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BAOFENG BF-888S UHF FM Transceiver High Illumination Flashlight Walkie Talkie Two-Way Radio
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- 50 CTCSS/105 CDCSS/VOX Function
- Voice Prompt/PC Programming/voice scramble/encryption
- Emergency Alarm/Intelligent Charging
- Battery Save/Low Voltage Alert
- Time-out Timer/Torch Light
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This Baofeng BF-888S is a great long range Walkie Talkie (handheld transceiver) for you! It can bring huge convenience for you to communicate with each other in a long range about 6km.
Top customer reviews
When you turn the device on, a voice says "Power On" and then speaks the channel number. As you change channels, it speaks the channel you just selected.
Squelch is a little aggressive, but there is a button to release it when needed and the software allows you to tweak it, but once set, you can not alter the level from the radio, so a little aggressive is a good thing. Most of the time it was not a problem. I live in a fairly hilly and wooded area and got an honest 1.25 miles of reliable communication over that terrain. At times it went further, but terrain makes a difference. Perfect for places like camp grounds, ski areas, and other outdoor venues. Not going to work to communicate with another party on the other side of the mountain.
According to my meter, it is outputting just over 3 watts, not the advertised 5, but with a better antenna you might achieve that. Even so, it is more powerful than most of the radios that are sold to operate on GMRS frequencies, but not as good as many HAM HTs. But then, it's only $30. The range is very comparable to the $300 Motorola GMRS Sport radios I bought 20 years ago for ski trips. In fact, I bought these intending to be the replacements to those radios and I think they are exactly what I'm looking for. I also don't have to worry about getting a $300 radio wet, lost, or fall from a chairlift. I don't expect 20 years of use, but they seem rugged enough that I'm not expecting them to last only one outdoor trip.
On top from left to right, you have the Antenna socket (yes, you can replace the antenna with a standard screw style SMA Female - In fact, with a 3db gain, the effective output of the radio doubles), the LED lamp (flashlight), channel selector, power/volume. Just below the power/volume on the front panel is the LED that lights red when transmitting and green when receiving. So easy to teach kids to "wait for the green light to go out before you try to talk" - Adults too. (^_^)
On the right side is the mike/speaker jacks under a protective cover. These are also used for the programming cable.
On the left side is the large black push to talk button. This isn't the best switch I've used, but it isn't bad. You will need to use it a few times to find the 'sweet' spot that is easy to press and hold. Below the PTT button are 2 orange buttons. One releases the squelch and the other toggles the LED light on the top of the unit. The light is actually pretty useful.
The belt clip is attached to the metal heatsink on the back of the radio. This makes for a strong attachment and it is a good clip. The battery slides under the clip and is easy to install/remove, but is secure enough I don't fear it falling off. Install the clip and then the battery - that way you don't have to fight the spring on the clip as you screw it on.
A note on Frequencies:
The frequencies that come on the radio from the factory are mostly ILLEGAL in the USA. Channel 6 and 7 are legitimate GMRS, but you need a license to use them. You must reprogram most of this radio to operate on legal frequencies. The only ones that are legal are GMRS and HAM (unless you have a business license that falls within the range of these radios).
If you want to use the FRS frequencies, be sure to set them for low power in the software. Or, configure the lower orange button for power toggle instead of flashlight. Full power is illegal on FRS frequencies.
At full power, you have to have a license of some sort. Either a GMRS, HAM, or some commercial license for other frequencies. The radio can be programmed for any frequency and repeater offset between 400 mhz and 470 mhz. You need to be very careful because some of these frequencies are for emergency beacons, Satellite operations, and government. You can see a Band Plan here:
www dot w2aee dot columbia dot edu/fcc-bandplan.html
Abbreviated Band Plan:
400.000 - 406.000 Emergency Beacon, Government
406.000 - 420.000 various US Government
420.000 - 450.000 Amateur 70 Centimeters
450.050 - 450.925 Broadcast Pickup
451.025 - 453.000 Water and Power, industry, Telephone Maint, Taxi, motor carrier, auto club, press
453.025 - 453.975 Local Government, public safety
454.000 Petroleum Products
454.025 - 454.975 Mobile Telephone
455.050 - 455.925 Broadcast Pickup
456.025 - 458.000 Water and Power, industry, telephone maint, taxi, motor carrier, etc
458.025 - 458.975 Medical 5W, Local Government, Public Safety
459.000 Petroleum Products
459.025 - 459.975 Mobile Telephone
460.000 - 460.500 Police
460.525 - 460.550 Public Safety
460.575 - 460.625 Fire
460.650 - 462.525 Business, Industry
462.550 - 462.725 GMRS
462.750 - 462.925 Business
462.950 - 463.175 Medical
463.200 - 464.975 Business
465.000 - 465.500 Police
465.525 - 465.500 Public Safety
465.575 - 465.625 Fire
465.650 - 467.525 Business, Industry
467.550 - 467.725 GMRS
467.750 - 467.925 Business Low Power
467.950 - 468.975 Medical
468.200 - 469.975 Business
470.000 - 476.000 UHF TV Ch. 14
To be in compliance, you MUST program these radios to a legal frequency.
