This Baofeng BF-888S review is specifically aimed at folks who want to try their hands on ham radio operations for the first. I get it that the cost of starting a full-fledged amateur radio operation can be astronomical.
Even with the right budget, newbies are always advised to begin their journey with a modestly priced gadget like the Baofeng BF-888S.
That makes a lot of sense in so many ways. One could use the transceiver to learn more about how the ham universe works and if you end up changing your mind, at least, it won’t be a big loss since you only spend just a few dollars on the gadget.
That said, this Baofeng BF-888S review is, hopefully, detailed enough for you to make up your mind about whether you need it or not.
Baofeng BF-888S Review: The Modest Outdoors Transceiver
The first impression you’d have when you see the transceiver is that it’s built to last. The pitch-black gadget looks rugged and sturdy. It is certainly compact and can be held comfortably by most adults.
Another feature you’d notice almost instantly is the absence of keypad. This is not normal for most 2-way radios. Many people find it strange and even drop the idea of buying it for that reason alone. There is something always reassuring about having keypads to press.
Two orange buttons are located on the left-hand side of the device. Above these two is the PTT switch. The lower orange button is the on/off switch of the integrated LED flashlight and function button while the top button is the monitor button.
On the opposite side are standard two-pin Kenwood ports and programming cable port which also doubles as the speaker and microphone connector.
Up top, you would find the antenna connector. You would have to screw in the 4″ SMA antenna before using the device. The antenna comes with the pack.
The good thing about this type of antenna system is that you can always swap the stock antenna for better ones if you want to achieve better range during operations.
Next to the antenna is the channels selector switch to choose any of the 16 channels and the on/off and volume knob sits right next to it.
At the back is the heavy-duty belt clip. And right below is the battery compartment. The AC power connector is also located here.
Other items in the box include the 1500 mAh battery, belt clip, users manual, charger, headphone, and antenna (depending on the package, the included battery and accessories would correspond with the number of radios)
Setting it up
It shouldn’t take long to figure out how to open the back panel to insert the battery. A pleasant surprise awaits you as it takes a maximum of 4 hours to charge the battery fully using the included charging dock.
After inserting the fully charged battery, it is simply a matter of turning the power knob on. Since there is no display or keypad, it is important to program it first. However, the voice prompt does a good job of walking you this initial stage.
When you are done with the programming, you might begin to really love this radio. The absence of keypad and display means operating it is very simple. You simply select the channel, press/release the PTT button transmit or receive messages respectively.
You would need to get a compatible programming cable to get it done properly. Fortunately, the cables are easy to get and are not expensive. You can order one from the manufacturer’s website or reputable online stores.
You can either use the downloadable programming software that Baofeng provide on their website for Windows computer. Alternatively, since the device is CHIRP-compatible, you can use this software with its better interface and universal acceptance.
If you follow the on-screen prompts carefully, programming should be straightforward after installing the software:
- Open the program
- Select the COMM port
- Power the radio on
- On the computer screen, select ‘Read from radio’ to get the channels
You can now input the TX/RX frequencies for each channel and the related CTCSS or DCS privacy tones. When you are done, select ‘Write to Radio’, to save the settings.
Since you are here, you can also customize the settings the way you want. The features you could tweak include the voice prompts, squelch function, VOX mode, and TX/TR timeout.
Range and Power – Though the package gives the RF power at 5 watts, the real transmissions power is about 2 watts. At the maximum power, you could get a range of about 2 miles depending on the conditions. Inside the city, it is about half of that.
At that range, a lot can be achieved especially if you are using it as a walkie talkie for hiking, camping, mountaineering, and other outdoor activities.
Receiver/Transmitter – The sensitivity of the receiver is rather good for such a budget device. However, this is not matched by the selectively which is mediocre at the best of times.
The poor selectivity would become very apparent in areas of high RF activity. Too much inference from other sources would make it almost impossible to hear incoming transmissions. And the absence of a scrambler means your transmissions might be distorted by other signals in the vicinity.
Battery life – At between 9 and 10 hours of battery life with regular use, I consider that excellent especially if you are not too far from a power source to recharge the battery.
I like it that it has a low battery alarm to warn you so you can take steps to address the situation. Incidentally, I have never gotten the low battery warning while using it. Of course, that is because I have never used it non-stop for more than one day.
As long as you don’t drain the battery completely, it shouldn’t take more than 4 hours to get a full battery again.
Summary of Features and Specifications of BaoFeng BF-888S
- Frequency: 400-470MHz
- Channels: 16
- Battery: 1500mAh Li-ion
- Privacy tones: 50 CTCSS/105 CDCSS
- Alerts: Low Voltage
- Flashlight: Yes
- VOX: Yes
- Emergency alarm: Yes; Channel 11
- PC programming: Yes
- Timeout timer: Yes
- Audio Power Output : 1000mW
- Sensitivity (12dB SINAD) : ≤0.20 uV
- Selectivity :55dB/50dB
- RF Power Output: 3W
- Frequency Range: UHF 400-470MHz
- RF Rated Power: ≤ 5W
- Channel Spacing: 25KHz
- Very affordable
- Easy to use
- Compact and durable
- Built-in flashlight
- Fast/intelligent charging
- Long battery life
- English voice prompts
- No screen or menu access to settings
- Works only on 70 cm band
- Bad selectivity
The obvious take away from this Baofeng BF-888S review is that it is a compact and rugged entry-level UHF transceiver sold at a very low price. This is the sort of device you’d want to start with as a ham radio operator if you have budgetary concerns.
But the radio can be useful in other ways too. As a 2-way UHF radio, it would be useful in construction sites and for the security staff in a large building or mall.
Outdoors, it is a very suitable as a cheap walkie talkie option for camping, hiking, and other activities. The range is okay while sound quality is awesome as long as the RF activity in the area is not that much.
On the negative side, the absence of a display and keypad can be off-putting for many folks. But after successfully programming the device, it is quite easy to use since only few buttons are required.