Another Baofeng? Booooring… That’s what crossed my mind when I opened up the box with the GT-3 Mark II inside. Let’s be honest: apart from fancy looking cabinets there hasn’t been much progression.
So, is the GT-3 Mark II as boring as the rest of the Baofeng pack? Surprisingly, it’s not.
Old vs new. The Mark II antenna might have Nagoya roots (NA-666).
Look & Feel
As far as look & feel go, the GT-3 Mark II is still easily recognizable as a Baofeng variety. The orange accents make the radio look more modern, better even, although tastes differ. When compared to the first GT-3 version there aren’t many differences to spot, but the ones you do see are important.
- Belt clip is molded differently, and clamps slightly better.
- The UV-5R stock antenna has been replaced with a Sainsonic antenna specifically tuned to the amateur bands.
It’s no secret that I despise the short UV-5R stock antenna. It’s deaf, and better in converting RF into heat than into radiated energy. If you look at the picture below, you’ll see that the Mark II’s green LED is on, showing that it’s receiving the PI2NOS repeater in Hilversum. The old GT-3 stays silent. That has nothing to do with receiver sensitivity, but everything with the efficiency of the antenna.
Old antenna: no indoor reception. New antenna: good indoor reception.
Now here’s a mystery. The chips used in both the old an the new GT-3 are exactly the same. Both radios are equally sensitive. Performance however is not — the Mark II can cope much better with unwanted (strong out-of-band) signals than the first version. My theory is that the firmware has something to so with it, but I can’t prove it. Whatever the reason, the GT-3 Mark II surpasses the Baofeng UV-B5, although not by a wide margin.
Typically Baofeng UV-5R – nothing special, but good and distortion-free.
No improvements here, and I didn’t expect that anyway. Because the squelch design is based on noise levels, there just isn’t enough room to play with thresholds. The slightest whisper of a router, modem or switch will open up the squelch, even when the squelch is set to the maximum level.
If the squelch would have been based on signal strength, like a Yaesu FT-60 for example, you would be able to set any threshold you want. No such luck with this design.
Here’s the good news: the GT-3 Mark II was not recognizable as the typical Baofeng. Most standard UV-5Rs lack enough punch and, more often than not, sound muffled. All this radio received from other hams were compliments, and believe me, there’s quite a bunch of nit pickers out there.
Quite impressive on VHF, disappointing on UHF.
GT-3 Mark II VHF: excellent.
GT-3 Mark II UHF: disappointing.
Bugs & Flaws
I didn’t ran into firmware bugs. Some old flaws were fixed, such as the ’rounding down’ bug. When set to 12.5 KHz steps, the radio now correctly predicts the frequency you want to enter instead of rounding it down. No ‘listen to the beep’ bug either.
One annoying flaw is actually not the radio’s fault. Most programming cables have a connector mounted under a 90 degree angle, which is not the best way to do things. As soon as the body of the radio is slightly wider than, let’s say, a standard UV-5R, the 3.5mm and 2.5mm plugs won’t go in all the way.
The GT-3 Mark II’s body is wider. As a result the computer never sees the radio. The solution is to trim some plastic from the connector, as described at Miklor.com.
Impressive, really impressive, just like the standard UV-5R. Days go by without the need for recharging, and I’m a heavy duty user. Maximum battery capacity is reached after three consecutive cycles of being drained completely and charged completely, which is typical for Li-Ion batteries. Charging time is about 5 hours.
The GT-3 Mark II does away with some typical UV-5R weaknesses, while avoiding introducing new bugs or flaws. The receiver worked very nice; the front-end clearly improved (although it’s unclear why), and TX audio is great. Harmonic suppression with Baofeng radios always seems to be a matter of hit & miss.
The new antenna performs way, way better than the previous one. It is however a rather delicate design, prone to bend at the base. All in all this radio gets a ‘thumbs up’, and easily takes the #1 spot in the Baofeng product line.