Review Baofeng UV-5R (Part I)

Today my UV-5R arrived. Time for the first impressions, and a few measurements. For a start, comparing the new UV-5R with the UV-3R seems pointless. The full-featured UV-5R is a totally different ball game, and comparing this handheld with a Wouxun or a Quansheng would make much more sense.

In the box
The transceiver itself, one 1800mAH Li-Ion battery, a sturdy belt clip, a desktop charger with separate power supply, a dual band antenna, a headset, a small wrist strap and a manual.

First impressions
– Very nicely built, looks quite sturdy, especially when compared to the rather flimsy UV-3R
– Excellent dual frequency display with three background colors (Amber, Blue and Purple)
– Quality antenna
– Good ergonomics overall (but it’s very easy to hit the FM radio key instead of the ptt key)
– Decent desktop charger
– A not-too-bad FM radio

First steps
The manual states that the battery is not pre-charged and needs to be charged for about five hours. The lamp went green here after spending just two hours in the charger. The first thing I had to do was diving into the menu to set the channel spacing to 12.5KHz on VHF, and 6.25KHz on UHF. Piece of cake. Then I programmed the repeater shifts used in the Netherlands: 600KHz on VHF, and 1.6MHz on UHF. No problems at all.

The first UV-5R bug
I rarely program frequencies into memories. The reason is that I only use just a few local frequencies, which are just as easily accessed from a keypad. That doesn’t work well in the UV-5R. In spite of the fact that I set 12.5KHz channel spacing as default, it proved impossible to enter a frequency like 144.5125. On any other handheld, entering ‘144.512’ is enough, and the missing ‘5’ will be added automatically. The Baofeng on the other hand sets the frequency to 144.500, after which I have to use the ‘up’ button to increase the frequency by 12.5KHz. The same problem occurs on UHF. Silly.

Memory programming
Programming a frequency into one of the memories is no easy task, especially because the correct procedure isn’t described in the manual. I quickly found out that I had to erase the existing memories first by accessing menu 28. Secondly, only frequencies visible in VFO A can be programmed. Normally you can program a repeater by setting all the necessary parameters and writing it into the memory only once. With the UV-5R, you have to program it twice into the same memory: the receive frequency has to be stored first, the second time the transmit frequency will be stored.

This might seem odd (and it is, in a way), but this system does allow you to make odd splits. When you have the voice prompt switched on, you can actually hear a female say whether you store a transmit or a receive frequency when accessing menu 27.

Audio (TX,RX)
Both fine. There’s no volume problem to report, nor a muffled TX audio. No distortion to report either; the speaker does a good job.

Sensitivity, selectivity
Sensitivity appears to be on par with any other quality handheld. Contrary to the UV-3R, the new UV-5R is perfectly capable of handling strong out-of-band signals. That is a relief; bad front ends and RX filters would be a real deal breaker for me.

First measurements
I checked a few things today: power output, frequency accuracy and stability. Only calibrated test equipment was used.

Power output VHF:
136.000 MHz: High=3.4 Watts, Low=1.6 Watts
155.000 MHz: High=4.0 Watts, Low=1,75 Watts
175.000 MHz: High=3.8 Watts, Low=1,8 Watts

Power output UHF
400.000 MHz: High=3.0 Watts, Low=1,75 Watts
440.000 MHz: High=3.1 Watts, Low=1.1 Watts
480.000 MHz: High=2.3 Watts, Low=1.0 Watts

Frequency accuracy and stability (room temperature)
Display frequency 145.000 MHz, Counter frequency = 145.0000 MHz
Display frequency 440.000 MHz, Counter frequency = 440.0000 MHz
Stability: +/- 0.00001 MHz (which could as well be a minuscule rounding error of my frequency counter)

This is excellent and way better than I expected. If time permits, we will fire up the HP spectrum analyzer tomorrow and check the harmonic suppression. Click here for part II.

