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Old 04-09-2013, 07:38 PM
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OilHammer OilHammer is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Denver
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Did you know there is a 3R and a "plus"? Apparently, the MkII model has the antenna that Tim is describing, but this was changed on the plus to a common style. They also changed the battery though, and the MkII has the same battery spec as cheap cameras, so they are easy to find. The plus is a proprietary battery. Which one is better? Who knows...just be aware that they aren't all the same.

Helpful review on the Zon:

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Dual Band HT (for the price), January 27, 2013
By AUgie the Prospector - See all my reviewsAmazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Baofeng UV-3R PLUS* U/V 136-174/400-470MHz 2M/70CM Dual-Band-Display Two-way Radio (Electronics)
Update: Since the below review, I've had a chance to test the Baofeng UV-3R+ with several mountain-top 2 meter repeaters in the Las Vegas area. I've upgraded my opinion of its ability to reach more distant repeaters, so long as they are high enough to have a clear path (I left my more guarded initial opinion unedited below). Since I used it with the Puxing PX-777+, I'll comment on that inexpensive Chinese VHF HT too.

The "contacts" were mere call-sign announcements in most cases, which only occasionally get a response. ("Kerthunking" - keying down to test repeater access without announcing your call sign - isn't kosher). I did get a nice response and QSO with another HT from the other side of the Valley on the most distant repeater. He was using a Wouxun HT - I didn't get the model.

My location was a parking lot away from really tall buildings, though a high-rise off-strip casino was only a block or so away. I wasn't in the direct radio shadow of it though. I used Google Earth to measure the distance from my position to the listed location of the repeaters (3 mountaintops surrounding the Las Vegas Valley). The UV-3R+ was running on High power (2 watts), and the PX-777+ was running on Low power (also around 2 watts).

The closest repeater was only 10.5 miles away. Not surprisingly, both the UV-3R+ and the PX-777+ gave a good signal through that repeater.

Next were two adjacent repeaters both 27 miles away. The high-peak repeater gave a pretty clear signal, though not "full quieting" by any means. The adjacent lower peak repeater was scratchy but understandable - not a signal you'd want to use for routine work, but usable in a pinch. Here, the Puxing, transmitting, gave a much more usable signal, though still sub-par. I attribute that to the Puxing's somewhat larger single-band antenna. This fringe repeater (due probably to partial blockage of the direct path) showed the limitations of the UV-3R+ in areas of marginal coverage, with its low maximum power and smaller antenna.

The final repeater was 35 miles out, on the other side of the valley, but it gave a good clear signal with both the Baofeng UV-3R+ and the Puxing PX-777+ HTs transmitting (and the other receiving), even better than the higher of the two 27 mile peaks. My QSO on the 35 mile repeater happened to be with the Puxing, as I'd just finished calling with it, but I'm sure that the Baofeng would have done fine too, as I'd just heard my first call come back pretty clearly from it.

As mentioned in the below review, I've called from the same area on several 70 cm repeaters, located on some of the same peaks, but didn't get a QSO started. I know I was opening them from the squelch tail, but don't have another UHF HT to listen to my signal. I don't spend much time in the valley, but did hear some clear local rag-chew calls on the 27 mile distant repeater location on 70 cm as I drove out. Based on what I heard today, I probably could have made a good contact on 70 cm if I'd been so inclined.

This little HT puts out good audio, and will clearly reach out to very distant repeaters if they are high enough to get something close to line-of-sight.

Original Review:

The UV-3R VHF/UHF HT comes in several models, with this being the latest. The earlier units had a somewhat slimmer case, with the trade-off being that they weren't as rugged and had a less serviceable belt clip. If you want the tiniest and cheapest dual-band HT, the "Mark II" model (not usually so identified in advertising) might be available for a few $ less (including here on Amazon). This one is only a little larger and has several advantages over the Mark II, and one potential minor disadvantage.

Neglecting the branding issues, here are the three major variants from my reading online (this family of tiny HTs has appeared under a variety of names, but all are recognizably the same few variations):

Mark I: Single line display, truncated setup menu, various technical issues including lots of spurious emissions, separate antennas for each band, etc. - this one should be avoided.

Mark II: Two line display, full setup menu (18 choices, so it can be completely programmed without hooking to a computer), single antenna (at least later versions), some of the technical issues fixed - this one is a serviceable choice. One nice thing: it uses a commonly available Li-Ion battery shared with some popular digital cameras, so spare batteries are inexpensive and easy to find.

"+" unit (this one): Added one more menu item (setup of "priority channel"), rugged case, new connector setup. Now standard Kenwood-style speaker-mics can be used, as is common on several HT brands, including other inexpensive Chinese units. Similarly, the antenna connector has been changed to the type used on many other inexpensive HTs, so that the choices for after-market antennas is wider (and cable adapters easier to find). As part of the ruggedization, the battery attachment has changed and now a custom battery is used (looks like the old battery, just in a different casing). The newer batteries are available, just not so many places. Be careful when ordering batteries as often there is no distinction made between models and older style batteries will be sold as fitting all radio models. BTW, charging is different for the "+" model too. Unlike earlier models, this one has a charging stand, which is powered by a USB-type 5V supply (would any USB supply work? I haven't checked). I don't particularly like charging stands (though it will accept a loose battery for a "dumb" unregulated charge), but hope that USB power will make charging less dependent on the supplied wall adapter.

