Review: Yaesu FT-60R vs BaoFeng BF-F8HP for new ham radio operators

The FT-60R and BF-F8+

Ham radio can be overwhelming, especially when you’re new and trying to pick your first (and maybe only) radio. I recently earned my Technician license, and I referred to The Prepared’s best handheld ham radios article for guidance. The guide recommends the Yaesu FT-60R as the main pick with the BaoFeng UV-5R as the budget pick.

I wanted to dig deeper to figure out if the FT-60R is worth an extra $75-125 over a comparable BaoFeng radio for my needs.

More: If you’re brand new to ham radio, I recommend starting with the beginner’s guide to ham radio.

These radios are similar on the surface. Both radios are dual-band handheld FM transceivers that can both transmit and receive on the popular amateur 2-meter (144 to 148 MHz) and 70-centimeter (420 to 450 MHz) bands and have reception-only capabilities for many other frequencies.

The first big difference is price: the Yaesu FT-60R retails for around $155. The BaoFeng UV-5R costs about $25. There are many variations of the UV-5R, like the BF-F8+ and the BF-F8HP, all at varying prices depending on when you buy them. I wound up with a BaoFeng BF-F8HP, an upgraded version of the UV-5R which cost about $80 at the time of purchase.

BaoFeng claims an 8-watt output from the BF-F8HP as opposed to the 4-watt output of the UV-5R, but BaoFeng radios never quite match up to their stated power outputs, and in The Prepared’s testing, the actual differences are subtle. The Yaesu FT-60R only claims 5 watts of power output, but as we’ll see, stated power isn’t everything.

Seasoned ham radio enthusiasts will tell you that BaoFengs are junk and that the FT-60R is absolutely worth the premium.

But I’m not a die-hard ham. I’m a new ham (licensed in January of 2021) primarily interested in emergency preparedness. I don’t have any previous experience in radio technology or engineering and these are the two first amateur radios I’ve ever tried to use. This review is, of necessity, written for similarly new hams who are trying to decide which radio to buy.

After all the testing, I prefer the Yaesu

My quick pick is the Yaesu FT-60R. While it’s significantly more expensive than the BaoFeng BF-F8HP, it’s more durable, has more functions, better and more accurate documentation, and easier programming.

BaoFengs are also very popular, but they come with complications. For newcomers to ham, the BaoFeng imposes an additional learning curve as you try to figure out how to program it and why the functions documented in the manual aren’t working.

While it’s certainly possible to work through these difficulties (hopefully before an emergency strikes!), at the end of the day you might spend more on the BaoFeng in effort, frustration, and time than you save in money. However, if price is your top, non-negotiable consideration, if you’re looking for an inexpensive backup radio, or if you can spare no extra ounce or inch in your go-bag, then go with the BaoFeng and expect to put in some extra time figuring out how to use it.

Here are the pros and cons for each radio:

Yaesu FT-60R

Pros

  • Durable
  • Easy programming
  • Better documentation than the BaoFeng
  • Many specialized and general memory channels
  • Flexible memory features
  • Robust search and frequency navigation functions
  • Separate weather channel bank
  • Nice array of special features
  • Includes survival-oriented features

Cons

  • More expensive than the BF-F8HP
  • A little bulky

BaoFeng BF-F8HP

Pros

  • Extremely affordable
  • Crisp keys and more ergonomic handling, especially for small hands
  • Includes FM broadcast radio
  • Flashlight
  • Toggle between two frequencies on the two-line display

Cons

  • Hard to operate in the dark
  • Less sturdy
  • Many gaps and inconsistencies in features and documentation
  • Undocumented firmware defects
  • Notoriously difficult manual programming
  • Repeater programming is awkward
  • This stripped-down radio doesn’t have much in the way of survival-oriented features

Basic specs

It’s hard to tell much difference between the two radios in pictures, but once you hold both in your hand, the difference is striking. The Yaesu is thick, heavy, and robust, while the BaoFeng is slim, light, and less solid-feeling by comparison.