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100 comments on “Review Baofeng UV-5R (Part I)

  1. Thanks for the good review. Since you have obviously spent some effort in understanding the small Chinese handhelds, I wonder if you know if there is a similar small one which also has an alphanumeric display? I am teriible at remembering frequencies, so this is something I miss on the Baofeng UV-5R and similar handhelds.
    – Sverre/LA3ZA

  2. Hi Sverre,

    the UV-5R display can be set up to display alphanumeric characters (e.g. station names), but this is only programmable by using the optional programming cable and software.

    Best regards,

    Hans

    • If you program a channel name into the radio using CHIRP software, how can you make the radio display the channel name instead of the frequency?

      • Check menu 21 (for VFO A) and 22 (for VFO B). The settings here determine what the display will show – frequency, name or channel number.

  3. I cannot make the included earpiece work with the radio. Do I have to access the menu and change a setting? Thank you.

  4. You’re absolutely correct; nothing is wrong with the earpiece nor the radio – it’s just me not doing it correctly. Thank you.

  5. HI Hans many thanks for the write up & especially about the bug! I thought it was a faulty radio :-). you state a programming cable can be purchased will have to look into that. 73s Phil G0BVD

  6. Pingback: The World’s First Disposable HT | KØNR: Radio Enthusiast

  7. I notice there’s no jack on the Baofeng UV-5R for external power.

    Is there absolutely no way to supply external power, or can it get power through the programming cable? (I think the UV-3R does that)

    Bottom line, I’d like to use this without having to rely on its battery, but how?

  8. very good value easy to work tworth getting battery eliminator and cade give xtra protection and spare battery on a slim jim acts as a good scanner edd g1gkw

    • Hi Rick,

      no, there isn’t. Other (more expensive) handhelds offer 5/4 Watts instead of 4/3 Watts, and I own a few of them, but the range is almost the same.

      Don’t forget – gaining one lousy extra s-point would require 4x the original power output, which means that the UV-5R would have to deliver 16 Watts. That’s technically not possible.

      Hans

  9. Nice website! I just got a new baofeng UV-R5 and only complaint is low transmit audio, noticeably lower than my Alinco HT…. any suggestions? I talk directly into the mic which helps but I wonder if there’s a way to increase transmit audio? Thanks

    • The UV-5R is SDR-based, which means that everything is done by software. There’s no VR on the circuit board for changing the modulation level, nor to change the FM deviation.

      Some owners claim that they had success by widening the gap in front of the microphone. I didn’t try that – I’m quite happy with the UV-5R as it is, and didn’t get complaints.

      Hans

  10. Pingback: Handhelds: Baofeng UV-5R and Wouxun KG-UVD1P | Brian – KJ6VZV

  11. Hans, thanks for the review. But a very silly question here, as I am new to amateur radio. I purchased an extra UV-5R to leave at my mountain cabin for emergencies. But in order to prolong the battery life, I am planning to remove the battery from the UV-5R and put it in the refrigerator. Will I lose all of my memory channels, or are they stored in flash memory?

  12. Hi Brian,

    to the best of my knowledge, the frequencies are stored in flash memory. UV-5R’s come pre-programmed with all kinds of weird frequencies, and even after many months after the date of production they’re still there.

    It’s known to be a good idea to store Li-Ion batteries at low temperature, as long as the charge level is not higher than 40- 50%. Interesting reading: http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/how_to_prolong_lithium_based_batteries

  13. Do you happen to know if there are any options for a compatible AA Battery pack for the UV-5R? I would really like to have a backup option of using Alkaline or rechargeable AA batteries. Thanks!!

  14. Thank you for the review, I have had mine for about 2 weeks and am quite pleased with it. I have the UV-3 and Wouxun UV-2D as well. All three seem to be great values and do what they need to do well. I had been out of the hobby for years and recently pulled out my FT-470 and needed a battery for it and while searching I found the Baofeng UV-3R for less than a battery cost for the 470. I bought it and since bought the others since they cost so little. The flexability they offer in programming through the bands allow me to use them for so much more than just ham use.
    Your English is excellent and as someone else mentioned better than most native users. Take care and thanks again for confirming what I thought about my UV-5R

    Bob

  15. How can I manually enter several (5-15) 440mHz frequencies into memory along with 60+ 145mHz frequencies in memories? I have found memories that refused 440mHz entries but accepted 145mHz entries.

