Is it a toy or what?

If you regularly check the Asian webshops you would have seen a lot of new Chinese HT brands. You can think of Linton, Lisheng, Puxing, Quansheng, Rongsheng, Weierwei, Xinjie, Wouxon, Baofeng a.s.o. They’re all a lot cheaper than the Japanese brands like Kenwood and Yaesu but are they as good?

With that question in mind I started to look at all of the HT’s I’ve collected the past years. What’s important to decide if a HT is good or not is what are your expectations. Is it size, weight, how long before the battery runs flat, what bands can I use, audioquality, sensitivity, … ?

My first HT was a Kenwood TH-F7E; a rather small HT with a decent battery, reasonable audioquality and a good sensitivty. Unfortunatelly it slipped out of my pocket when entering my car resulting in a scratched display. And that was the moment were I decided that every new HT should have it’s own bag.

If you play around with the TH-F7E then you notice the sensitivity can be improved by adding one or two so called tailpigs, wires with a length of approximatelly 0,25λ. On 2m the gain can be 2 or 3 S points. Personally I think it’s a rather strange sight to have a small HT and then hook up two 50cm wires to it…

The Yaesu VX-7R is known as a submersible tri-band handheld transceiver. I’ve never dared to throw the HT into the water but if you check on youtube there will be some movies. And yes after they remove it from the water (and even when the HT is in the water) the HT keeps on working… Sensitivitywise this is one of the better HT’s I own. One of the cons is the problem some people have to make adjustments in settings. One of the best kept secrets is adjusting the date and time which seems problematic to some. Also the possibilities for using this HT on 6m are restricted.

To be able to use DSTAR my next HT should be an Icom; I’ve chosen for the IC-E92D, a nice and solid HT, good batterycapacity, good sensitivty and ready for DSTAR. Combined with the HM-175 GPS handmike it’s very good, though the mike does give me some RFI problems on 70cm like loud beeping. But it’s one of my favorite HT’s.

And then there was…. an APRS HT. Since the Kenwood TH-D7 wasn’t available anymore I decided to go for the Yaesu VX-8. And man did I regret that choice. I always had the idea the sensitivity was bad, easy of use was bad just like the batterycapacity. So after a while I decided to sell the thing and buy the brandnew Kenwood TH-D72.

Boy o boy what an HT! You’ll have to check the menustructure but within no-time you’ve got a good performer. It’s a solid HT, good battery and audioquality. One of the nice things is that you can also store all waypoints in memory rather than TX-ing them on the APRS frequency. And when you arrive at home upload the waypoints to your PC and plot the route on a map. This HT is fun!

To check whether the Chinese HT’s would be able to make it up to their Japanese counterparts I’ve decided to buy a Wouxun KG-UVD-1P. Battery and sensitivitywise it’s an excellent performer. One of the cons is that all received signals are display fullscale  on the S-meter. The HT feels good and is solid but does have some cons like the menu, strange abbrevitions, it’s slow and the antennaconnections varies for the normal SMA female. But on the other hand the price is a lot smaller.

If we start cutting down on size and weight (and as a result of that also the TX power) we end up with HT’s like the Yaesu VX-3R and Baofeng UV-3R. The HT’s look similar but mark my words they are not. It’s obvious Baofeng (Vero) got inspired by the small Yaesu VX-3R. If you want a small HT for monitoring local repeaters I would recommend the VX-3R. Compared to i.e. the VX-7R the output power is less but you can take it wherever you want. And it’s Yaesu quality. Boy do I love this HT…

I’ve already mentioned the Baofeng UV-3; I don’t dare to call it an HT. By default you receive the HT with two monoband antenna’s. And there are some problems with RFI, volume, harmonic surpression. Yes it has DSP but can it make up with the bigshots? I don’t think so…

It’s always good to share some measurements; each handheld has been set to the A band. The 2nd and 4th column show the specifications as given by the manufacturer for 12 dB SINAD (this defines how much Volt you need at the input of the antenna for signals you can just read). The 3rd and 5th column show the measurements in the ARRL lab. The lower the value the more sensitive the HT is.

  2m NFM 2m NFM measured 70cm NFM 70cm measured
Wouxun KG-UVD1P 0,16µV 0,11µV 0,16µV 0,12µV
Icom IC-92 0,14µV 0,13µV 0,16µV 0,14µV
Kenwood TH-D72 < 0,18µV 0,14µV < 0,18µV 0,16µV
Yaesu VX-3 0,16µV 0,14µV 0,18µV 0,16µV
Yaesu VX-7 0,16µV 0,16µV 0,18µV 0,15µV
Kenwood TH-F7 0,18µV 0,16µV 0,18µV 0,17µV
Yaesu VX-8 0,16µV 0,19µV 0,18µV 0,22µV
Baofeng UV-3R 0,2µV N/A 0,2µV N/A

The Baofeng hasn’t been tested yet but if you look at the specifications it doesn’t show that well.

As I’ve already noticed the Wouxon has the best sensitivity on both 2m as well as 70cm. And my feeling that the Yaesu VX-8 wasn’t that sensitive is true as well.

What about size and weight? As you can see the heaviest HT is about 3 times as heavy as the lightest. But there’s a lot of difference in possibilites and price…

  Hxbxd (cm) Weight (g)
Kenwood TH-D72 14×5,8×4,0 371
Icom IC-92 11,1×5,8×3,3 326
Wouxun KG-UVD1P 10,4×5,8×3,8 249
Yaesu VX-8 9,3×6,1×2,3 241
Yaesu VX-7 8,9×6,1×2,8 260
Kenwood TH-F7 8,6×5,8×3,0 249
Baofeng UV-3R 8,1×4,8×2,3 140
Yaesu VX-3 8,1×4,8×2,3 130

What about the audio quality? Audio is always a personal thing, but if I would be using a HT I would like my counterpart to get a readable signal.

Personally I would say these are the winners:

Positive: Kenwood TH-F7, Kenwood TH-D72 with SMC-33 handmike and the Yaesu VX-3R.

Not so positive: Yaesu VX-7R (loud modulation, too much high), Wouxun and the Icom IC-E92.

So overseeing all of the specs I would say that a cheap Chinese HT can’t fully make it up to his Japanese counterparts. They’re are nice to have as well but not for replacement. Though they’re improving…