With the battery attached, the body of the FT-60R is 2.3×4.3×1.2 inches, while the BF-F8HP is 2×3.75×1.25 inches. The Yaesu weighs 13.05 ounces and the BaoFeng weighs 10.1 ounces. That doesn’t look like much of a difference, but the FT-60R is a much heftier radio.

Another major difference is the Yaesu FT-60R has only a one-line display, while the BaoFeng BF-F8HP has a two-line display. On the BaoFeng, you can toggle between two frequencies with the press of a button.

The BaoFeng has a couple of extra features the Yaesu FT-60R doesn’t: a built-in flashlight and a broadcast FM radio receiver. The FM radio function — accessed by pressing the Call button on the side — is separate from primary transceiver functions, and if you receive a transmission, the radio will switch away from FM broadcast so you can listen in.

The Yaesu FT-60R has three knobs: one for power and volume, another to scroll through frequencies or channels (labeled Dial), and a third to control the squelch level.

FT-60R knobs

The BaoFeng BF-F8HP has only one knob, for power and volume. You have to use buttons on the keyboard to cycle through frequencies and channels, and you have to dig into the main menu to set the squelch.

Both radios feature a Moni (for “monitor”) button on the bottom of the left side, which you can hold down to temporarily bypass the squelch if you want to monitor for weak transmissions.

Both radios feature accessory jacks for microphones and programming cables. The Yaesu has a single pin while the BaoFeng has two pins, so accessories will not be interchangeable.

More: Must-have BaoFeng accessories

Backlighting and low light operation

Both radios have backlighting which illuminates the LCD and front buttons when the radio is turned on or when any of the front buttons are pressed. (In the case of the Yaesu, turning the Dial knob also turns on the backlighting). The backlighting stays on for a few seconds then goes back out. On the Yaesu, the backlighting is reddish, promoting better night vision, while on the BaoFeng the default lighting is purple but can be programmed to several other colors.

Both radios have design issues when it comes to operating in the dark, but the BaoFeng’s issues are serious. While the BaoFeng has a nice flashlight feature that may be useful in certain situations, its backlighting and button labeling have a couple of shortcomings that make it difficult to operate in low lighting — potentially a major problem. If the radio is already on but has been unused for more than five seconds, all the ways to turn the backlighting back on are inconvenient and potentially dangerous in certain emergency situations:

  • You can turn the radio off and then on again. This will give you five more seconds of lighting.
  • You can press a key on the front panel, but in the dark, you may not know which key to press, in which case you will then have to press another key to cancel out whatever action you’ve started by pushing a random key in the dark.
  • You can also press the Moni key on the side, which will turn on the backlighting for five seconds but will also turn on the flashlight on the top of the radio. The only way to turn the flashlight off is to press the Moni button two more times — once for strobe light and once for off. All this light play just to light up your radio keys might potentially be dangerous in situations where you are trying to stay concealed and is, at any rate, likely not to be appreciated by your companions, if any.

Furthermore, even in low-light conditions (not even total darkness) the function keys of the BaoFeng are hard to see. While the numbers on the front panel have nice contrast on both radios (black on white on the Yaesu and white on black on the BaoFeng), the same is not true for the function labels that are also assigned to these keys. On the Yaesu these pop nicely with yellow on black, slightly visible even in near darkness. On the BaoFeng they are a terrible blue on black!

But the Yaesu has its own disadvantages when operating in the dark. While the function labels under each of the front buttons are lit up by the backlighting on the BaoFeng, they are not lit up on the Yaesu — the backlighting illuminates only the buttons but not the secondary function labels underneath. There is, however, a workaround for this. If you don’t already remember which number goes with which function, you can use the 0 key to access the entire function menu. It might take you a little longer to program your radio, but you’ll be able to do it.

Durability

I only have one of each model, so don’t have the luxury of putting these radios through their paces until they get damaged or break. However, I can say that the Yaesu FT-60R looks like a little tank and is often described as “rugged.” I dropped it twice (accidentally) and it’s still doing fine. The antenna on the Yaesu is also thicker than on the BaoFeng. I’ve read an anecdotal report that the thicker antenna survived sliding down the backseat of a car onto the floor during an abrupt stop while another radio with a skinnier antenna didn’t.

