Baofeng UV-5R: Good disposable radio to add to gear?

Started by piggybankcowboy, August 21, 2012, 11:42:45 am

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August 21, 2012, 11:42:45 am Last Edit: August 21, 2012, 11:46:06 am by piggybankcowboy

I ordered one from Amazon last week, received it in a few days with free shipping. No hand mic, or USB programming cable, so it only ran about $60.

Since unboxing it, I've been playing with it non-stop (no transmitting, of course, since I will be taking my test Sept 17th). After a full charge on the battery, I'm still going strong with 3 battery bars on just scanning after nearly 15 straight hours of use.  I'm seeing claims of 1500mAh to 2000mAh hours, which is a huge margin, but so far I'm pleased with battery life.

Casing is compact and feel solidly built, like it could take a little abuse if it had to. Only thing I might be worried about is cracking the LCD screen if it feel just right on a rock or something, however, it comes with small wrist-strap that can easily be replaced with something better if you want.

Manual programming is really not as hard as people make it out to be, it just takes more time. I'll be ordering the USB cable anyway, since this is going to be my only unit once I get licensed until I can afford upgrades, but I'd say it's a good thing for anyone to know how to program these guys with the keypad rather than a computer, in case of a situation where a computer is not available.

Size is really compact, barring the antenna of course, which is easily removed for better storage in your bag or whatever. Speaking of the antenna, it's okay given the price, I think, but I'm not entirely positive how to test it properly.  So far I have just been scanning, found two local delivery companies (one is for sod, not sure what the other moves) and have been noting whenever the drivers relay they've arrived at such-and-such address. I've picked up destination confirmations from about 12 miles away in a suburban environment. Cheapest replacement antenna seems to be about $20 for an MFJ-1717SF, but the reviews I've seen claim a notable, but not huge improvement.

Depending on where you look, you can find the radio for as low as $50. I might pick up a second one just in case this one breaks for whatever reason, plus it's nice to have a spare in the event that you need to hand one off to a radio-less buddy. I understand a new, longer lasting battery is also available for this model. I feel if something ever happened to this radio, I wouldn't be too bent out of shape about it as it is easily, and cheaply replaced.



Just some additional notes that I'm noticing about the UV-5R the more I play with it.

The signal meter is useless. If you're getting any signal at all, it always reads as full, regardless of the signal strength.

Squelch options are equally useless. The 0 - 9 settings available don't seem to make a lick of difference one way or the other.

The flashlight on top is about as good as one of those key chains you put on your keys so you can turn it on and find the key hole at night. It's a nice touch, but it might have been better suited at the back of the radio so you can still use it a bit while walking forward and keeping your radio and antenna upright. I wasn't expecting a super bright light or anything, though. Just a random feature of the radio.

All minor stuff, to be sure, but I figured I'd throw it out there. I'm learning more about this stuff as I go, so if you guys have some tips I should know about the unit, please share.


Interesting, thanks. For the price, I might get one myself. It would be a nice gift idea for friends you would want to drag into prepping and Ham radio, and get a hold of during an emergency. Also great to give to family members in the same town..



By and large, the most common complaints with the recent rash of Chinese sweat-shop radios is how awkward they are to program.  I would not stack these in my gear for my own use -- they'd be disposable loaners with wider feature / frequency access than FRS / CB garbage.

By comparison, my Icom IC-T70 was $250.  You could equip radio operators in 4 fire teams with these sweat-shop radios for that price, but if I need to adapt frequencies, tone, repeater offset, memory locations, etc. out in the field, I dare you to put any one of those against me to do it.  Mil-spec drop and moisture resistance ratings are nice-to-haves.  Downside: my Li-ON batteries were very expensive, as was the charger, and the radio cannot charge its own Li-ON batteries -- it can only charge Ni-MH.  You must use the external BC-193 desktop pocket charger to charge the IC-T70's Li-ON batteries.  Had I known that when I bought it, I probably wouldn't have bought it.

So these sweat-shop rigs have their place, but will generally be too cumbersome for flexible operation under duress.


