A quick comparison of the Baofeng UV-5RA and Wouxun KG-UVD1P

About eight months ago, I purchased a Wouxun KG-UVD1P two-band HT. Overall, I’ve been very happy with it. Last week, I purchased a Baofeng UV-5RA. Apparently, Baofeng is coming out with a new model soon, and as a result, are trying to dump these units. I bought mine for $30 from some vendor selling through Amazon, although now it looks like the cheapest price is $33.55.

Wouxun KG-UVD1PBaofeng UV-5RA

It’s been interesting to compare the two units. This is by no means an exhaustive comparison, but just a few things that hit me from playing with the Baofeng for the last couple of days:

  • Programmability. As is commonly noted, the Wouxun is much more easily programmed than the Baofeng. It was relatively easy for me to figure out how to program the memory channels of the Wouxun. So much so that I decided not to purchase the programming cable. I still have not been able to program the memory in the Baofeng. Unlike the Wouxun, you have to separately program the transmit frequency and the receive frequency. I still have not mastered this procedure.
  • User documentation. The user documentation for the Wouxun is much better than the documentation for the Baofeng. The Wouxun comes with both a user manual and a quick reference card. The Baofeng come with a very thin manual that doesn’t seem to include instructions on how to program repeater frequencies into the memory channels.
  • Voice. Both radios can be programmed to announce, in either English or Chinese, things like operating mode and memory channel. The Baofeng voice sounds much more like a computer generated voice. The Wouxun English voice has a notable Chinese accent.
  • Antenna. Since I purchased it, I’ve only been using the  antenna that was supplied with the Wouxun. It seems to perform pretty well. I’m not so impressed with the Baofeng antenna. Not only does it not do a good a job as the Wouxun, it actually gets a little warm when I transmit on high power. I’m going to have to replace it.

All things considered, I’ve decided to do one of two things with the Baofeng. I’m either going to pass it on to one of my Tech class students or hack it like KK6BWA has done. I think that either would be a worthwhile thing.

Tropospheric propagation extends VHF/UHF signals

When I’m down at the Hands-On Museum, talking to the visitors there, I frequently get asked if the weather affects radio propagation. I normally respond that the weather has no effect on propagation at all. That’s true, of course, for HF radio propagation, but I now know that’s most definitely not true for VHF, UHF, and even microwave propagation.

Above 30 MHz, the troposphere, the lowest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere refracts and scatters radio waves. This effect occurs every day and can allow amateurs to make contacts of up to 500 miles, although typically the distance is about half that.

Atmosphere

Normally, air temperatures are warmest near the Earth’s surface and decrease as you go up. Sometimes, though, weather conditions are such that a temperature inversion forms and the atmospheric temperature increase with altitude. When this occurs, a phenomenon called ducting can take place. The duct can act like a waveguide and propagate radio waves for long distances with relatively low losses. If a radio wave of the right frequency enters such a duct, it can propagate up to 900 miles. Sometimes these ducts can exist for days.

For more information on tropospheric scattering, you can read up on it in the ARRL Handbook, or go to the Web page, “Tropospheric DX Modes.” On that website, you’ll also find tropospheric ducting forecasts produced from weather forecasts.

Being an HF guy, I blew off learning about this phenomena. Even when teaching my Tech classes, I wouldn’t attempt to discuss this much. Instead, I’d just recite the answers to the questions and plead ignorance. Now that I understand this more—thanks to a great presentation by Russ, KB8U, at our club meeting on Wednesday—I actually find it kind of interesting.

As if on cue, yesterday while I was fiddling around with the Baofeng UV-5RA that I just purchased (more on that later), I heard a couple of guys from Buffalo, NY access the W8UM repeater EchoLink node. They’d access the link, then identify every minute or so. I thought that was kind of odd, so I called one of them directly. As it turns out, what they were doing is keying repeaters in areas where they thought a ducting path to Buffalo might exist. They would key the repeater via EchoLink and then listen for the repeater with their radios. They weren’t successful with W8UM, but they had been successful with other repeaters that they’d accessed. Very cool stuff.

Lack of standardization holding back amateur digital communications

Via Twitter, I recently found out that Yaesu had introduced a new digital communication system—called System Fusion—at the ARRL/TAPR Digital Communications Conference in Seattle, WA. When I asked KE9V, the guy who posted this announcement to Twitter whether or not Fusion was going to be more than a niche product, he replied, “I think it’s a long-shot at best. ICOM has dumped a lot of cash in D-STAR and now years later it’s just catching on. Tough road.”

Compounding the fact that Yaesu is late to the party is the fact that the radios are probably going to cost an arm and a leg, just like the D-STAR radios. Call me an old fart—and I have been called that and worse—but I just don’t see where the digital features are worth the extra bucks. (I would be happy to be convinced otherwise, though. Please feel free to comment on this below.)

