Baofeng UV-5R Review: An Excellent Starter And A Workhorse

Baofeng UV-5R is an entry-level device that can ease you into the world of ham radios. And if you are a pro, it can be a solid backup and a useful communication device. As a well-priced and feature-rich device, it has a lot to offer. This Baofeng UV-5R review explores options and features that this popular device has to offer.

Note, Baofeng is in the process of rebranding itself as Pofung. There should be no reason to doubt authenticity in case your device shows up with a Pofung label. Pofung UV-5R is the same as the Baofeng device. There are no restrictions on receiving, but you will need a license to transmit using this radio.

Baofeng UV-5R Pros And Cons

Baofeng UV-5R

Pros

  • Excellent value as an entry-level ham radio
  • Good battery life
  • Good sound quality
  • Powerful battery
  • Detailed manual

Cons

  • Configuration through software can feel complicated especially for new users
  • Build quality could be better

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Baofeng UV-5R Specs And Features

First Impressions And Build Quality

UV-5R ham radio is wrapped in a solid plastic casing. It looks okay, but it is not something to take a beating. Rough use is a big no. It isn’t particularly fragile, and you can use it without worry. But surviving falls might be a tough call for this radio.

As for dimensions, it goes about 5.2 cm in width, 3.2 cm thickness, and 10 cm in height. The dimensions and features make the Baofeng UV-5R one of the best handheld ham radios, especially in entry-level pricing.

In many ways, the construction betrays the fact that this is a cheap ham radio. Sometimes, the antenna doesn’t seem to fit well, and the plastic body could have a better finish. However, it does feel better constructed, when compared to similar-priced items.

Baofeng UV-5R Accessories In The Box

For a ham radio at this price, I wouldn’t have expected several accessories in the box. But then most of us are accustomed to the more expensive radios. Baofeng UV-5R comes with several accessories, including a belt clip, hand strap, adapter, desktop charger, and headset.

The headset is an interesting option. It has good audio and microphone, though it doesn’t quite look like it will last. And that’s okay, considering this is a cheap product offering plenty of accessories. Not that I mind those; it’s nice to buy a device and get many popular and useful accessories in the box.

The belt clip follows a similar pattern. It is useful, and though it has the appearance of being brittle, I’m positive it can do its job well.

A manual is included in the box as well. It is detailed and is useful for setting up the device and general use. In case you need a simpler manual, you can find some manuals at Miklor. The simplified version there is practically a Baofeng UV-5R manual for dummies.

About The Screen And Display

The top of the Baofeng UV-5R includes a wide LCD screen. The display is crisp and can be discerned fairly well even in sunlight. Information visible on the screen includes the frequencies in use, battery, channel, etc. The backlit display is both useful and convenient. The dual-band, dual-frequency display is fairly handy and useful.

Baofeng UV-5R Frequency List And Antenna

Being a handheld radio, it is no surprise that the UV-5R comes with a rubber ducky antenna. The antenna is average at best. If you have the intention of using this one as your primary radio, it finding a better antenna should be on the list. A better antenna noticeably increases the available range, and stations that were once a blur come in loud and clear.

As for the available frequency and range, this Baofeng radio can receive and transmit at VHF 136-174 MHz and UHF 400-520 MHz. It can also receive FM transmissions in the range of 65-108MHz. You have access to 128 Channels 50 CTCSS and 104 DCS.

Battery And Charging

The battery included with the device is 1800mAh Li-ion Battery Pack. It’s powerful and can work for several hours. When needed, simply place the device in the drop-in charger provided, and it will get to work. The included desktop charger works with 100-240V. This means it can be used practically anywhere in the world. Provided you have the right socket, of course.

Additional Features

An entry-level device as it is, the Baofeng UV-5R doesn’t offer a ton of features. It does offer several features though, which is what makes it an excellent value for money proposition.

The included flashlight is an interesting touch. Not quite a groundbreaking feature, but one worth mentioning in our Baofeng UV-5R review.  It is placed at the top of the radio. One press of the Moni button turns on the flashlight, pressing the button again makes the light flash. Finally, pressing the button for the third time will switch off the light.

Other interesting features include a Keypad Lock, which ensures you don’t accidentally change the settings. The battery saver feature comes in handy when you want the battery to last longer. A low battery alert lets you know when it’s time to head for the charger, and the built-in VOX function should come in pretty handy.

Baofeng UV-5R Review — Using The Ham Radio

How To Program Baofeng UV-5R With Computer?

You may need to program your Baofeng device when you receive it. This could be simple customization or making sure that the frequencies of the device are in line with your license. 

Some of Baofeng UV-5R programming can be done manually using the device’s keypad. It seems like a convenient option, and there are instructions in the manual to help you with the task. Take my advice, and don’t do it. 

Instead, invest in a good programming cable. There are several cheap knockoff cables available. While I can recommend budget radios like this one, I would not recommend skimping on the cable. It’s really not worth the couple of dollars it saves. 

The company makes a Baofeng UV-5R programming software available freely. It is a simple and convenient software. However, I’ll suggest you skip the stock software and get CHIRP instead. Chirp is an open-source software that can be used to program several amateur radios, including the Pofung/Baofeng UV-5R. The advantage is that it works better than the stock software, and makes setup easier.

Baofeng UV-5R Range And Power

The UV-5R transmits in two power modes. Output power of the Baofeng UV-5R is rated at 5W. Users may choose from low to high power for reception/transmission. The low power setting is rated at 1W, and the high power goes to 4W.

Strictly speaking, it would be a stretch to speculate on the range of the radio in terms of distance. There are several factors that could affect it. Plus, with repeaters available, putting a solid number for the range/distance becomes something of a guess. Working with a stock antenna, you can assume the higher end of the distance covered to be at 8-12 miles. A better antenna will increase the range. 

Sound Clarity

Sound reception clarity as well as transmission are satisfactory, to say the least. There is no cause for complaint here, and I think the device works perfectly as intended. You will see some loss when using the headset/earpiece, but that is to be expected. If you rely on using a headset, buying a better quality after-market piece would be better.

Using The Dual Band Radio

Though a dual band radio, the Baofeng UV-5R has some real shortcomings in this department. Technically, this allows you to monitor two frequencies at the same time. For example, you could set one frequency to NOAA while the other works at something else. So far, so good.

Here’s the catch: it can monitor two frequencies, but it will only watch one. So in the dual band mode, as soon as one of the monitored channels becomes active, Baofeng UV-5R will drop the other one.

Baofeng UV-5R Variants And Versions

BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio is available in several variants. There is a small difference between each variant, which mostly has to do with firmware version and some functions. For example, there is the Baofeng UV-5R Plus, which is slightly more colorful and varies slightly in firmware and frequency range. Even so, for most practical considerations, the Baofeng UV-5R+ isn’t a radically different model.

If you are considering a more feature-filled model, the Baofeng BF-F8HP should come in handy. It is designed as an improvement on the UV-5R in some regards, yet retains many similar functions and uses.

Deciding On The Popular Ham Radio

At its convenient pricing and features, the Baofeng UV-5R is hard to resist. As a backup unit for pros or a starter unit for beginners who do not want to spend big, the UV-5R is versatile. It has some shortcomings that I’ve covered above, but the overall mood for this Baofeng UV-5R review is that this is a radio worth buying. The positives, without a doubt, overshadow the negatives for this Baofeng UV-5R handheld ham radio.

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