The BaoFeng BF-F8HP doesn’t seem especially delicate but doesn’t have nearly as thick a shell on it as the Yaesu. I should say, however, that the LCD on both radios seems fairly vulnerable. On both radios, it is quite close to the surface without a lot of shielding. The BF-F8HP’s display sits in a shallow “well,” while the FT-60R’s display sits flush.

Neither radio has an IP rating against dust or water intrusion, but the Yaesu FT-60R has an unspecified degree of water resistance.

Ergonomics and ease of handling

This is one area where I feel the BaoFeng clearly wins out. I have small hands. For me, the same casing that makes the Yaesu rugged, also makes it a little bit unwieldy and a little bit unbalanced in my hand. The BaoFeng on the other hand balances very nicely and has all the right proportions for a comfortable fit. This preference is of course very individual. If you have huge hands, the BaoFeng may be uncomfortably small for you.

The BaoFeng’s buttons offer a satisfying (but noisy) click when you press them. The buttons on the Yaesu are quiet but mushy. Because of this, though BaoFengs have a reputation of being difficult to program, from the manual button-pushing perspective only, the BaoFeng was easier to program for me.

All in all, however, most functions on both radios can be operated with one hand.

Included accessories

Both radios include a battery pack, power adapter, charging dock, belt clip, antenna, and manual. The BaoFeng also includes an optional wrist strap and an in-ear headset.

The belt clip on the Yaesu comes attached to the radio, but on the BaoFeng it must be attached by you, using two screws that sit inside the back casing of the radio. This proved quite difficult. In order to line up the holes on the belt clip with the screw holes in the casing, the clip must be held in the open position, but the clip itself is on a tight spring, which resists being held open. This made installation challenging.

The belt clip on the FT-60R is much longer than one on the BF-F8HP, and thus stays on your belt more reliably.

Yaesu vs. BaoFeng belt clips

Power and charging

One of the key differences between these two radios is the BF-F8HP has a lithium-ion battery while the FT-60R uses the older nickel-metal hydride technology. You need to be careful to not overcharge the FT-60R’s battery, as that could reduce its lifespan.

More: Beginner’s guide to batteries

Based on online reports, a new Yaesu FT-60R can last about three or four days before needing to be recharged, while the BF-F8HP lasts about 17 hours, assuming a 10-second transmission every five minutes.

Both radios come with power adapters and charging cradles. The BaoFeng doesn’t have a charging port, only a cradle connector. The Yaesu has a charging port, but it won’t charge if the included wall wart is plugged directly into it due to a California law passed in 2013. To charge the Yaesu at home, you must plug it into the included cradle.

FT-60R charging port

The charging cradle on the BaoFeng is a simple well into which you drop the radio to charge. The Yaesu cradle is a bit more temperamental. It has rails onto which the radio must slide to be secured properly in the charger. This always takes me a couple of tries.

Using their respective desktop chargers, it takes about 3.5-4 hours to fully charge the FT-60R, while it takes 4-5 hours to charge the BF-F8HP.

FT-60R in its charger

Yaesu’s cigarette lighter adapter can charge the radio through its power port. There are also third-party USB charging adapters allowing you to charge the radio with a solar charger, but I haven’t used one myself.

You can charge a BaoFeng in the car with a battery eliminator. Since the radio doesn’t have a charging port, the charger fits where the battery would normally go

You can buy an extended battery for the BaoFeng which includes a power port. However, unlike the Yaesu’s power port, it isn’t protected by a rubber flap, so moisture or dust could easily encroach.

Both radios have optional battery packs that take standard AA batteries, so you could scrounge for disposables in the field or pack rechargeable batteries and a charger in your go-bag.

Documentation

Since I am a new ham, inexperienced in radio operation of any type except a conventional AM/FM radio, I depended heavily on the documentation to learn how to use my handhelds.

Both the Yaesu and the BaoFeng come with manuals. The Yaesu manual is quite extensive, at 80 pages total, although some of that is reference material. That makes it informative but also a bit intimidating. There was definitely a learning curve for me in figuring out how to use this radio, even with the manual, and I had to supplement the documentation heavily with questions for my “Elmer” — a more experienced ham who likes to teach newbies. Fortunately, I have one!

