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Author Topic: Baofeng UV-5RA report ~ Disaster  (Read 35272 times)
KK6GNP
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Posts: 158




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« on: September 26, 2013, 08:25:37 AM »

I'm posting this simply as a report, so it can be weighed along with all the *GREAT* reports from people who bought these.  Your mileage may vary!

Given the positive reports on these inexpensive little dual banders, I decided to pull the trigger on one and check it out.  I am a "hacker" of sorts.  I don't mind experimenting with hardware, no matter where it comes from.  I often do things like change the firmware on my $600 smartphones, and install open source firmware and 3rd party apps, for example.  I generally don't complain about things, especially when I experiment with less expensive alternatives to over-priced tech.  I'm also a 20-year IT Pro and programmer, so working with computers and servers is second nature to me.

Having said all of that, my first experience with the Baofeng UV-5RA (one of the "newer" models), was a complete disaster.  I knew going in that I was purchasing a Chinese knockoff type device, and I knew I was going to have to put up with a quirky interface for programming it, and using 3rd party software, such as Chirp.  Nothing new for me, and no big deal in my world.

However, I never even got that far.  For starters, the desktop charger was completely DOA.  I saw reports about people having to solder the internal connections, so I opened it up, noted the crappy cold soldering, splatter, and weak connections.  I fired up my iron, and went to work correcting these issues as best I could.  This did not help.  The thing was simply dead, no LED light, nothing.

Ok, I said, fine, I'll just have it replaced with the same one, or the better TYT model I've seen posts about.

I moved on to the programming cable and software.  Plugging the cable in to the radio caused it to key the transmitter (or it seemed to).  After a while plugged in, it would stop.  The cable was pressed all the way in, and had no obstructions to cause a poor connection.  After tracking down the appropriate software, laughing at the software mess on the CD that came with the radio, and booting up an old Windows 7 laptop (couldn't get the drivers to work on two different Windows 8 machines), I was finally able to get the computer to recognize the cable's built-in USB chip.  However, with the strange connection problem to the radio itself, the computer was unable to talk to the radio.  Chirp could not download or upload a config on the proper COM port.

After spending a bunch of time on this, I simply decided to return it.  Again, I don't mind playing around with hardware to get it to do what I want, but when so many things are going wrong, I know when it's time to get out and move on.  I know a lot of you have had great experiences with these, and I realize I probably just had a lemon, so I haven't completely discounted buying another Boafeng in the future.  I'll probably try another one after I get a Yaesu that I know works.

Cheap, broken charger aside, I might have been able to spend more time, maybe replace the programming cable, and get this stuff all working, but I have other things to do.  I expected at least a good connection to the computer so I could use Chirp.  All told, it was a bad experience. I'll try again in the future, when I don't have a stack of other things to do on my desk.

Edit:  On the positive side, the construction of the radio itself was much better than I expected.  It felt very sturdy to me, and wasn't bad to look at either.  Too bad I had so many other issues.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2013, 08:31:55 AM by KK6GNP » Logged

73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
KJ6ZOL
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Posts: 314




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« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2013, 09:38:35 AM »

The Baofengs generally can't be programmed via PC. Mine couldn't be, either. If you want to program your HT via PC, get a Wouxun, I think the latest model is the KG6. It's about $120 on ebay. Or you could get a Yaesu for an extra $30. Occasionally you'll get a Yaesu that is DOA, and I think the new ones are made in China anyway. You can also try Craigslist for slightly used HT's. Many of them still have the packaging and accessories included, the sellers are usually guys who got their Tech ticket only to find that nobody uses VHF/UHF anymore.
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KK6GNP
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Posts: 158




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« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2013, 09:48:02 AM »

The Baofengs generally can't be programmed via PC. Mine couldn't be, either. If you want to program your HT via PC, get a Wouxun, I think the latest model is the KG6. It's about $120 on ebay. Or you could get a Yaesu for an extra $30. Occasionally you'll get a Yaesu that is DOA, and I think the new ones are made in China anyway. You can also try Craigslist for slightly used HT's. Many of them still have the packaging and accessories included, the sellers are usually guys who got their Tech ticket only to find that nobody uses VHF/UHF anymore.