    • The only thing I can think of is that you tried to enter frequencies from VFO B. Only frequencies from VFO A can be programmed. Stay in VFO A and use the Band key to switch from VHF to UHF before programming.

      Hans

  16. Just a note on the screws which hold the belt clip. On the first radio I bought, the included 6mm screws were too short, so I had to purchase 8mm long M2.5 screws. But the second radio I bought came with 8mm screws.

  17. I love this radio but I seem to have a problem. If I have programmed something in via the computer cable interface and then later try to change the CTCSS it looks like it changed it but it doesnt actually do it. Once you go back into the menu it still show the old setting. Very perplexing…

      • It does it with the Baofeng software. I just did a wipe of the frequencies via the software took a totally brand new instance of the Baofeng BF5R Ver 12.03.05 stored in 146.4400 for both RX/TX and then wrote that to the radio. Then I entered the menu 11 and changed the R-CTCS to 67.0HZ hit menu the little china girl voice said “confirm” then move up to entry 12 then back to 11 it says 100.0HZ again. No matter what I do it says the same thing.

  18. Hello, I’ve read on another thread that the UV-5R has issues with reception of certain frequencies because something isn’t programmed quite right. Do you know of this problem?

    Also, there has been mention to be very careful when transmitting because you can inadvertently broadcast on some of the emergency channels that you might be monitoring. Can you comment on this and possibly suggest a way to avoid this?

    Lastly, I have a Macintosh computer (running Snow Leopard 10.6.8). Apparently, the Baofeng software only works on the PC (Windows). Is there any hope for my situation? If not, can I get by programming manually?

    • There were some reports that the receiver of the earliest UV-5R versions were off frequency. Most people, including me, could never verify that. My ‘old’ version is spot-on.

      If you listen outside the amateur bands, there’s always the risk that you accidentally hit the PTT button. Just be careful, or use Chirp to limit the TX range.

      Chirp also answers your last question. This software also works with Linux and Mac’s. Make sure you download the latest ‘Development Build‘, not the current stable version. Support for the UV-5R is only present in these builds. Go down the page for the latest version. At the time of writing this is a directory dated 24-Jul-2012 00:11.

      • Hans, I appreciate your quick reply. I’ve been seeking information from a number of sources and you are the first to come back with meaningful assistance. So thank you. I must admit that after reading your review of the “best Chinese radios” and listing 1. Wouxun KG-UVD1P as #1….. I thought maybe I should upgrade to that for a bit more money. What are your thoughts? In real life use what other features will I appreciate by upgrading? Also, will CHIRP work on with my Mac if I went the Wouxun route? Thanks again.

    • besides limiting the TX range:
      – set the channel to duplex
      – choose duplex mode “off”
      That will effectively inhibit tx for that channel.
      I have done that for all repeaters for now (until I pass the exam for my PD call in October)

  19. Hi Brad,

    it depends. Price/quality wise, the UV-5R is off the scale. You can buy at least two of those for the price of one Wouxun and still keep money in the pocket for a spare battery.

    In the end it all depends on where you live. My home is located in the middle of all kinds of radio towers, transmitting on all kinds of VHF/UHF frequencies. One of those spits out 20 kW, just above the frequency range of an average HT. The Wouxun is one out of two Chinese hand-helds able to cope with that amount of cr@p. The Quansheng TG-UV2 is the second one.

    The Baofeng UV-5R is designed with price in mind. Instead of conventional technology (physical filters and such), this radio is built around SDR (Software Defined Radio) and DSP (Digital Signal Processing) to achieve the same goal. In spite of the fact that we’re talking cutting edge technology here, the results are inferior to conventional designs. For now, at least.

    Bottom line: if you’re not living in an RF polluted area, you probably would never notice the difference. A Baofeng UV-5R would do fine.

    • I’m definitely not in a city or urban area………. Northeast of the US….. on the coast…… somewhat rural. There are radio towers and cellular towers around………

      I did a search for local repeaters….. Frequency outputs were as follows: 147.24+ 224.1- 449.525 – 147.06

      Does this mean I should make sure and get a model that handles the 220 frequencies?