The BaoFeng documentation is deceptive. It is a slim, reader-friendly manual, which is written in an accessible and, I would even say, folksy style. When you first look at it you relax and think that this isn’t going to be such a difficult project after all. However, there are many topics that the manual doesn’t cover in enough detail, or doesn’t cover at all. Furthermore, BaoFeng radios have many irregularities and firmware defects that are not documented or are documented inaccurately.

Thankfully, knowing that the BaoFeng would be harder to learn to program, I tackled it after the Yaesu, so I already knew what I was doing a little. Even so, I had to refer to a lot of videos on the internet that teach BaoFeng users how to use undocumented or improperly documented features, or that point out defects for features that don’t actually work at all. Hunting down these issues is part of the price you must be prepared to pay if you choose the BaoFeng as your radio.

Available frequencies and bands

Both radios are dual-band FM transceivers that can both transmit and receive on the popular amateur 2-meter (144 to 148 MHz) and 70-centimeter (420 to 450 MHz) bands.

  • The Yaesu has a wide receive-only coverage in the VHF and UHF parts of the radio spectrum, including all frequencies from 108 MHz to 520 MHz and 700 MHz to 999 MHz, which covers TV and aircraft bands, weather, and various commercial and public safety frequencies. This frequency range is divided into five bands, which you can access, in sequence, by pressing the Band button.
  • The BaoFeng has receive-only access in the following frequency range: 136-174 MHz (VHF) and 400-520MHz (UHF). Additionally, It can receive FM broadcast radio stations FM 65-108 MHz.

Neither radio operates in the HF range.

Transmission and reception quality

I tested reception on the 165.400 MHz weather channel, which broadcasts weather information all the time. I expected the more expensive Yaesu to do better on this test, but was surprised that the BaoFeng won out. Its reception was excellent, with nearly clear sound both outdoors and indoors. The Yaesu was a little more fuzzy, particularly indoors, but still quite serviceable.

To test the range of the new radios, I used each of the radios in a weekly simplex (station-to-station) ARES net and recorded the call signs I was able to hear. I then tracked down the call signs in the QRZ callsign database to determine their locations. Each of the radios was tested indoors on one occasion and then outdoors on another occasion (one radio, one test per night). The nets seem to typically have between 25 and 35 total participants.

Yaesu FT-60R BaoFeng BF-F8HP
Indoors Received 12 simplex transmissions. Farthest heard transmission was 5.2 miles from my house. Received 8 simplex transmissions. Farthest heard transmission was 3.4 miles from my house.
Outdoors Received 19 simplex transmissions, 4 of which were barely audible and 2 more of which were just fuzz. Farthest heard transmission was 11.4 miles. Received 8 simplex transmissions, 2 of which were barely audible. Farthest heard transmission was 5.2 miles from my house.

While this is a very inexact test, my impression is that the Yaesu has more range of reception and that its quality is cleaner.

When I participated in the ARES net over the repeater, the BaoFeng’s reception was worse than the Yaesu’s. Repeater reception was fuzzy and would sometimes drop out entirely (I should note that I was indoors). The Yaesu had clearer reception and didn’t drop the connection.

As far as transmission, I never had any problems being heard by net control while participating on the repeater ARES net with my Yaesu. However, the BaoFeng had lots of problems with transmission. My transmissions were either not registered at all by net control, or were not well understood. I was only able to check in after six attempts over the course of half an hour. (Again, I was operating indoors.)

Based on this experience, the Yaesu is the clear winner and I would have reservations about using the BaoFeng as my personal emergency radio.

Ease of Programming

Both radios can be programmed with the CHIRP software. However, Yaesu recommends that its radios be programmed using the $25 ADMS-1J software. For the Yaesu, get this cable. For the BaoFeng, get this one. But for field use, it’s important to know how to program your radio manually.

More: How to manually program a BaoFeng radio

Remember that in an emergency, you might not have access to a computer. You may be home with the electricity down, or you may be at a shelter, or camping. Also, if you bug out, you may not have access to your preset stations and may have to program new stations manually. If you have no idea how to work your radio manually, you might as well not have a ham radio at all in these types of situations.

