Review Baofeng BF-666S / BF-777S / BF-888S (and look alikes)

What’s a brand name worth? Not much if it originates from China, I’m afraid – identical radios tend to pop up under a myriad of names. There has been some chatter about these mono-band radios, but apart from some reviews on Amazon.com I couldn’t find much in-depth. As I ordered 10 pieces of these radios for a local company, I took the liberty to check them out before shipping them out again.

Brands and model numbers
The best known brand name is probably Baofeng. There are three model numbers, BF-666S, BF-777S and BF-888S, which are basically identical radios with some cosmetic differences. Mine are branded Tianyi TY-100. Contrary to the Baofeng models, this variety does not feature a LED flashlight. I paid $21.65 a piece in a lot of 10, which included shipping by DHL. A lot of 10 Baofeng BF-666S radios (with flashlight!) costs about the same at AliExpress.com, one Baofeng BF-888S now costs $25 at 409shop.com (last week they were still over $40, which was a silly price).

Look & Feel
These radios are often referred to as ‘Professional’, as if they could compete with the Motorolas and Vertex Standards of this world. This is not the case, unfortunately, but more about that later. They do look and feel a bit like the real thing though. Build quality seems reasonably OK, and there isn’t much you could break. There’s no display, no keypad, no nothing – just an on/off/volume pot and a 16-position channel selector. The ‘Alligator’ belt clip is the best I’ve seen in a long time and fitted with an exceptionally strong spring.

The capacity of the battery is quite generous: 1500mAh. Apart from the PTT key there are two side keys. The upper one is the monitor key and its function can be changed by software. On a Baofeng, the second one is used to activate the flashlight, on the Tianyi this key has no function. The monitor key is also needed when you want to program the thing; you have to press and hold that one while switching on the radio. This isn’t described anywhere in the manual. Actually, how to program the radio isn’t mentioned anywhere at all.  It didn’t come as a surprise to me that there was no software in the box either.

Programming
The first thing you need is a Kenwood compatible USB to serial cable, identical to the one you would use with the UV-5R, Wouxun or Quansheng. Once you get this cable to work (which can be a real pain in the a** under some Windows versions), downloading and installing the Baofeng BF-480 software is all that’s left to get things on the road. At first I didn’t have much luck, because AVG Free thought that the software was a threat. After some extensive searches, I found out that this particular ‘False Positive’ was a well known issue with AVG. I removed AVG and installed Microsoft Security Essentials instead. This fixed the problem.

Spreadsheet design, options
Chinese programming software is generally poor by definition, programming and translation issues are common. Just live with it, and enjoy the puzzles you’re confronted with! The spreadsheet design itself however is elegant because of its simplicity, and it gets the job done. One programming error however made my life miserable at first. During my first session I wasn’t able to get certain frequencies saved, nor CTCSS codes. This was caused by an incompatibility with the way we Europeans write down numbers. In short: we often use commas where US citizens use periods. The ‘right’ character wasn’t accepted though. After changing the regional settings in XP to ‘US’, the issue was solved.

Apart from TX/ RX frequencies and sub audio (CTCSS or DCS), you can also set parameters per individual channel like output power, Wide/Narrow, Scan Add, Beat Shift (scramble) and BCLO (Busy Channel Lock Out).

Then there are a lot of global parameters you can set. These include Squelch Level, Side Key function, Time Out Timer, Scan enable/disable, Voice prompt on/off, Microphone sensitivity (choices are English or Chinese!) all kinds of VOX parameters, and a few very mysterious ones. Clew voice? No idea. And then there’s the “??? On/Off” function. Don’t ask – it beats me. *Update*: the ‘Microphone sensitivity’ option is actually the option to set the language of the Voice Prompt.

All frequencies and parameters can be saved into a file and read back later, which makes cloning radios a breeze.

Scramble (Voice Inversion)
Based on other people’s observations,  I thought that there was no scrambler on board. There is though. Setting the ‘Beat Shift’ option to ‘On’ enables the scrambler. It works well, and can be set for individual channels.

Mysterious options and parameters…

Transmitter
In short: no issues. Good, clear TX audio. Output never exceeds 2 Watts, which is 1 Watt less than the manufacturer claims. To be sure I tested a few others, but the results were the same. The radio has an “Ouch!” issue. RF is leaking away through one of the charge contacts of the battery. Hold it tight, transmit for a while and you’ll feel the heat. It is no real heat (contacts stay cool), but RF penetrating your skin. Maybe it’s a new brilliant system to improve the efficiency of the antenna, called “No Pain, No Gain”.

Receiver
Typical SDR/DSP design. Sensitive, but easily overloaded. I also had some issues with inter-modulation products on a few PMR channels. This is exactly why the word ‘Professional’ is a bit on the optimistic side. RX audio is loud, but sounds a bit raw.

The verdict
In spite of some flaws, the balance between price and quality is not too bad. These are more or less disposable radios which, when treated properly, will probably serve you well for a long time. Don’t expect them to be as good as a Motorola or Vertex Standard though. They aren’t, and the more RF pollution present in your area, the more you will notice this. They’re not waterproof either – seals are non existent, and the rubber covers only fit loosely. But hey, what do you expect for for less than 22 bucks?

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190 comments on “Review Baofeng BF-666S / BF-777S / BF-888S (and look alikes)

  1. hi hans,
    i really appreciate your blogging about the LCRs and read all. now i have a small question about this LCR: i see you typed the PMR446 frequencies into the BF-460 software. does the radio takes it, and, at least, can you work them too? the offers only show a spacing of 25kHz.
    73
    toby

      • hi hans,
        3 days ago i got my BF-888S. had no chance to program it with my XP-pc: the program BF-480 shut down my pc after closing down one of the little windows in the program. then i got me my YLs laptop that runs with W7-home, installed the BF-480, and unbelievable simple uploaded the data into the BF-888S.
        after that i realized i missed loading the cable driver. wow. and after that i realized i have loaded a CTCSS tone without the told problems into the little rig. 2nd wow. at least i powered the radio and worked the CTCSS without problems and after a 10 minute QSO on small power i cannot say that it went warm or even hot. i now run the unit on low power with a more flexible antenna (ebay: 251074751109 “Feidaxin ORIGINAL ANT UHF350-490mhz for FD450/460 5-186″) and an cheap speaker-mic.
        simple, cheap, working. i love it. 73

  2. hi, i’m about to buy some 12 of the baofeng bf-888s, but one of my colleagues who owns some of them told me that he’s having a problem programing them, particulary when it comes to program the CTCSS tones, tones simply can’t be programmed, the digital ones(DCS) have no problem and program fine, but main problem is programming ctcss tones(analog) into the radios, and since most radios in this country use analog tones, it is our business.
    acording to my friend, it is a software issue, he says that the software that is on the internet have problems, but don’t one if someone have this same problem, or if someone know anything about this problem. and much better if anyone know a way to solve it.
    any help will be appreciated!