To reprogram them, you'll need the programming cable:
www dot amazon dot com/Programming-Cable-Baofeng-UV-5R-Wouxun/dp/B007R21P7Q/ref=pd_cp_e_1
www dot amazon dot com/Programming-Cable-Baofeng-UV-5R-Radio/dp/B008ORT9OY/ref=pd_cp_e_2
You will also need to download the software:
Best resource is to join the yahoo group at: groups dot yahoo dot com/group/BF-888S
From the factory, the radio is programmed as follows:
Channel 1 frequency 462.125 - RX-TX 69.3 Hz CTCSS
Channel 2 frequency 462.225
Channel 3 frequency 462.325
Channel 4 frequency 462.425 - RX 103.5 Hz CTCSS
Channel 5 frequency 462.525 - RX 114.8 Hz CTCSS
Channel 6 frequency 462.625 - RX 127.3 Hz CTCSS
Channel 7 frequency 462.725 - RX 136.5 Hz CTCSS
Channel 8 frequency 462.825 - RX 162.2 Hz CTCSS
Channel 9 frequency 462.925 - RX 025N DTS
Channel 10 frequency 463.025 - RX 032N DTS
Channel 11 frequency 463.125 - RX 125N DTS
Channel 12 frequency 463.225 - RX 155N DTS
Channel 13 frequency 463.525 - RX 331N DTS
Channel 14 frequency 450.225 - RX 023N DTS
Channel 15 frequency 460.325
Channel 16 frequency 469.945 - RX 203.5Hz CTCSS
Reprogramming is fairly straight forward once you have the software, cable, and driver installed. When installing the driver in Windows 7, be sure to turn off the automatic updates as the latest version does not work. Use the information in the yahoo group for finding the best solution for Windows 7.
For GMRS, use the following frequencies: (use just left column for radio to radio communications.)
Out/Simplex Repeater input
462.550 ---- 467.550
462.575 ---- 467.575
462.600 ---- 467.600
462.625 ---- 467.625
462.650 ---- 467.650
462.675* --- 467.675*
462.700 ---- 467.700
462.725 ---- 467.725
* Nationwide emergency and road information calling. Nationally recognized coded squelch for 675 emergency repeater operation is 141.3 Hz.
I also programmed in the frequencies and CCTSS codes for my local HAM repeaters and was pleasantly surprised at how well this radio was able to operate. Using repeaters, you can greatly extend your range, but this does require at least a Technician license.
I now own 3 of these. The first one has 8 GMRS frequencies and then the last 8 are a mix of HAM and my local CERT frequencies. My other 2 are set up for my boys. The first 8 mirror mine, but the last 8 are CCTSS coded versions of the GMRS.
The drop-in charger will charge the battery on or off the radio. Charging times are about 3 hours when really drained. Be warned, if you drop the battery into the charger and the charger isn't plugged in, the radio will slowly discharge as it powers the LED on the base. Can't tell you how many times I've found the boy's chargers like that. Spare batteries are not hard to find, but compared to the cost of the radio are not cheap. Google around for the best prices. The Yahoo group can help too.
Battery life is excellent. Took a trip of about 200 miles chatting from car to car and were still working strong at the end. (including the excitement when a Black Bear ran across the highway in front of us)
Sound quality is very good. The quality is at least as good as my non-digital HTs from the past and in some cases better. I'd say on-par with my Yeasu 7R. In every contact I asked, they could not believe I was working with a $30 radio.
