Baofeng UV-5R

An extraordinarily good value radio.  Musings by @gw0tqm.


There are good information pages for this radio, I recommend especially the RadioReference Wiki and the Miklor page by KI3NXU

Having purchased a plug in charger for an ICOM ID-51e earlier in the year, I was surprised to see the Baofeng dual band 2m and 70cm, 4watts, wide frequency -including marine band but not air band, FM broadcast included, scanning, FM with keypad and CTCSS tranceiver, with whip antenna, Li+-ion battery, belt clip and plug in charger - for less.  The speaker/mic socket supports Kenwood attachments and is the point of contact for the cloning cable.

I bought it out of curiosity.  I have recently returned to amateur radio after a second prolonged gap when I discovered DSTAR and DMR.  (Previously it was discovering packet radio that dragged me back into the fold)

Unboxing and appearance.

Tiny box!  Well packed (but it has come a long way - delivery took ten days, I was led to expect 28).  Included is the radio, sma helical antenna (like DMR and commercial radios the UV-5R has an sma-m male on the radio, needing a sma-f on the antenna).

sma male

It's tiny.  Not much bigger than a 10 pack of cigarettes the radio is very solid and properly molded - there is nothing cheap or ill fitting about it and the Li-ion battery snaps on very positively.  The plastic has a hard inflexibility to it compared with other radios I have from Alinco, Kenwood and Icom, which makes it look brittle - but so far I have no evidence to suggest that it is.  Dropping it seems uneventful to date.

The belt clip has to be attached with two already fitted 'Phillips' type cross screws, rather than the more usual type of snap-in fitting, but I'm not going to fit it as this is a highly pocketable device, and that's where it will live.

front panel

The radio is switched on with the volume control top right.  On powering up there is a two line screen and a chinese (or thereabouts) accented voice announcing in english the radio is in frequency mode as opposed to channel mode.  Removed via a menu option.


Menu button

The MENU button brought up a large list of options that allowed me to do a full reset which seemed sensible until the radio began to speak in chinese. 

MENU - calls up the menu.  The UP/DOWN keys navigate the menu options. The MENU key then selects that option and the UP/DOWN keys change the setting.  press MENU a third time to get back to menu explore mode.  EXIT does what is expected.  After a few seconds of inactivity MENU mode cancels itself anyway.


Front panel has a keypad - with a * and # key in unusual places.  The bright blue A/B key switches between two VFO frequencies or two selected memories (but the radio only has one tuner - so although you can see both A and B frequencies, or indeed memories, only one at a time can be used.) The keys are 'clicky' and positive to use.  They don't look like the graphics will rub off as has happened on my Kenwood TH-d7e.  The VFO/MEM button is bright orange and switches both lines of the display from VFO to MEM mode and back.

Side buttons

On the left side is 1) the large PTT button,which does what you would expect.  2) a MONI button which lifts the squelch if you hold if for a couple of seconds, but press it briefly and a bright white LED (torch) lights on top of the radio. Press it again and the LED flashes - well might be useful on a hillside or something.

FM Broadcast

3) An orange CALL button - pressing once briefly turns on an FM broadcast receiver (tuned with the UP/DOWN buttons in 100KHz steps as well as allowing direct keyboard entry) which lacks any squelch (like regular FM radios, so is noisy to tune).  There are no memories but the last frequency tuned is retained on switch off.  Enter a low frequency and hold SCAN to search from FM stations in sequence.

Alarm call (sort of)

Press the CALL button for a few seconds and a siren sounds as the LED flashes AND it transmits...... seriously.

mic socket

The Kenwood style mic/speaker socket

On the right there is a waterproof cover with a 1.5mm speaker socket and 3.5mm mic socket which is just the wrong way around for a cheap earphone.  Ah well.  A headset is supplied with mic and over ear speaker anyway, and I gather the broadcast radio mutes if a signal is received on the VFO/memory. This same socket is used for connecting the radio to a USB socket on a PC for programming the radio and storing settings. 

I ordered a cable (which didn't come with the radio) and software came with it for a whole pile of radios, so I shall look into that in due course.  The cable does use the 'kenwood' format plug but I assume there is circuitry in there too as using the ear and mic socket for data exchange is a bit unusual especially as it terminates in USB at the PC end. (Since writing this I have discovered that the Icom IC-880 radio also cloned/programmed by it's speaker socket.

The BAND button flips between VHF to UHF - and nothing else. Given the other buttons was expecting more maybe!


The scan function is started in memory mode by pressing and holding * when all the memories that has scan set will be scanned, on my radio, five channels per second, taking about half a minute if you set all the memories to scan.

Memories loaded from the software default to scannable.  Memories added from the keypad default to 'skip' (i.e. the scanner will ignore them).  You cannot change the scan settings from the keypad and must load the settings into a PC to amend them. Oddly.