My understanding was that people were programming the Baofengs just fine via Chirp, if everything is working correctly.  I bought this to try it out.  The radio itself seemed pretty well built.  I don't know if the programming cable or the radio on the inside was hosed, preventing programming and causing the key down issue. 

I wouldn't pay $120 for a Wouxun when the FT-60R is so close in price. As for nobody using VHF/UHF, repeaters are used quite a bit in California, and not just for EmComms.  Can't speak for other places.  The two clubs in my area use these frequencies as well.
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73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
N5INP
Member

Posts: 711




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« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2013, 10:08:58 AM »

Baofeng defenders to the rescue!!!  Cheesy

OK, the charger was bad. Sometimes things arrive broken with many manufacturer's products.

I moved on to the programming cable and software.  Plugging the cable in to the radio caused it to key the transmitter (or it seemed to).  After a while plugged in, it would stop.  The cable was pressed all the way in, and had no obstructions to cause a poor connection.

If you don't have the right driver installed beforehand, the radio will key up when you plug in the programming cable. I've seen that here. So the problem wasn't with the radio or the cable. You didn't read up on the procedure here -

http://www.miklor.com/COM/UV_Drivers.php

Quote
Edit:  On the positive side, the construction of the radio itself was much better than I expected.  It felt very sturdy to me, and wasn't bad to look at either.  Too bad I had so many other issues.

There was really only one real issue, and I'm not arguing about that, but your post hardly even addressed the actual radio product. A complete disaster? I don't think so.
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NO2A
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Posts: 740




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« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2013, 10:22:31 AM »

Why can`t people program an ht without using a cd? Unless you`re talking about 100 repeaters or more. Are they that difficult?
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KK6GNP
Member

Posts: 158




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« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2013, 10:27:37 AM »

Baofeng defenders to the rescue!!!  Cheesy

OK, the charger was bad. Sometimes things arrive broken with many manufacturer's products.

I moved on to the programming cable and software.  Plugging the cable in to the radio caused it to key the transmitter (or it seemed to).  After a while plugged in, it would stop.  The cable was pressed all the way in, and had no obstructions to cause a poor connection.

If you don't have the right driver installed beforehand, the radio will key up when you plug in the programming cable. I've seen that here. So the problem wasn't with the radio or the cable. You didn't read up on the procedure here -

http://www.miklor.com/COM/UV_Drivers.php

Quote
Edit:  On the positive side, the construction of the radio itself was much better than I expected.  It felt very sturdy to me, and wasn't bad to look at either.  Too bad I had so many other issues.

There was really only one real issue, and I'm not arguing about that, but your post hardly even addressed the actual radio product. A complete disaster? I don't think so.
Incorrect. I am an accomplished, methodical troubleshooter. I had the proper driver installed, and the USB COM port (COM 4 in my case) shows up in the Windows device manager.  As far as the computer was concerned, it was happy with the programming cable, once I tracked down working drivers.

The keying problem happened no matter what state the radio and computer are in, with or without the proper drivers, plugged in to the computer or not.

The disaster was the whole experience, beginning with e DOA charger which would cause me to send the whole radio back and get a new unit to replace it, or spend more money and wait 5-10 days for a TYT charger from Hong Kong.  Then looking at the garbage software CD and instructions made me laugh.  I've seen better presentations on software written by children.  The cable problem was the last straw for me.

One thing you should note is that I am a technologist through and through, and I deal with all levels of tech these days.  I'm not easily put off (you should have seen what it took to hack my HTC Rezound phone).  Point is, you shouldn't assume I just made a half-hearted attempt.  My free time for projects is worth much more to me than a $60 HT though, and I know when to cut my losses.  I don't feel like I am saving any money in a deal like this, because I place a dollar value on my time.  It's the same reason I hired a gardener at $80 per month to take care of my front yard every week.  My time is worth much more than that $80.