The Yaesu includes many memory options that can be programmed with specific frequencies. These include 1,000 standard memory channels, numbered 000-999. Five home channels (one in each of five operating bands), 50 sets of band-edge memories that limit searches to specified ranges, 10 memory banks that allow you to organize stored channels in groups of up to 1000 channels and a special bank containing 10 weather broadcast channels.

The BaoFeng includes 128 programmable memory channels and no special channel banks or groups.

The BaoFeng has a reputation for being a programming nightmare. One reason for this is that it has a nonstandard schema for programming most functions. Ironically, for me, as a beginner, this was not a problem, as I didn’t come with expectations of a particular way of programming a ham radio, although switching between the Yaesu and the BaoFeng as I compared the radios was a little confusing at times.

I did find BaoFeng to be a harder radio to program. Many functions require more key presses. There is also the matter of poor documentation and firmware glitches. As a result, when first trying to program the radio and encountering problems, I wasn’t sure whether I’d done something wrong, or the feature wasn’t working properly.

The Yaesu comes with much more substantial documentation and a more standard programming schema. Once you understand the basic way the programming works, you have a good start in programming many of the radio’s functions. I still had a significant learning curve when learning to operate it, but at least I wasn’t left wondering why I couldn’t set a feature.

Repeater settings are much easier on the Yaesu FT-60R  than the BaoFeng BF-F8HP. Because repeaters require several parameters to be set on your radio, I prefer to store them in memory, however, even on-the-fly settings are easier on the Yaesu.

The Yaesu automatically identifies the presence of a repeater based on the downlink frequency you select and automatically sets its standard offset amount and direction. What this means in practice for most North American repeaters, is that you only have to find the repeater’s downlink frequency and then set the PL tone. (If your repeater has a non-standard offset, this setting can be overridden with an extra setting).

The BaoFeng does not automatically detect repeaters and doesn’t have an automatic offset setting. Once you select the repeater’s downlink frequency in VFO mode, two more parameters must be set manually: OFFSET controls the amount of offset of the uplink frequency relative to the downlink and SFT-D controls the direction of the offset (up or down). If you don’t make any mistakes all this takes a minimum of 13 key presses. Things get even more tangled if you try to program repeater settings into memory.

The BaoFeng documentation claims that the OFFSET and SFT-D settings work only in VFO mode, but this isn’t actually true. There is what I believe to be a bug on the BaoFeng having to do with the OFFSET setting. If the OFFSET parameter isn’t turned off when you are saving the repeater uplink setting to memory, the offset amount will be added to the frequency you enter for the uplink setting. This won’t be obvious until you try transmitting on the repeater and discover that the uplink frequency is wrong — for example, instead of incrementing up by 5 MHz from the downlink it increments by 10 MHz. Therefore it’s important when saving the repeater’s downlink and uplink settings to memory on the BaoFeng to either:

  • Turn off the OFFSET parameter OR
  • Make sure the OFFSET is set correctly for the repeater and then set the downlink and uplink to the same frequency. (Yes, I know this is unintuitive).

Most repeaters in North America require a PL sub-audible tone to be transmitted along with voice. Without the correct PL setting, you won’t be able to transmit on the repeater. Hams talking on simplex also sometimes use PL tones in order to filter out other conversations that may be going on on the same frequency.

In order to set a PL tone on either radio, you must select what kind of PL tone to use. In North America, this is usually the older Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System (CTCSS) or the newer Digital Code Squelch (DCS). You must also select the tone frequency (for CTCSS) or DCS code number (for DCS). The Yaesu and the BaoFeng are fairly comparable in the ease with which these settings are configured, though I find the Yaesu more intuitive.

If you don’t know what CTCSS or DCS tone is used by a repeater (or a simplex frequency), both the Yaesu and the BaoFeng include a tone search scanning feature, which searches the selected frequency to find the correct CTCSS or DCS tone.

Both radios also include the Tone Burst feature, used to open European repeaters.

