BTECH releases 3 new mobile units

Mar 2017

uv25x4 image

Here we see the new BTECH UV-25X4 on top of the tri-band BTECH UV-2501+220 (on top of some rarely used CB I have just sitting here).


BaofengTech (aka BTECH) has announced a new line of mobile radios, the UV-25X2, UV-25X4, and UV-50X2 (each of these items are linked to their respective pages, including the new models to buy which I do not benefit from at all).
I will start with some information that covers all 3 new models (which is a LOT of new info). One of the biggest differences that sets these new models apart from the rest is the ability to see and monitor up to 4 different frequencies on a single display. Where some companies have only recently been displaying 2, the new BTECH models show 4. One thing that people familiar with other recently released models will notice is that these are based on the QYT 7900D and 8900D, but one major benefit is BTECH took the time to squash the bugs as well as add new features not available on the QYT models. This falls in line with the previous options as well, where the UV-2501 was based on the QYT KT-8900, and the 2501+220 based on the QYT KT-7900. But I am not here to talk about QYT.

So how do these differ from the previously released mobile models (UV-2501, UV2501+220, and UV-5001)? Well most of the below information should explain this in detail. The biggest and key difference is the 4 line multi-color display, but there are quite a few other changes that this allows for as well as other options not available on the previous models. The 25X2 is the successor of the 2501, the 25X4 over the 2501+220, and the 50X2 over the 5001. Then of course there is the unmatched UV-50X3 with removable face plate and other options (which I have not had a chance to use yet).

Table of Contents

Info - All 3 models

Model specific info

Information applicable to all 3 new models

Display

Most models from most companies to date (with a few exceptions) have primarily used a simple LCD display with a colored back light dating back to the 1980s, and saw some use such as the Nintendo Gameboy (released in 1989, but many radios used these displays throughout the 1980s, like my 1980s-era Realistic HTX-100). The Baofeng and BTECH models continued on with this primarily due to their low price and easy configuration options, offering the capability to change just the back lighting color, but still based on the same bland background with a second layer displaying the superimposed black lettering/numbers. These new models offer the next step in radio displays with a full color 2.2-inch LCD active display running at (approximately) 176(H) x 220(W) pixels, that is typically only available on the high quality models on the market. To add to this, these new models allow full customization of the colors for everything displayed, offering the option of 9 colors for the main display, bottom bar, menu display, as well as differing colors for idle, receiving, and transmitting on each line. This allows for high contrast options for those with eyesight problems, multiple options for those who are colorblind, as well as a few funky options (indigo and purple) for the more colorful types of people.
What this also means is that future models making use of this otherwise simplistic looking display could very easily bring it up to a much more modern appearance on par with the high end models available from the big 3. Think of a small simple cell phone or handheld GPS, they would have a similar sized full color display, typically up to 262,000 colors (or more), which means the capability is there for the future models in this line. Imagine being able to load custom (small and simple) background images instead of being stuck with just a single color, or imagine an APRS model that can show a map on the display. Granted we are still a few years away from these Chinese companies offering this kind of capability but this LCD style is the gateway to endless possibilities. Currently these smaller displays are commonly used for Arduino and RaspberryPi "mini displays", meaning the possibilities are endless with the switch to this display type.

The other added benefit of having 4 displays is it also allows for more flexibility on what you want displayed. Thus enters the first real limitation, where some high end radios from other companies offer a dual display, and sometimes with dual receivers internally (which allows for cross band repeating), these BTECH models are still single receiver, but with the capability of dual, tri, or quad "watch". What this means is you can set it up to monitor 2, 3 or 4 displayed frequencies/channels, and the radios will continuously go from one to the next in quick succession.