Using a label maker and an Exacto knife, I put the boy's names on the radios right over the Beofeng label. Well protected there and it is recessed, so it looks good. Now there is no fighting over who's is who's. (^_^)
Not much else to say. The radios are very simple (A very important feature when dealing with children and non-technical people) and work well. You do need to be technical to get them programmed properly to be legal. You will also need either a GMRS license for the family, or a Technician level amateur radio license.
If you choose to buy them and just use them, understand that technically you are not operating on legal frequencies and could face fines in the 5 figure range if your operation causes a problem that requires someone to come looking for you. Stick to channels 6 and 7 if you MUST use them as factory configured.
I've gone back and 'coded' the URLs so that they are not removed. Hopefully that is useful for someone. Just replace the " dot " with "." and paste into your browser.
Kids have not damaged the radios, and one has some scuff marks where it took a tumble as he was flying down a hill on his bike. Got rained on a little with no apparent issues - would not subject them to a lot of water, but was happy to see that a little rain didn't hurt it.
Battery life is impressive. They claim 8 hours at a 5-5-90 cycle and I know we used them more than 4 hours at a time with a much more active cycle than that. The kids used them off and on for a week's vacation and we never put them into the charger once.
In more open terrain (beach setting) the range is very good. The range from the end of the beach to the cottage we were staying was about 2.5 miles and the radios were fine making that distance, but there were no serious terrain features to block the signal, just light scrub and some wood single story buildings. Distance to a Ham repeater hit out to 15 miles with a transmission report of about a 3 (noisy but understandable), but that repeater is well known for good reception and sits on top of a major hill - I would not expect radio to radio communication across that distance. This is comparable to other Ham HTs with short antennas at about 3 watts.
Make sure your charger is plugged in. When you drop the radio into a charger that isn't, the LED on the charger lights green, but it is draining the battery, not charging. Charging is RED until fully charged and then it turns green. If it is green when you drop it in, verify the charger is plugged in. Kids - enough said.
In the programming Software, the "Beat Shift" is the voice scrambler. Not really secure, but the average listener won't be able to understand you.
The Prolific chip inside the programming cable that translates USB to serial is not an official chip, it is counterfeit. As a result, Prolific has made changes in the driver for Windows 7 and beyond that won't operate with anything but the official chip. Now, I do not know if the programming cable's chip is an illegal copy, or reverse engineered legally. What I do know is that the auto-update of drivers in Windows 7 and 8 will replace any older working drivers with new ones if you don't shut off the auto-updates. Of course, that prevents all your drivers from being updated.
Best place to get information is the yahoo group.
groups dot yahoo dot com/group/BF-888S/
(replace the " dot " with a period (.) )
There you will find the software and drivers that will work as well as detailed information.
Radios hold their charge for some time. Had one that hadn't been used since the winter and when I put it on the charger to top it off, it very quickly showed full charge. (within a minute) Seems like a nice radio to use if a disaster struck. Find some Ham or GMRS repeaters in your area and program up the radios so you have a couple 'emergency' channels that you can use if the cell network is down. During the Boston Marathon this year, cell service in Boston was completely overloaded, but my Ham radio worked just fine.
You can get your GMRS license here: transition dot fcc dot gov/Forms/Form605/605.html
It is considered a family license, so everyone in your household can use the radios under the same license.
You can find GMRS repeaters here: www dot mygmrs dot com/browse
I bought this to tune into about 6 of my local repeaters especially in the spring when weather can jump up at any time. I am picking up repeaters in about a 6 mile radius, and have not tested any others. I wanted something to keep in my glove box, which is where this is most of the time. I already had the programming cable, so using CHIRP was easy.
Other have written better reviews and covered the legality issue. But to reiterate, as of my information, these are only legal in the US for transmission if you have a ham license (which I do). They can be programmed for FRS and GMRS, but are not legal since they don't meet the technical requirements for FRS, and are not type certified for GMRS. The frequencies they come programmed with are public safety frequencies and are illegal to use for transmission. There is no way to program them without the cable.
EDIT: I did get an FTDI cable and CHIRP now recognizes them, so I was able to program all 16 channels (or 15, leaving CH16 for scanning). The Win software, even under VMWare as I have Macs, now programs all 16 with FTDI cable also.
I also got a BF-888S+ (Plus). If you are undecided between this and the Plus, get the Plus. For just a couple dollars more, it is the better radio. They also RX broadcast FM.