      • thanks, we will really appreciate any help you can give us.
        we can give you more details about the problem if you like to, but i think programming ctcss will explain itself.
        thanks again

      • Hi Hans,

        I bought 10 of these off amazon, and one of them does not work. I can hear people talking but they cannot hear me. Do you know why?

  3. I happened to get my hands on the BF480 software from powerphone.com.cn (Baofeng Official Website) but it appears to be all Chinese and I cannot change it to English. Do you have any idea how to change it to English?

  4. A cordial greeting to all readers,
    I a Baofeng BF-888S and the transmission power is approximately 1.6 watts. The selection LOW-HIGH by software does not affect the power, in both cases is always 1.6 watts.
    Antonio
    (Avellino – Italy)

    • Correct. These are low power devices, and the output of a BF-666 I have here now doesn’t exceed 1.6 Watts either.

      The Tianyi YT-100’s were all around 2 Watts though.

      • I disassembled the radio, the final RF transistor seems underused by the power of 1.6 watts. Maybe it’s the software (BF-480) that fails to select the power greater (3 or 4 watts).
        Antonio (Avellino – Italy)

      • No, internally they’re all the same. 2 Watts output is the maximum.

        If you look at the label at the back, it says ‘Equal or less than 5 Watts’. Well, it is 2 Watts. Technically they’re not lying. ;)

  5. hi Hans, just wondering if you could figure something out about the 888s’ ctcss issue we are having?
    sorry for the presure, it’s because there was an earthquake a couple days ago and everyone is freaking out about communications so i must have my equipment ready for sale.
    thanks

    • Hi Daniel,

      it was a bit hectic here, sorry for the delay. I just did a test with a Baofeng BF-666 and an Alinco DR-635. CTCSS (100Hz) worked fine, both on RX and TX.

      The only thing I noticed while testing is that CTCSS decoding on the BF-666 isn’t very critical. The Baofeng woke up at 97.4Hz too, though a bit slower.

      • i see. but you got no isues while programming in ctcss codes? cause in here that’s the problem we getting with the 888s(dunno if it’s radio or software’s problem) when programming in ctcss, it simply isn’t writing it, But with dcs there’s no problem, writes nicely.

    • hi, i just check it out, and reversed the values. but while doing that i remembered that we where having issues only when it comes to program ctcss, so rest of the radio programs fine. or this problem only affects ctcss and after reversing the values i’m ready to go?
      thanks

  6. sorry for all this bothering.
    i just talked with my colleague, he explained the problem to me. when trying to program ctcss into the radio, when you type the digits in everything is fine until you tell the software to write/program the radio. aparently what happens is that whatever value was places on ctcss it jumps up or down but it doesn’t stay on the value that was typed, or it sometimes simply goes blank. he’s got a lot of 20+ of this radios and have tryed with the same software downloaded from different sites, but there’s no positive results.
    ps: he have already tryed inversing comma for period.

    so those are the details.
    thanks

    • Daniel,

      this problem (and the solution) was mentioned in my review from the start. The bug only concerns Europeans. Just change the regional settings of your computer to US. Follow the link in my article.

      • i see, apologies for all the bother.
        maybe we are having another problem, because we already tryed the solution but it haven’t worked.
        thanks anyways.
        apologies for the bothering

  7. I apologize to Hans, I have suggested the change of the regional settings of your computer to U.S. and I did not realize that Hans he had already given the same solution. Sorry.
    Anyway, thank Hans for this review Baofeng BF-666S / BF-777S / BF-888S that I was very helpful.

  8. Hello Hans, this is by far the best BF-777 review I could find. Thank You! I still couldn’t find the answer to one question. Is there a way to bring the power down to 0,5W for short distance use? Can this eventually be done by hardware modification? I would like to use these radios in situation with almost no obstacles between them (canoeing/lakes). Ease of use and long battery life are more important than the 1.6W-2W TX.

    • The problem is not related to the hardware, but the software. Some options just don’t work. I’m convinced that these Baofeng radios would be even better when the developers would pay more attention to the reliability and functionality of the software.

      Having said that, the battery life is quite amazing, considering it’s on ‘high’ power all the time.

      • Extended battery life would just be a small bonus for not sending out uneccessary power. I recognize that there is a software issue preventing proper power selection. That’s why I was thinking about a hardware solution. Usually everybody wants to squeeze out more power, but i dont think it’s always usefull. Maybe I should just order one of those and see what can be done. Thanks

      • Or Linux – check out the CHIRP software which is designed for Linux. I installed in in minutes! No issues with it being in Chinese and no issues with it using mainland Europe commas rather than full stops.

  9. Just received my BF-666s and same issue with CTCSS. I think I’ve narrowed down the problem though. Using CTCSS frequencies below 94.8Hz (67.0-91.5Hz) seem to only decode (but the encode (TX) doesn’t seem to work). So, if you can live without 67.0-91.5Hz CTCSS then you’ll have no problems. Has anyone else seen this?

  10. Hi Hans what about :

    The monitor key is also needed when you want to program the thing; you have to press and hold that one while switching on the radio. This isn’t described anywhere in the manual. Actually, how to program the radio isn’t mentioned anywhere at all.

    is this nesasery to program it on a computer or by Hand ????

    73’s Bao

  11. Question about the channel spacing. The FCC in the US is mandating a narrow band requirement, are these radios capable of a 12.5 KHz bandwidth.