Scan speed

aka "scan" versus "watch"

To find out how fast it does this, I setup my 25X4 with one entry set to 223.500MHz, and set it to quad watch all 4 frequencies/channels. Since the 2501+220 and 25X4 use a mechanical relay inside to switch from the 2m/70cm band to the 1.25m 220MHz band receiver, you hear an audible click each time it switches to the alternate band (audible in a quiet room, but almost never hear it while driving around due to vehicle and road noise). Based on my observations, in "quad watch" mode, it "scans" through the 4 displayed frequencies approximately twice per second, meaning 8 samples per second, although realistically is closer to 6 or 7 since it seemed just shy of the second click at 1 second. By comparison, in "scan mode" where it scans through your programmed channels (or the frequency range), it scans 3 channels/frequencies per second (so say you have 30 channels programmed, that comes to approximately 10 seconds for a single full sweep of programmed channels). This is much slower than higher end radios but it is still more than capable enough. So if there are 2-4 main frequencies you monitor, the quad watch is definitely MUCH faster, but there is a trade off of not scanning the rest of the programmed channels. With quad watch it is limited to just the 4 displayed channels/frequencies, versus full scan mode you can sequentially scan through all your channels, albeit slowly.
I typically use quad watch at home and in my home vicinity (within 30 miles) since I mostly listen to 3-4 local repeaters, versus I use full channel scan on the road (+30 miles from home) since I typically listen for other repeaters/frequencies not heard near home. As mentioned in the manual, you can have any combination of channel or VFO frequencies displayed on any of the lines. If you like to have 146.520 simplex frequency on one line, but the others as programmed channels, you can do that (personally I have one channel for each simplex calling frequency for the 3 bands on the 25X4: 146.520, 223.500, and 446.000 so they are included as it scans).

Channels and other features

To fill those 4 lines, the number of programmable channels has been expanded from 128 to 200. Most of the major big name companies are sticking to the 200-400 channel range, sometimes as part of "banks", with 100 channels separated into 4 banks. For amateur use, I personally see no need for the "banks", but I could see how someone who travels a lot to specific areas could simply switch banks and get a different set of programmed repeaters or commercial frequencies used by their company, thus why this is a feature typically used within commercial units, not amateur units.
Anyone that has used any of the 2501/5001 radios from BTECH before will recognize the keypad mic, which are the same for these 3 new models and are interchangeable.
Looking at the back, they all have the small cooling fan which should be fine for some of those long winded chat sessions that some people are known for (but as these are low "duty cycle" radios, it is not recommended to talk at full power for more than 10 minutes at a time, or more than 3 minutes per PTT press). All 3 offer data programming ports which match the existing 2501/5001 radio pinouts (the 50X2 data port is on the front lower left, both 25XX models are on the back), and all 3 have a newer 4 pin speaker/mic combo plug. You will need to check the manual for the pinout as it is different than many currently available 4 pin headset/mics out there for cell phones/tablets. These radios are mono audio (so a pin for audio, mic, and need a pin for the PTT), versus cell phone/tablet headsets have left, right, and mic). I have not tested a mono or stereo speaker setup to see if that 2/3 pin plug affects the radios.
The other big difference is all 3 radios are claimed to have 2W audio to the speaker meaning louder audio, thus easier to hear over loud road noise when mobile. After some time testing, I can definitely tell these are louder than my first (or maybe second) generation 2501+220 (1W audio) and a lot louder than the handhelds (0.5-1W). Luckily the 3rd generation of the 2501/5001 models do offer 2-2.5W audio output so they would be on par with this new line of radios.
Continuing on like many newer models from a lot of companies, the external body of all 3 models is also a heatsink, thus they have the external thick fins. With the 25XX models the heatsink fins are on the top, and the 50X2 has the fins along the bottom. After using all 3, I have only once heard the fan come on, and have never had any of them be "too hot to touch" as was an issue with the first gen 2501 models, and some early release QYT models. Using my infrared thermometer (new toy for Christmas), after fairly heavy use back and forth with a local amateur on a repeater at 25W high power, the heatsink fins show at the highest 91F. I tested the same with the 50X2 and have not seen over 93F. It may get warmer in a hot car during the summer, but that is when it is better to not continue on long conversations with any radio, regardless of manufacturer as you are likely to overheat it (at least give the car some time to let the A/C cool it down).

