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

Review Baofeng FF-12P (UV-5X)

Probably because Baofeng is running out of letters (although I didn’t see the Baofeng UV-5Y or Z yet), there’s a new numbers game in order. The FF-12P is essentially a UV-5X and my sample came in…. silver.

Baofeng FF-12PThe radio houses the latest chip set and firmware. Pressing various keys confirm this: pressing ‘0’ for a bit more than a second shows the battery voltage, pressing PTT + Band generates 2100 Hz, PTT + A/B generates 1750 Hz, and PTT + VFO/MR generates 1450 Hz.

The display is of the inverse type, the antenna the short one we all learned to hate, “FF-12P” is printed on both the left and right side of the radio. Batteries / accessories aren’t compatible with the standard UV-5R. While I could find enough suppliers of the FF-12P and UV-5X, not a single one appears to sell spare batteries or any other accessory.

Charger / battery combination
I wasn’t able to charge the battery at first, because the battery and charger don’t match: the two indentations of the battery prevented it from being inserted in the charger. After scraping away enough plastic in the charger I got it to fit.

CHIRP
CHIRP recognized the radio as being a UV-5R and squelch thresholds could be modified without a problem.

Scanning
A clip on YouTube suggested that the UV-5X / FF12P scans faster. This proves to be true: the FF-12P outperforms all other Baofeng radios I own, including the GT-3 Mark II. Scan speed is about 5-6 channels/sec.

Transmitter

Frequency accuracy of the sample: +2 Hz on VHF, -11 Hz on UHF.

Power output VHF: (@ 145 MHz): 4.1 Watts (high), 1.7 Watts (low)
Power output UHF: (@ 435 MHz): 3.6 Watts (high), 1.8 Watts (low)

TX Audio: Bright and loud. Very nice.

Harmonics: the usual peaks on VHF and UHF. Still not very impressive.

UV-5X_FF-12P-VHF
UV-5X_FF-12P-UHF

Receiver

RX Audio: good.

Front-end: surprisingly good, just like the GT-3 Mark II. Nice.

Sensitivity: -127 dBm (VHF), -125 dBm (UHF). These are good numbers.

Conclusion
The FF-12P aka UV-5X is the typical Baofeng: value for money, but not without its flaws. Harmonic suppression is a mixed bag and the lack of accessories is a potential problem.

The fact that I had to modify the charger to make the battery fit is a dumb factory mistake. The short stock antenna just doesn’t want to die — put a few bucks aside to buy a better one.

The positive side of the radio is the good receiver, good TX audio and faster scan speed. And, if you care about such things, it comes in shiny SILVER!

Baofeng Tech teaser unveiled

From the moment Baofeng Tech posted their teaser, I’ve been in contact with Todd, Managing Director of Baofeng Tech and now Anytone Tech.

Basically I’ve known all along what was going on, but promised not to publish or share any information before a certain date: February 23, 00.00 UTC. It’s common practice to sign an NDA in such a case, which I did, and something I will always honor to the letter.

Anytone Tech

Over the course of some e-mails Todd explained what will change and why.

There are some changes coming. Although we do not have intentions of quitting Baofeng, we are moving to partner with another manufacturer closer. I believe you are familiar about them and have posted about them before – their name is ‘AnyTone’. AnyTone has a much larger R&D lab and we already have four models lined up with many modifications we proposed.

So on this note – we are not abandoning Baofeng, but instead are pursuing bringing higher class but affordable models to the market.  I hope you will not be upset over this transition – and we have some more details to follow.

During our work with AnyTone we have insured that chip sets cannot be replicated in different cases across US import (we have not negotiated on European markets yet, but will once we solve the logistics.) This not only protects vendors promoting the radios, but also the consumers from confusion. The long story short – a different case will always mean a truly different radio and not just a replication of a two-year old radio.

Two models will be dual certified for USA Part 95 and Part 90, they will have a MURS and a GMRS mode for use (Kenwood made a 90/95 model), but these will be the first models to have 90/95 and amateur usage, making it the most legal flexible radios. These features are mainly for North American users; if you follow prepper (aka survival) blogs this is one of the most heated debates for using Baofeng radios.

