Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Baofeng UV-5R+

After hearing several people talk about these new, extremely affordable, Chinese ham radios, I had to get one for myself.  Several of the people I know bought one of the Wouxun radios.  These look nice, but I decided to try the latest model from Baofeng (pronounced "bow-fang"... I think).  I purchased the UV-5R+ from Amazon for under $50.  Since we have an Amazon Prime membership, the two-day shipping option was free.

So after reading through the "owner's manuel" (their spelling, not mine), I still have a ton of unanswered questions.  Fortunately, while I was waiting for the radio to arrive I stumbled upon "The (Chinese) Radio Documentation Project"; the project's objective is to create better alternatives to these owners manuals.  Luckily for me, the first manual that the project took on is for the Baofeng UV-5R.

The first thing I learned was to make use of the programming cable (sold separately) along with CHIRP: an open-source (free as in speech) and free (as in beer) utility to program many different radios.  CHIRP really deserves its own review which I will likely write very soon - it is an incredibly useful application.  My favorite feature so far, is its ability to import repeater info based on queries sent online.  For example, I had it import all of the 2 meter and 70 centimeter repeaters in Pulaski County, Arkansas.  Three clicks... done.  Once you query for the repeaters that you want in the memory (or manually enter them through the spreadsheet-like interface), all you have to do is send it to the radio through the programming cable and you're all set.

The UV-5R has several features that I hadn't yet seen in any other model, such as:
  • Audible speech menus comes standard (both English and Chinese)
  • Changing the backlight color (purple, orange or blue) based on certain conditions (receiving, transmitting, default)
  • Alarm
The alarm is an interesting feature.  As you can see in the video below, you can optionally set the alarm to transmit a DTMF tone.

You might have picked up on the fact that the gentleman in the video said that there's no way to change what tones are sent when you use this feature, but here comes CHIRP to the rescue.  In addition to making memory management easy, CHIRP allows you to configure several of the radio's settings that you won't find in it's menu.  I decided to set the alert tones on my radio to the DTMF command that brings up our weather net on our local Skywarn repeater.  I'll see later whether or not that's useful (or a good idea).

So far I'm very impressed with this dual-watch, 128 memory, dual-band radio.  If anyone out there has any questions about it, please email them to me at N5JLC at CAUHF dot org, or simply comment on this post at  I'll update this post with any questions I receive. So if you are interested, check back for updates.

Until next time, 
Joshua Carroll, N5JLC