Baofeng UV-5RA Review – Can a $50 Ham Radio Be Any Good?

I hope you have been enjoying my series on Amateur Radio.  It’s been one of my favorite hobbies for about 20 years now, and I love sharing my knowledge with our readers. Today I am bringing you another radio review, only the second one ever for Gear Diary. Just like when I reviewed the Icom ID-31A last year, this review is coming from real life experience with the radio.

Since I don’t have a lab that I can use to do the technical measurements, it will focus on the usability of the average ham operator.  That is real-world usage on how well it works for me in my home location and in several others.

Baofeng UV-5RA Review - Can a $50 Ham Radio Be Any Good?

The Baofeng UV-5RA

The Baofeng UV-5RA is special because it costs a mere $50 (or less).   Most competing handheld radios from Yaesu, Icom, Kenwood or Alinco are priced at around $129 to as much as $600, and that is without accessories. The good thing about this radio is that the price also includes accessories. Can a $50 radio do as good of a job as the more expensive ones?  Let’s find out.

Baofeng UV-5RA Review - Can a $50 Ham Radio Be Any Good?

The UV-5RA is one of a series of UV-5 radios that Baofeng has been releasing over the last few years.  Each radio in the UV-5R series is virtually the same radio with only the external appearance and the radio firmware different enough to tell them apart. Baofeng is a manufacturer based in China, unlike many of the other commercial amateur radio transceivers, which come from Japan (Icom, Kenwood, Yaesu and Alinco are all based there). Baofeng and other China based manufacturers are all priced well under any of the Japanese counterparts, which makes it nice price-wise.

About the Author

Joel McLaughlin
Joel is a consultant in the IT field and is located in Columbus, OH. While he loves Linux and tends to use it more than anything else, he will stoop to running closed source if it is the best tool for the job. His techno passions are Linux, Android, netbooks, GPS, podcasting and Amateur Radio.
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  • Emily @ House + Hone Hone

    Awesome. Thanks for the review and doing it in a way that even newbies can understand!

  • kr4zan

    I just bought the newest 5R and will soon arrive. I have a thing for hts and this will be my seventh one, and I still own and use all of them. It’s an addiction with me starting with my first, the VX-8R.


  • fordmar85

    Thank you for this review. I have seen these radios online but did not know much about them and have always been leery of them given the price. I may need to invest in one especially since is it part 90 as a back up to my FD Radio for when I only need to use it as a pager.

  • Patrick H

    Thank you for taking the time to write an in depth review! Would you be able to tell me the real difference between the UV-5R+ and the BF-F8+? I have spent tons of time online trying to research the difference and I have not found anything definitive. I am just curious as to which Baofeng model is the newest and which has the most features. Thank You again!

  • soko

    I am looking for an adaptor to go from the sma-f connector on the Baofeng to coax rg 58

  • Rob Mazak

    I have one of these radios and it has worked well for me. Lately I have had one issue — the display screen disappears when transmitting. I have tried new batteries but have had the same results. Has anyone had this issue?

  • Jenny

    Need CD and led of laptop

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  • VA7CR

    My UV-5R radios have a FM broadcast receiver which is turned on by the red mon button above the ptt button. Holding the red button in turns on a personal alarm siren. I have one radio strapped to the dash in my car. With a fender mounted antenna, optional speaker mic, and optional dc adapter that attaches in place of the battery it works just like a mobile. The car accessory jack and radio turn on with the car ignition and stored presets and frequencies are saved even with power disconnected. Frequency coverage includes weather, commercial, FRS and marine band with no hacks required. In some areas you can monitor local police, fire, and ambulance but when you program the receive frequency using the software interface delete the transmit frequency. Transmit will be disabled on that channel. Act responsibly.

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