The Yaesu also has several special features that use the CTCSS or DCS tones, described later.

Navigating memory and advanced memory features

Of the two radios, the BaoFeng has a much simpler set of features and fewer memory channels. There are no advanced memory features and navigating memory is mostly a matter of switching into memory mode and then using the up and down arrows to navigate the saved channels. On the Yaesu, you can similarly navigate memory channels either by using the arrow buttons or rotating the dial knob. (On either radio, empty channel slots are ignored by the navigation. For example, if you have saved five channels in memory, the up arrow will show you channels 1-5 in order and then loop around back to 1.)

The Yaesu has many more available channels and several types of memory. Therefore it makes sense that it also has additional memory features, some of which I found somewhat obscure, but which I can see would be useful for more advanced users than I am currently. The more prominent features include:

  • Organizing saved channels in “banks” or groups of up to 1000 each, for ease of accessing. Each memory bank can be navigated and searched separately. This is useful if you have lots of stored channels. You can, for example, store these channels by type — repeaters in one group and common simplex frequencies you use in another.
  • Locking the radio in memory mode. In this mode, only memory channels can be accessed and VFO mode is not available. This simplifies ease of use and minimizes errors if your radio is being handled by lots of people (for example at events.)
  • Setting a home channel for each or any of the five band regions of this radio. The home channel can be accessed quickly with the press of a key. Useful if you have a channel to which you want your radio to default.
  • Assigning alphanumeric names to channels. Channels can be named with alphanumeric characters for ease of remembering and reference. You can then specify whether you want channels to be displayed using their frequency or name. Channels can be named on the BaoFeng as well, but only when programmed via computer software (however, you can specify on your BaoFeng radio if you want the alphanumeric names or the frequencies to be displayed).
  • Scanning only channels saved in memory. This works similarly to scanning in VFO mode, but the scan is performed only on channels saved in memory or a (highly customizable) subset of memory. You can also set certain channels to be skipped during a scan.
  • Smart Search operation. In this mode, the Yaesu scans all the frequencies in the current band, storing any frequency where it detects activity in a special smart search bank, which can temporarily hold up to 31 stations. After the scan is finished, you navigate across all the detected frequencies and save them in regular memory if needed. The smart search feature can save you a lot of time if you’re trying to quickly detect activity across a wide range of the band.

Weather station monitoring

I want to give special mention to weather monitoring on both radios since this is such an important feature during many emergencies. Weather channels can be monitored on either radio, however, they are more easily accessible on the Yaesu FT-60R. The Yaesu has a special memory bank that is preprogrammed with 10 weather stations. The weather bank can be accessed with the long press of the one button on the keypad. Once inside the weather bank, you can manually navigate or scan the stations.

Review: Best emergency radio / NOAA weather radio

The BaoFeng BF-F8HP has no special weather bank and no preset stations. To set a weather channel you must first find out what frequencies broadcast weather information in your area, then locate and set that frequency as you would with any other channel.

The Yaesu also has a helpful feature among its many scan options. In the event of severe weather, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sends out a weather alert, accompanied by a 1050 Hz signal and followed by a weather report. When the Weather Alert Scan feature is turned on, the radio checks the weather broadcast channels for the NOAA alert tone at regular intervals while performing a scan in VFO or memory mode. If a NOAA alert tone is detected during the scan, the Yasu will stop at the appropriate weather channel frequency.

However, note that the Weather Alert Scan only works when you are actively in scanning mode. If you are simply tuned into a frequency, a severe weather alert on another frequency will not be detected. Your best bet for monitoring activity on two frequencies is to use the Dual Watch (aka Priority Channel) feature described below.

Special features

When it comes to special features, some of which are useful in an emergency, the Yaesu is the clear winner. The BaoFeng does however have a couple of tricks up its sleeve. (I’ve omitted mentioning some minor features for both radios in this review.)

Dual watch

Both radios may be set to monitor two frequencies at once. On the Yaesu, you set this up by designating a priority channel, which the radio checks every five seconds while you are actively listening to another frequency. One scenario in which this is useful is during emergency operations. For example, you might be actively listening to a weather channel, while also monitoring another frequency for communication from a group of first responders.

