Baofeng radios are popular today for a wide variety of reasons. They are affordable, pack in a lot of power, and are highly customizable. This makes them useful to ham radio enthusiasts and even commercial users like local municipalities.
However, since there are many Baofeng radios to choose from, settling on one isn't all that easy. In addition, if you are also among those who believe that some Baofeng radios are illegal, then making the decision can be even tougher.
As such, we went ahead to make things simpler for you by reviewing 11 of the best Baofeng radios you can buy in 2021, and one of the radios that impressed us the most was the Baofeng BF-F8HP.
- 1 How Picked These Top 11 Baofeng Radio
- 2 Comparison Table
- 3 Reviews of 11 Best Baofeng Radios
- 4 Buying Guide: What to Consider Before Buying a Baofeng Radio
- 5 Final Verdict
How Picked These Top 11 Baofeng Radio
We will admit that picking the best radios from one brand was challenging. However, we focused on picking the radios that had garnered lots of reviews on popular online sites such as Amazon and the radios that we considered to be more feature-packed and bound to offer customers more value for their money.
Nevertheless, we also picked out the most durable Baofeng radios that will keep you covered for years to come. While we considered other factors such as the power output and the radio frequency range of these Baofeng radios, we were not too strict as many of Baofengs radios had some features that were unique to them alone.
NB: Baofeng radios are legal to use provided you do not use them for what they weren't designed for.
Reviews of 11 Best Baofeng Radios
The Baofeng BF-F8HP is a second-generation device that is known for its compactness and for its large channel capacity of 128. It is not only one of the most affordable Baofeng radios but also one of the most innovative Baofeng radios you can come across.
It allows you to directly program it with the included keypad or by connecting it to a computer. Fitted with an 1800mAh battery, this radio can last for about 12 hours which is phenomenal.
If you plan to hike longer than intended, you could also use the radio's power-saving mode which helps conserve battery.
In addition, since this is a multiband FM transceiver, you can expect the frequency coverage of this radio to be huge. What's more is that apart from having a channel capacity of 128, it allows you to equally scan priority channels at your convenience. With the dual watch function, you can also tune in to two channels at the same time.
Other features such as its large LED screen along with its LED flashlight could equally come in handy at night.
Unlike the Baofeng BF-8HP, the BTECH MURS-V1 two-way radio from Baofeng is a less popular model, but it is a hidden gem for ham operators who love simple radios. This license-free radio comes pre-programmed and it thus saves you the trouble of having to program the radio yourself.
Similar to the BF-8HP, it comes with a 1800mAh Li-Ion battery which can deliver over 10 hours of battery life. However, this will depend on your usage since the radio comes with two power modes that can affect how long it lasts. These modes include:
- High output power (max of 2W)
- Low power (500mW)
Of course, the high-power mode will give you better performance but at the expense of a fast-draining battery.
Other than that, it is also worth mentioning that you have the ability to change or even add privacy tones (over 340 DCS) and up to 50 CTCSS. While some features such as the channel skip, the VOX system, and its modifiable two-way 15 channels are all things anyone would want in a radio, the truth is that this radio packs more than enough features for the beginner ham operator.
The Baofeng UV-82HP is perhaps one of the most popular Baofeng radios you can buy. This dual-band handheld ham radio is compact and powerful. Its affordable price also makes it difficult not to want to have one.
It has an output power of 8W for the VHF frequency and up to 7W for the UHF frequency. Like the previous radios, it also uses an 1800mAh battery which can last you well over 10 hours.
In addition, the UV-82HP has a single and dual push-to-talk (PTT) capability that allows you to communicate with two frequencies. You can also easily synchronize the PTT switch for the single push-to-talk mode.
As it comes with up to three power modes which all rely on its 8W power output, you can bet this radio is more than ideal for long range communication especially when you pair it with its dual band V85 antenna.
Other features of the radio include:
- 128 memory channel storage
- CTCSS, DTMF, and DTS tones
Baofeng's BTECH UV-5X3 5 also shares the same compact design like the UV-82HP perhaps because they fall in the same UV series. However, if you need the classic handheld ham radio design, then the UV-5X3 5 would be a good option.
