BaoFeng UV-5R Review: A Under $30 Ham Radio which works Awesome for Newbies

We have reviewed a lot of Ham radios. But I am sure this BaoFeng UV-5R review is what most people are interested in.

I am sure that it is the price tag of the radio that captured your attention. It is one of the most inexpensive Ham radios you can ever get.

This BaoFeng radio was released way back in 2012 and it was an instant success. Even after 8 years since it’s release, this stunning two-way radio is still there in the market, competing with the advanced ones.

Quite amazing, isn’t it?

To be honest, I have not used this ham before. I bought it exclusively for testing; to know how good its performance is.

I am not boring you any further; here is our quick overview of the UV 5R.

Who Should Use BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio?

The compact and handheld Baofeng UV-5R is a dual-band radio covering the 2-meter and the 70-centimeter bands. Its affordable price tag places it within reach of thousands of HAM users.

BaoFeng’s main motive is to make sure that their radio devices have a smooth running and an intuitive user-interface. This HT, like many others of the brand’s creations, is packed with every feature and service you could need!

The three key functionalities to look for in a portable HAM survival radio are battery life, sturdy construction, and extensive coverage. Luckily, UV-5R does it all.

Many operators interested in outdoor adventures and relief operations opt for the BaoFeng UV-5R as their top choice. It is the perfect backup communication tool for when cellular networks fail. It provides by-the-minute updates, weather alerts, and connects you to emergency responders.

You can use the device as a handie-talkie when traveling in groups, during camping and hiking trips, or simply connect with local operators. I purchased BaoFeng UV-5R to test it as entry-level ham radio and to use it as a scanner.

What You Should Know? UV 5R Specs

BaoFeng always goes the extra mile, ensuring premium quality by enriching their gadgets with the best features. UV-5R is no less in that matter! It boasts some remarkable features like the ones listed below:

  • 128 Channels
  • Dual-band, dual-frequency display
  • Tri-color background light
  • Emergency alert
  • LED flashlight
  • Battery saver
  • 4/1 watt output power
  • Built-in VOX function

In addition to these exceptional functionalities, UV-5R also supports CTCSS, DCS, and DTMF calling methods.

The best aspect of this handheld HAM Radio is that it is customizable. Programming can help you find local frequencies of interest. You can also program it to add/remove channels from the HT’s scanning list and to set VFO limits.

The Interface

The below images from BaoFeng’s official website has clearly explained all the parts of the UV-5R:

BaoFeng UV-5R Interface
baofeng uv5-r radios

Frequency Range

BaoFeng UV-5R covers 136-174 and 400-520 MHz. It transmits and receives on Marine Channels, Amateur bands, Family Radio Service, GMRS, and any analog frequency. The compact HT boasts a VHF receive band 65 – 108 MHz, which covers the regular FM broadcast band.

If you own a UV-5R, you can read about its frequency list here.


Ever since the launch of UV-5R in 2012, the model has undergone various changes. Its massive success contributed to the introduction of variations of the same device. These include the BaoFeng UV-5R v2+, UV-5RA, UV-5RE, UV-5R+ (Plus), and several others.

If you are looking for slightly better performance, I would recommend you to get BaoFeng UV-5R Plus.

Two changes that the original UV-5R saw were the 2013 BFB297 Firmware (2nd Gen.) and the 2014 N5R firmware tweak. The original UV-5R was discontinued in 2015, and replaced by the UV-5RV2.

The new models differ from the original one in terms of cosmetic variations only. The battery and other accessories compatible with UV-5R may not be compatible with UV-5RA or UV-5R-2.

BF-F8HP is the 3rd generation of the original, introduced in 2014. It’s a slightly better version of the UV-5R. You can find more details here:

Accessories Required

When you order BaoFeng UV-5R, it comes with an SMA-Female antenna, flexible antenna, belt clip, and wrist strap. It also comes with a BL-5 Li-ion battery (7.4V 1500 mAh), AC adapter, as well as a drop-in charging tray.

However, there are a few accessories you may want to look into for your UV-5R portable HAM radio:

  • With the UV-5R, you will average about 5-6 miles. If you’re looking to expand your coverage, you will need to get rid of the rubber ducky! I recommend the Nagoya NA-7716-inch whip, which doubles your reach to about 14-16 miles
  • You may also require a programming cable to make things simpler. A standard cable costs around $6-10 and enables programming with PC.
  • Many operators carry their valued HT to their outdoor adventures. Rough usage can result in damage to the outer body in the form of scratches. One smart idea is to opt for a rubber sleeve to offer maximum protection. It costs an additional 6-8 dollars.
  • An excellent to ensure you have your radio running at all times is to pre-shop for spare batteries. You can get a 3600 mAh battery pack for about $20.
  • Rescue operators and on-field workers tend to face difficulty communicating using the UV-5R. However, with an external speaker, you can talk and listen to your radio without having to take it off your belt! The BaoFeng two-way radio speaker costs under $10 and works efficiently.

The Use Phase

Surprisingly, the battery lasts for a ridiculously long amount of time. If you’re interested in a portable two-way HAM radio for your outdoor needs, this is the one! You will have it running for hours without having to worry about power!

