Baofeng UV-5R and Wouxun KG-UVD1P: The Idiot Proofing

Recently in the field of Ham radio, a couple of new players have come into town. And by a couple of new players I mean one: China.

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They have released a bountiful cornucopia of radios for Ham operators. The FCC is probably not terribly keen on these radios; they typically ship wide open in terms of transmit capability. That is to say, you could take one out of the box and have a conversation with your local police station without too much hassle. That’s bad.

Personal tangent. As Holden Caufield would cautiously yell, “Digression!”

Regardless of the flaws, these radios represent a very interesting low end to the Ham radio market. While the quality is not the best, there is something to be said for having a radio that is practically disposable in terms of cost. Back in 2010, when I got my ham license, I ordered a KG-UVD1P from China as my first radio. Unfortunately, due to the usual “USPS signature confirmation debacle,” it ended up being sent back to China before the expected delivery date. I gave up trying to deal with the situation and ordered a Yaesu VX-6R, my first HT and an excellent radio with which I was not disappointed.

Tangent has concluded, you may resume reading the article here

One of my college’s clubs has been looking for a backup communications system to supplement the shotty cell phone coverage in the mountains of NH. Obviously this represents an interesting proposition, as there are a number of factors at play which leave a lot of options open. Eventually, the operation will settle on a Industrial Pool license through the university. But that’s difficult to do on a shoestring budget, as Motorola would probably tell you (they don’t list the retail value of their radios and for good reason. Many start at $2.5K each. For a walkie talkie.)

Requirements of the operation:

  • Phone Interconnect for Emergency Telephone Calls in place of Cell Phones
  • Ability to use for both routine and emergency traffic
  • Communication On Peak and (ideally) below peak between the base camp and the portable units
  • Ideally, the ability to talk on the White Mountain National Forest Patrol repeaters in the event of a life or death emergency

But an aha moment has occured to me. The KG-UVD1P (as well as the UV-5R and ALL THE OTHER RADIOS FROM CHINA BECAUSE THEY’RE MADE IN THE SAME FACTORY) can be switched into Part 90 mode. Normally, these radios are hopelessly complex machines of CTCSS tones and MHz keying on the front keypad. I do NOT want to be in charge of teaching elementary radio theory to a college club. But with a little clever programming and most importantly, the MENU DISABLE feature, these radios can be switched into channelized mode. All the user can do is turn the unit on, and switch channels listed as “Main” and “Talk Around.” These radios are also certified for Part 90 use (how that happened I don’t quite know).

Obviously the concern lies in the fact that these radios are not ruggedized like a Yaesu VX-6R or an EFJ 5100, and if this is really a “last line” of communication, that is a concern. I’ve pretty much ruled out the UVD1P for this use, as I’m not happy with the receive compared with all my other HTs. I am quite happy with the UV-3R and I’m interested in seeing how the UV-5R will compare in terms of receive and transmit.

UPDATE!
It does not appear the UV-5R can become completely locked out without removing the VFO/MEM button via physical means. This is unfortunate, but I have screwdrivers. Further unfortunately, the buttons appear to be not the simple contact back of rubber button onto PCB board, but rather some physical metal thing soldered onto the board.

Alas.

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