Select scan in VFO mode to scan everything.  The alternative scan type function is setting Menu item 7 (TDR) to ON.   When done, this puts a tiny S on the display just above the first digit of the upper frequency display.  Whist S is visible the radio is flicking between the upper A and lower B display frequencies and will stop on a busy one.  The * scan function disables the 's' function.  The A/B button manuall selects A or B as indicated by a small black triangle to the left of the relevent frequency display.  If when monitoring A and B the squelch opens on the unselected frequency, you can tell as the selected triangle remains, but the 'active' triangle flashes.


Memory mode is indicated by a tiny channel number on the right hand side of the display.  Unprogrammed channels cannot be selected by the UP/DOWN buttons.  Holding an UP/DOWN button scrolls more rapidly.

The left button is UP and the right DOWN.  This seems logical unless you are used to radios which tune from left to right, low to high.  It would feel better to have down on the left. Maybe that's just me.

Memory Mode

The radio is far better used in memory mode, and the memories much easier to program via the PC.  The keypad lets you jump to a memory directly by entering three characters 003 for memory three for example.

External software

The software I have is a primitive looking but logical to use spreadsheet style arrangement showing 128 memories as a grid.  You type in the values and then write them to the radio.  You can save the file to the PC also and read settings from the radio as well.  Selecting english in the software seems to set english voice in the radio. (Its menu item 14 by the way and menu items can be directly jumped to from the keypad too).  The software (available in 32 or 64 bit) says it needs firmware BFB291 or later.  (The radio firmware is not upgradable).

Radio version

On my radio powering up with the 3 key depressed displays BFB297 which according to Jim KC9HI means the version is at least BFB297 but may be higher.

The PC software lets you add a six character name to a memory and then chose between memory number and name or memory number and frequency displayed for the memory channels.

Setting A to memory number and frequency and B to memory number and name gives the best of both worlds -since only one can be used at a time anyway.

However its probably more helpful to use the frequency display if you will use lots of frequencies and the name function if you will stick to half a dozen channels.  You can of course type the frequency into the name slots giving you a mixture of both as you tune.


The microphone is designed to be operated very close to the mouth.


You cannot beat this kind of value, because the radio cost less then ten percent of other hand-helds I have purchased. Essentially it would need to be ten times poorer to be worse value....


The single frequency operation: - whilst hardly a problem you do miss the option of monitoring two channels at once.

Scanning is basic:-  you scan all the 128 memories (30seconds a full sweep) or nothing. You CAN lock most of the memories out of the scan, but you have to do that from a PC not the radio so you can't refine your choice whilst travelling.

Programming memories:- from the keyboard is laborious but doable. Tuning the band is fiddly and a QSY is likely to need two hands for all but slight shifts.


Cost - you get a dual band hand held radio, with scanning, antenna, charger, broadcast FM, cross band operation, and a built in torch!  It's at a relative cost that means you could take it gardening or to the beach without worry. 

The small form factor makes it a go anywhere radio that can live in a glove box or pocket 'just in case'.  Who doesn't need a spare and compact monitor receiver that has FM broadcast onboard.  My QTH is poorly located but I still have a UHF repeater, DMR repeater and AllStar node to monitor outside of the calling channels. This little beauty may feel limiting if it was your first or only radio, but as a means of keeping in touch witg the club, taking a radio shopping or on day trips it's amazingly good.

The torch :- The Yaesu FT1XD has a pretty useless, dim LED accessible deep within menus, this radio has a blinding white LED (with a flash option) that is a usable - rechargable- waterproof torch at the touch of the MONitor button.

Broadcast FM:- works well, unlike phone FM radios you aren't scrabbling around for a headset to act as an antenna.



31.1.16 14:30 Ok, just had my first QSO - with a Californian station driving to work - via AllStar on 2m (the node is about 2 miles away).  Good report granted it was from a mobile, but here is something - this little radio gets HOT.  The lower centrimetre of the whip gets very hot indeed.  I have screwed it in a bit tighter and I shall check the power output later (I'm told they run 3to4 watts).  I also discovered that there is a time out programmed - I hit it and my radio TOLD ME that I had been speaking for too long...ok well thats better than a beeeeeeep.  :)

Miklor website (KC5FI) has lots of info for UV-5R users- essential reading

so50 image amsat

Since the UV-5R will transmit crossband, you can set it up for the satellite SO50 (amsat site) although it's a bit under powered ideally.  Unusually the radio supports 2.5kHz tuning steps so nine SO50 channels gives good compensation for 70cm doppler shift and even 2.5kHz shift at AOS and LOS on 2m.  G6LVB supplies the details.

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