Baofeng Tech is a Chinese company that produces a wide range of radios that operate in the Amateur Radio Frequency ranges. The radios imported by Baofeng and other distributors into the U. S. have become wildly popular in the emergency preparedness world because of the price. These are some of the least expensive full power handheld radios on the market that will operate across the spectrum.
In many instances, the Baofeng handheld radio prices are half or less of a comparable model from Icom, Kenwood, or Yaesu. For budget-minded individuals who want a means of emergency communication, the price alone makes these radios attractive.
In this article, we will look into a head-to-head comparison of the Baofeng UV-5R vs BF-F8HP. Let’s get to it!
Check Price on
Check Price on
Baofeng UV-5R – The Radio That Started It All for Baofeng
Baofeng had other radios in its lineup before the UV-5R came to the market. They had enjoyed limited success with these smaller, less powerful radios, but with the introduction of the UV-5R, the US market opened like flood gates.
I became aware of the smaller products offered by Baofeng when I had my retail store operating. At the time, I was not a licensed amateur radio operator, but I ordered several of the smaller Baofeng radios to test. It wasn’t long after that when the original UV-5R became available, and I ordered several of these as well directly from the factory in China.
Field emergency communications were a hot topic among preppers and other outdoorsmen at the time and the Baofeng UV-5R seemed to fit the requirements for many of these communications needs. Over the next few months, I took and passed my technician license exam and became a licensed HAM radio operator
Since that time, the Baofeng UV-5R has gone through several upgrades and versions changes. The latest iteration of the UV-5R line is the UV-5RE.
Baofeng UV-5RE – The Latest and the Greatest in the 5R line
There are a couple of caveats to buying a Baofeng UV-5RE online or even at a swap meet or gun show. There are a lot of counterfeits on the market and you want to get a bona fide Baofeng product. The main reason is to ensure that the radio you get is certified by the FCC to be Part 93 compliant.
The UV-5R is a versatile little radio with many features and a wide array of capabilities, provided you can fathom the programming instructions or are computer savvy enough to use one of the available radio programming software that is available online. Yes, you do have to program these radios to make them useful.
As far as features go, the UV-5R boasts an impressive list for a radio that is often available with many accessories for under $50.
- Frequency Range – 136-174/400 – 479.995 MHz These frequencies cover the range of the Amateur VHF and UHF bands.
- High definition LED display in two available colors
- Upgraded frame material for longer life and more durability
- High/low power settings permitting either 4 watts or 1 watt transmit power
- Commercial FM radio receiver built-in
- 1500mAh battery
- Keypad lock
- Dual Display with Dual-band watch
- 128 memory slots
- Vox, DCS/CTCS encode support
- Built-in flashlight
- SMA Female antenna connection
I could get more technical about the details of the radio receiver and the transmitter, but those details are a bit beyond the scope and intent of this article. Suffice it to say that the UV5R is a fully capable handheld radio with all the latest technological advances built into the electronics and the firmware that controls everything.
What Users Like about the UV-5RE
- The price is excellent for a radio with these kinds of features
- Great reception for such a small radio
- Programming with the computer interface cable and software is easy and quick
- Great battery life
- Solid and well-built feel to the radio. Doesn’t feel like a cheap big box store walky-talky
- No lack of aftermarket accessories and upgrades to make a great little radio even better
What Users Don’t Like About the UV-5RE
- The quality control is a little sketchy.
- Use a reliable dealer and watch for counterfeits
- Requires a license if you want to do more than just listen
- Hard to program manually. You must buy the programming cable separate
- The manuals provided poorly written and are hard to understand
Overall, the customer satisfaction ratings on the UV-5R are high, and most users find this radio fills their needs at an unbeatable price.
Baofeng’s Newest Entry – the Baofeng BF-F8HP
The newest entry into the Baofeng handheld radio group is the Baofeng BF-F8HP. Some advertisements for this radio tout it as the 3rd Generation update of the UV-5R. The BF-F8HP uses the same underlying technology as the UV-5R but offers more power, a new firmware edition, and a hardened case.
The BF-F8HP also features a new and more powerful battery to match the upgraded output power. All these upgrades and additions make the BF-F8HP a bit more expensive than a UV-5R. Baofeng advertises that the BF-F8HP was designed in the US to specifically meet the requirements of Part 93 of the FCC regulations to ensure that users can operate safely and legally.
Feature-wise, Baofeng hasn’t left anything out of the list.
- 2000mAh, 7.4v Li-ion battery pack
- Frequency range – 65-1008Hz (FM receive only), 136-174MHz and 400-520MHz
- High gain 7” flexible antenna
- Semi-duplex operation
- Three output power levels – 1w/4w/8w
- Fully backward compatible with all UV-5R accessories
- Tri-color LED display
- 128 memory slots
- Vox, DCS/CTCS encode support
- Built-in flashlight
- SMA Female antenna connection
In the radio world, more output power means more distance. The advantage of more power is especially true when talking about the UHF and VHF bands. If you need more distance or you face challenges to using a handheld radio such as large buildings, terrain variations, or other interference issues, the additional power of the Baofeng BF-F8HP can justify the small difference in price.
Users of the Baofeng BF-F8HP – Pros
- The extra power is well worth the extra price.
