Since I got my amateur radio license about four years ago I’ve gone through several handheld transceivers. These modern radios offer a great deal of power and flexibility.
One of my favs was the Yaesu VX-3R which I sold to get another radio at the time. But I regret it. The VX-3R was a great little (and I do mean little) radio, I’ll probably at some point buy it again, or a similar upgraded Yaesu. My current favorite handheld is my Kenwood TH-F6A. The Kenwood is bigger than the Yaesu, the former is not much taller but definitely thicker. And the Kenwood is a powerful tri-bander (144/220/440 MHz w/ 5w on all 3 bands). It was wide-band receive, it will pick-up nearly anything (0.01 – 1300 MHz). And it even hears SSB! Recommended.
Anyway … this really is all leading somewhere. Last weekend the three kids and I decided to work a public service event with our local amateur radio club. This would be an all-day event and I like to have a back-up radio or two for things like this. I couldn’t justify spending another $200-$400 on another radio, so I took a look at the recent Chinese models.
After reading a bunch of reviews I settled on the Baofeng UV5RA. It’s a slick little radio and pretty amazing for under $36 shipped from amazon.
[If you plan to do anything at all more than a couple frequencies via simply VFO, absolutely do get the programming cable, and watch out for sketchy knock-off cables, some don't work.]
It comes with the radio, an earpiece, of course a battery, antenna, and a cradle charger. I won’t get into measurements or arcane specs. You can find those all over the Web.
This public service event had us doing a great deal of work every few minutes. My 16 year old son used the UV5RA all day and it was great. We can hit all of the usual local VHF/UHF repeaters with no problem. The display is fantastic and the audio is as good as any other handheld I’ve owned (actually better than a couple).
While customizing the features (you can even choose the display colors for RX and TX) and settings is very easy, programming is tedious. You’ll want the cable for that.
The signal reports I get from people are all perfect. The Baofeng UV5RA would literally be a bargain at twice the price. If you’re looking for a backup or second radio grab one of these without hesitation. The build quality seems be about 80% of the quality of the Japanese radios, but at maybe 10% of the price. You could almost consider them disposable at this price, though they’re much better than that.
Oh, and I used the CHIRP software to program the radio. Free and works well.
Misc. Baofeng UV5RA links & Reviews:
Baofeng UV-5RA Review – Can a Ham Radio Be Any Good?
BaoFeng UV-5RA Quick Review