      • Cellular isn’t a problem. And 220MHz? That’s up to you, I don’t know how important that specific band / repeater is to you. ;)

  20. Hello, I try to connect the 5R to the PC via audio cables (to test the Free Radio Network).
    The bigger jack (MIC on the 5R) is OK to connect to the PC speakers jack, but i cannot recognize the smaller jack (SP on the 5R). Which size can I ask it for? Is there a cable from this jack to the PC line-in/mic or any adaptor?
    Thank you!

      • Thank you! I bought two 3.5 to 3.5 mm cables and one 3.5 to 2.5 mm adaptor, but for 8 euros total, it’s a steal (~15% of the 5R price)!! :-(
        (by the way, which is better for you; to connect the 5R audio-out to the PC line-in or to the PC Mic socket?)
        Greetings from Greece!

  21. I would never connect it to a microphone input, the output level is much too high. Even for a line-in it’s maybe a bit high, but you can get away with that.

  22. Hi guys,

    I am sorry ifthis is a completely stupid question. Does the memories have alphanumeric tags? i.e. names for repeaters as well as just frequencies.
    Cheers,

    Gavin

  23. How can the language of the radio be changed? To make programming easier, I reset the radio and the language is now Chinese (I think). Whatever it is, it isn’t English.

    • Newer firmware versions offer both Chinese and English voice prompts. Menu descriptions are always in English though, so it should have been easy to find….

      Menu 14 is the place to be.

      • Thanks. I don’t know how I missed that.

        I’m happy with the radio. Mine only cost $39.00 USD. It came with charger, earphone/mic, etc. Besides being an amateur radio operator, I’m also involved in a regional governmental search and rescue operation. Both VHF and UHF frequencies (out of the amateur radio band) are used. This radio fits in perfectly. At that price, it’s almost a disposable radio but, in fact, it seems pretty durable.

        Other than some of the manual programming quirks, it’s a great radio, especially at that price.

  24. Good day sir. I’m Joel from the Philippines…I’m using a UV-5R, i already reset all settings. It works well with my other VHF radio, a werwei 3288. But when i used my UV-5R to connect to connect with a motorola UHF radio, setting its frequency through its manual…I’m receiving okay, but when i’m transmitting there is no connection. why is that?. In the first place, why can i receive coming from the motorola, which means i’m locked in with the right frequency, but i can’t transmit coming from my UV-5R to the UHF motorola radio. Hope you could help me. Thanks.

    • My best guess is that the Motorola uses CTCSS (also know as PL tones) when receiving. Unless you transmit the exact same tone with your UV-5R, the Motorola won’t hear you.

      • Unless the airwaves are crowded, you may want to broadcast without the CTCSS tones to start with. Motorola calls them PL tones. The PL stands for Private Line. Almost everyone calls them PL tones now. If you’re not familiar with PL tones, do some research on the Internet. They can help you in some cases but they can also prevent you from receiving some radio signals you may want.

        The UV-5R manual leaves a lot to be desired. The manuals with most Chinese radios are that way. Again, check the Internet. There’s more information available there. I like my UV-5R. For the price, you can’t beat it.

  25. One more thing: Make sure there’s no offset in the frequencies of either radio. I’m unfamiliar with procedures in the Philippines but in many countries, UHF is often used with repeaters and the receive and transmit frequencies are different. The Motorola might be set for a repeater (duplex) instead of radio-to-radio (simplex).

  26. nice review. I just got a UV 5RA today.
    one comment about your “bug”. To get a 7 digit frequency e.g. 144.5125, set the channel spacing to 2.5 and then enter the first six digits of the frequency (144.512) To get the 5, you then use the up or down keys.

    • Exactly – and I mentioned the way around it – but it’s still a bug. What surprises me is that they still didn’t fix it in the latest firmware versions.

  27. Hi
    Ive just ordered the uv-r5 and will use the programming cable
    Ive already put the software on my computer to play around abit and when i click save it comes up star dat and will not save what do i need to do to save
    Regards
    Albin

  28. Hans……..I just purchased a UV-5RA, running windows 7 Ultimate. The software for the HT will not allow the p/c to communicate with the HT, cannot upload or download any data. The software doesn’t seem to be able to work with the HT at all. Your thoughts…………
    Thanks
    Chuck KD8RSK

    • Windows 7…. I didn’t get that to work either. Every time I installed the correct USB driver, Windows 7 replaced it immediately with a generic (non working) driver. I didn’t have time for that s**t, so I used an old XP system instead. Works like a charm.

