Leixen UV-52

17 June 2017

First off I do want to apologize for a lack of additional reviews and blog posts lately, started a new job which has kept me very busy.


Today I will be reviewing the Leixen UV-52. This is a model that is not for sale on Amazon for some reason, so the only way to get it is through other means, such as from China via www.446shop.com - Leixen UV-52. They sell it for $39 (as of June 2017) so it is not an overly expensive radio, you just need to wait a few weeks for it to arrive via boat. This is the first known handheld available from Leixen, previously they only offered mobile units. This is not a rebadge or rename of some other model.

Specs

So lets start off with the specs. It is a fairly standard dual band radio with access to the 2m and 70cm amateur bands, with the typical wider range of frequencies accessible: 136-174MHz and 400-480MHz. As it is a Chinese model, it does not have any FCC certification for Part 90 or any others, although looking under the battery it does not even have the FCC Part 15 compliance (note the difference between compliance and certification). As the only legal use within the US would be for Amateurs, it would be up to you to do the testing and make sure it does not have the excessive emissions required by Part 15 and Part 97 of the FCC code. They key to Part 15 relating to these radios is 47 C.F.R. 15.5 which contains a general provision that devices may not cause interference and must accept interference from other sources. It also prohibits the operation of devices once the operator is notified by the FCC that the device is causing interference.

Continuing on, it also has reception of additional frequencies as receive only, no transmit. There is the usual FM commercial broadcast radio (65-108MHz, band selectable in the menu), and also is able to "receive only" in the 1.25m band, 200-260MHz. The antenna it comes with is the same externally as the Baofeng V85 (and the same SMA base so the other antennas you have will also work), which is a dual band 2m/70cm antenna, so reception of the 220 signals is definitely inhibited due to antenna resonance but if you have some local 220 repeaters with antennas up 100ft or more within 15-20 miles it should receive them just fine (depending on your elevation, location, buildings, etc).

Channels/memories

For the channel/memory storage, it has 2 banks, with 199 in each. One major difference with this model is that it separates these banks, so the first bank is only accessible via the top line "A", and the 2nd bank is only accessible via the lower display "B" with no cross over or sharing between the two, unlike most Baofeng radios where a single bank is shared between them. When programming (either manually or via software), this can be an annoyance if you are used to shared bank setups. When it comes to scanning the channels, it scans at the usual Chinese model slow rate of 3-4 per second, good for just driving around or scanning for repeaters in use, but too slow to actually use as a scanner of a lot of frequencies. If you have 100 channels programmed in that bank, it would take approximately 20-30 seconds to go through them all just one time. Also because of the bank separation, if you are just scanning on line A, it will not scan or do anything from the other bank used on Line B, and vice-versa, UNLESS you have both banks programmed the exact same way. One benefit of this is say you tend to travel back and forth between two different areas: say home area and commute into town 30-50 miles away for work. You can have the first bank on line A for the home area, and the second bank on line B for in town, each area normally not accessible to/from the other with a handheld.

Power output

For the power output, it is rated at 6W high power and 2W low power. I do not have a power meter yet so I am unable to test this myself, but miklor.com UV-52 review did test one and found that it was just under 3W low power and just under 6W high power.

Dual receive

This model does have true dual receivers inside, allowing for it to properly receive 2 signals at the same time. You can select the option in the menu to have both the same volume or to have the other/second received signal to be quieter than the first (or you can turn off the dual receive). I have not really found much volume difference with the "quieter" option selected so this option is personal preference, may be helpful to some. As I mention in the display section below, it does have a signal meter so combine that with the true dual receivers and the bottom of the display shows real time signal reception.

When it comes to actual signal reception, this model seems much more sensitive to intermod, but also less senitive to actual stronger signals. I am still trying to figure this out as it is confusing. When watching something with Kodi on my Raspberry Pi, there seems to be just enough UHF RF on the HDMI cable that triggers intermod noise on this radio, showing receive signal at 9 (S9?) across a wide section of the 444MHz frequency area. I can have almost any other radio, including my Baofengs with modified/lowered squelch and better antennas like NA771, and they do not pick it up below squelch 3. I could not even see anything out of the ordinary when using my RTL-SDR connected to my usual test setup in the same room, so there has to be something specific triggering it in this radio. On the flip side, I was just a few miles from a local repeater that has their high gain antenna up 200ft on a tower, and the incoming signal was still fairly weak. Versus with other models like F8HP (V85 antenna) and 5X3 (NA320A antenna), this same repeater comes in strong within the 12-20 mile range, even inside my vehicle. I plan to test the signal strength on my testing setup to see how close it is to the others. So being overly sensitive to intermod but less sensitive to nearby "real" signals seems a perplexing situation. When I get some free time I plan to do some additional testing.