Very good radios for $50.00. Several known bugs. The squelch is one but the most annoying one is when scanning. If you program all your favorite repeaters and they work fine, then start to scan, some will be missed. These are those with the PL tone lower than 131.8. The ones with a PL tone higher than this will stop the scan and you can hear them.

Good advice on the programming cable. Lots of good articles online on using this radio and its bugs/features. The manual that comes with it is landfill. Written in Chi-English it is pure jibberish.

Hope this was helpful.



The Chinese Handhelds are a tremendous value and I personally went with a  Wouxun KG-UV6D from One of the critical purchase parts is the programming cable. It makes programming the Handheld simple as you can do it via a spreadsheet.

The total purchase of accessories for preparedness and radio come in way under the Big three. They make nice radios, but have not kept up with the price reduction of electronics.


Quote from: Pirate96 on September 02, 2012, 09:28:53 am
The Chinese Handhelds are a tremendous value and I personally went with a  Wouxun KG-UV6D from One of the critical purchase parts is the programming cable. It makes programming the Handheld simple as you can do it via a spreadsheet.

The total purchase of accessories for preparedness and radio come in way under the Big three. They make nice radios, but have not kept up with the price reduction of electronics.

Well, yeah.  The quality is vastly superior -- you shouldn't expect to pay premium gear prices for disposables.


I ordered one up from Amazon last week for $55 primarily so I could have a radio for camping that I wouldn't be heartbroken over if it fell in the lake. I am still  in the process of learning my way around it.

Overall I feel it's an excellent value for what you get (good useable battery, drop in charger, tranceiver, basic headset, belt clip, and passable duckie antenna). However-There are some specific "scary" things about this radio you should be aware of. The major issue is this radio is a bit too frequency agile!

1. You want to play radio with other FRS radios? The UV-5R will do it on all frequencies! Problem- This unit isn't type accepted as an FRS radio, has a removable antenna, and the low power setting is still 1W (FRS is supposed to be <500 mW). You might be able to explain this away if you hold a GRMS license.

2. You want to play radio with others on GRMS frequencies? The UV-5R will do it on all frequencies! Problem- The unit isn't type accepted (I'm not really sure this is a problem yet because reading through the code of federal regulations isn't easy to do...) and for the new prepper who may not realize it another license is required to use the GRMS frequencies not shared with FRS. GRMS licensing is easier but a bit more expensive ($85 instead of $15 and no test).

3. You want to listen to NOAA weather broadcasts on 2M while out and about? The UV-5R does that on all frequencies! Problem- This unit can actually transmit on those frequencies!  ??? It's also very easy to accidentally hit the PTT button... Be very careful with this!

4. You want to play radio with others on the business bands? The UV-5R will do it on most if not all of those frequencies! I'm really no expert in this field but I know extra licenses are required. Much more trial and error research required in this area.

5. I haven't checked at all yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if this little magic black box was hot on the MARS frequencies... I'll have to look later.

TL;DR- This seems to be the perfect hand held radio for a prepper! Just be careful with your new toy after you get your HAM ticket and play radio! Buy a double sided SMA adapter to hook it to other antennas.


I've been wanting to get the Baofeng UV5R and have read and watched (You Tube) many reviews on the radios. Allegedly the radios function similarly to the Wouxun  radios and the lapel speaker mics and programing cable will work on both radios.  However they say the Baofeng UV5R has a better casing than previous models. There is a video on YT of an Asian distributor running over the radio with a car and throwing it off the roof of a building. Each time the radio appeared to function after the stress test. Other YT reviewers have done other tests like checking frequency stability and transmitting power and reported good results.
These radios do have their "bugs" but for the price of what you get they're a great deal. I currently have a Wouxun KG-UV2D and really like it for $110.  The above comments on the signal meter are correct with my radio as well as the other Chinese radios based on reviews. The squelch does work but the noise rejection filters in these radios are lousy. As such I can't leave my radio on certain frequencies and set it next to my computer and CD player in my truck. These radios are Part 90 certified for commercial use but are designed, IMO,  with HAM operators in mind. While the radios can transmit on about any frequency they can receive, you can program the frequency only on the receive using the software. I don't think it can be done manually on the radio.
Unlike some HAM radios you can do split frequencies and PL tones on transmit and receive (this part is for commercial public safety use).  Otherwise you can just transmit a PL tone and leave the receive open which is how my local HAM repeaters work. Another neat feature with my Wouxun, not sure if the UV5R can do it, is I can scan for the PL tones if I don't know the tones but even that is a little quirky. I also agree the scan speed of these radios are relatively slow but not horribly slow.
I may just get the UV5R this month from MTC. I order my 2 meter mobile radio from them with free shipping and no problems.  I got my Wouxun HT from Ed at Wouxun US ( He's good to deal with but charges for shipping. :)


