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on August 27, 2013
As a buyer of well-over 450 Baofeng radios (and counting) for the group I belong to (not all of which were purchased through Amazon but many were), I'm always amazed at the lengths some sellers go to to hype their products as being "newer" or "better" than other models, or perhaps (to give them the benefit of the doubt) they just don't know any better.

First, the Baofeng UV-5R series (including the original and still extremely popular UV-5R, I'll explain why in a minute) is what is normally referred to by many as a SDR radio (or software defined radio). While not a true SDR product (you can't use it with your computer to control the radio's functions or scan a wide amount of VHF/UHF frequencies with it), none the less a large chip is programmed on the circuit board built inside each radio. That chip determines what capability the radio itself can perform.

Every UV-5R series radio has the ability to transmit from 136-174 MHz on VHF and from 400-520 MHz on UHF in both narrow-band and wide-band modes (very useful for the occasional FRS or MURS use, which requires narrow-band mode to work correctly).

Every model does "at least" 4W on VHF/UHF from the factory, but occasionally you'll get a batch that does 4.5W or even 5W out, but the difference between 4W and 5W is minimal at best. A 4W radio with a better antenna will easily outperform a 5W radio with the standard crappy antenna that Baofeng ships on ALL (including the UV-5RA, -5RAX, and -5RAX+) models.

Baofeng DOES NOT program those chips any differently for the UV-5R vs. any other UV-5R series (including the UV-5RA). Version 307 of the firmware (which is the most current release I have in any of my radios) works EXACTLY the same way as previous older releases of firmware at least back to the 295 release (over a year ago), so any claim from a seller that this release provides additional features (at least from a user's perspective) is simply BOGUS, since the firmware inside both radios have the same features. In fact, my UV-5R radios with the 307 firmware release is EXACTLY the same radio (inside and within the firmware) as my UV-5RA radios with the 307 firmware release.

Second, you CANNOT in any way upgrade the firmware (unless you count buying a different radio and it comes with a different firmware release), so again the claim in the listing from some sellers that you can is simply BOGUS.

Third, you can believe that two thinner pieces (glued or screwed together on the faceplate of the UV-5RA) is somehow stronger than one thicker piece of plastic (on the original UV-5R series) if you like (and maybe it is), but I haven't seen that in real-world use from my own UV-5RA units. The standard UV-5R units that we use seem to hold up just as well (when dropped in the desert dirt or rolling down a hill) as any other Baofeng radio we own and use.

Fourth, and my biggest issue with all of the non-standard UV-5RA, UV-5RAX and UV-5RAX+ units, is that NONE of the Baofeng battery accessories (except the little 1800 mAh standard battery) work WITHOUT modification (unless you use a Dremel tool to grind or cut off part of your extended battery that works on the standard UV-5R - but won't work on your UV-5RA, UV-5RAX or UV-5RAX+).

(Note: This was true a year ago when this review was first written, but "some" sellers are now shipping "AA" and "AAA" shell packs that some claim do work, the problem is that there's no way to know if they will actually fit until you get yours. The same is now true for the 3800 mAh batteries, some claim their battery will work on non-standard UV-5R models, but you don't know until you get your battery.)

Getting new UV-5RA units that don't work with Extended 3800 mAh batteries (without modification) doesn't make my group happy. That may not bother you, but NONE of the sellers of the non-standard UV-5RA, UV-5RAX, and UV-5RAX+ units ever seem to mention that lack of hardware compatibility in their listings, so buyer beware!

BTW, NONE of the "AA" or "AAA" battery shell packs work on the UV-5RA, UV-5RAX, or UV-5RAX+ units either, so that's 3 different battery accessories (including the 3800 mAh extended battery) that you can't use on these radios without hacking them with a Dremel tool (but they all work without modification on the original UV-5R units).

So "if" you want a "pretty" radio (as my wife calls it), buy one of the various versions of the UV-5RA (or -5RAX, or -5RAX+) with the shiny face plate and live with the fact that you'll be modifying ALL of the battery accessories you buy later in order to get them to work. Oh, you should see how well that shiny faceplate lights up when a flashlight hits it in the dark, just the thing you don't want for night use.

Virtually every guy in our group ends up carrying a standard UV-5R and giving the UV-5RA, -5RAX, or -5RAX+ to the wife or kids, since the wife and/or kids rarely care about the other accessories working and they (the wife and kids) tend to like the "pretty" radios, but again there is NO INTERNAL difference and NO EXTRA FEATURES in the UV-5RA, -5RAX, or -5RAX+ units (other than a different looking shiny faceplate) vs. the original and still wildly popular UV-5R (which I refer to as the M16 of radios, as all the accessories you match it up with just plain work).

Now you know the real background on these radios.
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on December 27, 2013
I own three UV-5RE+ radios, and they're absolutely excellent transceivers at this price point. Heck, even at twice the price they'd be great radios.

