Review – BTech UV-5X3 TriBand Handheld

by John ‘Miklor
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5X3 front 4UV-5X3
Although the case design is familiar, the radio inside is not.  BTech has recently introduced the new UV-5X3 to the US Ham Radio market.  This radio is a true triband transceiver with internal filters specifically configured for triband operation.The firmware in this radio has been reworked to include several new features not found in similar appearing radios.
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In the Box

Included with the radio are the:
–  1500mAh Li-Ion Battery **
–  85 page User Guide – English
–  Charger base & AC adapter
–  Hand strap
–  Belt clip
–  PTT Earpiece / Microphone
–  Antenna (1) – VHF / UHF  6  5/8″ (16.9cm)   A-V85
–  Antenna (2) –  220 MHz    6  3/4″ (17.4cm)
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** This is the identical battery that is commonly mislabeled as 1800mAh on some handhelds.
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Tri-Band – VHF  220  UHF
The UV-5X3 was specifically designed as a Tri-Band transceiver.  The internal filtering allows not only the traditional VHF and UHF frequencies, but also includes the 222-225 MHz Ham band for the US.
.   5X3 label 2Case Design
The UV-5X3 has the traditional case design, which allows me to use my high capacity  BL-5L  3800mAh battery with no alteration to the base. Accessories such as my mobile battery eliminator, Spkr/Micr, etc. are fully compatible.
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Transmitter
The frequency range is VHF 130-176 / 222-225 / UHF 400-480 MHz, supporting both Wide and Narrowband with 2.5kHz steps.The radio’s filtering scheme allows for full power on all bands. My OTA audio reports have been clean with clear with mellow audio.  Power levels are respectable using a Bird VHF/UHF Termaline.
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UV-5X3 146
MHz
224
MHz
446
MHz
High 5.2 4.2 4.6
Low 1.7 1.6 1.6
     
DTMF / IRLP Access

Something new also appearing on this model is a DTMF gain adjustment, allowing me to adjust the DTMF audio to the transmitter to a comfortable level for both repeater control and IRLP access.
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Tone Burst
If you are in a area that requires tone burst for repeater or network access, the 1000Hz, 1450Hz, 1750Hz, and 2000Hz burst are accessible by pressing the PTT along with one of the four pre-assigned keypad keys.
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Receiver
The receiver sensitivity is excellent, and the audio quality is clear, loud, and undistorted. Along with the 3 TX/RX bands, the receiver also includes the traditional commercial FM radio band. (65MHz-108MHz)
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Tone Scanning – The receiver also has the ability to identify the tone of a repeater being transmitted by a received signal.
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Scan Add / Delete
This feature gives me the ability to add / delete channels from the scanning list using the keypad. No longer a software only function. The more I can do from the keypad, the better I like it.
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Scanning
A Long Press of the [*SCN] button will start the scanning process.Channel Mode – When scanning with the Display Sync set to ON, the upper and lower display will scan together. This is explained below under Display Synchronization.Frequency Mode – When entering Scan, the image below will appear on the screen. Enter the first 3 digits set the range start, the second 3 digits sets the stop.
Example: Entering   146 : 146
Start  the scan range at  146.000
Ends the scan range at  146.999
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5X3 scan rangeAntenna
I found two antennas included with the radio. One was the standard upgraded A-V85 antenna, and a slightly longer one for the 220MHz band.
Antenna (1) – VHF / UHF  6  5/4″ (16.9cm)   A-V85
Antenna (2) –  220 MHz    6  3/4″ (17.4cm)
The separate antenna specifically tuned for 220 MHz is a great addition. The SWR shows 1.3 which is excellent. No compromise. I labeled my 220 antenna, as they are very close in appearance.
220AntLabel.
Display