I made great effort in my original post here to acknowledge that I likely had a lemon, and that I was not completely put off by Baofeng.  I also noted, twice, that many people have had great experiences with these.  My poor experience with this device is valid nonetheless, and should not be seen as my way of dismissing Baofeng.  I felt my experience was worth posting, no matter whose feelings it hurts.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2013, 10:55:35 AM by KK6GNP » Logged

73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
KK6GNP
Member

Posts: 158




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« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2013, 10:29:51 AM »

Why can`t people program an ht without using a cd? Unless you`re talking about 100 repeaters or more. Are they that difficult?

Not a matter of can or cant.  For me, it saves time.  Why would I want to sit there and key a bunch of repeaters in by hand (and change them when I travel) when I should be able to do it in a couple minutes with software?
« Last Edit: September 26, 2013, 10:48:13 AM by KK6GNP » Logged

73 ~ Cory (JeepEscape)
KK6GNP
N5INP
Member

Posts: 711




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« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2013, 10:58:11 AM »

Incorrect. I am an accomplished, methodical troubleshooter. I had the proper driver installed, ...

You neither said which specific driver you had installed in the first post, nor even in your latest post. I still have doubts as to whether you had (have) the proper driver installed or if you have a driver that seems to satisfy Windows, yet still isn't the proper driver for the chip in the cable. I don't doubt you made a valiant effort, yet that doesn't in and of itself guarantee you solved the problem correctly.

Quote
Then looking at the garbage software CD and instructions made me laugh.

Sure, it makes me laugh too - but who uses that?
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N7AF
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Posts: 1




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« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2013, 11:59:33 AM »

I've programmed four Baofeng UV-5R's, seven BF-888S's, and one UV-B5 using both the Baofeng and the CHIRP software with no problem.  In fact, the only problem I had with one of the radios was the charger which turned out to be a broken lead between the wall wart charger and the charging base.  The total cost for all of these radios was less than the price of my Kenwood TH-F6A.  Baofeng has done an amazing job producing radios that perform as well as they do for a fraction of the price we're used to paying.  Sure, there's a few lemons out there but it's still an amazing value in handheld radios.  I used to hate Chinese products, especially those made for American and Japanese companies trying to make believe they were something they weren't.   These, however, are original designs with a few funny Chinese quirks but they are nicely packaged and work well.  Yes, I am a Baofeng fan!
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W4KYR
Member

Posts: 435




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« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2013, 12:43:11 PM »

 I have the 5RA I haven't had the programming issues mentioned here. I will suggest that if anyone considers keeping them for any length of time is to get the AA battery case. Cost ? $10 to $13. Try getting an AA battery case from Icom, Yaesu or Kenwood for $10...Remember that dead rechargeable batteries are useless if you have no way to charge them in the field.

The UV3R sucked because the volume control could not be turned down further, and even worse was the lack of a AA or AAA alkaline battery pack thus rendering that radio nearly useless to throw in a  'bug out bag'  or tool box for 'just in case' emergencies.

Overall I wonder about the reliability of these radios and if they continue work 5, 10 or 15 years down the road...Then again, maybe it won't matter to be out of $25 or $35. I remember spending around $400 on the Alinco DJ 580T back in 1995. I still have the radio even though the keyboard is worn out, it still works. However I could have bought a 'bakers dozen' of Baofengs with $400. Actually I just wish there were affordable dual band radios back in the 1990's.

Hint: anyone wishing to spend LESS than what Amazon or E-Bay is selling the UV5 or UV5RA new .... look for USED ones selling for $25 free shipping on E-Bay (as BUY IT NOW). You will see them every other day or so from some company out of California...
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Still using Windows XP Pro.
KJ6ZOL
Member

Posts: 314




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« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2013, 12:49:07 PM »

The Baofengs generally can't be programmed via PC. Mine couldn't be, either. If you want to program your HT via PC, get a Wouxun, I think the latest model is the KG6. It's about $120 on ebay. Or you could get a Yaesu for an extra $30. Occasionally you'll get a Yaesu that is DOA, and I think the new ones are made in China anyway. You can also try Craigslist for slightly used HT's. Many of them still have the packaging and accessories included, the sellers are usually guys who got their Tech ticket only to find that nobody uses VHF/UHF anymore.