They have a feel of quality that's unexpected. In other words, they don't feel flimsy at all. The plastic is thick, and under the battery cover there is a metal plate/chassis. The buttons click more loudly than expected, but they give reassuring tactile feedback. The power/volume knob even has a reasonable amount of firmness to its movement preventing accidental adjustment, and it doesn't wobble at all.

I won't get into all the features because you can review the description/literature for those, but suffice to say it has most of the features of a Motorola, Kenwood, or Icom that would cost you over ten times as much. (That being said, it is in no way a direct replacement for commercial-grade transceivers made by those manufacturers).

Audio quality is good, though the speaker is a bit tinny and doesn't provide much response on the low end. It is loud, however. The mic is adequate; Not what you'd find on its big cousins, but much better than comparably priced blister-pack radios that you'd get from a big box retailer.

Reception is also surprisingly good. It's just about as good as many more expensive radios and scanners out there. I haven't done much transmitting, but a few tests did again show surprising range.

It has a scan function, but I'd estimate it to scan one channel per second. If you have more than a few channels programmed you can miss entire transmissions in the time it takes to cycle through. So if you're thinking about buying one as a replacement for a proper scanner, just don't.

However, you can monitor two frequencies simultaneously. There is no appreciable lag in reception of either one, so it is a quite effective two-channel scanner. One bit that bothers me is that when you key up (transmit) it will transmit on the last of the two channels that received something. (There may be a setting for this, but I'm not sure). That can be an issue if you want to monitor one while transmitting only on the other.

If you don't know much about radio communications, some of the settings are going to be daunting in the sense that their menu descriptions are extremely shortened abbreviations or initialisms, and the included manual doesn't shed much light on them.

I would give one piece of advice: Buy the programming cable, or buy a package deal that includes the programming cable. Even though the software is a bit, shall we say, hodgepodge, it does work. Each channel is entered in a separate line in a spreadsheet type of arrangement, and can include a text label in addition to all the other settings. Even though the software doesn't have a "professional" feel to it, programming is quick and easy.

The antennae I received were different from the one pictured. They are about 25% longer, much thinner, and more flexible. (One of my radios has the stubbier variant that's pictured). I prefer the ones I received for their flexibility.

Even the battery life is quite good! I've been using the radios mostly for monitoring, and I've yet to actually drain one of the batteries, despite occasionally leaving one on overnight. (In case you're wondering why I have three of them, it's because they're so cheap that I keep one at my office, one in my basement, and one in my jacket -- I mean, why not?)

The one downside of BaoFeng is the quality of their accessories. With my first radio I got a speaker mic. It felt flimsy, audio quality was horrendous, and the cable worked its way loose of the housing after one day of barely any use. The earpiece/mic included with these radios also has a flimsy feel to it. I haven't bothered using them, so I can't comment on audio quality. The charging bases are reasonably well-made, but are very lightweight and have a lower quality feel than the radios themselves. But again, at this price you can't even get another radio with charging base and lithium ion batteries, so it's not a real problem!

One design weakness (which is not unique to the BaoFengs) is that the base doesn't provide power to the radio. If you leave the radio on while it's in the charger it will drain the battery. Once the battery is drained below the level at which the charger no longer thinks it's full, it will start charging it. This makes for a very short discharge/charge cycle that will probably shorten battery life.
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on September 4, 2017
It took a couple of weeks for this radio to arrive. Charged up fine when I first got it. Used the radio for 3 days. Charged it up a 2nd time and worked for 3 days, no problem. Charged it up for the third time, charger died. Charger base works but the 10 volt power supply stopped working. Baofeng warranty requires returning the item to authorized seller or repair center. So you have to send the whole radio back with packaging and original invoice, and maybe you get YOUR radio back or you get a refurbished one, or you get a new radio. Since I only have $25 into this, shipping it would cost half of what I paid for it. Useless warranty actually. That said, the radio works great when coupled with an original Nagoya NA-771 antenna. Stubby that comes with it has terrible losses, so you might as well order an NA-771 antenna. The stubbie does work great when placed atop a mini UHF adapter and mated up with RG59 with an air wound 1:1 choke/balun about 14" wound around a 6" in form and then raise it 10 to 15 feet in the air and you have a nice antenna. On the radio itself the stubbie stinks. The NA-771 appears to have been made for this radio so its a good fit.

Now on for the rest. Programming is great when using CHIRP but you need a cable for it. Order OEM Baofeng and you won't be disappointed. Order from someone in mainland China who says its OEM Baofeng and you may or may not get OEM. I got a knock off which required so much work that I ended up buying OEM and having it shipped priority. The knock off is a 10 year old version of the chipset and the UV5R uses a modern chipset that downloads the drivers automatically without further install of driver software.

The radio performs well, expect that you will put 4 watts out ONLY if you have an adequate groundplane. Your arm is not an adequate groundplane so figure keep it on high power and using it handheld will get you about 1 to 1.5 watts out. Maybe 2. Hits repeaters well on VHF, iffy on UHF depending on distance, line of sight, and what's between you and the repeater. Simplex works, but you will maybe get 25 miles with nothing between you and the other unit. Maybe. Not a shoe in. Works good with mobile antennas, and Nagoya makes one for this unit that matches it well.

