I purchased two inexpensive Baofeng BF-T1 UHF portables (hand-helds) for use around the yard.
- LiIon pouch single cell battery that may be obtainable longer than proprietary batteries;
- micro USB charger interface, internal charge / battery management;
- programmable with CHIRP (channel table only);
- chanellised operation, lockable keypad;
- CTCSS support;
- integrated antenna;
- small and lightweight (110g with belt clip);
The radio has been in the market for more than three years, so one might hope that design issues have been fixed in ‘mature’ product.
Battery is a pouch LiIon rated at 1500mAh in the BF-T1 specifications, 2pin Molex PicoBlade connector. Currently replacement batteries sell on eBay for about 75% of the price of the radio.
Above, the battery compartment. BEWARE: the red wire is the battery -ve and the black wire is the battery +ve! The battery has a recent date code, but no label, no capacity rating.
Capacity of such batteries depends on the charge parameters, conservative charging (ie to low voltage) extends battery life, but reduces capacity.
A full charge uses 1100mAh @ 5v input. If there is no current transformation in the charger, then it is well short of the advertised 1500mAh.
The battery icon gives little indication of battery condition, it shows two bars out of three at 3.8V which represents less than 16% capacity.
When fully charged, at power up, when the LCD indicated 4.2V, the battery measured 4.07V on a high accuracy voltmeter. The low charged voltage contributes to lack of battery capacity.
There is a lot of online discussion about problems with the cable, and many posts suggesting that the ‘genuine’ cable from Baofeng uses old Prolific chips that do not work under Win10 using current drivers. It beggars belief that they would do that… but time will tell.
A programming cable and RSM were ordered at the same time as the radio, the cable was delayed so a DIY one was made using a FTDI board sold to the Arduino market.
USB micro pinout – 5 (GND): gnd; 4 (ID): tx; 3 (D+): rx. Note that pin 4 is used, it may not be available in pre-made USB cables that only use four wires.
The Baofeng branded programming cable arrived after some months, it uses a CH340 chipset and works fine. The branding should not imply that it is genuine Baofeng… it is Chinese after all.
Remote speaker mic (RSM)
The RSM uses a 3.5mm 4 pole connector. It is my first experience with them and in this case, it is not retained securely by the connector. It partially disconnects and is dysfunctional.
A bigger problem is that if the connector is not fully home, the radio will not power up. It will not work again until the battery is disconnected and reconnected which hints that the ajar connector causes an overload trapped by the battery management chip which only resets when the battery is disconnected. In my case, a tiny piece of mould flash prevented the connector going fully home (by less than 1mm). The problem is apparent with the supplied covert earpiece / mic.
Chinese Quality… Chinese junk.
After the second charge cycle, one of the radios would not power up the next morning. Video made and refund claimed.
Before throwing the thing in the bin, I opened the case to remove the battery for separate disposal. It was then that I observed that the battery voltage looked good, but that the red wire was -ve. Had the battery reversed? No, it is unconventional use of wire colours… Chinese Quality.
Removing the battery connector (which is difficult because of adjacent barriers) and reconnecting in fact restored the radio to working condition… so it appears there is some defect that may return in time (Chinese battery management chips are renowned for problems), possibly in the other radio.
The power on/off button is not easy to reach… a good and bad feature.
Keyboard lock persists over power cycling, a good feature.
Volume is set by keys, and subject to keyboard lock.
A locked radio powers up with persistent settings and is a ‘known’ quantity, it does not require further setup to be reliably usable.
It is not safe to use a remote speaker mic with the radio as if it is not fully home, or works itself out a little, it will result in inability to power up until the battery is removed and replaced (a tedious job requiring tools).
Battery capacity falls way short of the advertised 1500mAh.
Some good usability features for a utility radio.