A lot of us probably got into ham radio because we had the same fantasy: carving out a little corner of a room, filling it with radio equipment and chatting with people around the world. However, for most of us, we quickly realized that was pretty expensive. I mean really, a few of my good ham friends have spend thousands of dollars on their gear.
And there’s nothing wrong with that! In fact, I think it’s super cool. And most of us would certainly set ourselves up with that kind of gear if we could. But, most of us can’t. Most of us just don’t have a few thousand bucks to throw around.
However, part of the beauty of ham radio, as a hobby, is that there are less expensive options, although many of the less expensive options have historically been cheaply made knock-offs that won’t last you very long and limit your transmission capabilities.
That’s where the Baofeng UV-5r Plus comes in. Price between $30 and $50 at most retailers, it’s really difficult to find a radio that gives you more bang for your buck. Seriously. For what you get, this product could easily be sold for $300 – or even $400.
I don’t want to ruin the suspense of this review, but I’ll just say it now: it really is that good.
Let’s look at some of the data. Warning: long bullet list follows.
- Frequency range of 136-174 / 400-479.995 MHz
- Able to transmit DTMF, CTCSS and PL on both VHF channels and UHF channels
- Operable on several business, amateur and emergency frequencies
- Full LED display
- Large, extended-life lithium ion batteries included
- Weight of 1.2 lbs
- Comes with a 6-month warranty
So, those are some of the essential features, and if you’re anything like me, you probably looked at that and saw a few things you liked. If so, you’re in for a treat because it only gets better from here. Check out a few of the pros and cons of the Baofeng UV-5r+
- The price. Like we said earlier, the price is one of the main selling points for this product. There’s just so much value packed into this thing. It’s honestly amazing. It’s especially cool if you’re just starting out with this hobby. There’s always been a fairly significant barrier of entry for ham radio operators, since good equipment tends to cost a nice chunk of change. With the UV-5r+, you can get an excellent radio for an entry-level price, and there just aren’t many products on the market today that accomplish the same thing
- Battery life. The battery life on the Baofeng UV-5r Plus is very, very good. After unboxing and playing with it all evening, I still had plenty of charge (right out of the box) to play with it all day the next day. The manufacturers claim that the battery life is between seven and nine hours. We actually found it to be a little bit better than that, which is a huge plus. The extended-life lithium ion batteries come charged when you get it, so you can start transmitting right away, and they hold a charge extremely well.
- Size and ergonomics. If you’re buying this radio online, be prepared for it to be smaller than you expect. It’s pretty small. In fact, it’s smaller than a standard iPhone (although, of course, it’s thicker and a bit heavier). So it’s small – small enough to fit comfortably in your pants pocket, antenna included. However, it’s plenty sturdy, and it feels great in your hand. It feels like you’re holding a tool, not a toy, which is pretty important for a lot of ham operators, including myself.
- Accessories. I’m an accessory guy. I just like to get a few add-ons for my toys. The UV-5r+ is compatible with most standard accessories, and most of them are fairly cheap. For example, I purchased a clip-on microphone that was only a couple bucks, and it works seamlessly with this radio.
- Useful LED screen. Plenty of radios have LED screens, but most of them just display standard information and don’t do much else. The LED screen on the UV-5r+, however, shows three different colors depending on the status of the radio: standby, transmit and receive). It’s a little touch, but it’s very handy.
- FM Frequencies. This radio can receive and transmit on FM frequencies.
- Legal. If you’re a licensed Ham operator, you can use this radio on both Ham and LMS bands.
- Performance. Of course, performance is the most important thing for any radio. And, for this one, a lot of the value comes from its performance. For the price, this is arguably the best radio you can buy. It does very well both transmitting and receiving. It’s important to keep in mind that this little radio is still not going to give you the power of a “name brand” radio that costs six times as much; however, it still holds its own against them. We found that it did best on RF frequencies, but it’s good on basically all bands. Occasionally, we found that it did better receiving than transmitting, but it was hardly noticeable. All in all, the performance is stellar for a radio in this price range, and it certainly out-performs its competitors at similar price points.
- The manual. Oh, jeez. This manual was atrocious. It’s confusing, and a lot of information was missing. The radio itself makes up for it, since it is so well-designed and so easy to use. Still, for the absolute beginner, this could get a little frustrating. The radio also comes with some fairly intuitive programming software, which also ameliorates some of that frustration. Just something to be aware of.
- Weirdly glossy case. The case is weirdly glossy. It may appeal to some people, but I tend to like a more tactical look. It’s an easy fix if you’re a do-it-yourself-er. I just hit it with some 800-grit sandpaper and painted it with a matte black paint, and it looks fantastic (if I do say so myself).
- Scanning can be slow. The scanning speed isn’t terrible, but it’ll seem slow if you’re used to faster, top-of-the-line equipment.
- No AM Aircraft band. Most people won’t mind this, but the more fanatical hobbyists may miss this feature.
All in all, this is a fantastic radio. In my opinion, it’s best for (1) radio veterans who want a portable device or (2) beginning Ham operators who want a great first radio to learn on.
Enjoy, and let me know what you think!