The radio has a tri-color display, allowing the color options of the blue, orange and purple.  The LCD can be formatted in either of three formats. Choices are Frequency, Channel number, or up to 6 Alpha Characters.
Display Synchronization
The UV-5X3 supports display syncing, which gives ability to track both the upper and lower LCD. I keep mine set to display the channel name in display A, and the frequency in display B. When you change the channel, both the upper and lower displays move together.5X3 sync.
Programming
Manual programming is pretty straight forward once you enter a few channels. A programming guide can be found at Manual Programming with a Menu Definition summary available at Menu Definitions.
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Software  
The software support for the UV-5X3 can be found in the Latest Daily Build of CHIRP. There are a few new options that will be added to the 5X3 in the near future. One is the ability to Stun, Kill, Revive. This gives you the ability to disable your radio remotely.
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3rd Generation Chipset
The new chipset (RDA1846S and RDA5802N) provides reduced AGC switching noise and a low-IF digital audio processor for improved sound quality.
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Programming Cable
The programming cable requires a traditional two pin Baofeng / Kenwood style. There are several cable available. The generic cables may require special drivers, due to the use of cloned chips. For Plug and Play, a cable using an FTDI chip is recommended.cableK2 Conclusion
The UV-5X3 firmware has obviously been reworked to include:
–  Tri-Band Support: VHF/1.25M/UHF
–  D-ANI  (Display incoming DTMF Tones)
–  Synchronized Displays
–  DTMF audio gain level adjustment
–  Add / Remove Channels from Scanning list via keypad (LCD Dot Indication)
–  On the Fly scanning by Frequency Range
–  4 Tone Burst options
–  Remote Stun, Kill, Revive
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It appears that BTech has once again managed to stay one step ahead of the curve. With the 220 MHz ham band operation back on the rise in the US, this radio hit the market at the right time.  Even if 220 isn’t popular in your area, the additional new features still give it an edge over the traditional dual band series.
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More Information:   Miklor.com,  BaofengTech,  CHIRP
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Review – BTech UV2501+220 (Tri-Band)

by John ‘Miklor’

BTech has introduced a low profile Tri-Band Mobile Transceiver to the ham radio marketplace.  It has all options of the UV2501 with the addition of the 220MHz US Ham Band, both transmit and receive.

The +220 is specifically designed for 210-230MHz operation.  This is note worthy for US hams as some models currently advertised as Tri-Band operate in the range of 240-260MHz. Unfortunately, this is not the the range needed for the US ham band, and they are not adaptable to frequencies below 240MHz due to their internal filtering. 
BT25+220L

In the Box
Included with the radio are:
–  Microphone with a 16 button keypad
–  Chrome metal microphone hanger
–  Metal mounting bracket with screws
–  DC power cable with connector
–  USB Programming cable (which was optional)
–  Full 30 page English User Manual (not a pamphlet)

UV2501+220 – Weight:  408 g (14.4 oz)
Size:  98(W) x 35 (H) x 118 (D) mm  (3.8 x 1.4 x 4.6″)

Enclosure
The frame is rugged, with a solid cover and a hefty aluminum heat sink and now includes a cooling fan that draws air from the inside of the radio, not just the heat sink.  I would still be careful mounting the radio in an extremely tight location.  As with any transceiver, it will need room to breath.

The radios are terminated with a standard SO-239 connector.

Transmitter
The +220 includes 210-230MHz transmit capability. My main interest was the 220MHz US ham band, as I have several 220 Ham repeaters within 35 miles from my house. The signal strength and audio reports have been excellent.

–   Power
– The UV2501+220 is rated at 20-25W and holds true to those estimates.

A 13.8VDC power supply was used emulate a standard auto battery.  Running the radio at high power into a Bird Wattmeter for 3 minutes showed no decrease in power. There’s a thermally connected cooling fan in the rear that helps keep the radio at a respectable temperature level. The fan pulls warm air from the radio, not just the heat sink.BT25+220Power

–   Frequency Steps –  Steps range from 2.5 to 25 kHz.
–   Audio Scrambler –  The Audio Scrambler utilizes the voice inversion process. This feature must be activated on two similar radios (Tx and Rx) to be effective. Although the function works properly, check with your countries regulations regarding its use.
 
Receiver
The radio has 200 channel capability with a top end range to 520MHz.  The receiver sensitivity is on par with any mobile I’ve used in the past and there’s plenty of smooth, clear and loud audio.

New Features Added 
–   High / Low Power – Now selectable from the microphone keypad.
–   External Speaker – This is a new addition for the UV2501 series
–   Cooling Fan – Increases the airflow from inside the radio

–   Display SYNC
– An option has been added to allow the Upper and Lower displays be synced, allowing the upper display to show channel Name while the lower displays the Frequency.  Dual channel display (TDR) is still there, but sometimes you just want to display the channel you’re using. Now you have a choice.
–   Memory Mode Lock – The radio can be Locked into the channel mode (MR).
–   Menu Lock – While in the channel mode, the Menu option can be locked out to prevent accidental field programming.
–   Reset Lockout – The Reset option can be locked out to prevent accidental reset. Another nice safety precaution.
–   Auto Power Off – This allows the radio to shut off if the receiver is inactive for a preset amount of time.
–   Dual Watch Delay – allows the receiver to stay on a channel for a preset amount of time before returning to the primary channel after the secondary channel is clear.  You can now select the delay time (up to 50 seconds) before the radio returns to the Dual Watch mode.
–   Squelch Tail Elimination – Eliminates the squelch tail if the station or repeater being received has the same function active.

