Monday, 4 May 2015


So, hot on the heels of getting to grips with CHIRP, I encountered a problem. Not with the software, or computer, or even Linux. But with an old and faithful friend of mine, my twenty-plus-years-old tri-band amateur radio hand-held Yaesu VX-5R.

Turns out that the antenna socket is loose, and try as I might, I cannot lock it down: I spent a LOT of hours earlier trying, including disassembling the thing (don't worry, I put it together again and it still works!) to get at the SMA connector that forms the antenna socket, but to no avail. So, it's going to have to go into honourable retirement, until such time as I can figure out how the heck I'm going to lock up that socket without breaking something else on the radio.

So. Time, then, for a new hand-held. I've been debating this for a while now; a couple of years back, I got hold of an Icom ID-51A, and while it's a very nice radio, it's not something that I want to be carting around all the time - for a start, it cost me well over four hundred quid when I got it, and truth be told, it's a bit irritating to use, being a hybrid Dual-band analogue and digital (Digital Voice & D-Star) FM hand held.

Now, there's a newer version out now with a couple more bells and whistles, but however you look at it, there's a LOT packed into it, hence the complications every so often when using it. Don't get me wrong: I'm hanging onto it, but it's a rig I don't really like to take out of the house, both because of the cost of the damn thing, but also the need to have to consult the damn manual when I want to do something that I either forgot how to do, or haven't done before, with it.

What I really need is a cheap radio that I won't get too upset about if it gets dropped, that's easy to use. So, having been recommended just such a radio a while back by a friend, I've gone ahead and ordered one off - surprisingly enough - Amazon. Yep, they sell Ham gear too. Who knew?!

OJ yeah, the radio? It's a Baofeng UV-5R dual-band FM hand-held transceiver. And it cost me a shade under £23.

That's right.

Twenty-three quid.

I've seen a bucket load of good reviews on this rig, and a couple of not so good ones, so balance of probabilities? It's what I need: A reasonably reliable, cheap hand held.

The reviews also highlighted one major issue with the UV-5R: It's allegedly a complete sod to program the memory channels without the aid of a computer, so, I've also ordered a programming cable, an external fist microphone (saves hauling the radio off the belt when you want to use it), and a couple of other things for it as well (extended capacity batter and a replacement antenna, as the stock one is apparently not that brilliant) as well, which is still, at a total order value of close to fifty quid, which is close to a TENTH of the cost of the cheapest a similar big-name rig with a similar range of accessories as I've ordered for this Baofeng rig. It's quite amazing.

Granted, the after-sales service is likely to be complete pants, but for the price, you really cannot argue one bit. It truly is, in amateur radio terms, a 'disposable radio'.

Oh, remember I said a tenth of the cost above? I wasn't joking. Here's a comparison with one of my favourite makes, Yaesu, versus the Baofeng...

First, the Baofeng UV-5R...

BaoFeng UV-5R 136-174/400-480 MHz Dual-Band DTMF CTCSS DCS FM Ham Two Way Radio £22.57
USB Programming Cable for Baofeng UV-5R/666S/777S/888S Radio £3.04
NAGOYA NA-771 Dual Band 144/430Mhz U/V SMA Female Antenna for Baofeng UV-5R WOUXUN £6.39
Pofung Baofeng BL-5L Extended 3800mAh 7.4V Lithium-Ion Battery for UV-5R Radio Black £10.90
Original Handheld BAOFENG UV-5R Speaker-mic for dual band radio £5.79
BAOFENG 12V DC Travel Car Charger Cable for BaoFeng UV-5R £1.33
Total £50.02

Next, the Yaesu FT1-DE, a broadly comparable currently available radio...

Yaesu FT1-DE 144/430MHz Dual Band £429.95
Programming cable not neeeded – data held on removable PC-readable MicroSD card Nil
Replacement antenna not needed, stock antenna reasonable Nil
Yaesu SBR-14LI (FNB-102LI) high-capacity battery 72.95
Yaesu MH-34B4B speaker-mic 31.96
Yaesu SDD-13 Cigarette Lighter power cable – 12V 29.57
Total £564.43

Thus, when you look at the costs, and what the end result will be (transmitted analogue FM signals at approximately 5 Watts output), there's really no choice at all, is there?

More once I've got the thing in my grubby mitts in a couple of days.

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