September 14, 2012, 01:55:43 pm #9 Last Edit: September 14, 2012, 02:00:43 pm by Mitch
I wanted to post some followup since I had a case of the "forum diarrhea" the other day.

The UV-5R is FCC type 90 accepted as of May of this year while operating on low power only and after December 31 also in narrow band mode (settings do not default to narrowband). Extra licenses are still required outside the allotted HAM bands.

I haven't had much good luck with finding official MARS frequencies, but all the frequencies I have located are HF so likely beyond the capabilities of this radio.

Jonas Parker

I went for the Wouxan as well. Unfortunately, there are no repeaters in range of my home, so I talk mostly HF... but you gotta get that general ticket!

White Tiger

November 05, 2012, 01:18:51 am #11 Last Edit: November 06, 2012, 01:21:55 am by White Tiger
Well how do you think all of the name brands have been keeping their costs under control?

They have been going to China and having them build EVERYTHING you buy (including radios) with CHEAP (government subsidized) Chinese labor!

The problem is - now China has been taught how to build the best stuff in the world - AND they've been given the specs on how to make it!

You don't like the Boafeng UV-5R? Well I just bought a Baofeng UV-3R after reading an interesting review of it over on eHam (hat tip to WA4STO for giving me a process to check up on purchases).

Beware Motorola Vertex!...

The eHam reference is from someone who has both the Yeasu VX-3R and the Baofeng UV-3R and specifically compares the almost exact features the cheaper Chinese model has - and those features are in the same spot as the more expensive Japanese rig!

This is an example of what happens when you deal with the enemy as if you're rolling him - "all your technologies r belong to us..."

Personally, I bought a couple and they're headed for each of my families vehicles inside little metal ammo boxes (...which were made in America 25 years ago...)!
If you're looking for me, you're probably looking in the wrong place.


I have a Wouxun KG-UV3D; I like it & don't treat it as a disposable at all. They're about 2x a Baofeng lately from what I see. The accessory speaker/mic (the HD one) is a pretty good piece of kit. Did a bit of planning initially and used the KG-Commander s/w to load it up. I also found a quick cheat sheet somewhere that was written to aid legally blind hams that is NOT written in Chinglish.

After a bit of operating the most common key sequences come to hand quite easily. The little whip that comes with it is actually a pretty good little item that does for that radio a pretty good job. If I'm up in the clear I can hit a VHF repeater 30mi away, and can hit the same repeater from inside the house about 17 miles away. I can run in the mode of having all mem channels available (120 of 'em) and only certain ones set to be scanned when hitting the middle button on the side, something that can also be assigned initially during setup if you want.

Pretty happy with it, and good battery life so far. Then again, we have pretty robust VHF/UHF repeater networks up in this neck of the woods.


QuoteThey're about 2x a Baofeng lately from what I see.

Could you please elaborate on that? Thanks.


White Tiger

November 05, 2012, 10:45:03 pm #14 Last Edit: November 06, 2012, 12:36:43 am by White Tiger
Quote from: gil on November 05, 2012, 06:31:53 pm
QuoteThey're about 2x a Baofeng lately from what I see.

Could you please elaborate on that? Thanks.


I just checked, I think he means the price of the Wouxun KG UV-3D is 2 times more expensive than the Baofeng UV-5R (and if your comparing it to the Baofeng UV-3R - it's almost 3 times).

...but he could mean the performance...of which I have no frame of reference...
If you're looking for me, you're probably looking in the wrong place.