- Works well and hits repeaters up to 15 miles away from my house
- The multiple power settings are great for saving batteries
- Programming is easy with the accessory cable and software
- This radio feels solid and well built
- For a serious ham, this radio has all the features expected on a radio costing twice as much
Users of the Baofeng Bf-F8HP – Cons
- Quality control seems to be an issue with Baofeng
- The SMA antenna connector is reversed from most other handheld radios
- There Is no way to copy a VFO to memory.
- The buttons on the keyboard are small and not easy for anyone with large hands to manipulate.
In general, customers seem to be delighted with their choice of the Baofeng BF-F8HP. The comments rate high on the customer satisfaction side. The lack of an included programming cable seems to be the chief complaint even among those giving this radio high marks.
Baofeng UV-5R vs BF-F8HP – How Do These Two Radios Compare?
|Baofeng UV-5R||Baofeng BF-F8HP|
|Frequencies||136 – 174 MHz400 – 479 MHz65 – 108 MHz (Rcv Only)||136 – 174 MHz400 – 520 MHz65 – 108 MHz (Rcv only)|
|Display||2 Color LED||3 Color LED|
|Included||Radio, Antenna, Li-Ion battery, Desk charger, Belt clip, Wrist strap, User manual||Radio, Li-ion battery, Antenna, Desk Charger, Belt Clip, Wrist strap, User Manual|
Feature-wise, the UV-5R and the BF-F8HP are almost identical. The fact that the BF-F8HP is considered the 3rd generation of the UV-5R explains a lot of this. The significant differences between these two handheld radios ais in the power-output and then firmware that drives the radio functions.
Almost all of the aftermarket accessories available for the UV-5R will work with the BF-F8HP radios, so if you are upgrading an existing radio to the newer model, you won’t’ have to stand the expense of replacing all of your accessories. The differences in these two radios include:
- Output power – The UV-5R is limited to 4 watts output while the BF-F8HP can transmit 8 watts
- Supplied Battery size – The Bf-F8HP comes with a 2000mAh li-ion battery pack as opposed to the UV-5R’s smaller 1500 mAh battery pack
- Firmware – The Bf-F8HP includes the newest firmware available from Baofeng. This firmware is designed to take advantage of the upgraded power of the BF0F8HP and will not be an available upgrade to the UV-5R radio.
My Experiences – The Boafeng UV-5R vs BF-F8HP
I have several of both models in my collection. A couple of my UV-5Rs date back more than five years, and I have never upgraded the firmware or done anything to them except adding some new batteries as the older battery packs began to age.
I have had the older Baofeng UV-5R’s die for no apparent reason. They just quit working. It happens, especially with handheld radios that go outdoors in some harsh weather or ride around in the console of a truck on a construction job. The great thing about the Baofeng radios is that I don’t fret too much over the loss because the investment was not that much.
I like the Baofeng radios. I think they are an excellent investment for the price, especially if you intend to use them only in emergencies. I keep a UV-5R in all my go-bags, get home bags, and three-day evacuation bags. I tape a small card to the back of the battery with instructions on how to use the radio and what channels to monitor for emergency broadcasts.
The built-in ability to monitor commercial FM broadcasts is an essential feature that makes the BaoFeng radios stand out for me. In an emergency such as a hurricane or tornado, FM radio will be the preferred method for emergency agencies to communicate updates and information. This feature means I don’t have to carry or worry about a separate radio to hear these broadcasts.
As I begin to replace my older UV-5R’s, I will be choosing the new BF-F8HP for the simple reason that more power is just a good thing in my book. More reach in an emergency communications situation means a better chance of being heard. I wholeheartedly recommend everyone, whether you are a licensed amateur radio operator or not, to have a couple of these BaoFeng BF-F8HP radios in your kit.
Licensing – The Big Roadblock for Some People
Yes, if you operate on any of the Amateur Radio bands using a Baofeng radio, you are required to have at least a Technicians License issued by the Federal Communications Commission. Now, it isn’t illegal to buy, own or listen to a radio that operates in these frequencies. You can buy and listen to anyone operating on these frequencies but don’t push the TALK button and start transmitting.
Many people are under the misconception that they can buy a Baofeng and program the MURS, GMRS, or FRS frequencies and begin transmitting immediately. Not so. All these frequencies require a license issued by the FCC. You don’t want to inadvertently end up with an FCC enforcement agent knocking on your front door because you used your handheld radio to talk to your wife from your workshop across the yard.
For more information about FCC licensing, you should visit this website. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) has all the information on how to study for a test and get licenses, including practice tests with the actual questions used on the FCC licensing exam.
Last Minute Update (as of August 2020)
Just as I was closing out this article, I noticed on the Baofeng Tech website a small and hardly noticeable line in their product chart. I am not sure of the publish date of the Baofeng Tech website. The chart now lists the Baofeng UV-5R with other discontinued radio models.
Checking around the internet, I found that the Baofeng UV-5R is still widely available from other sellers. I cannot ascertain how long these stocks will last, but if you want a Baofeng UV-5R, it might be wise to shop sooner than later.
I still recommend that you spend a little more and buy the newer Baofeng BF-F8HP. I don’t think you will be disappointed, and the added features will certainly enhance the use of the radio.
Getting on the Air
Don’t forget that to transmit on either of these radios, licensing is required. If you have questions, comments, or other experiences, please share them in the comments below.