Some notes on programming. With only 19 menu items and a two-line display, manual programming of frequencies and setup for repeaters is easy and intuitive once you figure out the order to use the 3 buttons primarily involved (plus the selector knob on top). There are tip sheets easily found online if the manual's stilted description is too opaque. One thing missing: no alphanumeric channel descriptions, so you'll have to remember the channels by order entered and frequency. I made a point of setting them up to match my other HT, and I'm used to that order and channel numbering. Grouping them by repeater, non-repeater and area helps too, as you'll see the repeater offset indicator go on and off on the display as you move through sets of repeaters. An unused channel here and there to break up the list will help you keep track as well.

I hate connecting everything I own to a computer, so want my HTs to be fully programmable stand-alone if necessary (there is serviceable after-market/freeware programming software - easily found online). About the only thing you can't do through the keypad is set up cross-band operation (using repeaters that receive UHF and transmit VHF, or vice-versa). Most people won't need that, but if they do, there is the programming software, which I THINK can do that (this doesn't impress me as a unit particularly fit to work satellites, one use of cross-band communications).

The lack of a numeric keypad doesn't impede programming too much (it helps that a function button puts the frequency selection into 1 MHz steps to move rapidly across the band). Of course, with no keypad you can't output DTMF tones to access repeater features such as phone or internet patches. If you are that into using repeater networks, then you know you need the keypad, and will step up to one of the many models that have one (such as Baofeng's UV-5R).

Like some other inexpensive Chinese HT's, this one has a very slow scan function and makes a poor scanner. If you don't have too many channels programmed it is OK in channel scan. Its "dual watch" feature is hinky (monitor a frequency on VHF and another on UHF), because you can get confused about which you are talking to if you key down to respond. Be careful scanning not to key down on a channel that you've programmed to monitor where you have no authority to transmit.

I've not even tried the FM radio feature - makes no sense to me, but it's there for those who want it - VHF or UHF channels being monitored will reputedly interrupt the FM programming if they break squelch.

I've only had the UV-3R+ a few days, but from my limited experience, and what I've read, I can say that FOR WHAT IT IS, it is a good deal. With only 2 watts power you aren't going to reach very distant repeaters as well (though antenna size and height make more difference than power). I can get a scratchy signal through some pretty distant mountain-top repeaters, but you'd not want to talk long with that kind of signal irritating the poor guy at the other end. The audio seems OK, both send and receive, so long as you aren't working too distant a repeater. The receive sensitivity is good - and you can get good clear reception of repeaters that you can barely open, or not open at all.

The squelch is reputed to only have 3 levels, including off, though there are 10 choices in the menu (0, 2 and 5 are distinct, the rest are equivalent to either 2 or 5). I've found that the lowest level will squelch most frequencies, even in an urban area, though to keep it quiet across the band the higher squelch level is needed in some spots. A knock on this unit online is that it gets overloaded in urban settings. Being an SDR (software defined radio), it is dependent on receive bandwidth to keep the digital stages from getting overwhelmed. In areas with a lot of transmitters active, this unit lets in too many extraneous signals over too wide a range for either the input stage or the SDR to handle. I believe those people who have reported this. However, in a built up suburban/commercial area, I've not seen this happen over several days use. It might in certain dense urban areas with lots of local radio traffic.

Battery life seems good, though I've hardly gotten the battery broken in (avoid recharging too soon or too late - with full bars or no bars - recharge at one or two bars). The digital report of battery voltage at power-up is a nice touch.

So, if you want a tiny little HT to cover both VHF and UHF (2 meters and 70 cm for Hams), can accept that it isn't going to have the punch of a base unit, and might choke in the occasional urban or repeater-cluster "radio alley", and you don't need DTMF keying, then this is an incredibly inexpensive way to monitor a few channels in a big swath of VHF and UHF, talk on local simplex, and work nearby repeaters. This gets you "in the game" for very little $, in a cute and easy to use package.

P.S. A note on band coverage: This thing will transmit anywhere in the broad swath of VHF and UHF that it can tune. Most of that range is not legal for you (or me) to transmit. Some of it is used by police, fire, EMS, or military who will NOT take kindly to us chattering on their frequencies. Just because a frequency sounds quiet doesn't mean that it isn't in use by someone using a transmission mode that you can't hear or on a low duty cycle. If you have an amateur licence (very easy to get these days with a little study) then much of the 2 meter and 70 cm bands are open to you (though take a look at a band plan - it is surprising how much of these big wide bands are dedicated to uses other than FM voice, especially simplex (unit to unit with no repeater). Though it will tune some licensed and unlicensed bands such as MURS, FRS and GMRS (here in the USA), and can be set up to meet their emission requirements (power and FM deviation), it doesn't meet various legal requirements (certification for those bands). I've programmed in some of those frequencies to monitor on occasion, but plan not to key down on them unless it is an emergency (when even the law gives some latitude for communicating in life-threatening situations). If you want to monitor a frequency that you can't transmit on, consider programming an offset to somewhere you can (I don't know if transmission can be prevented with an odd-ball transmit frequency or offset - that's worth checking!).

If you buy one of these little things, take a look at the legal requirements for transmitting on various bands it covers and how you can obey them - not so much because the FCC would be beating your door down if you key down on the wrong frequency with the wrong settings or paperwork (though they might if you do it egregiously enough!), but as a courtesy to other legitimate public and private users of the spectrum.

A final warning: If you've not researched this radio elsewhere, and are the kind who starts messing with tech items before reading the instructions, this little beauty has a trap: The selector knob on top LOCKS. Pull it up to unlock it, snap it down to lock it. A few people have reported breaking the knob mechanism trying to turn it while locked!
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