New Features

There are several new features available with the QYT models that continue to the BTECH line, as well as some new features that are not available on the QYT models, and some not available with any other transceivers out there. I already mentioned the new colors above so will not cover that again.

  • TMR - One such feature thanks to the 4 displayed channels/frequencies is Menu 0 TMR. This allows to you monitor (aka listen to) any combination of the 4 displayed entries. I will not cover them all since there is a lot of possibilities under this option, check the manual included with your radio (or download from baofengtech.com), somewhere around page 43 to see all the options in one place.
    TMR Side note: when you switch to FM broadcast radio mode, TMR and most options are temporarily disabled, and it only monitors the entry on display A.
  • SYNC - Then they also brought back the sync display option from the latest generation of 2501, 2501+220 and 5001 models. On these 3 new models, it is Menu 32, which allows you to sync two different displayed lines together. But unlike the previous 2501/5001 models, the 4 lines allow for more customization, in this case A+B, and/or C+D. With this, you can sync A&B, C&D, or AB+CD (or turn it off). With the last option AB+CD, you can have B and D display the name (menu 28 and 30), and it will sync the top two together, and separately sync the bottom 2. If you like you can set the name to B and C (menu 28 and 29), or A and C (menu 27 and 29), or A and D (menu 27 and 30), whatever combination you like.
    For example, using multiple items from these new options, one method I like to use is A, C, and D display the frequency of the programmed channel, but have display B show the programmed name (Menu 28 - NAME). Then I set Menu 0 - TMR to A+C+D, and Menu 32 to sync AB. This TMR setting means B will be ignored which is fine since I have it set to name, which is synced with A. So A shows 147.360, B shows W4AAZ (which is the club call sign for this repeater frequency), and the tri watch setting only monitors A, C, and D. Then with TMR set as A+C, it will only monitor those 2, which should be fine since A and B are the same as each other, and C and D are the same as each other. I know this can be a bit confusing at first but it allows for customization to your hearts content. Suggested menu items to use together based on the above: Menu 0 for TMR, Menu 26 for the name (or programmed via Chirp), Menu 27-30, and Menu 32 for sync.
  • FREQ SCAN - Then there is a new one introduced with the BTECH UV-5X3 handheld, but not available with any other models that I am aware of: the "frequency range" scan. In VFO mode, hold the SCAN button and it will display "---.---Mz". You would type in the lowest and highest frequency (in MHz) to scan, so for example if you typed 144 and 147, it would scan from 144.000 to 147.995 (also based on the step entered with Menu 1). Two things worth noting is both entries must be the same band (aka 2m, 1.25m, or 70cm), and must be within the frequency range the radio is capable of. If you tried entering 144 and 450 (aka 144.000 to 450.995, thus different bands), or tried typing 144 and 180 (outside the frequency range of the radio), it would cancel the entry process and do nothing.
  • PON-SCAN - Another new option is the "Power on scan", where it automatically starts scanning the channels in the top display (or top two if sync is set to AB), regardless of what mode it was in when powered off. This is used in conjunction with Menu 17.
  • MIC GAIN - One option that a lot of the high end mobile radios have that was missing from so many Chinese models is the ability to adjust the mic gain. Well fret no more, BTECH has added this option to these 3 new models (menu 57). From the box mine came set at 10, but when speaking with others locally, they said it was a bit weak so I found the sweet spot (for me) is around 40. If you tend to talk closer to the mic or are on the road a lot, lower is better (lower means less background noise is picked up and sent over the air to everyone listening), if you tend to hold it a foot or more away then higher may be better, but also remember that when set higher it picks up a lot more background noise like fans/wind, car/road noise, noisy kids, loud spouses, etc.
  • SKIP - This is a brand new addition that I have never seen before. Where it came from I have no idea but in theory it sounds great (I am personally still testing it). This refers to Menu 58 SKIPTX aka "frequency randomization". From the information I as given, it seems it would not work well with a single display radio or dual display option like a Baofeng/BTECH handheld or mobile unit, it should work best with another 4 display radio programmed to the same frequencies. I will attempt to describe these modes, just using simplex. It should be possible using offsets, but the two radios would need to be programmed opposite of each other, AND in both cases you would need to make sure none of the 4 or 8 frequencies are in use by local repeaters to prevent purposeful (and illegal) interference. For this reason, I suggest using 440 and/or 220 for this mode since it would be much more likely to interfere on VHF due to the sheer number of 2m VHF repeaters out there. Also remember that legal transmissions need to remain in the amateur band, going outside of this, you will likely interfere with commercial, police, emergency, or other usage illegally (and if caught, you would be looking at minimum $20,000 fine in the US, similar fines in Canada for interference).
    • Simplex SKIP mode: for this example lets say you have two 25X4 radios. Display A is set to 146.550, B as 446.550, C as 144.980, D as 430.980.