    • Yes, they are. Although this only concerns all public safety and business industrial land mobile radio systems operating in the 150-512 MHz (ham radio isn’t mentioned here), these Baofeng radios support Wide (25KHz) and Narrow (12.5KHz).

      Different bandwidths can be set for each individual channel.

      BTW, channel spacing and bandwidth are two different things.

      • Thanks Hans! I thought they were, but was unsure if the Wide/Narrow setting was all that needed to be changed. I will be programming these to augment my company’s Motorola radios in the warehouse. My employer currently has an FCC license to operate these radios, but dosen’t want to pay $300+ to replace the radios that were deemed obsolete.

  12. I bought some a couple BF-888s, I managed to program them without pressing the monitor key on the side of the case, This was the same for reading out the data from the rig.

      • I must admit I was a bit puzzled by the AVG problem, I disabled AVG while installing the BF-480 software. As your write up it would have none of it with AVG active, then swtiched AVG back in, it didn’t pick anything up after I run it through a Virus check afterwards, I have had stupid things with AVG before.

      • Actually they can go over 470MHz …
        I programmed mine for Australian UHF Public license free Channels
        476.4250 to 477.4125 .. Also high power low power settings seem to work on my 888’s
        Have some older UHF radios to test against and seems to work fine .

  13. Can anyone direct me to a driver for Win 7 for the USB programming cable. No matter what com port I select, I cannot read the radio. Thanks!

  14. i have the same problem..4 diffrent usb cabel,unstalling and installing the drivers..software….think i spend 20hours now but really want to get the problem solved….tried on 3 diffrent pc…its worek first time I programed them but now it only says some problem with com port…not understand this…:(

  15. Hi great review!
    i’m completely new to radios and need these for film/photography work.

    My only problem is that I can’t find any list online of what frequencies I can legally use in the UK without a license.
    Could you point me in the right direction?

    Thanks! :)

    • Hi,

      I can’t. These radios are illegal to use unless you have a ham license. You can buy and use PMR radios though. No license required. These radios operate in the 446MHz band and can be bought in most electronics stores.

      • Can’t I just use the PMR frequencies with a set of the Baofengs?
        I’m asking because I’d like something somewhat high quality and these seem to be the best at a low price.
        Are you sure we’re talking about the same radios? I see the h777 and other versions sold as PMR radios. They should be able to use the 446 band, or am I missing something?

      • Only PMR radios with a non-detachable antenna and 500mW output are legal. All other radios are not – in spite what sellers or others tell you ;)

        That said, nobody (read: authorities) would probably notice that you’re using an illegal radio when you’re on the air. It’s up to you if you think it’s worth the risk.

    • Looked up BAOFENG in the FCC OTC and the only radios listed were the UV-3 and the UV-5 even under their FRN so I would say thae have’nt been submitted to the FCC yet.

  16. Just a hint for those having the usual counterfeit USB driver/chipset issues… get the serial version of the cable (I got mine from Powerwerx) and use a known good (read: not cheap chinese jumk) serial-USB converter. You’ll have a lot less trouble…

  17. I bought a set of these, and while I can get my computer to recognize the cable (and the software to recognize the COM port I’m using) whenever I try to read or write to the radio through the software it get an error “Please check all connection and communication port settings”. Anyone else have this issue?

    • Quite a few people reported similar problems, regardless of the brand/model of the radio or operating system. Often the cause was too much plastic surrounding the 2.5mm and 3.5mm plugs, which in turn leads to contact problems. Some people could ‘solve’ it by using considerable force while pushing the cable into the radio, some eventually had to scrape enough plastic away to allow the plugs to fit properly.

      • Thanks for the idea Hans. I have already substantially trimmed the cable and tried pushing the connector in with lots of force. I may just need to try a new cable.

      • Well my new programming cable arrived and the problem remains. I’ve also tried on a Windows Vista machine with no luck. Perhaps I’ll try to find an XP machine as a last resort.

  18. Hoi Hans,
    leuke review en zeker leuke blog, ik zag ook je audio mod op dit leuke “geval”. Nu ben ik opzoek naar een van deze aparaten, Het plan is er een eigen mcu aan te knopen en wat van de gebruiks onvriendelijkheden uit te halen. Ik ben ook aan het kijken naar de uv-5r maar als ik toch de moeite neem een nieuwe controller en display er aan te hangen waarom niet een waar het zoiezo niet opzit zo dat de prijs die al laag is nog beter is. Mijn verzoek is (gezien je audio mod) of het mogenlijk is dat je wat plaatjes van de print aan beide kanten kan verzorgen. Dat zou mij een heel gelukkig konijn maken en misschien een hoop mensen op baofeng_uv5r@yahoogroups.com ook. tenzij je denkt dat de basis van de uv5r ( rf gedeelte dan) een beter uigangpunt is voor het geld.

    mvg

    Bernard

  19. Can anyone tell me how to program VHF in these radios I am using the same program from 409 shop every everytime I program the radio it tells me to force wite and then when I turn the radio on all I get is a tones if anyone can tell me what I’m doing wrong or how to program on it would be great Thanks

  20. I don’t understand how it does not have VHf in it when it is clearly written on the box VHf/uhf fm transceiver can anyone explain if that is the case in that is the only downfall of this radio

    • What’s written on the box is sometimes confusing, because there are often two models: VHF and UHF. They’re packed in the same box though. All that counts is the frequency range printed on the back of the radio itself. Remove the battery to find out. There’s a picture in this article showing that.

      • Ok thank you after all they still are some pretty neat radios I highly recommend them for anyone that is looking at these radios

  21. Can anyone confirm wether or not the “scamble” on these sets is suposed to be compatable with the same system on a Puxing PX-888D, as at the moment it doesn’t seem to be !
    It also doesn’t seem to decode simple speech inversion transmissions, so I am starting to wonder if this is only compatable with other BF-888’s ?

