Chinese Radios and Accessories - Starter's Guide

Discussion of Radios and Communications equipment. Baofeng, Motorola, Icom, Yaesu, It'll all be here one day!
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opfor
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Chinese Radios and Accessories - Starter's Guide

Post by opfor » Fri Oct 06, 2017 10:33 am

I went looking to see if I had the old write-up I did on the Baofeng and most of the associated radios, as well as the accessories, tech, and other things needed to make it all work.

This is intended to be a "starter's guide" to how to use these specific radios. I think it's worth putting some time in to do a how-to on the more general topic of radios and radio communications, but that's way out of scope for this discussion.

Some of this is based on my opinions, the rest is based on experience.

Baofeng is kinda the generic term for most of the cheaper chinese made two way radios, these are all excellent starter radios as they are VERY low cost, accessories are cheap, and they are commonly available on amazon and ebay. There is also a very large support base who can answer almost any question you might have. For the new user, they are perfect. All of the Baofeng radios are dual band, typically transmitting between 137-174mhz on the VHF high band, and 400-520mhz on the UHF band. This covers the 2m (144-148mhz), and 70cm (420-450mhz) amateur radio bands. However, they also cover the MURS (151-155mhz), FRS/GMRS (462-467mhz) bands. However while not being "type approved" for transmitting on these bands, they will listen to them just fine. MURS is an unlicensed band, as is FRS, however GMRS requires a license but for a handheld mobile radio these regulations are seldom enforced.

Models:

There are two "common" models, for the discussion here, I'm going to break them down into UV-82, and UV-5R. The main difference between these two radios is the case style. There are some advantages to both, from what I understand the UV-82 has better electronics, it has a dual PTT (Push to Talk) button that allows you to simultaneously listen to two frequencies and key up on each as need arises. This is a very cool feature.

The UV-5R family (UV5R, 5+, BF-F8, BF-F8HP etc) share a common square case despite the wide diversity of models. Some of the newer units (F8, F8HP) have better electronics, and transmit at higher power levels, this translates into more range and better signal quality.

Here's an image of the UV-5R in a variety of colors:
Baofeng.png
Baofeng.png (322.92KiB)Viewed 521 times
The major advantage to the UV-5R is it's common case family, this means as you upgrade radios you can simply swap your accessories onto the new radio. This becomes especially important when you invest in extra battery packs, extended batteries and the like. The UV-5R and UV-82 share antennas, microphone connectors, and programming cables. I believe there is a special hand-mic for the UV-82 that allows you to take advantage of it's dual-PTT.

Accessories

If you're thinking about taking up a Baofeng to keep local comms open, it's an excellent option, but to really get the most out of these radios. Lets cover some basics:

* Antenna - The stock antenna that comes with most radios is perpetually it's weakest link, some radios do come with very good antennas (BF-F8, UV-82), the original UV-5R antenna was a special kind of garbage, and not only didn't work well, but was prone to breakage.
* Extended Battery - Unlike many radios on the ham radio market, the Baofeng does an excellent job in coming with a lot of battery. The 1800mAh packs the radio comes with by default will usually cover a solid day of use. The extended 3800mAh packs usually last 3-5 days of low to average use.
* Hand Mics/Headsets - There are a lot of these on the market, any of the Baofeng headsets/hand mics are cross compatible with Kenwood radios and have two pins. The UV-82 can accept a model-specific hand mic, which has two PTT buttons, replicating the setup of the UV-82 itself.
* Programming cable - This is a must, thankfully, you should only have to buy one. Baofeng cables are usually $5-20, however nearly all of them use a counterfeit FTDI or Sabrent USB->Serial driver chip, and getting drivers working can be a bit annoying. I will make the drivers available somewhere for download.

* Software - There are direct downloads of the Baofeng model-specific software, and it is rarely needed for certain things, however CHiRP has made itself the default application for programming these radios.

Shopping List

I've been toying around with the idea of setting up affiliate links with amazon as a means of funding the forum, I'm going to get that ball rolling relatively soon, and I'll post some "kits" for people who are interested.
OPFOR - Moderator of the Moderated.

arclight
Operator
Posts:34
Joined:Thu Oct 05, 2017 5:31 pm

Re: Chinese Radios and Accessories - Starter's Guide

Post by arclight » Sun May 13, 2018 5:22 pm

The #1 item on the list for our SAR team is a 2m telescoping antennas. These can enable you to get a message out when everyone else is in the dark. The premium ones are from Smiley Antennas in San Diego:

http://www.smileyantenna.com/product-p/14610.htm

There are also cheap knock-offs on eBay. You can get a 5-pack for about $30 if you are willing to wait 5-55 days to receive it. Look for "5/8 wave telescoping antenna."

Arclight

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