    • SKIP1: Press PTT, transmits on A 146.550, other radio receives on same frequency. Then after they respond on same frequency, it automatically moves to display B. This is why a single mode would not work, they would have to manually move to next frequency/channel before you transmit again. Then second time you press PTT, it transmits on B 446.550. After the other person responds, it automatically moves to C. This is where a dual display would work, but end its usefulness, as the other person would need to change channel to match before you transmit again. Then third PTT, it transmits on C 144.980, and once they responds it moves to D. After transmit then response, it moves to next channel, A, B, C, D, then back to A and so on through each channel.
    • SKIP2: Same as the first, except after releasing the PTT, it automatically changes to a random display line, so if you start on A, after you release the PTT, it may go to B, C, or D. I believe this should work a little better provided both radios are set to the same 4 frequencies, and TMR Menu 0 is set to A+B+C+D so it receives on whatever frequency the other person transmits on.
    • Special notes and considerations: 1. The only kink I could find in this relates to Menu 52, by default this is set to 10 (seconds). This means if you press the PTT again within 10 seconds of receiving a signal, it will always respond on the same frequency as received. If both of you repeatedly do this, then the radio will keep returning to that single frequency (maybe, as I said, I have not tested this yet). 2. Although these options are available on all 3 radios, the 25X4 also has the capability to use the 220 and 300Mhz bands (despite the 300mhz band being 100% illegal to transmit on in North and South America). This means the 25X4 could be setup to use all 3 (or 4) bands for normal amateur and "SKIP" usage, versus the "X2" versions can only use 2m and 70cm. 3. Something else worth mentioning, if you use this mode, with each channel change you will essentially need to say your call sign every single time you transmit, and after you're done, you would legally need to go through all 4 and "clear yourself" from each frequency.

What does this mean for everyone else out there listening provided they are listening to one (or even two) of those frequencies? Well they would only catch one out of every 2-6 transmissions, so it would be like your radio on a slow scan with lots of channels, and you only catch certain parts of their conversation. Considering this is still amateur radio and the laws still apply, it would still be illegal to use this mode for unlicensed use, foul language, frequencies outside of amateur radio, or anything else not allowed by the amateur radio laws and regulations. I am not sure if they plan to pursue Part 90 approval for any of these models, but if they do it could open up a new privacy option for a Part 90 commercial use (provided they have 4 frequencies they're allowed to use, most Part 90 licenses only assign 1 or 2 frequencies).

So with that, I will cover each of these models individually below.