  22. Hello, I’ve used for some months 2 BF-888s and programmed them with the BF-480 software.
    I read here: (http://www.tec-lab.co.uk/hesk/knowledgebase.php?article=15) that PMR446 settings are all NarrowFM Mode (either the 8 analogue or the next 8 dPMR).
    So far in the software, the setting was in “Wide”.
    Does it make any difference in the compatibility with the other tranceivers which have the “Narrow” setting?
    Also should the “TX power” setting be “Low” (so far it is High), or it doesn’t make any difference again?
    What are the Beat Shift & Busy Lockout settings?
    TNX

    • No, wide is fine for the analog PMR channels, but narrow would work as well. For unknown reasons the BF-480 software won’t change the power output; power is always high. Beat Shift: read my article ;) Busy Lockout: when set to “On”, this will prevent you from transmitting when there’s activity on the channel.

      • Thanks a lot, Hans. So do you suggest Wide?
        Another question, maybe irrelevant! Do you know what setting is there (hidden of course) at the plain PMR446 radios, wide or narrow?
        Also, could you suggest a Squelch Level setting for the 888s?

  23. Hi Hans,

    I too got the Baofeng BF-888 and was frustrated to know that I can only communicate within a few blocks (2 city blocks at max, only 1/2 block stronger than my PMR, the PMR’s travel 1 1/2 blocks – 500m), but that is near, approx 600m. I live a city in Manila. Any news on increasing the power to 3 or even 4 watts. I believe with this portables it is up to 4 watts since they are UHF. Was it really the software not choosing the right power, if you have the schematic or made one since you already disassembled the unit, can you send me a copy, maybe I can experiment on my end, I got the unit for twice the price, since an importer from hong kong got it for me, guess they profit from the difference, but at least I only got 1.

  24. hi i have one of these radios 888s just want to know is it possibale to make a programming lead from headphones and usb havnt time to wait for lead to be delivered

  25. To Whom:
    I purchased a couple BF-888’s from Amazon for use in a private school. I was not aware of the extra cable needed for software download. My question – radio is identified as being FRS/GMRS compatible. Will I be able to communicate with a bunch of Cobra radios that we already have? And if so, will I necessarily need the software download? So far I’ve been going through the channels, and can’t communicate with the Cobras. Thanks in advance!

    • Yes, the radio is capable of working on FRS/GMRS frequencies. The factory default frequencies are out-of-band and might interfere with other land mobile services. You must program the radios before use.

      Please note that “FRS/GMRS compatible” doesn’t mean that this radio is legal to use without a license. It’s not. Only 14-channel FRS radios with a non-detachable antenna and 500mW output are legal. The Baofeng BF-888S emits 4x that amount of output power (2 Watts). Will someone notice? Highly unlikely, but at least I told you.

      • Thanks Hans, I appreciate the information. Your information, as well as the other comments/questions were very informative. I was aware of the need for the license. We’ve been operating the Cobras on the FRS frequencies just fine, and are going to apply for a license to use these. Just didn’t want to order the cable, and more radios if we also couldn’t use the pallet-load of Cobras we have as well. Thanks again!

  26. Hi All, I run an Airsoft Club and these are great but again i have found not able to program the 12 i have , this causes a problem as i am after 50 of these for use in the Teams but need to program them in banks of 10 so that other teams can not hear and so on… I have tried the various download sites the seller gave but all my security software stated Trojen Virus, after taken off the program installed and also the cable drivers but still comes up with port/comms problems…This is getting to be a MAJOR PAIN as have tried 5 differnt computers with different opperating systems and all state the same… Can anyone help please otherwise i may as well just get rid of them all or glue the selector channel button onto a channel…options please…If i have to i will send away to program if anyone can the Club would pay..

    Thanks

    Andrew

    • 1. Sometimes there’s too much plastic molding around the 3.5mm and 2.5mm plugs. Try do push in the connector with a bit more force while programming, I have to do that too occasionally. Some operators even scraped plastic away to make the cable fit better. This isn’t unique to the Baofeng BF-666S; this problem is reported with other radios also.

      2. There’s better software available: http://www.zastone.com/EN/Upload/2011-6-26/ZT-V68%20CABLE.zip. This software doesn’t ring anti-virus alarm bells when installed and is translated much better than the original software.

      3. There’s another good web page to visit: http://www.kh-gps.de/bf888.htm. This German ham operator collected a lot of useful information about this radio.

      • Hi, thanks for all the info, installed the program, no virus this time but still the same, please check coms and cable, still no joy at all, i have tried all ways that everywhere states, press the red button then power on to connect to pc, change ports on the usb to check the pc recon the cable, it does, i have tried win7, win XP, win Vista and every one of the computers say the same, i just do not have a clue and as you can guess I have been on with this for all this week and for something simple as everyone says i have to have the only kit that does not work at all….
        I just do not know what to do now.. not as if i can send the cable away to be tested or all of the 12 radios, maybe try another computer…???
        Thanks again for the info, i will just have to either go with testing again or just try glue the selector knob to a channen so that it can not be turned…

        Regards

        Andrew

  27. Hi Andrew, I don’t know where you are located but if you would like to send me 1 or 2 or even all of the radios that you can’t program I would be happy to try to do it for you with my setup here.
    I have never had any problems with windows 7 64 bit and have done more than 30 now.
    I’m located in Lincoln in the UK.

    Regards,

    Mick.

  28. Hello from the US.
    thank you for posting this, it has be very helpful. I do have a couple of questions I hope you can answer. I am in charge of security for a local convention & I have been tasked with programming about 11 BF-777 radios to match the frequencies we have on about twenty Vertex Standard VX-351 radios. I have picked up a BF-888s in order to get everything set up prior to getting my hands onto the other radios.

    The primary problem I am having is matching the frequencies, the Baofeng program keeps rounding down the last # 0 or 5 depending on its value (1-5 is rounded down to 0 while 6-9 is rounded down to 5).I have been able to get three freq matched up on different channels. The secondary problem is that the VX-351 will transmit and receive on the BF888, but the VX351 will not receive the BF888 unless I have previously pushed one of the side function buttons on the VX. I am fairly sure that I will need to re-program the VX radios. and I have the board ordering the programming cables & software now.

    I have downloded the other programming software mentioned earlier in the comments & I will be trying it out over the next few days.

    again, thank you for this post, I would have been fairly lost with out the information.
    Thank You.

