05 December, 2013

The best of the Baofeng handhelds

How do the cheap Baofeng handhelds compare? I have had the Baofeng UV-5R since I bought it from the 409shop in April 2012, but recently I noticed that the UV-B5, UV-B6, and UV-82 have appeared on the market also. If I should need another handheld transceiver for VHF/UHF, is there any advantage in getting any of the other models?

I prepared the following table in order to highlight differences and similarities. Bold characters signify an improvement for what I conceive to be typical radio amateur use.




Front-end OK OK Improved
Antenna Short Longer Longer
Signal meter On/off On/off Dynamic
Squelch VHF: On/off
UHF: Tiny steps
21. Dec 2013
As the UV-5R

21. Dec 2013
Larger steps
Size and shape Square and small Fits better
in hand, larger
Fits better
in hand
Frequency/channel change Up/down Up/down Rotary
VFO/MR button Yes Turn radio off,
then press menu
as you turn it on

3. Jan 2014
Band button YesNo (in menu) Switches 
Dual PTT button No Yes No
Programming Need a computer
to enter alpha tags 
Alpha tags 
can be entered 
from keyboard
Alpha tags can 
be entered 
from keyboard
Memory channels 128 128 99 + 16 for FM radio
Display 7 characters
in name
7 characters 
in name
Harder to read,
only 5 characters
in name
Modifications Enlarge mic hole,
(and here),
Low modulation mod
- Unused button as
light switch

The UV-B6 is not covered here since the only difference from the UV-B5 is a flashlight instead of the rotary encoder and alarm button of the B5.

My main sources are the blogs of PD0AC (UV-82, UV-B5/B6) and the Miklor FAQs

In general I think the design of much radio equipment is lagging behind other electronics when it comes to user interfaces. Imagine a smart phone user interface on a handheld! That is why I emphasize user interface issues in my final evaluation.

I like the improved front-end, signal meter, and squelch of the UV-B5 making it a strong contender for the winner position. But I don't think they are worth the price of a poorer display. On the other hand, the UV-82 is inferior in my view to the UV-5R due to the need to enter the menu for VFO/MR and band switch functions. So for now I'll stick with the UV-5R.


  1. Thanks for posting this, Sverre. I just bought a UV-5R+ a few days ago and am impressed with the rig:price. I realize I'm going to have to buy the programming cable to make it realistically programmable. I'll be keeping an eye on further developments from Baofeng as their products continue to mature.

  2. Hi John. Thanks for the comment. I agree - it is a good bargain - there isn't much that can beat these on price. The UV-5R+ is just a different-looking UV-5R so that's why I didn't include it here.

  3. New Baofengs are coming:
    - GT-3 could be just another nicely designed UV-5R, but it could also be an upgrade since it has newer chips.
    - BF-F8 and BF-F9 sem both to be an UV-5R with some cosmetic changes but where the Band button has been eliminated.

  4. Sverre,
    Great comparison table...thanks for doing it!
    My conclusion is different, though, I find the improved front end, better antenna, better S meter and rotary knob makes the UV-B5 the best choice. I don't mind the display.

    Different strokes for different folks.

    73, Bob K0NR

    1. Thanks for the comment, Bob, and for the mention on your blog. I agree, the UV-B5 scores better on almost all points, except ...

  5. Comparing the Baofeng radios, all of them, to the more expensive radios put out by Icom and Yaesu I find the sound quality of the Baofengs wanting regarding speaker. Yes there is a mod making a hole so the sound can escape better but it should not be necessary. The build quality appears to be more fragile and so be careful how you throw them around. Price wise hard to beat. Intermod in congested settings is not good. So, depends on where you use one. Mind you all amateur radio hand helds fall into that classification regarding their front ends - they don't have one. If I wanted a scanner I'd buy a scanner. Yaesu, Kenwood, Icom, are you listening???

    1. Thanks for the comments. I couldn't really rate sound quality, as reports vary so widely, but some of the newer models seem to be better than the UV- 5R here. Regarding front-ends, then the UV-B5 is the better one, but exactly how much better I haven't been able to find out. The GT-3 may also be better, and even have a proper display, but so far information is scarce.

  6. GT-3 has significantly lower power output and lower sensitivity

    1. The GT-3 seems to be more or less like the other Baofengs that I discussed above, despite all high initial expectations.

      Hans, PD0AC says on his blog: "The Baofeng GT-3 could not really convince me. A few things got better (squelch levels), other things suffered (harmonic suppression). The poor stock antenna is unforgivable; at this price you’re entitled to get the best. The lack of accessories doesn’t help either." See http://hamgear.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/review-baofeng-gt-3/

  7. Dont waste your time with china crap, get a proper device like icom, yaesu. Baofeng casing contains high level of lead and other recycled toxic ingredients.

    1. How do we know the content of the materials used in this radio?
      Has anyone done any real testing the back that claim of hazards?

  8. Overall there all same minus few quirks here and there. My only complaint is nobody has eliminated squelch tail. Such as m uses a different phase shift nobody has come close but Kenwood or icom in recent models. Over all I'd give these a 8. There basically same minus housing look Burton sizes or menu features. I have a uv5ra. I got the extended battery that recently hit and prefer it over the small batteries. Seems China loves them small batteries. The extended battery once it goes out can be opened and a smaller type modified guts changed into with know how of electronics. It gives it a full size radio look. As for interoperability I'd say it be a good side radio for fire monitoring with but not used as mission critical. Ham use great. As for murs seems allot people are doing it but it's not accepted as far as I know for murs. But ppl do it and seems no issues so good. One problem I noticed is people using as scanner no ham license and keying up on police or fire causing problems. My advice is do a split step in programming with the ex as your desired channel to hear them tx -+ as murs 1. It will prevent accidental keying on police or fire. If a key up happens it'll go to murs 1. This issue has been used lately as reason police and fire need to spend millions on trunked 700 and encryption bc people keying up easily on police or fire.

  9. As for audio quality I read a newer 2014 model has a speaker like a /\/\ but haven't seen one to confirm. If they did manage to clone or build a speaker from a old line of /\/\ it would be nice and get rid of the phase shift squelch tail from repeaters using /\/\ such as quantars. If they got close to a ht1000 speaker it would be nice. The dual band capability is ideal for hams. But overall the audio is normal or lesser to what I'm use to using professionally. Professional I use a apx series dual. Lol obviously nothing will compare but it has its down sides too! Ham home use I use various. I'd compare audio quality to lower end icoms such as the 3161ds.

    1. This is a good site with good info. Thank you! So I just got my lic and am looking for a cheap beater to learn the ropes on. Having just posted this 10 days ago, what handheld would you recommend? I eventually want to get into in to emergency management/assistance. Thanks again for the great info!