Recently I decided I wanted a new hand held to play with. I wanted something I could carry around without worrying about breaking it, so I ordered a Baofeng UV-3R+ from eBay. This is a small form factor dual band (2M/70CM) that puts out 1W or 4W, it looked no bigger than a pack of cards so it seemed to fit the bill.
Shortly after ordering it I realized I hadn’t got the bundle with the USB programming cable, the radio’s are known for being difficult to program so I started looking for a USB programming cable. It turns out that it was only a little bit more expensive to order a second radio and get the cable free, rather than order just the USB cable itself so I ended up ordering a Baofeng UV-5R+ too.
Both radio’s arrived (one from China and one from Hong Kong) and I’ve had time to use them. The UV-3R+ arrived first, and I was initially quite impressed with it. Its very small, light and does everything you need it to do (this is different from everything you want it to do). The radio feels fairly cheap and is mostly plastic – you know you paid less than £40 for it, the control knob is very cheap feeling and I’d worry that it would be snapped off if I was lugging it around with me all day. The speaker is very loud even on the lowest setting. You can’t store channels with names which is the worst thing about it for me – if you put 30 repeaters in its memory your going to have to remember which one is in each channel.
The LED light seems bright enough and the broadcast FM radio works. As with all Baofeng’s the menu system isn’t the easiest to use and I resorted to programming all the local repeaters with software (CHIRP) and had a quick play with Baofeng’s own software but didn’t think much to it. Overall, the UV-3R+ works as it should, its very small, its very cheap but it does have its down sides.
Yaesu FT-60E and Baofeng UV-3R+ side by side.
The radio that surprised me the most is the UV-5R+. This is much higher quality radio than the UV-3R+. Almost everything about the radio is nice (in my opinion!). The radio feels nice in your hand, the buttons have a nice click to them, the weight makes the radio feel like a good bit of equipment and the display has a quality look to it. The bad points are the speaker doesn’t sound very high quality – its not terrible, but its not as good as the Yaesu FT-60E. On a radio at this quality the broadcast FM, flash light options and alarm seem a bit gimicky, I would actually prefer if these options weren’t on the radio at all. The antenna socket is an female SMA so my existing antenna’s and adapters won’t work. The battery life seems very good so far, its been on for 3 days for around 12-18 hours each day with minimal TX and its still going strong. Overall the radio isn’t as high quality as the Yaesu FT-60E, but its very close. I am sure some proper radio-aficionados will know plenty of reasons why its not a great radio and I’m sure they are correct, but what you can’t get away from is the radio costs less than £40 and is worth every penny.
Yaesu FT-60E and Baofeng UV-5R+ side by side.
I’ve also bought an Diamond SRH805S stubby antenna (all the pictures here have this antenna on, its not the standard one that comes with the Baofengs) for the UV-5R+ and its fits perfectly with that in place the UV-5R+ its going to become my carry anywhere radio. I’ll probably try and use the UV-3R+ as some sort of APRS station. I feel a bit sorry for my Yaesu now, its a great radio but I don’t want to damage it lugging it around in a bag, the SRH805S antenna I got for it doesn’t have a flush fitting so its really just going to be a stay at home handie for now!