    • All frequencies MUST end on a 0 or a 5. This can’t be avoided, because channel steps can’t be set to frequencies in between. The VX-351 is a PMR radio, and the 8 official frequencies can be programmed easily.

      Channel 1: 446.00625 MHz
      Channel 2: 446.01875 MHz
      Channel 3: 446.03125 MHz
      Channel 4: 446.04375 MHz
      Channel 5: 446.05625 MHz
      Channel 6: 446.06875 MHz
      Channel 7: 446.08125 MHz
      Channel 8: 446.09375 MHz

      Out of the box the receiver of the VX-351 makes use of DCS, These sub-audio codes prevent the squelch from opening on any signal. You have to match the tone codes too. See page 7 of the VX-351 manual. If you don’t have a paper manual, you can find one here.

  29. I have about 5 of this 888 radio and i can´t program any of them anymore…changed pc,programmingcables,softwares multicouple of times and I can only come to an conclusion that you are only allowed to program this 1 or 2 times…after that it seems inpossible to get any connection with the radio and software……

    when someone here wrote about the plastic sorrunding around the 3.5 conctac i was almost sure it was that…..I tryid to push them more strong to radio,cleaning them and everything…..but NO….still no connection….

    only way to make sure about this is to order one more of this radio and se if it wil work…but we´ll see if i do that…

    ..or else the radio worked fine…..:)

  30. after I send my last “Comment” here only 5 min ago I tryied one more thing…I found an old “com port” cable and plugged it in and it worked !!!! wooow…im really happy now…after these radios been laying for 7 month now useless…..

    so that could be a good thing to skip these complicated “usb programmingcables” and use the old fashion COM PORT instead!!

    goodluck !!

    • As with any radio, range depends on the terrain. It can be pathetic (less than 1 mile in a city full of concrete buildings) to excellent (> 10 miles in open terrain or water). Power output hardly matters.

  31. ive got a few questions about programming a pair of bf-888’s.. i’m running into so much trouble, ive been doing well on the uv-5r, but getting the 888’s programmed has been so stressful. i’ve tried on 3 different computers, running windows vista, as well as windows 7. any help would be much appreciated ,, the error is com or port communication error. thanks
    peterjasongreer@gmail.com

      • Thanks for the information. I am looking for something secure and inwas hoping it was some kind of digital AES, but for the prices suspected it was not. Do you know if its a least a “rolling code” type of voice inversion? I ask because those can be tricky to track whereas a single code inversion can be easily traced with a ramsey kit or free soundcard software.

      • No, but this can not be expected of a $25 radio. If you want better encryption you need (much!) deeper pockets. Look into digital radios. Recent Chinese offerings start at about $195/piece (Kirisun).

  32. can someone help I’m having trouble in getting the BF-480 to work on my win7 computer. the program starts up but there are a lot of ??? marks in most of the collums. Where can i get a english vervion of the software as none of the one i have downloaded have worked.
    Kieran

  33. Hi Hans.
    Thank you for a good article! Been really struggling to get a proper manual on this Radio (Baofeng V6 -BF-480).
    Just got mine today, downloaded the software, and have a USB cable which i tried on Win 8/7/XP, but to no avail. it doesn’t work on any of those platforms?! Any advice? Baudrates/Drivers/special tricks???

    My PC does pickup the cable and all. assigns a COMM port # to it, the whole 9 Yards, but the BF-480 software is unable to pick up the radio?!

    Ive been trying to see whether there’s a special way to turn it on so that its in a kinda “programming mode”… but couldn’t find any indication thereof?!

    • The only well-known ‘trick’ is applying more force to the connector while programming. Actually I squeeze the connector and the radio with my left hand. That does the job for me. Also make sure that you picked the correct frequency range under the Setup menu. For my models this was 400-470MHz.

  34. The belt clips on these radio’s are great- very strong and much better than ones on some high end radios. I have discovered that the belt clip also fits perfectly onto the Quansheng TG UV2, as the spacing of the screw holes is exactly the same. Instant upgrade!
    73, Bruce

  35. Hi
    I have a couple of these and they’re a breeze to set up. (I’m using a mac with parallels)

    Do note that even with the correct cables, you’ll need the correct COM port firmware. the latest firmware will only give a communication error.

  36. Hi to all

    I get the BF-888s radios, also get the USB cable for prog. the Radios.

    My computer reconize the USB cable and install the driver version 3.2.0.0 in com 4

    at this mooment all its ok, i put on the radio in channel 1, use the bf480 software, and when I try to read from Radio option, get a message to check the connecting cable or com port.
    I cut a little the connector to get better connection, but still receive same message.

    Any idea???

  37. Hi Hans,
    Nice reviews you’ve got here! Because of the reviews i have allready three types of Baofeng radio’s. But now I have a problem wich can be solved quite easy (i hope). By mistake i’ve “overwritten” the original data in the baofeng bf-888s before ‘reading’ te data and use that file as a start to program the bf-888s. Programming the UV-B5 and the UV-3R is no problem. Now the problem is i cannot program certain fields in the file and more strange behaviour. I am quite convinced the problem lies in the fact i’ve got no ‘original’ file with correct ‘make up’ ‘read’ from te bf-888s.

    Could you help me out by providing a sample .dat file with correct mark up for the bf-888s? I’ve searched online for such a sample file with no succes and I am willing to pay for a solution because this is giving me a major headache.

    Any help is appreciated, and i know it’s not smart i’ve wrote over the original settings. Problem is i thought i understood the symbols in the chinese version i had installed first but i was ‘writing’ een empty file instead of ‘reading’ the bf-888s.

  38. How do you perform the scanning function? Do I just have to set it in the software? The instruction about pushing the PTT and monitor button does not appear to do anything. I also tried holding down the monitor button and turning on the radio. I hear a short beep, and then the radio does not seem to work.

  39. Hi To all

    I still have same problem, I get a IT expert to help me to solve the problem, but he ask me for original settins of the Radio like

    Original Radio port COM??
    transfer speed??

    Can someone know this information??

