The Baofeng UV-5R is a great entry-level, VHF/UHF dual-band radio. There really is no better value on the market right now.
Nowadays, new ham radio operators will test the waters for the first time with something affordable. Right now, you can get a Baofeng UV-5R for around $25.
This was actually the first radio transceiver I ever bought. Because of it, I am now a licensed amateur radio technician. I bought it on a whim, and it opened a new world of learning and experiences for me.
Many older hams like to make fun of the Baofeng UV-5R because of its cheap price tag and components that can’t match up to what is in their $500+ rigs. However, for $25, you can throw one of these in your house, car, and bug-out bag, along with upgraded whip antennas, and still only pay a fraction of the price of the bigger, more powerful, name-brand radios.
Baofeng UV-5R Range and Power
The base model Baofeng UV-5R transmits at 4 watts of power. This might not sound like much, but most experienced radio operators know that the antenna type and antenna height are key to maximizing range.
There are even contests where amateur radio operators try to communicate as far as possible with someone else using as little power as possible. In many cases, they use well under 1 watt of power to transmit vast distances. So, 4 watts is plenty of power for most situations.
I’m able to clearly hit a repeater that is 20 miles from me straight as the crow flies. I pick up the station flawlessly and transmit clearly. I do this from the second story of my house with a roll-up J-pole wire antenna hanging from a bookshelf (classy, I know). I am going to locate some other repeaters even further from me and do some test contacts to see if I can push the Baofeng UV-5R to its limits.
With the basic rubber ducky antenna the Baofeng UV-5R comes with, I can still communicate with the repeater. Although the quality isn’t as clear. I highly recommend spending a couple of extra dollars and buying either an extended whip antenna or a roll-up J-pole wire antenna that you can hang somewhere.
If you are hardcore, you can get a more permanent base station antenna and mount it to your roof or a pole. Many people put base station antennas like this inside their attic because of HOA requirements.
Baofeng UV-5R Frequencies and Bands
The Baofeng UV-5R is a dual band transceiver that operators in the VHF and UHF bands, or 136-174 Mhz and 400-480 Mhz, respectively.
In the United States, the FCC requires anyone transmitting in the VHF or UHF bands to have their Level 1 Technician license. This is super easy to get. A quick search will tell you where and when the next exam is in your area. Just bring $15, a calculator, a pen, and a pencil. Also, go to the ARRL website and look through the questions and answers for the exam a few times beforehand.
There are rumors out there that this radio can be tampered with to allow you to communicate outside of those bands. I will not get into that in this review.
Baofeng UV-5R Programming
By far the easiest way to program your Baofeng UV-5R is with a special USB cable adaptor and software called CHIRP. Once you have the CHIRP software installed and interfacing with your radio, just make a list of the frequencies you want. You can program detailed information like CTSS, DCS, or offset if a station requires it. Many repeaters do require at least an offset, so check on Repeater Book for information on the repeaters in your area.
One of the coolest parts about CHIRP is that you can do proximity searches for repeater stations in your area and automatically import all the repeaters and necessary configuration details for them from Repeater Book and other sources. This made my life so much easier.
From there, you just tell CHIRP to upload your list of frequencies/channels and configuration details to your radio. Easy peasy.
You can also manually program your Baofeng UV-5R in a pinch. This is slightly more tedious. Many people online say it’s a major pain, but if you just have one or two stations you want to add, then it’s really not so bad. This is how I started using my Baofeng UV-5R initially until my programming cable arrived.
Best Baofeng UV-5R Accessories
I’ve mentioned a few of my favorite accessories for the Baofeng UV-5R already. I’ll lay them out here for you so you have everything in one place and know what to get. The things I’m about to recommend are game-changers for your radio experience.
- USB Programming Cable
- Extended Whip Antenna
- Wire antenna that you can hang from anything or throw into a tree
- Base station antenna that you can mount on your roof, a pole, an outbuilding, or even inside your attic
In conclusion, the Baofeng UV-5R is an awesome and affordable ham radio. I think everyone should have one. Heck, I think everyone should have two or three. I’m planning on grabbing another one to keep in my car.
Ignore what all the haters say. For $25, you can enter into the world of ham radio and own a device that could potentially save your life or someone else’s life someday. Just a few years ago, the barrier to entry for the ham radio hobby was somewhere around $200. Now it’s about a tenth of that.
It’s an unbelievable value. So, for that reason, I give the Baofeng UV-5R a rating of 10/10.