Baofeng/Pofung Radios: A Review For The New Ham

Baofeng UV-5R
Baofeng UV-5R

You may have run across the names Baofeng/Pofung here and there. They are a Chinese manufacturer of two-way radio equipment. What makes these radios attractive to the new ham is their low cost. If you look carefully on Amazon, you can buy a UV-5R+ dual band HT for around $40. Add a programming cable for $10, pair that with the free, open source programming software called CHIRP and you’ve got a very capable portable station.

The UV-5R+ covers 136-174 / 400-512 MHz (transmit and receive) with two power levels, 1- and 5-Watts. They also feature a dual-watch function, DCS/CTCSS encode/decode, DTMF keypad, VOX and a handy LED flashlight. The front mounted speaker provides 1 Watt of clear audio. The audio and reception reports I’ve received were excellent. There is a two-pin, Kenwood compatible socket on the side of the radio for an optional speaker mike. An earphone-microphone is included.

One drawback to these radios is the fact that programming them manually is a bit of a challenge. However, with some practice, it is possible to program the radio without the aid of a computer. There are many YouTube videos on programming. It’s usually a good idea to learn how to program any radio in the field because your laptop/desktop computer may not be available to you in an emergency situation.

So you’ve got your new radio, you’ve charged the battery, turned it on, was greeted by the cheery voice telling you that you were in the frequency mode (yes, the radio will talk to you in English or Chinese)…now what? The first thing you should do is get CHIRP installed and running on your PC. Next, download the virgin configuration from the radio and save it to a file on your computer. That way you’ll be able to revert the radio to its factory fresh state in case you accidentally mess things up. More about CHIRP in another article.

One accessory you might want to consider is an antenna. The stock rubber antenna isn’t very good because of mis-matching. You’ll find that most users recommend Nagoya antennas. These seem to be well made Taiwanese antennas that are much better than the one that came with the radio. Unfortunately, there are a rash of counterfeit Nagoyas out there so be careful. I have had good luck with the MFJ-1717S dual-band antenna. Just remember to get an antenna with a female SMA connector.

Another nuisance I’ve found is the retaining nut for the antenna connector on the radio coming loose after a couple of days use. The simple fix for this is to remove the nut and apply a small amount of thread locking compound to the threads. Tighten the nut well and that’s it. Just make sure that the thread locker is removable because there will come a time when you have to take the radio apart for servicing. I recommend Loctite Blue.

I’ve had my UV-5R+ for two years and it just runs. Last year I bought a BF-F9+V2 which is the tri-power version of the 5R+ (1/5/8 Watts). These low cost, easy to use radios will make a welcome addition to any emergency Go Box.