    THanks in Advance

  40. Hi Hans

    My friends jst bought 116unit BF666s from china. when he pass me the unit i had tested out the unit is no up to my expectation. the trans and recv range is not more then 1km. when i pass thru 1km the i am hard to get signal ~ and what i had found in the internet the unit should be good within 3km ~ i tested at our federal highway.

    can you help me on this ? or its original is not more then 1km ? or we need do some setting or programing in the software

    • Hi Chong,

      Only two factors can improve range: antenna quality/height, and lack of obstacles. You can easily do 3KM or more for example when you’re both in a boat on a big lake, or both on top of a hill.

      I think 1KM is not too bad for such a cheap radio. If you use these radios while driving, you might want to consider an antenna on the roof of the car. This will dramatically improve your range.

  41. Thanks Hans For the advice but normaly i use HLT-6100+ its have the better Converage Range ~ We plan to get back the same brand and model but the seller recormanded the BF 666s unit so she had bought without test it …. jst wonder is on programing side can do some improvement…

    • Yes, people have high expectations of the maximum range, largely because manufacturers’ claims always show the best case scenario. I don’t think programming the HT differently will change anything.

      • Hello, i tested the range of the bf888 and uv5r between Graz (353 h.M.) and the Speik kogel (2140 h.M.) (Styria, Austria) ,it´s 48 km. With the uv5r the communication was Loud and clear, with the bf888 it was hard to understand something. Next i will test the uv-b5. One question: Which frequency bring the best results (range, output power) on the bf888, uv5r, uv-b5 ?

      • 48km is not bad for this cheap 2 Watt UHF radio. The best frequency? With a BF-888S it doesn’t matter. On dual-band hand helds VHF frequencies (2 meters) should give the best range. Not only is VHF less sensitive to obstacles, almost all HTs deliver more output power there.

      • The test was made on 446,06875, on any VHF frequenc (uv5r) the result was very …..poor!
        Is there a difference in the UHF output (power) between 400-470MHz?

    • The higher the VOX setting, the more sensitive. A higher Squelch setting will result in a higher threshold (e.g. you need a stronger signal to open it up). Unfortunately there isn’t much difference between the various settings.

      • Thank you i could not tell as there is not much between the settings. I am using one for a Gateway on frn. If anyone is going to do the same use a timer switch and set it to power the radio every few hours to top up the charge rather than leave it in its base on charge full time. The desktop chargers are not great. Also if radio dose happen to go flat it dose transmits a warning when on vox over the frn which can be annoying. A switch ptt is better but vox once levels are set work fairly well. Thanks again.

  42. Does anyone know how to change the firmware on the BF-888s, I have 4 of them two speak the channel in English, the other two in Chinese. Would love to set them all to English. Regards Chris

    • You can’t update the firmware. The language can be set in the software. In the original BF-480 sofware the option is poorly translated and called “Microphone sensitivity”.

      • Hans,
        Thank you so much that worked a treat I have them working now with our fire hand portables, I have a few other questions but I will trawl through the posts I am sure the answers are there. I received an email from the crowd I bought them from, how to change from Chinese to English, but your method is much simpler, here is what they sent me just in case it might be useful to someone. Again thank you so much for your help.

        1. radio keep turn off, then adjust button like video to channcel 15(for uv-5R change to channcel 14)
        2. press PTT(black color button)button & the bellow orange color button at the same time(like video show)
        3. on the other hand, turn on radio, then could change original language from Chinese to English.

        Ps if you want a link to the video, or if you want to delete the above feel free to ask, or do :)

        regards

        chris

  43. Hi, i’ve bought the BF888S baofeng radios. It is 450-470 MHz, i need to configure a frequency that start with 471, how can i do that?
    Theres any trick or something?
    Thnks

  44. I have purchased the BF-5388 in a pair (UHF $00-470Mhz), and they talk together on channels 1-16 with decent distance. I’m trying to also have them talk with the uv-b5, but i am unable to find the frequencies and sub codes that are related to channel 1-16.
    Finding support is very difficult. I have the cable and software that came when I ordered the uv-b5 from amazon (which work great with that radio). I have downloaded the software for the 480 and lookalikes. I have tried on both a win7 and XP machine, and both say they can’t see the radio (com4 on XP, com 3 on win7)
    Any other thoughts on this? (USB driver date is 11/20/2007, v 2.0.2.8
    Does anybody have any further things to try?

  45. Hi, i need some help.
    I have 3 offices with a range of 6 miles between them. i want to know if i get an antenna and conect one of my baofenf BF 888s to the antenna on each office’s roof, they can deliver signal to other radios in the same office. Its like i need a repeater, i want to know if it can work.
    Thanks

  46. The BF-888s I bought on a few separate occasions have 2 different versions. Both were set to English voice prompts have 2 different slangs. American English slang and the other sounded like “Chinglish”. Both performance however did not vary. Very useful and dirt cheap to be thrown around. Quite robust for its’ size.

  47. I had no problem hooking up my new Baofeng 888 to windows 7, unfortunately I needed frequencies out of its range so turned to other my radio which is a Hengshuntong H500, probably similar to many others, but with a frequency range of 400 to 520MHz. (I need the 476 to 477 for use in Australia) Using the same software as before gets nowhere, same error message as others, please check cable etc, but there is a little flicker of TX light during operation leading me to believe there is some connectivity. Tried the ‘big push’ of plug etc to no avail. Do I need specific software for this radio? and if so where could I find it?

  48. Further to the previous post, I eventually went into the COM port and upped the bits per second to 57,600 and everything works just fine. Must be a data transmission thing. I did find the H500 software eventually.