The stock antenna gets the job done right. However, if you’re looking for the ‘true’ HAM experience, you must opt for an external antenna. It delivers better clarity and hits many more miles than the rubber ducky.

For under $30, you would expect the device to have a low-quality construction. However, in reality, the device has a durable casing, which gives a good feel in hand. The accessories, although, are of substandard quality, mainly the headset and charger. You may want to replace those with better ones.

You may experience a learning curve using these. Nevertheless, with so much information available on the Internet, it wouldn’t take much for you to get the hang of its functions. You can read more about how to use BaoFeng UV-5R here.

I would say it is one of the best HTs for work-related or outdoor adventure situations. I have not experienced any issues with the HT as yet, except for the programming part.

BaoFeng UV 5R Range

The range is the most important factor of any communication device. You might already know that the range of handheld ham radios is not as great as the mobile and base station types.

To be honest, I was not expecting my UV-5R to provide long-distance communication. Yeah, you should respect the price too!

Just kidding.

The good news is that this BaoFeng ham radio did not disappoint me. As I said before, it gave me around 6 miles range.

But there is a way to further increase the transmission range. This is by removing the rubber ducky and using a very good ham radio antenna. You can find some here:

UV-5R Programming

Overall the device works flawlessly for my basic use. However, these don’t work right out of the packaging. It requires programming, which can be slightly tricky for beginners, and quite a pain if done manually.

You can install the CHIRP software and use a programming cable to make things easier. The BaoFeng original software is in Chinese, while CHIRP is in English.

You will also find loads of write-ups online on how to operate and program the device. The is a trusted website, which has rewritten the user manual for dummies with detailed instructions. There are a couple of YouTube Tutorials, as well, that walk you through the process of programming the HT.

But never get disheartened. That is my advice.

This is the cheapest entry-level ham radio out there which gives you comparatively better performance. So, try to learn using it for an awesome journey.


This handheld two-way radio is not an actual radio scanner, although it has scanning abilities. In that case, a real radio scanner will, hands-down, outperform the UV-5R. They will have more channels, modes, faster scanning, and enhanced sensitivity to weaker signals.

Moreover, having an actual radio scanner will provide you with broader frequency ranges and will be easier to program. The advantage that UV-5R offers is that it is dirt cheap.

An exciting thing, however, is that by programming, you can tune into traffic control, firefighters, etc. The programming may not be for dummies; nonetheless, once done, you will find it easier to listen to local police broadcasts.

It gets you on air without having to spend a fortune on equipment. I wouldn’t prefer using it as my primary rig; however, it can function as a backup to my primary radio.

If you cannot afford to spend on a better-quality, and advanced HT, then it makes sense to settle with UV-5R. It serves as an excellent investment. You can eventually add in a higher-quality antenna than the stock one for enhanced reception!

Considering affordability and its diverse functionalities, we wouldn’t mind sparing a few bucks on this handie-talkie.


  • Charges quickly and has a long battery life
  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Clear reception
  • Durable; withstands rough use
  • Excellent features and performance for the price


  • Manual programming can be very challenging
  • Needs better quality accessories


Is the Baofeng UV 5R illegal?

No, BaoFeng UV-5R has never been illegal to use in amateur bands. However, it has been observed that it sometimes goes out of the amateur frequency ranges; for which it is not certified and this is illegal. So, while using the UV-5R, make sure that it doesn’t transmit beyond the frequency range for which it is designed.

Do I need a Licence for Baofeng UV 5r

Of course you need a license for operating BaoFeng UV 5R, just like any ham radios. Remember, you can not operate a ham radio without a license. You can easily get an amateur radio license from FCC.

How far can a Baofeng UV 5R transmit?

The radio will transmit 5-6 mileS

Can I use it as a walkie talkie?

Yes, you can. This article covers details about how to use BaoFengu UV-5R as walkie talkie

How can I increase the range of my Baofeng UV-5R?

In two steps you can easily increase the range of a UV 5R BaoFeng radio to 15 miles. They are:

  1. Get rid of the rubber ducky
  2. Install a good whip antenna.

Final Thoughts

BaoFeng UV-5R dual band two-way radio lives up to expectations when it comes to distance coverage, signal clarity, and portability. It is a sturdy model, sure to go a long way! It’s got a ton of features to boast and is a highly capable HT with an ergonomic design!

You may want to be careful while using these as the HAM devices, however. The HAM license permits TX on 144-148 MHz on 2-meters and 420-450 MHz on 440. The FCC does not allow you to transmit on GMRS channels without a GMRS license.

Failing to comply can result in penalties by FCC.

UV-5R is not perfect by any means. There’s no doubt that the device’s accessories are its biggest drawback. The speaker it comes with delivers a lot of noise, and the headset is also slightly flimsy.

To make up for these shortcomings, you will need to purchase a few components separately. These hidden costs need to be taken into account before making a purchase!

BaoFeng’s UV-82HP is a better version of the UV-5R. You can find UV-82 vs UV-5R comparison here.

On the whole, there is a lot in the plus column as well. Programming and accessories aside, it is one of the best handheld ham radios you can get for the price.