Adjusting Baofeng squelch, first results

This morning I re-programmed some Baofeng radios using the latest Chirp Daily Build.

Confirmed to be NOT compatible: firmware BFB231 and BFB251. You need BFB291 or higher. You can check this by powering up the radio while holding the ‘3’ button.

Confirmed, no issues:

Model no: / Firmware version according to Chirp:
UV-82, B82S25,
GT-3, BFS311
GT-3 Mark II, N5R-213 / BFB297
GT-3TP, N5R3401 / BFP3-25
GT-5, B82S25

The actual effect on the squelch varies from model to model. The UV-82 and GT-5 for example stay more sensitive than the Sainsonic GT-3/MKII/TP versions. The latter are nearly deaf at SQ9.

Review Baofeng GT-3TP

GT-3 TPThis is a short review – the Baofeng GT-3TP from Sainsonic is essentially a GT-3 Mark II with some extra power on board. If you didn’t read that review, you might want to do so before continuing.

The radio has the same advantages (good TX audio, good front-end, no rounding down errors when entering frequencies by hand), but there are some differences too.

Display
The LCD of this radio is not of a fancy ‘reverse’ type, but the good ol’ three-color version.

Frequency range
My review sample had an unusual frequency range: 140 – 160 MHz and 430 – 441 MHz. Because my sample came directly from Sainsonic’s head office, I think that this particular radio was originally intended for another region. It’s not really important; if you want a wider range you can set other boundaries by software.

Power output
This is what everyone likes about these radios: more power. A standard UV-5R or GT-3 will deliver around 4 Watts on VHF and 3 Watts on UHF. Note: those few extra Watts won’t help you much if you want to extend your range. Range depends for 99% on other factors, such as terrain and antenna height. The battery will drain much faster though.

Measurements @ 145 MHz and 435 MHz respectively:
VHF: 6.3 Watts (Hi), 4.9 Watts (Mid), 1.9 Watts (Low)
UHF: 5.0 Watts (Hi), 4.5 Watts (Mid), 1.4 Watts (Low)

As you can see the difference between Hi and Mid on the UHF band is very small.

Harmonic suppression
Not really impressive;  especially on UHF.

GT-3TP-VHF

Baofeng GT-3TP VHF

GT-3TP-UHF

Baofeng GT-3TP UHF

Programming with Chirp
The Baofeng GT-3TP can be programmed with Chirp by using the existing support for the BF-F8HP.

ChirpConclusion
The GT-3TP is one of the many ‘triple powers’ on the market. The last one I reviewed was the Intek KT-980HP, and some results are comparable. The Intek did much better on harmonic suppression, but the GT-3TP wins with its receiver and much better antenna.

Bottom line: you will get a nice radio with upgraded chipset, a few Watts more output power, a good antenna and good looks. Buy a spare battery if you intend to use the highest power settings all the time!

Review Pofung (Baofeng) GT-5

This is more a heads-up than a review, because the Baofeng GT-5 is essentially a Baofeng UV-82 in a more modern looking package. In turn the UV-82 was just a bigger UV-5R. Same electronics, same behavior, but fortunately shipped with a much better antenna.

UV-82 next to GT-5

UV-82 next to GT-5

Rumors that the GT-5 would have new features on board, such as a compander, are false.

It didn’t come as a surprise that the Pofung GT-5 can be programmed with Chirp out of the box — just select the Baofeng UV-82 from the list of radios.

Chrip GT-5

Chirp support OK, use UV-82

I still like the old UV-82. Actually I like the UV-82 more now than when the radio was first introduced. The Dual PTT key started to grow on me, for example. At first I argued that it was a rather confusing feature.

I was wrong, you actually start to rely on it. The Dual PTT key is very useful when you have the radio in Dual Standby mode. When you monitor two repeaters, you can hear which VFO becomes active by listening to the CW identifier and start to transmit instantly by pressing the correct PTT button. On other radios you have to check if the correct VFO is active or not.

The extra 1 Watt of power on both bands (5/4 Watts instead of 4/3 Watts) was a bonus, and the larger cabinet improved RX audio a bit (probably a matter of acoustics). The radio’s size is nice, feels solid, and the looks were less toyish.

The first batch of UV-82 chargers really sucked. According to new UV-82 owners Baofeng eventually fixed that. No such mistakes here. While simply constructed, the charger uses wiring to connect the battery to the charger circuitry. Caution: wiring is not color coded, all they use is black.