    • Hello Peter
      I am also looking for this software and any help you can give with the h500 radios. i purchesed 10 of these and have my own channel but can not program the radios. any help would be great

  49. hi there, sorry i am going to be a right sounding idiot, i do not really know much about these radios or frequencies but been asked to reprogram about 30 BF-888s, them for a friend who runs a door company in the uk

    Basically i require some advice of settings which makes these radio safe to use and not interfear with any local services etc,

    The is some venues which are about 35 meters away, so firstly could these radio be set up to communicate with these other bars (ie what is the range)

    I need to set up a minimum of 8 channels as there may daytime staff using them, at the same time as the door team so they need to be on their own channels to stop silly messages going through

    What is the best frequency range to use ?
    What other settings would be suggested for a multi user environment (ie 10 / 20) in a single environment (venue) where door staff need to communicate on different level and areas and be able to call for assistance

    What shouldn’t i do with them on the programming front which may cause me problems or issues

    i saw this but not sure how old it is and how it applies now the digital switch over has taken place. We also dont want to interferer with any police , fire or ambulance who will be in the local area

    PMR446 Licence-Free Radio Frequencies

    Within the UHF band lie the eight “licence-free” (PMR446) channels, these are as follows, in MHz:

    1. 446.00625
    2. 446.01875
    3. 446.03125
    4. 446.04375
    5. 446.05625
    6. 446.06875
    7. 446.08125
    8. 446.09375

    any help will be appreciated :)

    • If you are intending to use them for licensed businesses, I would suggest paying for £75 for 5 years to use the UK General frequencies (or even get your own private frequencies) instead of using the PMR446 channels intended for 0.5W licence-free use. This radio operates on 3W so it’ll not be legal for use on the PMR446 frequencies. Ofcom will come down hard on you if someone ever reports you, and as a licensed business, this will not reflect well.

      Police and other emergency services are on TETRA so you will not interfere with them.

      It will be best to have Channel 1 on all radios for emergency use, with the control room having a radio on that channel at all times. Each channel can have its own CTCSS/DCS code so different groups of users can be assigned different channels.

      Do note that if you do intend to use them illegally on the PMR446 channels, you’ll still be open to interference from other legal users who happen to be on the same channel and sub-code as you.

  50. hello I am trying to program my 888s for the fallowing but not sure how to do so:
    ch 1 communicates to a radio that can receive all transmission from every channel
    ch 2 is secluded to a section(group of workers)

  51. 6 at least. I tried to make it so the DEC for ch 1 matched the ENC
    then turned off DEC for the channels I didn’t want it to hear or speak on. However it didn’t work out when I tested it.

      • CTCSS/DCS ENCode / DECode. You need to have all channels encode the tone you want to use, channel 1 with decode off, and the rest of the channels decode the tone you have set for encode. Channel 1 will hear everything on the frequency, the rest will hear only everything with the correct tone.

    • DEC = Decode (for receiving radio to decode CTCSS/DCS code)
      ENC = Encode (for transmitting radio to encode CTCSS/DCS code)
      If you leave the DEC section empty, the radio’s squelch will open whenever something is transmitted on that particular frequency.

      I presume this is the scenario:
      1x radio which can hear everything (control room)
      6x channels for 6 user groups

      Here are the settings you need to do for all radios (including control room radio)
      Channel 1: Group 1 Frequency+CTCSS/DCS
      Channel 2: Group 2 Frequency+CTCSS/DCS
      Channel 3: Group 3 Frequency+CTCSS/DCS
      Channel 4: Group 4 Frequency+CTCSS/DCS
      Channel 5: Group 5 Frequency+CTCSS/DCS
      Channel 6: Group 6 Frequency+CTCSS/DCS
      The only way for the control room radio to receive all transmissions is to set it on Scan. The only problem I can foresee is that due to the lack of a display screen on the 888S, the user in the control room will not be able to determine which user group he is listening to, unless proper callsigns are used during transmissions.

      Some people may “advise” you to put all radios on the same frequency but different CTCSS/DCS for different user groups, with the monitoring radio having no CTCSS/DCS set. Theoretically, this will work, and one radio can monitor all transmissions without the need to scan, as everyone is transmitting on the same frequency. However, the moment two different user groups tries to transmit at the same time, problems will arise as both are transmitting at the same frequency and hence the other radios will not receive transmissions clearly due to interference (even though both transmissions have different CTCSS/DCS codes).

      Hope this helps.

  52. ok. so I set my radio up like this:
    first radio
    ch1 462.125 ctc/dcs dec 67.0 ctc/dcs enc 67.0
    ch2 462.225 ctc/dcs dec 69.3 ctc/dcs enc 69.3
    second radio
    ch1 462.125 ctc/dcs dec 67.0 ctc/dcs enc 67.0
    ch2 462.225 ctc/dcs dec 69.3 ctc/dcs enc 69.3
    These two radios can communicate on both correct? yes..ok now where im having trouble:
    third Radio
    ch1 462.125 ctc/dcs dec 67 ctc/dcs enc 67
    ch2 462.225 ctc/dcs dec off ctc/dcs enc 69.3
    ch3 246.000 ctc/dcs dec 71.9 enc ctc/dcs
    this radio can still hear and communicate on ch 2 which I do not want it to and ch 3 still buzzes like its locked out.

    • As the CTCSS/DCS decode is set to off, the third radio will hear everything on Chn 2, regardless of CTCSS/DCS set on other radios. (CTCSS/DCS will only filter out transmissions with the same code if DEC is set, otherwise the squelch will open for all transmissions on that frequency, even if the transmitting radio has CTCSS/DCS set)

      The reason why Chn 3 buzzes is because 246MHz is not a valid frequency on this radio. The 888S is only capable of 400-470MHz

    • Also, as the 3rd radio has the same CTCSS/DCS ENC on Channel 2, it’ll be able to communicate with the first 2 radios. If you do not want it to transmit, simply leave the TX Frequency blank

  53. Hi, Hans!…it has been worthwhile reading your posts and very informative, I just bought 2 BF-888S, but would like to know why we should program it?, or is it possible not to program the radios? Thank you very much and warm regards.

    • Without programming the radios would still work. The reason to do this anyway is that the factory-installed frequencies are illegal almost anywhere in the world. At some point in time this will get you into trouble.

      Remember, these radios aren’t legal to operate without a license.

      • Thank you again for the reply and will do so to program the radios as to comply regarding the regulations, this is also for our protection.

        Though we use it when we go to the malls as we have had a very bad experience using the mobile phones as at times inside the mall, there is no signal!…so that is why the importance of having these radios for us….

        This is all for now, nice meeting you, warm regards!….

  54. Hi All,

    I recently bought 2 bf888s radios, programming works, (BF480 software) with kenwood cable (non usb)
    I sofar only have a problem trying to get ctss 118.8 into the radio (it automaticly jumps to 290.0 !!!)