Microphone
The radio comes with a full function keypad style microphone. Functions include: Menu, Up, Down, A/B, Exit, Reverse, Scan and Lock, and Hi / Lo power selection.
The OTA reports are excellent with plenty of audio, so there’s no reason to shout.  My best results were talking in a normal voice about an inch or two away.

Display
The radio has a tri-color display, allowing color options of the familiar blue, orange and purple.  The LCD colors can be selected to suit your personal preference with a screen size of 1.4″ (3.4mm) wide. The LCD can be formatted in three different formats: Alpha Characters, Frequency, or Channel number.

Programming
Manual programming is pretty straight forward once you enter a few channels. A programming guide can be found at Manual Programming with a Menu Definition summary available at Menu Definitions.

There is a single bank of 200 channels. You can set a channel to be added or removed from the scan list using software.

Software
The software for the UV2501+220 was designed specifically for this radio, due the added features and frequencies.  Prior software is Not compatible with this radio. Loading this software to another radio will Not add new features to that radio.  Use only the software that is designed specifically for your radio.

This software can be downloaded from Miklor.com UV2501+220_Software.
CHIRP software for this radio is currently under development.

Programming Cable
The programming cable is a 1m (39″) USB to 3 pin 3.5mm.  My recommendation is to purchase a cable that utilizes an FTDI chipset, such as the PC04.  It may cost a few dollars more, but it’s plug-n-play.  If a generic cable is acquired, it will more than likely require a backdated driver.  Those drivers can be found at  Cable_Driver

Front Panel Operation
The buttons may be a bit difficult to read in the dark.  There is enough light to show where the buttons are, but not to clearly read them. Fortunately, the microphone keypad is well lit, so programming can easily be done via the keypad.

The 7 buttons are Function, Monitor, Call, VFO/MR, FM Radio, Exit A/B, and Hi/Lo Power.

Up to six Alpha Numeric characters (upper and lower case) can be displayed to identify each channel.

Scanning in the VFO mode allowed me to scan either the VHF, 220MHz, or UHF band.  In the Channel mode, the scan would select any channel in the list regardless of band.

Prior issues resolved
Early first generation radios had a few audio issues that required ‘work around’. After many hours of drive testing with the new +220 series, I can attest to the UV2501+220 having none of the prior issues.  The developer and manufacturer listened and got it right.

Pros
–  No audio issues (base or mobile)
–  Display Synching option
–  Extra features listed above not found in similar models
–  Plenty of power with clean audio
–  Lightweight and durable enclosure
–  More than ample heat sink with heat sink fan
–  Excellent sensitivity and receiver audio quality
–  Small compact size
–  An external speaker jack
–  Added 220-225 MHz for the US Ham Band

Cons
–  Small front panel buttons

Conclusion
For mobile drive testing, I teamed this radio with a Nagoya Tri-Band TB320A and SB-35 NMO mag mount and the results were excellent.  With the added features mentioned above and no issues, this radio was quite an impressive tri-band package.

More Information:   Miklor.com    

Build your Own Programming Cable

by John ‘Miklor’ K3NXU

CP2102j[1] Frustrated with that generic programming cable?
This $2 solution might just be your ticket to sanity.

Let’s See…

You purchased a radio and programming cable, loaded the software, and that’s as far as you’ve gotten. You’re fighting with error messages:
– Radio did not respond
– Could not open COM port
– Run Time Error
and Windows (TM) 10 keeps changing your drivers.

Now you do what many owners do. Put the radio in the drawer to be worked on later. This is like buying a roll-away treadmill and putting it in the closet until the next time you want to exercise. (NOT going to happen)

But wait, yours has the company name and logo right on the cable.
– It doesn’t matter. Keep reading.

There are a few options available, such as an FTDI cable. It’s truly Plug ‘n Play, and costs about $20.

But here’s a project that just might solve the issue for around $2. All you need is a small flat blade screwdriver, a soldering pencil, and a CP2102 board.

CP2102

The CP2102 is a USB to TTL UART chip. What?
Long story short… It’s the same thing that’s in your current cable now, except these work.

CP2102 boards can be found on eBay for around $2 and on Amazon.

Here’s How

Let’s start with that original cable.CP2102j[1]

Take a small screw driver and pry the open the case from the back where the cable enters.
CP2102a
It should only be snapped together.CP2102b
Unsolder the 3 wires connected to the board.  GND is Black, TX is Red, RX is White.CP2102c
Solder the 3 wires to the corresponding terminals on the new board.CP2102g


Note 1:
Some boards may have the TxD and RxD reversed. If it doesn’t work the first time, reverse the two wires. No damage has been done.

Note 2: Some boards have pins on the back requiring small connectors. You can either remove the pins, solder to them, or use the connectors. (Whatever floats your boat.)

