from people on YouTube who promote this radio. Often you will find comments from people who have purchased this radio, desperately asking for help because they don’t understand the complexities of the radio, or even something as simple as which license free frequencies they can use with this radio.
Is it worth the money?
Absolutely. The UV-5R is the best dual-band amateur radio you can get at that price! They are fun project radios, disposable, and you won’t cry if you lose one. With that said, it is often possible to find used “High-end” portable radios from Yaesu which are mil-spec, waterproof, … which are less than 100$, have wide band receive, and are light years ahead of the UV-5R. Be warned though. Many people order teh UV-5T and upon its arrival in the post, is already damaged or broken in some way. This is an issue of chinese quality control. So if you must buy them, buy them from western shops which specialize in sales of these radios.
UV-5R as my first amateur dual band radio?
100% absolutely! As I have mentioned before this radio, especially at this price, is a nice way to entre amateur radio communications. Can you find better radios? Certainly, but thats not really the point is it. The point is to bring new interested people into amateur radio, without the need for breaking the bank. Just remember that a dual-band HT is a very limited part of amateur radio. There are bands above adn below the operational range of this radio, which you should try t discover at some point. Moreover, there are other modes to explore like SSB and CW, neither of which can be done with this radio. Still its a good starting point.
UV-5R for community or group comms?
As difficult as it is for me to admit, there is a practical point for groups to use the Baofeng UV-5R. That simple point is continuity! If a group, family, or organisation is going to invest in communications equipment, its critical to make certain your comms gear is compatible. This will simplify training, maintenance and support within your group or community. This is true for whatever radio equipment your group or community choices for it’s comms solution, and certainly not limited to the UV-5R. More importantly, make certain your group or community has dedicated comms tech resource who has the tools, experience and skills necessary to support and maintain your comms equipment and implement your group or communities comms plan.
Misconceptions about the UV-5R
There are many misconceptions about his radio. Lots of this has to do with the Chinese marketing bullsh*t that comes along with the radio. The rest of it comes from people who have experience with this radio, but are not experienced with comms in general, or have never owned a proper radio to compare to. There are also those from Prepper and Survival communities who promote these radios because they get commissions from Amazon or other web-based shops for pushing them. Nevertheless, here are some of the misconceptions.
If you are using this radio without an amateur radio license, even on MURS, PMR or FRS frequencies, regardless of power settings, you are breaking the law! It may seem unfiar, but that’s how it is :\
Some forums and YouTube producers incorrectly tell people that the UV-5R is a 2 meter 4 meter radio. That is not correct. It is a 2 meter/70 centimeter radio!
The radio does have built in FM broadcast radio. No you cannot transmit on that band. it is RX only.
The radio does not have “Wide band” coverage. The radio operates in the 2 meter and 70 centimeter amateur radio bands full stop. For an example of a wide-band radio, check out the Yaesu FT-60.
Scanning. There is no scanning feature on the UV-5R in the traditional since of the term. You can “scan” through the memories on the radio, but that is more like cycling through the memories, than scanning an entire band.
The radio is not waterproof. This radio has no weatherproofing or IP rating at all. If you spit on it, it’s quite likely to burst into flames! Ok not really, but no attempt has been made by the Chinese to protect this radio from the elements. Moreover, dust is the main killer of the radio, and there are no spare parts available for the display which is usually the first component to go when used outside of a clean environment.
You can’t modify this radio to do anything! The radio is what it is. If you think you are going to modify it for something else, you are wrong. You can’t expand the frequencies, although there is a mod to alolow the display to show frequencies which it does not cover.
The USB cable is not an interface for addition methods of communication with this radio. It is purely a cable for programming memories and frequency settings into the radio.
Operation in MURS, PMR, FRS, and GMRS. Sure it “CAN” operate in those frequencies, however, to keep your radio happy, use a properly tuned antenna for each of those bands. The stock antenna was not designed to operate that those frequencies!
This radio has nothing in common with ANY YEASU RADIO! Its name and external design were purposely made to look like a Yaesu radio for marketing purposes! Yaesu radio are manufactured in JAPAN, not China!
This radio and the Wouxun radios share some components (The SDR which drives it), but are far from being the same radio in different packages” Wouxun firmware is decades ahead of te Baofeng. Wouxun has used higher quality components for its main board integration, …
Solution for off grid man-portable recharging
In this video we show you how to get recharge your Baofeng UV-5R radio when off grid, man-portable and away from your home or vehicle.
DC Power and other videos
I see so many videos about the Baofeng UV-5R. Most of the videos are telling you how good or bad the radio is. Many often mention how good the radios included charging dock is. Well actually, my opinion about the UV-5R has been mixed, but always honest. Rather than blasting the radio, I thought I would show you a quick and easy way to improvise DC power for the UV-5R, since it has no DC charging circuit built-in as Kenwood and Yaesu radios do.
My Off-grid power setup for the UV-5R:
8x Sanyo 2700mah AA batteries
home-made battery enclosure
Wired all the batteries together in series
DC output plug that fits the Baofeng charger
We could certainly add some protection to the battery bank between them and the charging dock. After measuring the with discharged battereis, its obvious that once the batteries reach ad specific state of discharge, then charger will simply shut down.
Things not to do
Do not transmit while the radio is being recharged. Just take it out of the dock, transmit, then put it back
Certainly if you educate yourself to the advantages and disadvantages of the UV-5R, there is no reason why not to have a couple of them around for VHF/UHF comms. Just dont expect any mireacles from this radio. Its as basic and basic can be. No extras, no “special” features, just a dual band radio.