Display

The display is the same standard cheap grey background with black item display seen on most cheaper Chinese radios for some time now including Baofengs, but they call it a "tri-color display" since they also have the usual LED lighting to give it 3 different color lighting depending on usage (one on active, one as receive, one on transmit). I have been calling these the "Gameboy display" that has been around since the 1980s, but they are cheap and easy to use and program for. This display is the same type as the typical Baofeng display, but it is several millimeters taller offering a slightly larger view. Leixen makes use of these additional pixels by displaying larger frequency numbers with two different size numbers. The full size numbers are the currently selected line/bank (aka 146.000), and the other not selected line/bank is displayed with the last 3 numbers smaller (aka 146.ooo). The left side also displays the currently selected line/bank, so if you have the first line "active" with large numbers, it will also have a small letter A left of the frequency. This larger display also allows for a larger real (digital) signal meter that spans along the bottom of the display, with 2 lines, one for each line/bank.

Other items include the usual DTMF encode and decode, CTCSS/DCS (TX and RX), on the fly changes to a memory including scan add/remove, VOX, usual channel steps from 2.5K to 25K, wide and narrow band operation (25KHz/12,5KHz), and more. For the rest of the specs, have a look at the link I posted in the first paragraph of this review.

Battery

These radios come with a 7.4V 2800mAh li-ion battery. This higher capacity sounds good in theory since a Baofeng has a similar voltage, and a 1500mAh battery lasts all day. The extended Baofeng battery is 2800-3000mAh which can last nearly a week in my experience (with little to no transmitting). The key difference here is this Leixen has the dual receivers inside, so that means each one is drawing power at the same time (think of two Baofengs drawing power from a single battery). I did 2 unscientific unofficial "drainage" tests, during which I measured the timeframe from full charge to "dead" battery (when radio shuts off automatically), leaving it to scan the top bank and receiving signals on occasion, no transmitting at all, sound at a lower but audible level: this battery typically lasts 7-8 hours. the timeframe is lower if more signals had been received and more transmitting. This is a far cry from the usual 22-28 hour timeframe that Baofeng radios see with the default 1500-1600mAh battery, but of course the Leixen also has 2 actual receivers to contend with.

Another issue I ran into is the base charger itself, it seems to be VERY picky on how the radio is placed in there, where even a hairs width in movement can make or break the connection, even walking around the room can affect it. I am not sure if this is internal or an issue with mine but I have found that sometimes simply rotating the base left or right on a level desk can impact its charging. As the warranty on these is essentially non-existent, I will likely open it up at some point and see if I can help it out.

Programming

Manually

When it comes to the programming of this radio manually, it is not that far off from programming a Baofeng manually, except the entry of the offset is actually saved with the channel, unlike Baofengs. These are the steps for programming in an entry for a repeater with a tone.

  1. Set radio to VFO mode (press # V/M until channel number at upper left disappears)
  2. Select bank, A or B. Remember that each channel is programmed ONLY to that one bank.
  3. Enter frequency on number pad, aka 147000 for 147.000
  4. Menu 10 - Enter tone type, aka CTCSS = CTC
  5. Menu 11 - Enter transmitted tone, aka 1000 = 100.0Hz
  6. Menu 33 - Select offset, aka +RPT is positive offset, -RPT is negative offset
  7. Menu 34 - Select offset amount, aka 000600 = 600KHz or 0.6MHz, typical offset for 2m. You would enter 005000 for 5MHz offset on 70cm repeaters (unless your repeater has an odd offset split).
  8. Menu 5 - Save the entered info to desired channel
  9. If you're done, go back to Memory mode with a quick press of the (# V/M) button and test it out
That is it with this Leixen model, no more entering the transmit frequency separately and save to same channel as is typical of the Baofeng models.

Program via software

First thing worth mentioning is the programming cable for these use the Hytera style cable, so that Baofeng/Kenwood style cable you may already have will not work. Even if you somehow used cable adapters, it would still not work as the pinouts are completely different, so you would need to buy a Hytera/HYT style programming cable (or make your own via CP2102 and learn the pinouts). The programming software for these can be found on the Leixen website, with the newer versions towards the bottom of the list. Latest version for the UV-52 (as of writing this article) is V1.02 released in Dec 2016. At this time, Chirp does not support these radios but it may be possible in the future if enough people request it. I suggest people donate a little money to help fund the Chirp volunteer effort (and no, I am not associated with them in any way), they use these funds to buy highly requested models for inclusion into the the Chirp software.

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- gmail -dot- com.
Thank you and 73!
Mike
K4ISR