The BaoFeng can also monitor two frequencies by turning on the dual-frequency feature. Because the BaoFeng has a two-line display and already shows two frequencies at once, turning on the dual-band feature simply begins monitoring of the two displayed frequencies.

Security and locks

Both radios have key locking features used to prevent users from accidentally operating the radio — for example, while it’s attached to your belt. On the BaoFeng this is done with a single keypad lock key, which locks up the front panel, leaving you with access only to the side buttons.

The Yaesu also activates key locking with a single keypress, but likewise includes configurable options for which part of the radio is locked. Depending on your settings, you can lock out various combinations of the front panel, top dial, and PTT key.

In addition, the Yaesu has an optional password feature, which can be activated to require a password when you first turn on the radio.

Flashlight and alarm

As already mentioned, the BaoFeng has a light on top of the radio, which may be used as a flashlight or a strobe light, by pressing the Moni side button. This can come in handy if you find yourself in the dark without a flashlight, or if you need help and are trying to attract someone’s attention with the strobe light, though you would not want to overuse this feature due to battery drain.

Both radios also have an alarm feature, which activates a loud alarm sound, paired with flashing lights at the push of a button. This can, in theory, scare off an attacker, or at least an aggressive dog. On the Yaesu, the alarm is part of the Emergency Channel feature, which also automatically tunes the radio to a prearranged “home channel,” allowing you, for example, to briefly warn a loved one who is monitoring the channel, of a nearby danger.

Broadcast radio — BaoFeng only

As already mentioned, the BaoFeng includes FM broadcast channels in addition to other frequencies. You can switch into broadcast channel mode with one button press. I found this feature to be enjoyable around my house, where I got excellent reception, better than any of my other dedicated broadcast radios. I imagine that in a bug-out or shelter-in-place scenario, it might also provide comfort or entertainment. It would probably also be a useful additional source of information and news.

Battery saver and auto-shutoff — Yaesu only

The Yaesu includes two optional battery saver settings — one for receiving and one for transmission. The receive setting puts the radio to sleep for brief periods of time, periodically “waking it up” to check for activity. When a frequency is active, the radio stays “awake.” The transmit setting automatically turns down the power of your transmission if the signal is very strong — for example when talking to a nearby repeater.

The Yaesu also has an auto-shutoff feature, which you can turn on to automatically shut off the radio after a specified period of time with no activity.

Bell Operation and enhanced paging — Yaesu only

The bell operation and the enhanced paging features help Yaesu users make sure that important transmissions don’t get missed. This might be critical in an emergency where you are waiting for a high-priority transmission but are also busy multitasking, or have stepped away from your radio.

In the case of bell operation, the desired channel is programmed to ring a bell when it receives a transmission with the appropriate CTCSS tone or DCS code. Filtering transmission with CTCSS or DCS ensures that only transmissions from prearranged sources, who’ve agreed on a common PL tone will trigger the bell.

Enhanced paging similarly uses a prearranged and preset CTCSS or DCS PL tone to filter for high-priority transmissions. In this case, instead of a bell, the transmission generates a written message similar to an old-fashioned page, letting you know that a transmission was received.

Emergency automatic ID — Yaesu only

This possibly life-saving feature is especially useful for rescue parties or other groups working in dangerous conditions. As with other emergency features, emergency automatic ID must be set up in advance on the radios of all the group members. If a member of the party is then injured or trapped and unable to operate their radio, a preset CTCSS tone pair may be sent to their radio by another member of the party, activating the Emergency Automatic ID. Once activated, the receiving radio switches into one of two possible settings (which have to be selected in advance). Either it begins to transmit intermittent beeps, allowing rescuers to find the injured person, or it activates the PTT button and keeps it on at maximum volume, allowing the injured person to transmit, even if they can’t reach or operate their radio.

Automatic Range Transponder System (ARTS) — Yaesu only

Another feature useful for rescuers or groups, operating in conditions where it’s important to know the whereabouts of other groups members, ARTS must be preset in advance. Once set, it sounds an audible beep when a group member comes within transmission range.

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