Baofeng Dual Band Transceiver Review
My recent purchase of the Baofeng UV5R+ Dual Band Transceiver was twofold; 1. Given my interest in ham radio, I wanted to purchase a dual band handheld transceiver to cut my teeth on and 2. Hurricane Sandy. I live with my family on the Jersey Shore, and Hurricane Irene in 2011 was a huge wake up call to us; both in terms of what we were not prepared for and what we didn't know that we WERE capable of. I knew the cell phone coverage in our area would be horrible, so to that it was imperative that we have some secondary form of communication, Ham radio seemed like the logical option. But as Hurricane Sandy rapidly approached, the decision process was moved from the next 6 months to 2 days. Budget was a key to me, so truthfully the decision on the Baofeng was made for me by its price; $60 delivered!
To repeat, I had planned on getting into amateur radio over the winter but Hurricane Sandy forced my hand to make a purchase sooner. So I had no prior training or, as I was informed by a very nice gentleman at a radio shop in NJ, any licensing. I met him because after closer inspection, even with the owner's manual in English, it was still nearly impossible for me to manually program the channels and since I regrettably didn't order a cable to use my computer to do the job I needed one and had to find one locally, since Sandy was fast approaching. I found his shop on line; I contacted him and was told he had the specific cable for me. When I got there, he proceeded to ask me for my call sign which I didn't have and wasn't asked for one when I bought the units.He then went on to tell me how sellers on both Amazon and eBay are ruining it for legitimate resellers by flooding the market with these cheap units, (I guess he can't buy them because they are marked "Exclusively for online sales on eBay or Amazon marketplaces," hmm...)I explained to him my purpose for owning these units and need for using them right away to use the unit on low power, and he suggested that I use only the FRS frequencies and steer clear of ANY OTHERS that had any communication going over them, which I ultimately complied with. I did tell him that at the end of the day, if I have to use these as a matter of life or death, let the FCC write me a fine, but hey, FCC, please don't bother. For what it's worth, along with the cable I also purchased Gordon West's Technician Class Exam book and although this review is on the Baofeng, I have to say that his studying materials are just great. They're all you need to pass the exam, whether you purchase his books or CDs. And in the aftermath of Sandy and the Nor'easter, I studied for and passed my Technicians Class exam with 32/35 and have since received my call sign, but I digress...
The cable I bought is a "Prolific chip" cable, not a knock off. From what I had learned, this was the cable that others try and copy. So you can imagine my surprise when after installing the cable on the right COM port, and downloading Baofeng's software, and then proceeding to try and program my units - no matter what I tried, I just couldn't get Baofeng's software to recognize the radio. If the software doesn't recognize the radio on the COM port as it is plugged into PC, you can't do a thing with it. Then I tried "Chirp," and it worked perfectly, the first time. I was able to program 17 FRS and GMRS frequencies and 5 NOAA frequencies. Frankly, I can't imagine trying to program manually this with the directions in the enclosed manual. Since then Chirp also helped to set the proper offsets and CTCSS tones for my local repeaters. It's a great utility for programming as well as a good resource for additional channels you can easily cut and paste within the application; so it's super easy to program your handheld with CHIRP is the take away from all of that. As a post script to programming software; when I had more time I did some more research on the Baofeng software and found out that the UV5R+ has the 291 firmware which requires their "VIP" software. After downloading and installing it, it functioned after the second attempt to read from the radio, which is normal. However, I still found the Chirp software to be a more robust platform for programming channels, although the Baofeng software allows for hardware programming. So it's good to have them both.