Top critical review
402 people found this helpful
So-Called "Newer 2013 Model" Baofeng UV-5RA Models
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.