My understanding was that people were programming the Baofengs just fine via Chirp, if everything is working correctly.  I bought this to try it out.  The radio itself seemed pretty well built.  I don't know if the programming cable or the radio on the inside was hosed, preventing programming and causing the key down issue. 

I wouldn't pay $120 for a Wouxun when the FT-60R is so close in price. As for nobody using VHF/UHF, repeaters are used quite a bit in California, and not just for EmComms.  Can't speak for other places.  The two clubs in my area use these frequencies as well.

Chirp only works on the UV-3R, IIRC. The 5 series Baofengs (UV-5R, UV-5RA, etc) it doesn't. My understanding is that the radio doesn't recognize the cable, or vice versa. It's a bug. Checked your call, you're in the south state. I'm up north, Sacramento area. More people = more repeater use. SoCal has more disasters than we do up here, you guys have devastating fires every year, and more frequent earthquakes. Up here it may be a flood or quake every 10-20 years. Wildfires occur in the mountains, away from population centers. Down there you have hundreds of thousands of people living in the forests and chaparral. If not being able to use your PC to program your HT bugs you, get a Yaesu. I really don't care about that.

W4KYR, if the company in CA is the one I'm thinking of, their stuff is hit or miss. We had somebody on this forum a couple months ago complaining that they sold her a bad Tecsun SW radio. Buy new.
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KE4JOY
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Posts: 1308




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« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2013, 01:27:27 PM »

You have to make sure you get the proper chip/cable that is 'compatible' with windows 7. There were a ton of knockoff chips/cables out there that just wont work on anything but XP and even sometimes that was iffy.

I haven't had any issues with the 5R and using chirp. The disk that came with the cable would not work but chirp worked just fine.

The only issue I have with the 5R is "low audio" reports they really tightened the deviation, a consequence of the audio/michrophone filter design. There are some hacks out there to over come that but there not for the faint of heart. The other 'work around' is to locate the tiney hole that is the mike opening and speaking loudly right into it. /shrug.

Other than that I had no issues with the radio, charger, or software/hardware interface.
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W4KYR
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Posts: 435




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« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2013, 01:47:52 PM »


W4KYR, if the company in CA is the one I'm thinking of, their stuff is hit or miss. We had somebody on this forum a couple months ago complaining that they sold her a bad Tecsun SW radio. Buy new.


One of the companies from Chatsworth CA, sold the UV5RA for $27 free shipping.  If anyone is interested seeing what these sold for just plug in Baofeng UV5RA and in the search parameters click used and then click sold in E-bay.


The one I have seen the most on sale used is the UV5 selling for $25 free shipping. That company is KingRecyclers out of Calabasas CA .



http://www.ebay.com/itm/BaoFeng-UV-5R-136-174-400-480MHz-Dual-Band-CTCSS-DCS-DTMF-FM-Two-Way-Radio-/190913221109?pt=2_Way_Radios_FRS&hash=item2c735091f5&nma=true&si=U9a9JKIRvp4jh1V1h19PaFXJqUA%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557


« Last Edit: September 26, 2013, 01:52:06 PM by W4KYR » Logged

Still using Windows XP Pro.
N5INP
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Posts: 711




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« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2013, 02:36:18 PM »

Chirp only works on the UV-3R, IIRC. The 5 series Baofengs (UV-5R, UV-5RA, etc) it doesn't.

Absolutely incorrect.

Not only does the official Chirp site say different, so do I , since I've had ZERO problems programming both my UV-5Rs using Chirp!


Quote
Supported Radio Models

Baofeng

    F-11 (in daily builds)
    UV-3R
    UV-5R
    UV-82 (in daily builds)
    UV-B5/B6 (in daily builds)
    BF-888 (in daily builds)

http://chirp.danplanet.com/projects/chirp/wiki/Home
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K1CJS
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Posts: 5810




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« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2013, 02:51:30 PM »

I didn't luck out either, Cory, but you got further than I did.  I ordered and got one of those 'gems' and it was DOA.  Didn't even turn on when the battery was fresh off the charger--at least the charger was OK.

That did it for me--I sent it back and got a refund.  Fini.
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