Top positive review
Incredible Value for Money
10 May 2018
There are lots of reviews about this little gem of a radio, so I'm not going to regurgitate the same gushing praise that everybody else does. I'll just say, it's a great radio and it's incredibly inexpensive. But, I'll add a few additional pieces of information that aren't quite so obvious in other reviews.
First, the manufacturing quality of the radio is surprisingly good. In fact, excellent. Everything fits together as it should and all of the buttons and dials work exactly as you'd expect. This is not a 'cheap' radio, it's an 'inexpensive' radio. The best bit is, if it does break, it's not going to break the bank to replace it. You don't have to 'baby' this radio like you would with one of the more expensive brands. This means that, I take this radio with me more than others. I stick it in my backpack, glovebox and topbox. It's with me most of the time. And, the best radio is ALWAYS the one that you have with you.
Second, programming the radio without a cable isn't really too difficult. It does take a little patience, but it's very doable. When I first got the radio, I programmed in all of the frequencies for a friends BF-888s in perhaps 10-15 minutes, and that includes the learning curve of understanding CTCSS and DCS (N&I) tones - both receive and transmit. If you're just programming in standard PMR446 frequencies (Europe) or FRS/GMRS frequencies (North America) - which don't have additional tones as standard - it'll probably take you ten minutes the first time you do it, then five minutes the next time. Obviously, if you're adding in additional CTCSS or DCS tones (often called privacy channels on PMR/FRS/GMRS radios) it'll take longer. As an aside, it's worth noting that the radio is capable of scanning for privacy channels which means that if you don't actually know what CTCSS or DCS channel a friend is using, you can simply ask them to transmit and then scan to discover what it is. Again, it isn't easy to do, but it's possible.
Oh ... by the way ... a couple of important points to note when manually programming the radio from the keyboard. (a) you can't save a frequency into a memory slot if the memory slot is already used. You must delete the memory first. That had me foxed for a while when I first got the radio. (b) to save duplex frequencies into a memory slot (for example for repeaters and maritime radio), the first time you save it'll be the receiving frequency and the second time you save INTO THE SAME MEMORY SLOT it'll be the transmitting memory. Neither points (a) nor (b) are explicitly clear in the (otherwise excellent) UV-5R owners manual created by Lennart Lindberg, and since annotated.
Oh ... by the way again ... the manual that comes with the radio is <ahem> weak. Go to your favourite search engine and download the Lindberg manual which is infinitely better.
Third, having said that the radio isn't too hard to program, it's MUCH easier with a cable. Also, using a cable you can give channels explicit names, something that is not possible when programming the radio manually. This alone is worth the price of a cable. But, a word of warning, don't buy one of the cheap cables that you can find on Amazon or eBay. Go ahead and get a good one, preferably an FTDI cable. Honestly, it's TOTALLY worth the extra cash. The cheap cables often just don't work. The same logic holds true for the battery cases (the cheap ones don't work), throat mics (the cheap ones are useless), motorcycle 'in helmet' sets (the cheap ones are WORSE than useless) and most/all of the other accessories.
Fourth, the stock antenna is really not very good, so factor that into your buying price. I've tried four different antennas, all Nagoya. In order of length they are: NA-810, NA-666, NA-701, NA-771. I really like the 810, it's surprisingly good considering how small it is. This is the one that I use when I don't want a bulky unit AND I'm likely to be communicating with somebody nearby, for example when riding my motorcycle. The 666 and 701 are similar lengths. The 666 is a thinner "whippey" antenna and the 701 is thicker and more robust. It's tough to tell a difference between them but I think that the flexibility of the 666 is easier to deal with. The 771 is the 'standard' that everybody seems to get. There's no doubt, it's a good antenna and better that the other three. But, it's a lot longer and more awkward. The antennas that I use most are the 810 and the 666.
I hope that you find this review worthwhile. My super summary is, a great radio that I highly recommend.