BaoFeng BF-888S Review

 

Introduction

The BF-888S is a full featured two-way radio and hand-held transceiver with a range claim of up to 6km.The unit comes with a charger, antenna, and some documentation that you might need. The walkie talkie makes claims that you can use this unit to have convenient conversations at a long range, no matter what the context of usage is, be it a camp side location or a business based scenario.

baofeng BF 888S

The BF-888S includes many perks that elevate it above an average Walkie Talkie, such as VOX (Voice Operated Exchange) which makes it unnecessary to push a button to talk. Its other features include a built-in high illumination flashlight and an emergency alarm. However, it is an incredible value for money purchase, considering that a 10 pack retails at around $ 150, meaning that one unit will set you back by just $15, compared to the $22.10 retail price for 2 units. Perhaps, if you are looking for walkie talkies for a medium organisation, this is a good pick for you.

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Build Quality

On top from left to right, you have the Antenna socket, the LED lamp (flashlight), channel selector, and the power/volume buttons. Just below the power/volume on the front panel is the LED that lights red when transmitting and green when receiving.

One of the tricks in my book is to teach kids to wait for the green light before they try and talk to the walkie talkie! It’s really easy to teach them this way, instead of making them go through complex instructions. One note here, you can replace the antenna with a standard screw style SMA Female as well, if you want to. In fact, with a 3db gain, the effective output of the radio doubles, which might come in handy to you depending upon your use case.

 

A large black push to talk button can be found on the left side of the walkie talkie. If you have had a look at the MRP of the button you know that you should not expect the highest quality plastic on this device. However, the button is of average quality, which is expected. I found that there is a slight learning curve associated with finding the right amount of pressure needed to press and hold the PTT button. Maybe that is just me, so your mileage may vary. We see that there are two more orange buttons below the PTT button. The first one releases the squelch and the other toggles the LED light on the top of the unit. In a dimly lit or dark area, you will find the LED light to come in handy. One of the use cases is when you are out camping.

The front view

The belt clip is attached to the metal heatsink on the back of the radio. This makes for a strong attachment and it is a good clip. The battery slides under the clip and is easy to install/remove, but is secure enough, so that you won’t have to worry about the radio falling off of your belt. You should first install the clip, followed by the battery. This way you don’t have to struggle with the screw while fitting it properly.

On the right side, one can find the microphone and the speaker. They are covered by a protective cover, and one can use a programming cable at this spot as well. They seem rugged enough and I’m expecting these radios to last me many outdoor trips.

Battery

The drop-in charger will charge the battery on or off the radio. Charging times are about 3 hours when really drained. Be warned, if you drop the battery into the charger and the charger isn’t plugged in, the radio will slowly discharge as it powers the LED on the base. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve found the boy’s chargers like that. Spare batteries are not hard to find, but compared to the cost of the radio are not cheap. Google around for the best prices. The Yahoo group can help too.

Battery life is excellent. Took a trip of about 200 miles chatting from car to car and were still working strong at the end. (including the excitement when a Black Bear ran across the highway in front of us)

Range and Performance

When you turn the device on, a voice says “Power On” and then it tells you the channel number it is on, which I find incredibly useful. As you change channels, it speaks the channel you just selected.

The squelch on this walkie talkie is a little aggressive, but there is a button to release it when needed. The software even allows you to tweak it, but once set, you can not alter the level from the radio, so a little aggressive is a good thing in my books. Most of the time it was not a problem while talking on the unit.

I tested out the unit in a hilly region, and the coverage that I received was of about 1.25 miles. After that the connection became spotty. As you know, with walkie talkies, your range mileage may vary depending upon a number of factors, especially the type of setting and terrain of the region that you use this unit in. I have managed to hit the 2.5-mile mark at a beach that I was at, but there were no serious terrain features to block the signal, just light scrub and some wooden single storey buildings.

The BF-888S

The performance on this is comparable to other Ham HTs with short antennas at about 3 watts.  Having said that, this range is very good for using in places such as a ski areas or camp grounds. I suppose you might as well call this unit an outdoor unit. I would not recommend this in a mountain region though. From my findings, it seems that the power output of this unit is of 3 watts, instead of the promised 5-watt output. You might achieve a better output with a different sort of antenna. Having said that, this little monster is more powerful than a lot of radios that operate on GMRS frequencies. In fact, this radio matches up to the expensive $300 Motorola ones easily, even beating them a lot of times. One of the advantages of these being so inexpensive is that you don’t really need to worry about taking a financial hit if you lose these somewhere outside. However, you should also not expect these to last 5+ years as well.

Overall, I would say that the sound quality is very good. The quality is as good as any non-digital HTs from the past and in some cases better. You totally cant say that you are actually working on a  $30 radio.

 

A note for people in the USA:

The frequencies that come on the radio from the factory are mostly not legal in the USA. Channel 6 and 7 are legitimate GMRS, but you need a license to use them. You must reprogram most of this radio to operate on legal frequencies. The only ones that are legal are GMRS and HAM, unless you have a business license that falls within the range of these radios.

If you want to use the FRS frequencies, be sure to set them for low power in the software. Or, configure the lower orange button for power toggle instead of flashlight. Full power is illegal on FRS frequencies.

At full power, you have to have a license of some sort. Either a GMRS, HAM, or some commercial license for other frequencies. The radio can be programmed for any frequency and repeater offset between 400 MHz and 470 Mhz. You need to be very careful because some of these frequencies are for emergency beacons, Satellite operations, and government.

Conclusions

I have been blown away by these radios. The radios are very simple and work well. You do need to be technical to get them programmed properly to be legal. You will also need either a GMRS license for the family, or a Technician level amateur radio license.

The battery life is impressive as well. They claim 8 hours at a 5-5-90 cycle and I have passed the 4-hour mark with them quite often them more than 4 hours at a time with a much more active cycle than that.

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