Since it is a slightly older model, it might come with out-of-the-box features that may seem inferior to those of other Baofeng radios, but the good thing is that you can easily upgrade it. Its battery, for instance, is rated at 1500mAh and operates at a voltage of 7.4V. However, you can hook it up with a more powerful 3800mAh BL-5L battery.
It has 128 memory channels like the previous radios and ships with two antennas. The first is the standard V85 high gain antenna and the second is a 220MHz band antenna.
The radio supports a variety of calling methods such as DCS, DTMF, and CTCSS. As it is also backward compatible, you can buy any UV-5R accessories for this radio and it would still work flawlessly with it.
Baofeng's BF-888S is perhaps one of the company's most budget friendly ham radios that is ideal for beginners and professionals alike. While it has some features that are similar to that of the BTECH UV-5X3 5 like the 1500mAh battery, it is slightly different from the UV-5R series since this model uses the Baofeng BF-888S board.
The radio can last for about 8 to 10 hours depending on which power setting you chose. Since it has dual power mode settings, you can choose between either 3 or 5 watts of power output. Choosing the 3W power output will mean that you get more battery life.
In addition, the radio is quite customizable, and you can program it using its new PC03 programming cable which allows you to connect it to a computer. You might also like the fact that it comes with system alarms, a flashlight, and voice prompts. These can prove useful during an emergency. The radio can cover anywhere from 2-6 Km in range and has 16 memory channels.
The Baofeng UV-5R Plus is versatile and could be the go-to radio for many people. Whether you need it for emergency rescue operations or car racing events, the 5R Plus is more than ready for the task. Since this radio is more advanced than its predecessors (the 5R and 5RA), you can expect it to pack in more performance and be more ideal for particular situations.
The 5R plus seemed more tuned towards outdoor activities as it comes with a well-built metal shell which pushes its durability to new heights.
In addition, the radio is light and extremely versatile. Fitted with a 4V 1800mAh Li-Ion battery, the 5R Plus has decent battery life that can last you for over 8 hours. Its large LCD display is also something you'll like about the radio as it is easy to see and displays useful information to the user.
Other than that, the radio comes with tons of features such as a battery meter along with a low battery alert, dual watch functionality, a timeout timer, and VOX.
The Baofeng UV-5RE+ comes with three different power settings which are the 8W, 5W, and 1W power modes. That's not all though, since it also comes with two high-gain antennas which can allow you to explore just how powerful the radio is.
The radio's 2800mAh battery is almost twice as powerful as its predecessors, and this is a clear sign that Baofeng listens to their customers. The large battery allows the radio to easily last for over 10 hours without necessarily requiring you to be on the lowest power mode.
In addition, it can hold up to 128 channels in its memory like many of the other Baofeng radios, but it is hard to ignore just how many hardware features make it superior to the other radios.
As you may have guessed, the Baofeng UV-5RE is somewhat related to the UV-5RE+ that we've just discussed above. However, it is easy to assume that the UV-5RE has fewer superior features than the UV-5RE+, but the truth is that this radio will surprise most.
The radio can operate at frequencies ranging from 136-174MHZ and 400-479MHz. It also comes with a few of the features that we saw in other radios such as the low battery alert which notifies you whenever you are running low on battery. However, since it also features a battery saver, you can get slightly more battery life from the radio.
Other than that, the radio is also generally durable and has a nice old-fashioned look that many people would not mind. The frame material, for example is metallic. As such, the radio is durable and can survive tough conditions.
Additionally, the radio has a power output of 4W and can hold up to 128 channels in its memory like a couple of the other Baofeng radios. You will also find its large LCD display useful and easy to read values from.
This is an equally popular radio among ham operators who love it because it is compact. However, most people would love it because it comes with tons of useful features and is quite affordable.
The UV5RA comes with an 1800mAh battery like some of the earlier radios we had reviewed like the BF-F8HP and the UV-82HP. Consequently, you can expect a battery life of about 8 hours or more depending on your usage.
