The brand iRadio didn’t ring any bells at all. Then again, nor did Wouxun or Baofeng at first. Chinese brands are often quite meaningless anyway: in Taiwan this particular model is sold as Great King D-500 (thanks Walter). Whatever sticker someone attaches to the cabinet, the radio looks nice.
In terms of bells and whistles the iRadio UV-588 is a rather basic dual band / dual watch radio. The first thing you’ll notice is the lack of DTMF and a 1750Hz burst tone. The latter is becoming less and less important in Europe as most repeaters switched to CTCSS instead. There are still a number of repeaters left which require 1750Hz to open them up though.
No fancy multi-colored displays like we know from the Baofeng UV-5R and Puxing PX-888K either. Just amber (orange, if you will). It’s my favorite back light color anyway, so I’m not complaining. I love the backlit keypad.
On top we find the antenna connector (SMA male, like the UV-3R), a rotary encoder and the on/off/volume pot. The rotary encoder is used for navigating menus and changing frequencies. There are no up- and down buttons. At the left we find PTT, monitor and alarm. The last button also switches on the back light when pressed momentarily. At the right we find the usual Kenwood compatible 3.5mm / 2.5mm combination for connecting programming cables and speaker microphones.
The battery is rated 1800mAh and my impression is that this might be quite accurate. Battery life floats somewhere between the unbeatable Baofeng UV-5R and the more energy hungry Baofeng UV-B5. Charging takes about 6 hours. The table top charger is light weight, but looks quite sturdy. The wall wart is not of the switching type but a linear one, hence a bit bulky. My version is only suitable for 220-240 Volts AC. I like those conventional power supplies because they don’t produce any interference.
When it comes to saving energy the UV-588 is smarter than most other radios. If the battery voltage drops below a certain level the radio will automatically switch back to low power; if the voltage drops even more a red LED will start to flash. In the end a “LOWBAT” message will appear in the screen and transmitting will become impossible. The receiver will still work though.
The Baofeng UV-5R and the iRadio UV-588 are nearly identical in size. The iRadio body is definitely more ergonomically shaped than the UV-5R, and the rotary encoder improves ease of use considerably. The radio weighs only 205 grams (including battery and antenna).
As usual most memories are filled up with all kinds of strange and illegal frequencies. Instead of deleting/overwriting them by hand, I used the ‘Reset’ function instead. Just hold the Function key while switching on the radio and press Function key a few times more. The second thing you want to do is get rid of the beep. Not only is the beep annoying, it also causes the HT’s responsiveness to slow down to a crawl.
Different radios use different ways of programming and menu access, so I picked up the manual to get acquainted with the radio. If you’re no seasoned ham you will be left with a lot of questions – the manual suffers from poor spelling and grammar. Even the text on front page is one big riddle. With some patience you will be able to figure it all out though. You can download the manual in PDF here.
As it turns out the top VFO is exclusively VHF, and the bottom VFO exclusively UHF. You can’t flip bands around, as is often the case with other radios, but you can switch off one VFO if you want to work on one band only.
There are 33 menus, 7 of which are only accessible via the keyboard. Those 7 menus are the most used ones, such as power output, frequency step, repeater functions and CTCSS/DCS settings. This setup makes more sense to me than doubling existing menus.
As said before, TX audio is close to perfect: nice punch, bright and free of distortion. Power output was as follows:
VHF low: 2.2 Watts
VHF high: 4.1 Watts
UHF low: 2.0 Watts
UHF high: 3.1 Watts
No surprises here, but the promised 5 Watts aren’t there – again. The stock antenna does a good job, replacing it with a perfectly tuned Nagoya NA-701 didn’t improve range nor reception. This is a good thing; no need to shop around for something else.
After all the good news above I almost thought we had a winner, but fate decided otherwise. Harmonic suppression can’t match the UV-5R or UV-B5 and ends up in the category “Disappointing”.
My first impression was that the receiver of this HT matched the Baofeng UV-B5.
After some extensive tests this conclusion still stands. Depending on the circumstances there are some minor differences in behavior, but I can’t point out a clear winner.
*Update* Under more challenging conditions, the Baofeng UV-B5 still wins the competition.
In spite of all this I still can’t connect either of these HTs to my outdoor antenna without overloading the front end. Your mileage may vary; my QTH is one of the worst RF-polluted places in the world.
There are 64 memory positions for VHF, 64 for UHF and 25 for FM radio stations. Programming is easy: select a frequency, press Function, select a channel and press V/M. Parameters such as power output and narrow/wide settings are stored too. After initial programming you can add 6-character long alpha tags by using menu 13 (NM SET). Memory positions can be overwritten without having to delete old contents first. Existing alpha tags will stay untouched.
With a speed of only 2 channels/sec this option is pretty useless. You can speed things up a bit by scanning the most important frequencies only. Menu 2 (SCANADD) will do the trick.
Bugs & Flaws
Only one: the ‘Roger Beep’ doesn’t work. While audible through the speaker, the tones aren’t transmitted. Please don’t fix this bug!
If it weren’t for the disappointing harmonic suppression, this radio would end up at the top of sub $50 radios. In all other respects the iRadio UV-588 is an excellent, well designed radio. No frills, no thrills, but doing what it’s supposed to do.
Price: $ 49.98 (including shipping). Merchant: Vitai Two-way Radio.