Wouldn’t it have been nice if Yaesu and Icom, and maybe even Kenwood, had gotten together and developed a digital communication standard that both companies could support? Not only would have it made it more palatable to invest in such a radio, I bet those radios and repeaters would cost less than the current D-STAR and Fusion offerings. That’s just what happens when companies adopt standards.

As Bob, K0NR, tweeted, “File this under ‘missed opportunity.’” I agree.

p.s. I wanted to include a picture of the system, but the Yaesu website doesn’t yet have any yet on their website. There is, however, a YouTube video of the DCC meeting at which Yaesu introduced the product.

Operating notes: public service, helping people have fun with amateur radio

Bicycle TourThis past weekend was a big weekend here at KB6NU. On Saturday, I and more than a dozen of my ham radio brethren provided communications for the Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society’s One Helluva Ride. There were close to 2,000 riders, and our efforts helped keeped the ride running smoothly.

Of course, it helped that the weather was just perfect. It was sunny and the high temperature for the day was in the low 80s. That helped keep the number of flat tires and exhausted riders to a minimum.

Even so, kudos to Jeff, W8SGZ, the ARROW organizer for the event. He did a great job of organizing the event.

An old friend on the repeater
Yesterday, while walking down to the museum,  I happened to catch an old friend, Chuck, K8HBI, on the ARROW repeater. I hadn’t heard Chuck on the air for quite a while, and I didn’t recognize him at first, partly because he’d changed callsigns. K8HBI used to be his father’s callsign. Chuck was K9HBI.

I don’t know if his father has passed or just let his license expire (although I suspect the former), but Chuck now has his dad’s callsign. Since I talked with him last, Chuck has retired, and now has more time for amateur radio. I was happy to offer my assistance in getting him back on the air.

As we were talking, Chuck happened to mention that his daughter had gotten a tattoo with both callsigns in honor of her father and grandfather. I suggested to Chuck that now his daughter should get her license and then the K9HBI callsign.

New friends
At the museum, I met what I hope will be a new friend – eleven year-old Alex. His mother had e-mailed me, saying that her son had expressed some interest in amateur radio and could they come down to the museum to see our station. Of course, I replied!

Alex and his mother stayed for over an hour. He asked me to make a CW contact, and he seemed at least somewhat interested in learning the code. We also made a phone contact, and he had fun chatting with Bob, N2AF, in New Jersey.

As they were about to leave, his mother leaned over and said to me, “Thanks so much. He rarely sits still for so long. He really must be interested in amateur radio.”

On the way home, I met another new friend on the ARROW repeater. After giving out a call, Fred, WA8LJL, came back to me. Fred’s not a newbie, but he said that he has been off the air for a while. He just purchased a new handheld and was in the process of programming its channels when he heard my call. I was his first contact in many years.

All of this was very enjoyable for me. While I certainly do enjoy the technology, I enjoy helping other people get into the hobby and get more out of the hobby even more.

Amateur Radio in the News; CERT, RFI, “magic band”

San Ramon CERTCERT volutneers, amateur radio operators ‘leap’ into action
The San Ramon Valley Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program along with local amateur radio operators participated in a mock communications drill on Saturday. Volunteers placed hundreds of stuffed “CERT green” frogs placed throughout the community to help simulate victims of a major disaster.

Florida resident cited for ham interference
In an unusual case, the FCC cited Ruben Lopez of Pomona Park, Fla. for harmful interference with amateur radio frequencies. He has 30 days to respond to the Enforcement Bureau or risk being fined up to $16,000 for each violation and having his equipment seized. In this case, the subject of the interference is a well pump, according to the agency.

Sweet sound of ham radio
Timaru (New Zealand) radio enthusiast George Boorer is thrilled with the national switchover to digital television. It means after 40 years he can head back out to his “radio shack” and tap into the six-metre international amateur band, otherwise known as “the magic band”.

 

From my Twitter feed: Hacking a ham radio, KX3 video, sleeping cat

This is very cool…

Radio_2_Radio
Amateur Radio: Hacking a Ham Radio http://t.co/n2FIT4J56U

Build a KX3 in a minute

dl2ymr
You can watch a Video on youtube about building the #Elecraft #KX3 http://t.co/aGVscI5L0B

Who doesn’t like cats? I used to have a cat that slept like this.

socketwench
?????-Sunny spot and Maru.-:http://t.co/PNUd4aM4kS #cats

Video: AA2YV, build a receiver, Wouxoun review

Bill, AA2YV, is not only a fine amateur radio operator, but a professor of German at Nazareth College in New York.

Build a SW receiver with only four transistors!

A video review of the KG-UVD1P, my latest acquisition. Short version: he likes it.