Driver

When you insert the new board into the USB port, give Windows a chance to find and load the new driver. Should take about 30 seconds. When it says Driver Found, you’re done.

If the driver is labeled CH340 instead of CP210x in Device Manager, that’s not a problem. Both chips are designed to do the same thing.

But I don’t have a Cable

If you don’t have a generic cable, you can use 2.5 and 3.5mm stereo jacks. Here are the pin outs, and what Jim’s (KC9HI) cable looks like.
CP2102jim CP2102o

 


Cosmetics

If you are adventurous, try retrofitting the new board inside the original plastic housing. This will require a Dremel tool, X-Acto knife, Glue, and some patience, but it can be done.

If the board only has 5 terminals instead of 6, it’s not an issue. You only need GND, TX and RX.

Some come protected with a piece of clear heat shrink over the board so you can see the cool blinking lights.

Note 3: If you are trying to retrofit the board inside an existing shell, the red board below is a bit shorter and easier to fit.          Amazon       eBay
CP2102k
For about a dollar or so more, you can find the same boards in a metal case.
CP2102m

What’s the Advantage

– First and Foremost, it works. Take the radio out of the drawer, program it and have some fun.

– Next, it only cost around $2 to save the generic cable from the trash.

– Very Important – Bragging Rights. Now, when you go to a club meeting and someone says they can’t get their cable to work, tell them they can build their own, just as you did.

I hope you had fun with this project. It’s super simple and very rewarding. I’ve made several and never had a failure. Say goodbye to driver issues.

My thanks to Jim KC9HI for his input on this project

More Information: Miklor.com

Sainsonic GT-3, GT-3 Mark II additional notes

Thanks to a reader in Denmark I ran into a new, undocumented feature present in modern UV-5R varieties which have both a Band and an A/B button. The feature has been confirmed in the GT-3, GT-3 Mark II and the to-be-reviewed GT-3TP, but might be true for recent UV-5Rs also.

1750 Hz and 2100 Hz burst tones
In most parts of the world burst tones were once used to open up repeaters but abandoned in favor of CTCSS.  It’s one of the reasons why I don’t look into that feature too closely anymore; it became sort of irrelevant. Some European repeaters will still open up when a 1750 Hz tone is transmitted in order to stay compatible with older ham equipment.

Without notifying anyone (what’s new) Baofeng added the 2100 Hz burst tone to its bag of tricks. The problem is that this tone is not documented anywhere in the manual, and that they use the Band key to generate 2100 Hz instead of 1750 Hz. So, if you follow the manual, you’ll send 2100 Hz instead of 1750 Hz.

This is what you should do:

  • Ignore the manual
  • press PTT + A/B to generate 1750 Hz
  • press PTT + Band to generate 2100 Hz.

I mailed this to John (Miklor.com) so it can be included in the documentation.

Burst Tones

GT-3 antennas
The SMA thread on GT-3 antennas isn’t very precisely made. You might feel some resistance once every 180 degrees when screwing it on. It’s no biggie an will resolve itself after some use, but worth knowing.

UV-5R ‘reverse’ function oddity
When you have a repeater programmed in one of the memories and assuming you only programmed a CTCSS tone for TX, not RX, you would expect CTCSS to be irrelevant when listening reverse. That’s not the case; your Baofeng will ‘invent’ R-CTCSS on the fly. According to some hams this behavior can also be found on certain Kenwood models.

UV-5R’s latest bug: listen to the beep

When it comes to keeping track of Baofeng / Pofung flaws, the Miklor page is way ahead of me. I only run into newer models by accident, but don’t order them anymore. It’s just too expensive.

The latest UV-5R bug pointed out by John K3NXU involves muted RX audio when the keyboard beep is switched off. Personally I find keyboard beeps very annoying, and always switch it off. No new model for me, that’s for sure…

It’s a bit of a silly bug, created by a sloppy programmer, and never caught by other Baofeng employees responsible for intercepting these things – if such employees actually exist. Let’s face it: the UV-5R is a dirt cheap product, having competent QA personnel on the payroll might not be feasible.

Not the first time
Since its inception the UV-5R had its fair share of bugs, from being off-frequency on receive to muffled TX audio to meaningless squelch levels. Under ideal circumstances bugs wouldn’t be a problem: just update the firmware and you’re fine. Unfortunately this can’t be done: UV-5R firmware can’t be updated afterwards.

If you can’t live with the bug, the only thing you can do is send it back or wait for a new version to come to market. If you bought directly from China, sending back the radio is often more expensive than buying a new one. Basically you’re screwed. Food for thought if you love conspiracy theories: Baofeng does it on purpose!

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