      You might have a totally different problem though. There’s a question about the version of the software you’re running in combination with the firmware version. I use the ‘New and Old’ version of Baofeng now, downloaded from 409shop.com, which works with any firmware.

      Then there’s the always returning problem of too much plastic around the 2.5 / 3.5mm plugs, which prevent the HT from making proper contact. Sometimes a bit of extra force will do, sometimes you need to scrape away about 0.5mm of plastic.

      Other than that, I wouldn’t have a clue. Software support from a distance is near impossible.

      • Thanks for the comments, i’ll try the 409shop download as I don’t have anything running XP anymore. I had the same problem with the USB drivers also Doah!! just remimbered running it maybe in the compatibility mode would work. Thanks again………Chuck KD8RSK

  29. Hans……Well the 409 download let me open the program, but still have a problem with the USB cable drivers. I sure hope they change this soon…….what a pain.

    Thanks for your help and time,
    Chuck KD8RSK

  30. 41. Hans. Using CHiRP & cable. Able to download from radio, but after programming my matrix, the upload to radio is greyed out and will not allow me to sen dmy program to the radio. Any ideas?

    Thank you!
    James

  31. Hans,
    Heb hier sinds een maand of twee een UV5RE en ik vindt het een prima porto zeker in vergelijking met de oude UV3R uit de eerste serie. Hij is iets minder dan mijn QUANGSHENG TGUV2 maar is voor zijn prijs een prima ding. Ook makkelijk om bij de lokale chinees wat te eten te bestellen. Doe mij maar nummer 45 v/d kaart!

    groetjes
    Peter
    PD0OUK

  32. Hai Hans,
    ik doe het gewoon in het Nederlands
    ik heb een vraag kun jij/ of iemand anders die een beetje thuis is in deze spullen, me te helpen om: ben jij een beetje thuis op deze website? http://www.409shop.com Ik zoek dus een antenne die op een kunststof motorkoffer geplaatst gaat worden middels een mount die door de koffer heen gaat zie hier een voorbeeld onderste plaatje: http://valeco.nl/projects/53-comm-set.html
    Kun jij me van wat advies voorzien voor wat betreft antenne en eventuele extra’s (adapters) die benodigd zijn? ik zie n.l. op die website door de bomen het bos niet meer! Het gaat om een WACCOM WUV-5R Vriendelijke groet, Jan Siesling

    • Hallo Jan,

      monteren op een kunststof motor is altijd een kwestie van experimenteren. Ik rijd zelf ook motor, en gebruikte een eenvoudig systeem om bijna elke antenne te laten werken: één draadje vanaf het frame verbinden met de afscherming van de coax.

      De eenvoudigste en goedkoopste methode is het bestellen van een SO-239 chassisdeel (bij voorkeur rond, scheelt 4x M3 gaatjes boren) en deze op de koffer te monteren. Daarna soldeer je er coax aan en verbind je de buitenmatel met het frame van de motorfiets.

      Hier een vierkante versie:

      http://www.409shop.com/409shop_product.php?id=108644

      je kunt daarna elke dual-band antenne plaatsen met een PL-259 aansluiting. Je keuze wordt voornamelijk beperkt door de maximale lengte die je wilt.

      • Hai Hans,
        dank je voor je antwoord aan deze optie had ik nog niet gedacht. ik ga kijken hoe ik dit gestalte kan gaan geven.
        vr gr Jan

  33. oww ik zit me nu dan net te bedenken!! de aarde van de coax aan de motor is dat de aarde vanaf de porto of vanaf de antenne of van beide?