Individual model info and details

UV-25X2

The new baseline model is the UV-25X2, which as the name suggests is rated at 25W out and X2 means dual band (2m and 70cm). This model is based on the same layout of the QYT KT-8900D, but as mentioned above, it fixes the bugs present in the QYT models as well as adds new features not available through QYT. Like most models coming from the Orient, they offer a wider frequency capability than just the amateur bands, allowing access to 136-174MHz and 400-520MHz. I am not sure if they are planning to pursue Part 90 approval or keep the wider frequency access due to differences in the other IARU regions of the world.
Actual power may vary per radio, typically within +/-10%. The manual does state that VHF is rated at 25W high power and 10W low power, and UHF is rated at 20W high and 7W low. With the QYT versions, others have tested and found actual power out as high as 28W and as low as 22W on the high setting. This could be either differences in manufacturing process or differences in test equipment (or both), but I suspect it should be a little tighter (closer to 25W) with the bug fixes from BTECH.
One of the major things I really liked about this unit is despite its small size, most of the buttons are still big enough to easily press with big hands like mine. My primary mobile unit is the 2501+220 and the small buttons along the bottom front can at times be difficult to ensure I am pressing the right button. When it comes to size, it is the same width as the 2501 models (2501 and 2501+220), slightly taller, and very close to the same depth front to back. To compare the actual dimensions, the 2501+220 is 98mm wide, 35mm height, and 118mm depth, versus the 25X2 real dimensions are 100W x 46H x 125D (just shy of 4 inches wide, 1.8 (1-13/16) inches tall, and just under 5 inches depth).

UV-25X4

SPECIAL NOTE: I may as well address the "elephant in the radio room". The 25X4 does have the ability to receive and transmit in the 300MHz band (350-390MHz), but in IARU Region 1 (Europe and Africa), and Region 2 (which covers all of North and South America), it is illegal to use or transmit on any of these frequencies with any and all licenses available to people that would typically buy these radios. The band plan in Region 3 (Asia) seems to have regional differences that allow for use of different bands so I will not go into those details as I do not understand them all myself. In North America, the 300MHz band is used by airports, military, and various government functions, but also typically tends to be used as AM, versus this model can only use FM. I was able to hear a signal from my local airport in this band, but as they use AM, it was garbled and I could not make out what was being said.

The next radio I will talk about is the UV-25X4, which is based on the QYT KT-7900D, but as mentioned above, it fixes the bugs present in the QYT models as well as adds new features not available through QYT. The key difference with this model over the X2 is the 4 bands it is capable of using: VHF 2m (136-174), VHF 1.25m (220-260), UHF 1m (350-390), and UHF 70cm (400-520). I added the special note about the 300MHz band above so I will not mention that again (except maybe in the conclusion).

second uv25x4 image

Here we see the new BTECH UV-25X4 on top of the tri-band BTECH UV-2501+220, displaying an incoming signal. Note the number instead of S-units, this is comparable to "S-unit times 10", meaning a 29 (displayed here) is equivalent to a touch below S3, it is audible but noticeably weaker signal. 82 would be a touch above S8.

Regarding power, it is set to the same power limits as mentioned above with the 25X4. I have not seen any tests done for power output on 220 but it is expected to be in the same 20-25W range as the other bands (versus many radios from the big 3 do offer 220 as a third band, but at a greatly reduced power level, sometimes as low as 0.5W). I do plan to test this myself (although as forward power on a null gain dipole, I do not have any watt meters for this kind of proper testing).
From a personal review perspective, I do love the additional band(s) available with the 25X4, but due to the layout, the buttons on the radio face itself are smaller and less intuitive when compared to the 25X2, and a bit more difficult to press properly with big hands like mine. Still, it is not that big of a deal since the majority of button presses are on the mic keypad itself. I found the only time I use something on the radio body is power on/off, and volume which is handled by the knob instead of small button. I so rarely need the FM broadcast radio since I already have radios all over the place.

HYPOTHETICAL

IF they were to make a "50X4" or a "25X4-A", I would like to see the inclusion of AM, which would allow for alternate modulation transmissions on all the included bands, as well as proper reception of signals in the 300MHz band for North and South America (but also an option or from the factory disabling transmit on this band).