  • Two radios will have upgradeable firmware – a win for all,
  • Two radios will have NOAA weather alerts – a feature for USA customers,
  • Two radios are IP53 certified and they were production units, not modified samples for the lab,  and rated weatherproof rather than water resistant,
  • One radio will be able to cross-band repeat and be a full duplex unit,
  • Co-operation with the developers of CHIRP.

Click here for the models Todd is talking about.

 MODEL The “Annihilator” The “Instigator” The “Obliterator” The “Terminator”
  ANILE-8R (single band) NSTIG-8R OBLTR-8R TERMN-8R
Power Output (watts) 1, 5 1, 5 1, 2, 5 1, 2, 5
Wide Band / Narrow Band 25KHz / 12.5KHz 25KHz / 12.5KHz 25KHz / 12.5KHz 25KHz / 12.5KHz
Speaker 1 watt (1000mw) 1 watt (1000mw) 1 watt (1000mw) 1 watt (1000mw)
Channels 16 Channel 200 Channel 200 Channel 200 Channel
Battery 1300 mAH 1800 mAH 2200 mAH 2200 mAH
TONES        
CTCSS / DCS YES YES YES YES
DTMF / ANI YES YES YES YES
Stun Kill Feature YES YES YES YES
Call Tones        
2 Tone / 5 Tone     YES YES
Pager Function (2 Tone Page)     YES YES
MSG (Private MSG) – 5TONE     YES YES
MSG (Private MSG) – MSK       YES
MSK       YES
TX /RX        
136-174 YES YES YES YES
400-480 (Expand to 520) YES YES YES YES
FHSS (Frequency Hop)       YES
RX        
FM   YES YES YES
AM       YES
SW: 2.3-30MHZ       YES
MW: 0.52-1.71Mhz       YES
Transmit / Receive Style        
Single YES      
Dual Standby   YES YES  
Dual Receive       YES
Certifications        
Part 90 YES YES YES YES
Part 95     YES YES
Channel Options        
16 Channel YES      
200 Channel   YES YES YES
Memory Banks     YES YES
2 Group VFO     YES YES
Scan Options        
Channel Scan YES YES YES YES
Frequency Scan   YES YES YES
Channel Skip on Scan (Select by Display)   YES YES YES
CTCSS Scan   YES YES YES
DCS Scan   YES YES YES
Normal / Fast Scan     YES YES
Priority Scan YES( set by programming software)      
         
Additional Modes        
Work Mode: Disable Menus / Frequency by Software YES YES YES YES
NOAA Weather with Alert: 7 pre-programmed NOAA channels, monitor or set for alert (monitor in background while on frequency)     YES YES
MURS MODE – 5 pre-programmed channels. User can only modify CTCSS, DCS (tones)     YES YES
GMRS MODE – 15 pre-programmed simplex GMRS channels, 8 pre-programmed repeater (duplex) GMRS channels. User can only modify CTCSS, DCS (tones)     YES YES
Additional Features        
Flashlight YES YES    
Secondary Knob     YES YES
Squelch (Carrier/ Tone) YES YES YES YES
Squelch Tail Elimination (Program Select 120/180/24) YES YES YES YES
VOX YES YES YES YES
Talk Around Function YES YES YES YES
Reverse Function (Repeater)   YES YES YES
Programmable Side Keys YES YES YES YES
Dual PTT (programmable)   YES YES YES
Black Side Buttons YES YES YES  
Orange Side Buttons       YES
Cross-Band Repeater       YES
UPGRADEABLE FIRMWARE     YES YES
Pictures:

AnytoneTech-1

AnytoneTech-2

Beware of false claims

On quite a few pages belonging to UV-5R sellers you will run into the following claim:

FM storageUnfortunately this is not true: no UV-5R, UV-82, nor any of their countless varieties, can store FM stations. All you can do is set one default frequency. To make sure I didn’t miss something, I checked with the people behind Miklor and Chirp. They confirmed my suspicions.

If you want to store FM stations, buy a Baofeng UV-B5/B6 (room for 16 FM stations) or the Sainsonic RST599 (room for 20 FM stations). A RST599 review will be posted shortly.