  34. I belive your wrong on a couple of points on this product i feel that manualy entering the codes and saving them to memory was very easy and this is the 1st cb ive ever used and like i said i belive its alot better than waht your saying and as for the call button being easy to hit by mistake only if you got the fattest figures known to man its simple well made easy to use when shown how good strong and comes with some cool extras the only downside to the whole baofeng company is that they only do 2-way walkie talkie type deals they need a car one or you know one for you to be able to sit at home and yarn to your mates to instead of the walkie talkie thing but other than that for my very 1st 2way its great a+

  35. Hi Hans:

    GREAT post, thanks! Just got my UV-5R two days ago, and am really having fun. Here’s another workaround for the can’t-get-to-the-XXX.XXX5MhZ bug:

    To use channel 144.5125, I typed 144.513 (yes, 3) … it will change to 2 with a tiny 5 next to it.

    Still wonky, and ‘non-standard’, as you mention! But seems the easiest solution.

    Cheers, Hugh

  36. Hi: Great Site ..My problem is I can not get a Repeater programmed into a second memory location without changing the first memory location. Also I can overwrite info into the first location after it has been programmed. When the second memory channel is programmed it replaces the info in the first memory location. I am programming manually but pretty sure it is being done correctly as I do get the prompts that the receive and transmit frequencies have been stored Any history of other people experiencing this problem? Thanks

  37. I have a few answers to some of the above questions:

    -Hugh, Regarding the XXX.XXX5Mhz: You should be able to enter XXX.XXX, and then press the UP BUTTON. A “5” will appear.

    – Norman, it sounds like you are doing something slightly incorrectly. Different memory channels should not override each other. To program a freq. into a memory channel:

    1. Put the UV5R in FREQUENCY MODE. Pres “A/B” to toggle the top line of the display.
    2. Enter the RECEIVE frequency you want to program.
    3. Press MENU. Press “27”. Press MENU again.
    4. Scroll with the up / down arrow until you find a blank channel. A blank channel does NOT have the CH- prefix.
    5. Press MENU to save the RECEIVE frequency on the select channel.
    6. Enter the TRANSMIT frequency, if it is different.
    7. Press MENU. “27” again. MENU again.
    8. Make sure that the same channel as before is selected, and press MENU. TRANSMIT freq is saved.

    Now, when you go to CHANNEL MODE, the channel number will have these frequencies. You can check the RECEIVE / TRANSMIT offset by tapping “SCAN.” The freq. will shift, if there is a difference between REC and TRANS.

    If you are trying to re-program an existing channel, it is best to wipe that channel first, from MENU 28. Then follow the above steps.

    73s – Benjamin, KD8POH
    UV5R.net

  38. Great review and great site! I received my radio today and was baffled by the poor instructions. I took the web for better explanations of how to program it. I am an absolute novice but I purchased my radio to act as a simple 80ch UHF radio and to simply monitor emergency channels such as local police etc.
    I have programmed the frequencies into the memory for the UHF but im absolutely stumped as to how to store the repeater frequencies into he radio. Im in Australia so the parameters may be different. Any suggestions of where I could find the info?

    Thanks

  39. Hi Hans, I am aware that the output of the BAOFENG UV-5RE is 4/5 watts. Do you know what the maximum range would be between two of these radios, with a clear line of sight. Thanks, Lex.

    • Hard to tell. About 10km should be possible, assuming you have a good antenna. The original short UV-5R antenna won’t do much good. The longer Baofeng antenna (UV-B5 stock antenna) will give the signal a nice boost.

  40. Thanks Hans, that’s a great help. I also notice that it has a two pin speaker / microphone port. Is this compatible with Kenwood or Motorola speaker mics, or is it of another configuration?

  41. Hi there
    I have 3 of these UV5 radios but one seems to have a ‘random’ bug, when receiving the computer robot voice says ‘Low voltage’ over top of what my staff are saying then continues to keep working (for another whole work day even). I then ask my staff to repeat and it all works fine with out changing anything, not even the volume.
    the unit is fully charged and continues to work for the rest of the day and says ‘low voltage’ a few more times through the day.
    I have been using chirp to program it and cannot find anywhere in the settings to turn this off. and the other two units or just clones and they don’t ever say ‘low voltage’
    any ideas?

  42. Hi Hans, i bought some UV 5rs I programe it through my computer using CHIRP. I can transmit I won’t be able to hear others.Joe

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