    118.8 is the tone for my repeater, therefor i don’t want to change to another tone…

    I’ve tried different software programs, but none seems to work well.

    Further i find they sound a bit like a tin can, but then for about € 20,- what can you expect!

    Greetings
    John (Netherlands)

    • Hi John,

      when I tried to program these for the first time, I had similar problems. Quote from the article:

      During my first session I wasn’t able to get certain frequencies saved, nor CTCSS codes. This was caused by an incompatibility with the way we Europeans write down numbers. In short: we often use commas where US citizens use periods. The ‘right’ character wasn’t accepted though. After changing the regional settings in XP to ‘US’, the issue was solved.

  55. Hi Hans,

    Thanks for your fast answer,

    I’m a noob when it comes to computers.. (I have set my keyboard to “US (international)” , is that what I should change?
    because even when I select a tone from the pull down menu it ‘ jumps’ to another etting (in my case from 118.8 to 290)

    Thanks (bedankt)

    • Je moet de landinstelling (tijdelijk) wijzigen. Met de landinstelling in Windows, ook wel locatie genoemd, wordt aangegeven in welk land je je bevindt. Hierdoor verandert o.a. de weergave van getallen en valuta, iets waar de BF-480 software gevoelig voor is.

      De landinstelling wijzigen

      1. Open Land en taal door achtereenvolgens te klikken op de knop Start, Configuratiescherm, Klok, taal en regio en Land en taal.

      2. Klik op de tab Locatie, selecteer USA in de lijst en klik op OK.

  56. hi hans,
    i am the noob of noobs as far as radios are concerned, but bought 2 bf888’s coz i wanted to stay in touch when i go trekking or biking with my mates. thanks to everyone here for their valuable information (and problems) and i’ve picked up a few helpful hints. now i’m worried bout what you said on the preset channels these bf’s come in, i don’t wanna get into trouble, and will have to get that sorted out soon. hans, a question, how do you set the scan channel (16) to work? can i do it manually or do i have to use the programming cable and software? – cheers!

    • You can toggle the “scan on 16″ on the radio by doing the following;

      – With the radio off, set to CH16.
      – Hold down the PTT and top orange function button.
      – Switch on the radio.
      – Radio will announce “On/Off” to confirm the setting.

      Regarding frequencies: the factory frequencies are a big no-no anywhere in the world. You need the software to change these. Please remember that this radio is illegal without a license, whatever frequencies you put in. All you can do is make yourself less visible by using PMR (EU) or FRS (USA) frequencies. After that you hope for the best.

      Not every illegal user has been lucky. In 2013 someone got a fine of $30.000 for the illegal use of GMRS frequencies.

  57. oh dear! shuda gotten one of those motorola “5 km/7km/10km/15km” radios from the shelves, but they are so ex. i appreciate the advice and speedy reply, you are obviously the “go-to” person for transmission troubles. thank you hans!

  58. Hallo Hans,

    Ik heb ook 4 BF 888 aangeschaft. Op de portofoon staat dat hij een zendvermogen heeft van 5 watt. Ik verwachtte dan eigenlijk dat hij wel iets verder zou komen dan 1 km. Helemaal omdat de ideale situatie ong. 60 km aangeeft (met externe antenne en vlak landschap) maar dan zou hij in een dorp toch minstens 5 a 10 km. moeten aankunnen?

    • Hallo Nils,

      de BF-888S heeft een uitgangsvermogen van 2 Watt (zie test). Op de porto staat <5Watt (minder dan 5 Watt). Heel verwarrend, dat 'kleiner dan' teken wordt vaak over het hoofd gezien. Technisch gezien liegen ze niet…

      Ook al zou de porto 5 Watt geven, dan kun je daar geen bepaald bereik aan koppelen. 60 Km is kul, dat red je niet eens tussen twee mobiele stations met 50 Watt sets. Een kilometer tussen twee van deze porto's lijkt me redelijk normaal.

      Kortom: over het bereik gaan de wildste verhalen de ronde, en sommige fabrikanten geven een bereik op wat je alleen haalt tussen twee bergtoppen.

  59. So I bought one of these 888s radios on eBay. The auction said they work on VHF 136-174 and put out 5w. I’ve tried to use the CHIRP software but says my 153.8600 frequency is out of the range of the radio. Did the auction seller lie to me? eBay auction # 121244487527

    • If I read the specs down the page: yes, he lied to you. There have never been VHF versions of this radio, let alone dual-band versions.

      Also, the power output is 2 Watts, not 5.

  60. Looking at getting some radios for a non-for-profit festival that has events year round. Can some please enlighten me on if these are UHF Handhelds or if they are ham radios? And if they require a license or just an available channel in the area?

    • They’re UHF radios which can be used with repeaters if the frequency is UHF. There’s no such thing as a HAM radio

    • Any frequency you use these radios on will require a license. Just because a frequency is “available” does not mean it is free for anyone to use. You could be occupying a frequency and therefore drpriving the legal, licensed users, use of the frequency. Look into your country’s communications regulations, and see if there are any license-free services, and then buy radios that operate on said frequencies.

  61. Hello Hans, I purchased a used Motorrola 1550ls with programmed frequencies. I purchased set of 4 boufeng bf888s radio. I noticed the out of the box freq. of the bf888 has a same frequency programmed into the motorolla. The issue I have is motorolla can only received and not transmit .While the bf888 won’t received but can only transmit. I’m still waiting for my software program, can you assist me on how to set up the program on the bf888 so they will communicate on all frequency the motorolla have. I don’t really not how the ctcss works. You think this is the reason why they won’t communicate to each other. I’m sending the radio overseas for use in the farm. Thank you!

  62. need drivers and software to program bf-888s running windows 7 64 bit have no luck from the software the co. sent me and others anything im missing ?

    any hel would be gratly appreciated 73s

  63. Pingback: Very low cost 70cm UHF handhelds | AmateurRadio.com

  64. Pingback: Baofeng / Pofung BF-888S : Un portable UHF à… 10 euros ! | Radioamateurs-France

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