UV-50X2

This is a brand new unique model originally created and released in late Feb. 2017 by QYT, based on their new 75W QYT KT-980 Plus. While the front display is the same 4 entry display as the 25XX models (meaning the main board inside is too), the key differences are the size, external layout, and power output which is set to 50W for this model. The X2 means it is a dual band radio, 2m and 70cm. Aside from external appearance and power output, all other options are the same as the 25X2 mentioned above, so I will not go over those again.

uv50x2 image

The new BTECH UV-50X2 outside and ready to play.

Some may ask why 50W instead of 75W when the QYT model is rated at 75W VHF and 55W UHF, and I do not have an official answer for them. I suspect the 50W power module is probably a much cleaner and stable signal, and more stable power output which usually means much better duty cycle. I believe another aspect relates to the fact where BTECH's primary sales will be in the US where large portions of the country, including the entire states of Florida, Arizona, and New Mexico is limited to max 50W PEP on 70cm (see FCC Part 97.313(f), and 47 CFR 2.106 on ARRL.org ), so it makes sense to limit it to 50W (although likely it will be a bit lower for UHF). I have not put it on a power meter yet but I suspect power output should be stable and close to 50W for both bands.
Regarding the nice new exterior, it is very clean and simplistic (a good thing), offering the 6 buttons, 3 on each side of the display, plus the 2 large easy to use multi-function knobs. The only thing that threw me for a loop upon first receiving this model is the knobs are like my 2501+220, with the channel knob on the left, and power/volume on the right. I had been using the 25X2 and 25X4 for a while so I had been getting used to the power/volume on the left. This is not a big deal as most people will get used to the one or two models they own, but for those who happen to buy a 50X2 with one of the new 25XX models (or already have something else with different knob placement), they will need to get used to the two knobs being opposite between the models.
The other big difference versus the previous 2501/5001 and the new 25XX models is the size, this 50X2 is actually quite a bit larger (wider and deeper). Where the 25X2/X4 dimensions are 100W x 46H x 125D (3.9 x 1.8 x 4.9 inches), the 50X2 is 145 x 47 x 190mm (5.7 x 1.85 x 7.5 inches). Over an inch and a half (45mm) wider, and 2 and a half inches (65mm) deeper. This 50X2 is just a little bit smaller than my Yaesu FT-2900R.
So why the 50X2 over the 25X2? If you're in town and close to most of the repeaters, or have a good antenna up 40-50ft, in most cases 25W should be more than enough, but for more remote, lesser populated areas where it may be 30+ miles to most repeaters, then the 50W allows for a much stronger signal to them. Anyone who travels quite a bit tends to stick with the 50-75W mobile radios primarily because there is less gain on a mobile antenna so the extra power helps get those last few miles to the other person or repeater tower.

Conclusion

So with all that said, each unit has its benefits and new capabilities over most previously released models from this and other manufacturers. The 25XX series are great performers in a small box, but for when you may need that extra power, the new 50X2 is a great radio as well. The capability to display 4 frequencies is unmatched with anything else on the market since most only display 1 or 2. The new options provided by BTECH expand their capabilities by quite a bit, bringing them on par with some of the higher priced models from the major companies. The only odd ball being the inclusion of the 300MHz band, which I think is useless in the core sales demographic (North America). During testing, I suggested at minimum blocking transmit for the 300MHz band, but they have their own reasoning behind the inclusion so that is out of my power. I have not and will not use that band so it is essentially a 25X3 for me. For legal reasons, I suggest you avoid it as well (unless you happen to live in the Orient where it may be used).

I appreciate you looking over this information, and if you have any questions or comments, feel free to join me in the Facebook Baofeng "BARN" group and let me know, or send me an email at km4fmk -at- afo -dot- net.
Thank you and 73!
Mike
K4ISR