Two-way radios remain one of the most important tools for those who work outdoors. Smartphones aren’t up to the rigors of outdoor work, whereas two-way radios are far more durable and up to the kind of rugged work or outdoor lifestyle those who love and work in the Great Outdoors know all too well.
That’s why you’ll want to take the time to consider what two-way radios have to offer. There are plenty of pros and cons to models such as the Baofeng UV-5R, but the question remains – is it right for you?
Our rating: 4.5 / 5
What Should You Expect From a Two-Way Radio?
Before we get into the features offered by this product in particular, it is worth taking a step back and thinking about what features are most important for two-way radios and why. At first, the reason for getting two-way radios may seem obvious – you need to talk to someone in the course of your outdoor work or hobbies. However, if that were all you needed, you might well settle for a smartphone.
However, as any true outdoor person knows, there are some conditions for which smartphones are simply not suitable. You don’t want to trek through the woods or go out on the high seas only to find your expensive iPhone smashed or falling into the ocean. In addition, no matter what service provider you have, smartphones in general don’t always have the best reception in such rugged conditions.
By contrast, the best two-radios are incredibly durable, with hard-shelled exteriors made from high-strength plastic that won’t easily scratch or crack.
Size and Compactness
You’ll also want to pay close attention to the weight and overall size of the model you are considering. On the one hand, you don’t want the radios you buy to be too flimsy or feel small in your hands, but on the other hand, you don’t want them to be heavy behemoths that are cumbersome to carry around. Remember that these kinds of radios are most commonly used in nature or on the job, meaning that you should ideally be able to slip them into a bag, fit them into your bag, or attach them to your belt.
Channels & Privacy Codes
Another feature that helps set two-way radios apart from smartphones is the fact that they feature specific channels and privacy codes to help ensure that only those to whom you are speaking can hear you. The privacy codes help ensure that others can’t tap into your frequency and hear you as well, an important feature for jobs such as security guards. A standard two-way radio should have several channels you and your colleagues can switch back and forth between.
Emergency Alert & Flashlight
In case of an emergency while you’re out in the woods or on the high sea, you’ll want to have features such as an Emergency Alert function that can be transmitted to radios in the area. Some two-way radios also include LED flashlights for emergencies.
The range of the radios are also important. Your radios should be able to send and receive a clear signal from several miles away, with top models offering a maximum range of 50 miles. That said, range alone isn’t enough – you’ll also need to see how well these radios perform in less-than-ideal transmission conditions, such as storms in low-reception areas.
VOX support (aka Voice Activated functions) can also be quite useful. These allow you to use your two-way radios hands-free, which can be incredibly useful when you’re hiking, fishing, or doing something else that requires you to use both hands while remaining in contact with your friends or co-workers.
Bluetooth compatibility, weather alerts, and battery life are all important things to look for as well.
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Features of Baofeng UV-5R
So how does that stack up with what the Baofeng UV-5R has to offer?
Some of the most prominent and promising features offered by this model include:
- Measures 18.3 x 14.7 x 9.9 cm, weighs 530 g
- Requires one Lithium ion battery, which can offer 6 to 20 hours of battery life
- Approximate range of 10 to 25 miles
- Makes use of UHF and VHF tuner technology via FM radio
- Offers 128 channels
- Metallic build
- Bright two-colour LED display
- Compatible with UV-5R 3800 mAh extended batteries, 3800 mAh extended batteries, and other 5R accessories
- VOX support
- Up to 5 watts of power
- 13 mm antenna
- LED flashlight
- Emergency alert function
- Comes with a belt clip, earphone with a microphone, and hand strap
- Can be connected to and charged off of your computer
- Antenna impedance of 50 ohms
As you can see, there is a lot to unpack there, starting with the fact that this model has quite a bit of battery life with a 6- to 20-hour range depending on how much you use it. There is nothing more annoying for two-way radio users than having to deal with units that run out of battery every couple of hours. By contrast, even when used constantly, this model can offer hours of solid battery life.
One nice bit of news on the battery front is that this model is compatible with other battery options offered by the BaoFeng 5R series. In addition, this model includes VOX support which, as mentioned, makes it that much easier to do various tasks while working with their hands free.
The ability to connect this model to your computer is a nice touch, and can make it easier to charge.
Here is a great video on how to set it up (by NcFireFoto NcFireEms):
Pros and Cons
Our rating: 4.5 / 5
By far one of the biggest potential cons that might give users pause is the fact that this model is not waterproof. Being weatherproof is one of the most important and sought-after features for walkie talkies and two-way radios, and does a lot to help boost the long-term durability of the model. Lacking that can be a real problem. However, this model attempts to counteract that by offering a durable metallic exterior. Still, you’ll need to be careful not to get these radios too wet.
In addition, this model does not have any Bluetooth compatibility. That’s a nice feature to have, but not one which should prevent you from using these just fine for all manner of outdoor and security work.
A bit more worrying is the exclusion of weather alerts. These can be incredibly helpful for alerting fishermen and campers to adverse weather conditions so they know to take cover. You can always check for these yourself on your phone, of course, but the whole point of two-way radios is to offer an alternative in case those aren’t an option.
Still, there is a lot to love about these two-way radios.
First and foremost, the Baofeng UV-5R offers an incredible number of channels – 128. With that many from which to choose and the overall call quality offered by these models, you should be able to enjoy a clear, secure call every time.
In addition, as mentioned above, the battery life for this model is superb, and it offers a lot to make its operation a lot more convenient for users. For example, the inclusion of a belt clip and earphone with mic are small things, but they really can make the operation of these models a lot easier. The belt clip makes this model easier to carry around, and the earphone and mic make it easier to call colleagues, especially in VOX mode, another great feature. The hand strap also adds to the overall convenience.
What’s more, these two-way radios aren’t too big. At just 530 g, they are pretty lightweight, and their compact size makes them easy to attach to your belt or put into your pocket as needed.
The UHF and VHF technology used in this model is solid as well, making it a great choice for those who are dependent on that tech for these kinds of calls.
If you have purchased a 5R model before from BaoFeng, you’ll be pleased to learn that it’s compatible with this unit as well.
Finally, at 10 to 25 miles, this model offers a decent operational range.
In Conclusion – Is Baofeng UV-5R +Plus For You?
As long as you know what you are getting with the BaoFeng UV-5R, there is a good chance you’ll be highly pleased with it. The unit does not have some common features for two-way radios, such as Bluetooth, waterproofness, or weather alerts, so if any of those are a must-have, you may want to consider another BaoFeng model.
However, just about everything else about this model is stellar. It is lightweight, compact, and the accessories included make it quite easy to carry around and use. It has good range, and the inclusion of so many channels means calls are incredibly secure. The battery efficiency is fantastic, as is the VOX support, and the ability to connect this model to your computer or use other 5R accessories with it are big pluses.
All of these features make this model from BaoFeng one of the most solid two-way radios for its price range.
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