All in all, don't count on the charger. There are numerous complains about it bouncing around the net. Mostly the biggest complaint is it needs 10 volts into the cradle to charge it. You can purchase step up USB cables and step-down cigarette lighter plug adapters on eBay just be prepared to wait.

Also, go for the BL-5L 3800 mah battery. It will give you double the life. All in all for $25 the radio is worth it but the charger is junk.
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on September 16, 2015
I know these get a lot of mixed reviews and mostly about how hard they are to program.

Those other reviews only inspired me to learn how to manually program this!

Along with learning how to manually program the radio, I learned how to modify the charger base for extending the external power supply for a variety of voltages.

The instruction manual that comes with this is pretty much garbage, however, there are multiple manuals online and my favorite was a list of the menu options, what they are, how they work and what settings should be set for HAM radio use.
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on August 7, 2015
This little radio will give you the most bang for your buck of any portable radio on the market, period. Not only is it dual-band, which was almost unheard of with portable radios, but it's light, the battery life is excellent to outstanding, and the price is UNBEATABLE. Yes, they do require some knowledge regarding how to operate them, but there are lots of great Youtube videos demonstrating how to use them. Once programmed, using them is very simple, not much more difficult than a CB radio.

If/when I want two-way communication with other family members, I will simply buy extra radios and use them outside of the traditional HAM bands (144 and 440 mghz). Yes, this is technically faux pas, but the hammers can't come down on you if you're not operating in their ranges. Doing it this way, you can easily get double the range of a FRS/GMRS radio.

I highly recommend that you replace the stock antenna with a 'duckie', a longer, flexible one that will greatly increase reception quality.
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on October 30, 2017
Very low price but not heavy duty. Recommend CHIRP software for programming. Programming via the keypad is nothing like a Yaesu, Kenwood, or Icom. Seem like the software was programmed without much consideration for the end users (hams). The reverse SMA antenna connection is puzzling as I see the other high end companies using standard SMA's now days. I would say this is a decent entry level radio but would recommend spending for the Yaesu FT60 or such, if you can afford the little extra in price. Keep in mind this "review" is none technical and my observation/opinion. There are other reviews that give the technical details but I don't have the test equipment to provide useful comments in those regards, however, that said, "technically speaking":

- RX audio is fairly loud an clear.
- TX audio is clear and does not seem to be under or over deviated.
- Battery life is good, however there really is no battery life indication relative to the battery level. When the level show low the battery is basically dead.
- Volume control is really easily (accidently) turned down when you have the radio handing on your belt.
- Issues with programming cable due to fake Prolific serial chips made in China (known issue). You will need to purchase a genuine Prolific or FTDI, etc. based cable.
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on November 17, 2017
Love the radio. Works like a champ.... However this thing losses stars for the following
1) The accompanying cd is garbage.. I tried installing it and it is in Chinese and would not load anything at all, So not quite sure what is on my computer now. I understand now I have to use a 3rd party program to be able to program the radio. Its called "CHIRP"
2) the programming cable that come with it... Oh wait. it didn't come with it...

Baofeng... You have an awesome product. Package the right accessories with it!!!!
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on July 15, 2014
I cannot hit repeaters that are 3-5 miles away, even on "high power" (4-watts), (though signal can be heard from nearer radios). Other Baofeng users can hit the similar repeaters. I have an obviously transmit power problem, and cannot get the radio repaired/replaced because it is a few days outside of the "30-day return window". (As a new ham, It took me a few weeks to be 100% that I was absolutely configured properly for the repeaters). Now I'm stuck with a useless radio.
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on March 5, 2014
Ok, as been said, the instructions are not real user friendly (reduced one star for this issue). However I used a youtube video and figured out what I needed to. Was able to listen in to conversations from inside the house from operators on the outskirts of town. I live in A large city in southern texas, and had no issues. I coulnd't track down a repeater, however on the scan i was able to hear some broadcasts.

I used the stock antenna, and the broadcast locations were over 15 miles away. Again, not a HAM guy.. still very very new at this.. but I liked what I heard. I think this would be fine for my needs.

Delivery was great, packing was great, and no other issues.

I ordered a longer antenna, and plan to order a disposable battery adapter for regular batteries, and rechargeable batteries. I also ordered a car charger for this item for greater mobility. (personal choice for me just in case)

Great little piece of gear.. Amazing piece for for the price...
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on February 27, 2017
I have bought a lot of these radios. They are a great little two meter radio. I use them to scan local police chatter and they work well. They are not the fastest scanning radio but if you don't put a lot of channels in, it works well. I would certainly recommend anyone buying a radio to buy a programming cable as well. It makes programming multiple channels a breeze. They have been very durable for me and I have dropped mine many times. Battery life is great. If you don't transmit a lot, you are good for the day on a charge. I have worked stations on the satellite SO-50 with just the stock antenna. They are a great starter radio and for the price they can't be beat!
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