This blog was created to share my projects, ideas, and experiences in amateur radio with other operators around the world who also enjoy this wonderful hobby.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Baofeng BF-U3 UHF 16 Channel Mini Hand Held

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The Baofeng BF-U3 UHF 16 channel mini hand held is a two watt transceiver covering from 400 to 470 mhz. The size is similar to the popular UV-3R , uses the same battery and accessories but can not be programmed from the front panel. The BF-U3 can be set to low power operation (less than 1 watt) with the programming software. The programming cable and software is not included with the radio.

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The BF-U3 package includes, radio, UHF antenna (SMA male), 3.7 volt lithium ion battery ( 1500 ma.),
usb power supply charger, usb charging cable, battery charging cradle, belt clip, in ear type earphone /mic with ptt , user's manual and lanyard.

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The Baofeng BF-U3 mini hand held compared to the dual band model, UV-3R. The case is about the same size as the UV-3R but there are no front panel buttons , just the left side buttons and the channel selector knob on top.The antenna supplied with the BF-U3 is a single band antenna for the UHF band (400 - 470 mhz.)
The antenna supplied with the UV-3R is longer and is a dual band antenna. On older versions of the UV-3R , Baofeng supplied two antennas, one for VHF and one for UHF. The size of the UHF antenna on the older UV-3R's is about the same length as the one on the BF-U3. The performance of both antennas is the same.

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 Front view of both radios. Notice that on the BF-U3 the speaker is located at  the top of the radio case, on the UV-3R the speaker is located at the bottom. Both radios use the same type of antenna connector ,the SMA male , any aftermarket SMA male antenna will fit. I have obtained good results on both models with the Nagoya NA-701 and the NA-773.

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The back view of the BF-U3. The battery cover is the same as in the UV-3R and it also uses the same battery, a 3.7 volt, 1500 ma. lithium ion battery. The belt clip attaches to the back of the radio with one phillips screw. Battery contacts are located on the top of the metal chassis of the radio , the battery cover is secured in place with a sliding lock on the bottom of the case. Both , the cover and the battery can be removed with the belt clip attached to the radio.

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A close up view of the back . The metal chassis on the BF-U3 and the UV-3R are used as a heat sink for the final amplifier transistor, it is normal for the radio to heat up during  long transmissions on the two watt,  high power setting. The temperature never rises to an uncomfortable level , like in some five watt handhelds. When operated in the low power setting , it is warm most of the time, even in long transmissions.

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Top view of the BF-U3. The antenna connector to the left, the built in torch led flashlight and the channel selector knob. On the dual band UV-3R the channel selector  knob is used for various functions, on the BF-U3, it is strictly for channel selection. When the knob is pulled, it selects your operating channel , from one to sixteen. When the knob is pushed , it locks the radio in the channel selected. When selecting channels ,the radio will announce the channel number in voice.  Below the channel knob is the TX / RX led, it glows green when receiving a signal , and red when transmitting.

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Right side view of the radio. The speaker microphone connection requires a four contact , 3.5mm plug. The radio includes the earphone/mic unit with push to talk switch. The programming cable is connected to the same jack. The cable is not included but it can be found on the internet from different suppliers , including E-bay. I ordered one some time ago from , to program the Baofeng UV-3R, it is the same cable the BF-U3 uses. . The programming software is different from the one used on the UV-3R and can be downloaded free from  409shop also . The lower connector is for the dc adapter charger. The battery can be charged using the supplied usb power supply (120 vac to 5 vdc) or from any available usb port with the supplied cable. It can be charged inside the radio or outside on the included charging cradle.

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Left side view of the radio.From top to bottom, ptt switch, M/L button and P/V button. The ptt is used to key the transceiver, when the external earphone/mic is used the radio's ptt switch still works.The M/L button is used to activate the torch led flashlight or to open the squelch (monitor). The P/V button is used to turn on or off the transceiver, it needs to be pressed for 2 seconds to either turn on or off. When turned on, the command is announced in voice thru the speaker, also it will announce in voice when powering off. The voice can be changed from chinese to english with the programming software. Pressing the P/V button rapidly will increase the volume in pre- determined steps. In order to set the volume to minimum , you need to cycle through  all the steps , reach maximum and then start from minimum again.

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Rear view of the Baofeng BF-U3. Note the similarity with the dual band model ,the UV-3R.
The belt clip is attached to the radio with a single phillips screw. Both the battery cover and the battery can be removed from the radio with the clip installed. Be careful as the belt clip is thin plastic and is not spring loaded , it can break easily.

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Front view of the Baofeng BF-U3 while receiving a signal. The receive led will glow green. The metal on the front panel bottom is not real metal, it is a chrome plated sticker . The received audio is better than the audio on the UV-3R dual band model . This is related in part to the acoustics of the radio case and to the fact that the speaker is located on top of the front panel and not the bottom. Both models have 500 mw. audio output power.