Humorous Repeater IDs

Here are some humorous repeater IDs. The first set were recorded by Don, AE5DW, of Amateur Radio Newsline for Stuart, KD8LWR, for use on the crossband repeater that he’s set up in his backyard. My favorite one is “Located in NW Washtenaw County with HT coverage to all of Dexter, you’re listening to the KD8LWR repeater system.”  Dexter is a little burg here in SE Michigan with, I’d say about 5,000 people.

The second set was recorded by Don for the W4KEV repeater in Knoxville, TN. My favorite from this batch is “With less coverage than the owner’s hair, this is the W4KEV repeater.”

Stuart recorded the third set of IDs, which you can hear on the WB8DEL repeater. It’s on 224.560  MHz and located near Harbor Springs and Charlevoix in northern Michigan. My favorite from this set is, “If you want to be modulated, radiated, aerated, and communicated, you’re destinated when you’re situated on the WD8BEL repeater. Can you dig it?”

REVIEW: Wouxoun KG-UVD1P 2m/440 HT

Wouxoun KG-UVD1P

Is this radio worth $93? Read the review.

Normally, I hate spam, and when I find it in my inbox, I mark it as such, and attempt to unsubscribe, if there’s a link to do so. Even so, sometimes, when the spam is amateur radio related, I’ll take a peek. So, even though I hate to admit it, I did succumb to some spam last week.

The spam was an e-mail from Amateur Radio Supplies offering me 7.3% off my next purchase. I had never heard of Amateur Radio Supplies before, so I decided to click over to their website and see what they had for sale.

Most of the stuff they sell is pretty unremarkable. There’s a lot of MFJ stuff and some Alinco radios. What caught my eye, though, is that they were selling the Wouxoun KG-UVD1P HT for $100. With the 7.3% discount, that price would be $92.70. I Googled around a bit, and the lowest price that I could find elsewhere was $112, so I decided to buy one for myself and play around with it for a bit.

The radio arrived within a week, and I eagerly unpacked the radio. I hadn’t bought a new, in-the-box radio in years. It was all very nicely packaged, and came with a wrist strap, desk charger, and rubber ducky antenna.

I clipped the battery pack onto the radio and turned it on right away, even though the battery really needed charging. The first thing I noticed was how bright and easy-to-read the display was. I also got a chuckle from the voice that came out of the radio announcing that it was in frequency mode. The voice is female, and while the announcement was in English, it had a very distinctive Chinese accent.

At that point, I turned off the radio and set up the charger. I came back that evening, to find the battery fully charged. I’m not sure how long it took, but it definitely charges pretty quickly.

The next step was to set up some frequencies. I had heard this was very difficult to do, but I didn’t find it to be so tough, especially once you get the hang of how to work the menus. Without too much futzing, I was able to program the two repeaters that I use most. I was aided in this by the relatively decent user manual and the quick reference card. The second time I picked up the radio, I was able to figure out how to delete the two pre-programmed channels and how to get it to scan the programmed memories.

In addition to ordering the radio, I also purchased the programming cable, but it’s on back order. After programming several of the local repeaters into the HT, and seeing how easy it is to do, I’m considering canceling that order. I’m not a big VHF/UHF user, and I don’t continually update the programming of my radios, so I’m not really sure that I need that programming cable.

So, how does it work? Well, to be honest, I’ve only been able to make one contact with it so far, and that was a really short one because the other guy was driving away from the repeater and quickly was out of range. I don’t fault the radio for this, though. Like many places, the repeaters are around here are dead. I had the radio turned on all day Wednesday and only heard a couple of “kerchunks.” I don’t recall hearing an entire conversation.

I don’t really have the equipment to properly test the performance of the radio, but I will say that the receiver doesn’t seem to be as sensitive as the other HTs that I own. That’s not a big problem, though, as they’re still solid copy.

All things considered, it seems to be a decent purchase. It would be nice if there were more people to talk to, though.

On the Internet: $100 supercomputer, 13 yo reviews his HT, HackRF covers 100 MHz – 6 GHz

Here are  a couple more interesting tidbits gleaned from the Internet over the past week or so:

  • Personal supercomputer for only $100! This blog post describes reports on a company called Adapteva, which sounds like it’s still basically a basement operation, that’s developed a low-power, high-Gflops processor chip. Their current project is to develop a very low-cost supercomputer using this chip. One of the possible applications they’re targeting is software-defined radio.
  • 13-year-old reviews the Quansheng dual-band HT. A new ham reviews his dual-band HT. Bottom line: he likes it!
  • HackSDR to rule the airwavesHackRF is a software-defined radio (SDR) that will potentially receive and transmit any radio frequency from 100 MHz to 6 GHz. HackRF is intended to hit the sweet spot between versatility and cost – around the size of a USB hard drive and with a $300 price tag,