GT-5 charger Inside

GT-5 charger Inside

The UV-82 was also subject to lies regarding battery capacity. Many batteries were sold as 2800 mAh or even higher, but it quickly became clear that these batteries were ‘mislabeled’. Yup, they were all 1800 mAh, just like the original.

Batteries are not compatible

Batteries are not compatible

Power Output hardly changed:

VHF (145 MHz)
Low: 2.3 Watts
High: 5.2 Watts

UHF (435 MHz)
Low: 1.3 Watts
High: 4.1 Watts

Harmonic suppression
A bit messy on VHF (see marker 2D, third harmonics), not too bad on UHF.

Pofung GT-5 VHFPofung GT-5 UHFGT-5, advantages

  • Reverse LCD (aka Stealth Display) instead of the original three-color one. The backlight color settings are still present in the menu, but don’t do much. By setting menu 29, 30 and 31 to ‘Purple’ you will get the best brightness.
  • Slightly better ergonomics. Some rough feeling edges were traded for smoother ones.
  • The functions printed on the keys have an excellent readability, with or without backlight.
  • I noticed that the injection molding process, used to put information on the keys, improved significantly. The information on the keys doesn’t seem to fade, nor does it wear down as quickly as on other radios. The keys on my first GT-3, which are identical, are still in pristine condition. The information on the keys of my UV-5R and UV-B5 on the other hand disappeared almost completely.
  • Dual PTT key is flat now. It looks better, but provides less tactile feedback.
  • Antenna performs as well as the one supplied with the UV-82. Early pictures suggested that the short, dreaded UV-5R stock antenna would be in the box. Fortunately that’s not the case.

GT-5, disadvantages

  • Battery and charger incompatible with the UV-82.
  • Lack of accessories at introduction.
  • Reverse LCD very hard to read in low light
  • ‘Rounding down’ bug survived in this model; the last digits of a frequency typed in by hand won’t be predicted correctly when the radio is set to 12.5 or 6.25 MHz steps.
  • Holding Menu while switching on the radio in order to switch back and forth from channel mode to VFO mode isn’t the most user-friendly way to do things, but it might help getting the radio Part 90 approved, like the UV-82C.
  • No detectable differences / improvements in the receiver section when compared to the UV-82.

Conclusion
The Pofung GT-5 is a very pretty looking radio; almost everyone I talked to said something along the lines of “Wow”. I have to agree with them. Both TX and RX audio are excellent, the radio performs as well as you’d expect, but unlike the GT-3 Mark II the GT-5 is just an example of old wine in a new bottle.

Would I choose the GT-5 over the UV-82? Yes, mainly for its looks, and assuming there isn’t too much of a price gap between the two models. It’s matter of taste — yet again. I only wished that Pofung had done a better job suppressing harmonics on VHF.

I have no information on pricing yet; so keep an eye on the obvious sources. A removed listing on amazon.co.uk (but still in Google’s cache) mentioned a price of 35 UK pounds. That wouldn’t be bad at all.

New Arrivals: GT-5, GT-3TP, RST599

Doorbell. DHL. Package. Origin: Sainsonic, China. Destination: land of windmills, cheese and tulips.

Contents: Pofung GT-5, Baofeng GT-3 Mark II TP (Triple Power), Sainsonic RST599.

Spoilers:

  • The Pofung GT-5 is clearly based on the UV-82.
  • The Baofeng GT-3 Mark II Triple Power is based on other existing triple power varieties. No reverse LCD on this one, but the original three-color version.
  • The RST599 is clearly unique. The rather extensive menu is partly GUI (Graphical User Interface) with icons and such.
Pofung GT-5

First impression: based on Baofeng UV-82.

GT-3 TP

First impression: based on radios like the Baofeng BF-F8HP.

Sainsonic RST599

First impression: based on…. nothing I recognize or know.

I guess I’ll be having some fun in the days to come.

Review Baofeng GT-3 Mark II

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.

Receiver
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.

RX audio
Typically Baofeng UV-5R – nothing special, but good and distortion-free.

Squelch levels
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.

TX audio
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.

Harmonic suppression
Quite impressive on VHF, disappointing on UHF.

GT-3 Mark II VHF

GT-3 Mark II VHF: excellent.

GT-3 Mark II UHF

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.

Programming cable
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.

Battery life
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.

Conclusion
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.