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The Baofeng BF-U3 transmitting. The receive led changes from green to red, ptt is possible from the radio's ptt switch even when the earphone/mic is used. According to several vendors on the internet, the BF-U3 does not support speaker mike operation. With the included earphone /mic it works ok. I am still waiting for a mini speaker microphone I ordered last week to arrive for my UV-3R. I will test the speaker microphone once it is received with the BF-U3 in order to confirm this issue and will post or edit the information here. The power settings need to be programmed with software , either high or low, for each one of the sixteen channels and can not be changed from the radio.

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Front view of the radio with the stock UHF antenna attached. Next to it , the Nagoya NA-773 dual band telescopic antenna. Reception is acceptable with the stock antenna, local repeaters can be accessed ok, at even the low power setting. I have found that  most mini handhelds like the Yaesu VX-3R , Icom IC-Q7A and the Baofeng's receive better when you are holding them in your hand. The human body by capacity couples to the radio , in most cases improving reception . When you place the radio on  your desk ,for example , sometimes reception is marginal. This is noticed mostly on the vhf frequencies and it is caused by the size of the radio.. The mini handhelds metal case is not large enough to provide an  adequate counterpoise on the vhf frequencies. I remember a company sometime ago ,selling a "rat's tail", it was a counterpoise wire that was attached to the antenna connector down the back of the hand held. It improved the reception and probably the transmission ,because it provided a quarter wave counterpoise radial to the transceiver. In real life or daily radio activity this is impractical , but it clearly explains the problem with the mini hand held's insufficient counterpoise. A longer antenna in most cases improves the reception , I have obtained good results on both radios, the BF-U3 and the UV-3R with the Nagoya NA-701 and the NA-773. The 773 is a dual band telescopic antenna and provides superior reception on both radios. The 701 is my choice for everyday operation as it is not too long. You have to compare and experiment with the different models available , your results may be different. In my tests the receive sensitivity of both radios is about the same, the BF-U3 when receiving fades more than the UV-3R ,but this has a lot to do with the short antenna. Using a longer antenna , improves the reception. RFI immunity on both radios is also the same on UHF. With the UV-3R operation on VHF near a computer,  monitor or  near a wireless router is impossible. This is related in part to the simple, zero IF, dsp design of both transceivers.

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This is the view of the BF-480 programming software on the computer screen. The program can be downloaded free from It is not the same software used with the UV-3R so be careful. The first step is to configure the comm port for the usb cable to Baofeng mini plug. In my case I am using comm port number four. Start entering your receive and transmit frequencies ,starting with number, one until you reach channel number sixteen. Also enter the transmit pl tone or DCS , the transmit power (high or low),wide or narrow deviation and if you want to add the channel to the scan group. The busy lock out if left on, will prevent the radio from transmitting while a  channel is busy. If you don't want this feature, change the setting to off. Once you have all your information entered correctly, click on the program tab ,and in the pop out  window, click, write to radio. A progress bar will appear while the radio is programmed. Once programmed ,you can save your programming information in a file on the computer. If you want to see what is programmed, click on the program tab and select , read from radio. Programming all the channels is not needed , the radio will emit a constant beep when you select a channel that is not programmed.

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This is the view of the BF-480 programming software screen , with the programming I did on my Baofeng BF-U3. There are not many active repeaters in Puerto Rico that I am able to use with two watts from the capital (San Juan). I was able to test twelve repeaters that were  within range , programmed those frequencies and left four channels empty for future use. The software is very user friendly and the programming process can be completed in very little time, if you have the list of frequencies already organized. On the Baofeng UV-3R there are a total of 99 memory channels, it will take more time to program the complete set of memories on that radio. If you have any questions or comments regarding the Baofeng BF-U3 uhf mini radio or the UV-3R , subject of an earlier blog entry, please contact me via e-mail. I hope this information helps deciding which radio is a better option in your particular application and clarifies the programming process with the BF-480 software.


  1. You can also use the Vero-100 software, i found it to be more stable..

  2. The bf-888 had a terrible long "squelch tail". Does this radio suffer the same problem? Which program cable does it use? Thank you

  3. I have the BF-U8 and its easy to program.It has better audio than my UV-3R. I like them both.Good house,job,survivalist rigs...N4DHN

  4. I have the BF-U3 and using a BF-480 to program.
    I downloaded the same software from multiple locations but all of them have a CTCSS selection problem.
    If even I select 88.5KHz, it is automatically getting back to 290.0 again.
    I tried also Vero-100 software.It can not find a radio on the selected port.
    Can anybody suggest a software which is suitable for BF-U3.