It operates in two power modes alone unlike a few of the ones we saw which can have up to 3 power modes. These are:
4W power mode – recommended for long range communication
1W power mode – preferred for short range communication.
Additionally, the radio comes with over 100 DCS codes and up to 50 privacy codes (CTCSS). It is also lightweight, and this makes it ideal for use in hiking trips. It ships with other features like Dual PTT keys, Key lock, and comes with a built-in flash light which some users may find useful in low light conditions.
Many may disregard the Baofeng UV-5R as it is one of the earliest radios to start the UV model line, but there are plenty of reasons why we were impressed with this radio. For starters, the radio has many of the features that newer and popular radios have yet it is older. A good example is the fact that it allows for up to 128 channels and has 50 CTCSS and over 100 CDCSS.
It also operates on frequencies ranging from 65-108 (FM radio), 136-174MHz (VHF), and 400-520 MHz (UHF). As it can output a maximum of 4W power, it might not beat the range of radios like the UV-82HP which can deliver twice the power. However, we were just amazed with how much the radio was still powerful despite being an old model.
In addition, while it has a 1500mAh battery, it can last you around 12-18 hours which is better than what some of the other newer Baofeng radios could achieve.
The BF-A58 is yet another hidden gem that most ham radio lovers want to get their hands on. It is an affordable dual band radio that has up to 3 power output modes. The highest power output that the radio can achieve is 5W, but you can lower this to either 4W or 1W depending on your usage.
The radio also comes in a rugged design which Baofeng itself claims that it is both dustproof and waterproof. Besides that, its large 2500mAh battery ensures you get to use the radio for a longer time compared to the ones that have either the 1500mAh or 1800mAh batteries.
Buying Guide: What to Consider Before Buying a Baofeng Radio
Choosing the best Baofeng radio when presented with a list of all Baofeng radios can be challenging because many of them have similar features. As we saw earlier, many of the radios had 1800mAh batteries. In fact, nearly all of them could hold 128 channels in memory.
However, we'd like to offer a helping hand and guide you on what you should be looking for in case you wish to purchase a Baofeng radio that we didn't review.
You should also note that these considerations could equally apply to other radios as well. This means you can consider them when seeking to purchase non-Baofeng radios.
You need to be on the lookout for the radio's battery life and its power output. Picking a radio with a small battery yet it has a high power rating would be somewhat counterproductive since such a radio would run out of power pretty fast. On the other hand, while you can choose a Baofeng radio with a larger battery, a clever option would be to find out if the radio is backward compatible and if you can replace some of its components to make it even more powerful.
A few of the radios came with two antennas which is great. However, most of these "rubber-duck" antennas are usually not as efficient like whip antennas. You should thus consider upgrading to a slightly better antenna in case you want to get the most out of your radio. Sure, this would cost you some extra cash, but you'll be getting amazing audio quality once you pair the radio with a good antenna.
Modes and Frequencies
The most common radio frequencies are usually the FM, UHF, and VHF. However, since UHF and VHF bands operate beyond 30MHz, you will need to be licensed to legally transmit in this frequency. In addition, a radio with multiple modes allows you to control how much power you can use to get the best results.
Not all Baofeng radios have equal speaker power, and this can impact your entire experience with the radio. If you are going to be using the radio in a generally quiet environment, then you would do well with nearly any Baofeng radio. However, we do suggest that you stick to radios with speaker power of above 700mW.
Structure and Design
Lastly, you should also consider the design of the radio. Some of the radios are more rugged and can thus be used in harsh environments where generic radios could easily sustain damage. If, however, you simply want to use the radio for personal use and intend to keep it in one location, then there is no reason to fuss over its sturdiness too much.
All in all, you certainly wouldn’t go wrong with any of the Baofeng radios we've reviewed because nearly all of them are top notch as they come from a pretty respectable brand. If you fancy getting another kind of Baofeng radio, then you should probably consider things such as power, the modes of the radio, and its design. However, we are positive that you'll be particularly pleased with any of our top 3 picks: Baofeng UV-5RE+, Baofeng BF-F8HP, or Baofeng BF-888S.