Baofeng UV-3RComments on the Baofeng UV-3R

A Review of the Handheld VHF/UHF Transceiver

The amateur radio rig UV-3R is manufactured in China. Its heart is the one-chip transceiver RDA1846 from RDA Microelectronics in Shanghai which is a software-defined radio (SDR) for 136-174 MHz (VHF) and 400-470 MHz (UHF). Two PAs, one for VHF and one for UHF, produce a transmit power of 2 W. A 1-chip FM radio for 87.5-108 MHz is also built into the rig.

The receiver does not use any ceramic or crystal filter. It is an IQ direct-conversion receiver where a DSP (digital signal processor) is responsible for selectivity. Problems of the first generation, like transmission of harmonic signals, have been solved.

Great:

  1. The price of about 30 to 60 US$ (depending on the dealer and the included add-ons) is unbeatable; it can be explained by the 1-chip transceiver concept which minimizes the count of required components.
  2. The weight is only about 110 g (with Li-Ion accumulator but without antenna). This is less than half of e.g. a Kenwood TH-F7. And the UV-3R is noticeable smaller with just 47 x 81 x 21 mm≥.
  3. The receiver's sensitivity is more or less identical with the conventionally built TH-F7 but it seems that signals come out of the noise more quickly, probably due to the digital reception concept. For weak signals the demodulator bandwidth is reduced automatically to improve readability.
  4. If the other station deviates a bit from the correct frequency, the receiver's AFC (automatic frequency control) compensates this.
  5. CTCSS (often used by repeaters to avoid conflicts on the same channel) are supported both by the transmitter and the receiver.
  6. During FM radio reception, the rig switches to amateur radio automatically when the squelch opens, and it also switches back after a few seconds when it closes again.
  7. The FM radio is very sensitive and works well even with an only 20 cm long VHF/UHF antenna.
  8. The built-in speaker sounds very crisp, and the transmit audio is excellent also.
  9. With a standby current of 75 mA only, the Li-Ion battery (3.8 V, 1500 mAh) allows to operate the radio for up to 20 hours.

Problems:

  1. It is not possible to listen on VHF and UHF simultaneously because there is only one receiver; it is misleading that both bands are displayed in two LCD lines. Using the dual-watch function is no real alternative.
  2. Scanning (VFO or memories) is relatively slow compared e.g. to a Kenwood TH-F7.
  3. You cannot lock out unwanted memory channels while scanning.
  4. The device does not have a numeric keypad, and consequently there is no provision for sending DTMF tones; as a result, it is not possible to control Echolink repeaters.
  5. It is not possible to copy a memory frequency into the VFO mode or to delete it.
  6. The lowest volume level is still relatively loud which may be annoying in a quiet environment. The beep when switching off the device is rather loud, too, and when sending a 1750 Hz tone this can also be heard from the speaker.
  7. The transmit frequency range is not limited to the allowed amateur radio bands; thus the rig may easily be abused by unauthorized users on frequencies e.g. of law enforcement authorities, emergency services, or airplanes.
  8. The supplied manual is more or less catastrophic. It does not really describe special functions (like W/N = Wide/Narrow, STE = tail-tone elimination, RelayM = Repeater Sound Response) in an understandable way.
  9. Danger: Do not use the supplied charging base! It does not have a full-charge detection; obviously only the emergency shut-down built into the battery works in this case.
  10. Operation without the manual is near to impossible because many key functions (see quick reference below) are not printed on the device.

Conclusion:

The device shows what is possible with a modern SDR/DSP concept: A small and cheap VHF/UHF transceiver can be built with a minimum of components. If the manufacturer offers rigs in the future which do not have all the limitations mentioned above, established Japanese firms will get in trouble with their conventional transceiver concept which is much more expensive due to the higher component count.

Just as with other small handheld transceivers, especially on VHF the antenna efficiency is limited by the fact that the tiny case is not a proper counterpoise. An external antenna may give much better results therefore.

UV-3R Quick Reference

UV5RFollow-up model: UV-5R

In the follow-up model UV-5R Baofeng has added a numeric keyboard with DTMF capability for Echolink repeaters. The circuit is still based on the RDA1846 transceiver chip, so most of the above is still true for the new model. Harmonics suppression seems to be improved. The battery now has 7.4 V instead of 3.7 V, and the output power has doubled to 4 W. The knob on the top is no longer used for changing the frequency but for on/off and volume. The UV-5R does have its design flaws, though, e.g. you cannot use the up/down keys for resuming a scan in a specific direction. Entering a frequency pair in a mmory channel for a repeater is cumbersome - you have to enter the receive frequency first and then the transmit frequency since the shift is not copied from the VFO. The optional PC programming software is premature and hardly useful.

The device can receive and transmit everywhere from 136 to 174 MHz and from 400 to 520 MHz, so there are doubts if the CE/FCC plate on it is qualified. The UV-5R is sold at a similar price as the UV-3R e.g. at Amazon - interestingly without any notice who is allowed to use it on which frequencies. Some countries like Switzerland have banned the import. In fact Internet message board entries show that the now widespread device is often abused by non-licensed people on various frequencies, perhaps sometimes simply resulting from ignorance.

Manufacturer: Baofeng
More information about UV-3R and UV-5R: Miklor