Ode to Chinese Radios

This week a couple of us from the club met up to program our Baofeng radios to a more standard programming. Did you know there is a recommended first 10 frequencies to be programmed on your Baofeng? I did not, so I have added the first 10 to my radio and we had a good discussion on how to group your frequencies. Group them alphabetically? By Frequency? By band? or random as my radio was.

But that is not the point of this Ode to Chinese Radios. I had always thought that the Chinese Radios were going to take over the Amateur Radiomarket. The price point is so low, that we would be willing to live with their quarks of programming or their slightly clunky operation.

These are my opinions and thoughts on the fabulous influx of inexpensive Chinese radios.

I have tried a bunch of Chinese radios, including a big dollar triband remote head radio (VR-6600 Pro). But last year I decided on standardizing on Baofengs and a Baofeng style mobile (MP-300) for all my radio needs. I committed to overcoming the programming and operation issues of these Chinese radios and using them full time. How hard can it be? I just needed to put some energy into understanding them and then I would be set.

Now a little bit of my opinion of the background on the Chinese Radio Revolution. I think the Baofengs we use started as commercial two way radiosand there is distinct difference in how a commercial radio works. For a commercial radio users, they are not interested in a whole lot of easy to use features, they only want the thing to work when you press the button, and maybe the operator changes between two channels. Once the radio is programmed, the user does not care how the radio is working inside, and if anything goes wrong, there is a "radio guy" who's job it is to program the radios for the company.

Contrast this to an Amateur radio operator who wants to use the radio dynamically. Like QSYing to another frequency via VFO should be easy, but can come with some odd issues. Last Thursday I was trying to check in to our simplex net, but had left the manually set "repeater offset" feature turned on. So I was 5Mhz too high in my VHF transmissions but never noticed until after the net! Bummer.

A whole section could go here on the small buttons and odd menus, but those who have Chinese Radios all know about this section and are nodding their head in agreement.

Another issue I have run into with my MP-300 Baofeng Mobile Clone is it has a long delay when switching from TX to RX. I was missing the first couple letters of peoples call signs when they came in fast after I had released the PTT button. That made running a net difficult when I only copied "6KYT" as a call sign.

I was fed up with my mistakes so I begrudgingly came to the conclusion that I cannot rely on a Chinese Mobile radio as my main base station in my house. My wife (KG6TJR) and daughter (KK6VYZ) had to listen to this same long story while I banged away at the keyboard to find the best deal of on an Yaesu FTM-400 to match my mobile rig. Merry Christmas to myself I guess.

BUT! This is not a total hit piece on Chinese Radios. I still love them and am giving some for Christmas to help entice people to get their ham license. When programmed correctly and when expected to operate within the confines of a non-dynamic radio, they excel at 75% of what an advanced user would use for 20% of the price of a Japanese rig. For a new ham I predict that a Chinese HT or Mobile radio will cover almost 90% of what a new ham would use, once it is programmed correctly, and you cannot beat that deal!

So enjoy your Baofeng, Anytone, Wouxon, TYT radios, just remember what the excel at, and where their limitations are at.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Andy, Tiffany and Amelia, KF6TJR, KG6TJR & KK6VYZ