Radioddity GS-5B Overall Review and Report
Radioddity GS-5B Dual Band Handheld Transceiver
Overall Review and Report
John Eddy, Amateur Radio N0JDE (USA)
Preface: In order to
give a complete and full review of this radio, I used the
Radioddity GS-5B as my daily driver for the past 3-4 weeks.
1. Packaging and Enclosures:
This radio was well packaged by Radioddity. With the radio came with a Model 8800BP lithium ion battery (standard 2000 mAh), a charging cradle, an antenna, 1 power adapter for the charging cradle, an air acoustic earpiece, a belt clip, a hand strap, a programming cable, and a user manual.
2. Physical Appearance:
The radio has a very rugged feel when you hold it in your hand. It has a very attractive orange casing that makes it easy to find in the dark. The rubber gripping on the sides, and the narrowness of the radio makes it very comfortable to hold. The buttons are very easy to see with very crisp silk screening.
The radio also has a Kenwood 2-pin accessory connection on the right side, which should be very familiar with users that own a Baofeng, Anytone, or Radioddity handhelds. This is a huge advantage since it enables this radio to work with a large assortment of easily attainable accessories such as shoulder speaker-microphones, earpieces, or even an APRS cable that can be plugged into an Android phone or into a TNC.
The volume knob feels very nice between finger and thumb due to its size, and the knurling on the knob makes it easy for one to quickly do a blind tune with a single finger or thumb.
Unlike similar radios that have a single LED "flashlight" on the top of the radio, the GS-5B has a much more practical design. The flashlight is located on the bottom, and is capable of projecting a wider and a brighter beam. What also makes this flashlight different from the others is the LED itself. Baofengs and other radios only use a through-hole PCB mounted round LED without any kind of reflectors. The GS-5B uses a much brighter surface mounted white LED, and is surrounded by a mirror-like reflective housing.
Along with the white LED, the flashlight also has 2 additional colored surface mounted red and blue LEDs that will strobe.
4. IMPROVED Display:
One of the biggest upgrades that traditional Baofeng users will notice is the much improved, full colored display. The display, which is approximately 1.5 inches diagonal, has a very crisp display that is easy to read. It features a S-meter on top, which is not found on many handheld radios today. The display also has a dual frequency display on the bottom, and in the middle shows which frequency or channel that is currently being used.
5. Battery and Charging:
This radio comes with a lithium ion battery that has the typical 2000 mAh cycle, but the battery itself is not the typical handheld battery.
The battery itself, much like the radio, is very rugged. It is secured to the radio using a metal screw on the bottom instead of using plastic tabs. One thing that I find annoying with Baofeng radios like the UV-5R is the fact when lightly dropped on the floor, the battery will pop off and you risk breaking the plastic catch/release tab. With the GS-5B, the battery is very well secured with this screw.
The radio's battery can be charged in 3 ways: using the charging cradle with the enclosed power adapter, using the charging cradle with a micro-USB cable, or charging the battery itself directly using the micro-USB port on the battery. The utilization of a micro-USB cable alone gives the GS-5B a strong advantage since it provides users flexibility on charging methods. Almost everyone has access to a micro-USB cable and a USB charger (phone charger, USB ports in a car, ports on a computer, etc.). This also allows the user to charge the battery using a portable battery bank when hiking, or during emergency scenarios where mains power is down.
Charging time for this battery is consistent with other radios that use a battery with similar capacities. Here is a chart of approximate charging times that I've experienced:
Charging Cradle with Power Adapter:
- Fully drained battery – 4 to 4 ½ hours
- Half drained battery – 1 ½ to 2 hours
Charging Cradle with USB, or micro-USB on back of battery (1.0 Amp output):
- Fully drained battery – 5 to 6 hours
- Half drained battery – 3 to 3 ½ hours
Charging Cradle with USB , or micro-USB on back of battery (2.1 Amp output):
- Fully drained battery – 3 ½ to 4 hours
- Half drained battery – 1 to 1 ½ hours
6. Wired/Wireless Programming
This radio can be programmed using 1 of 2 methods: connected to a PC using a programming cable, or wirelessly using Bluetooth to a cell phone.
Radioddity provides PC programming software on their website that can be downloaded to a PC running Windows. The enclosed programming cable utilizes a USB-to-Serial chipset, and is connected to the radio's Kenwood 2-pin plug on the right side. The cable works flawlessly between the computer and the radio. The programming software is tailored exclusively for the GS-5B, and the application is very easy to navigate. This software will allow you to program a channel list where one can enter in the transmit/receive frequencies, PL tones in either CTCSS or DCS, high or low transmit power, wide or narrowband, PTT-ID if needed, and a channel name. The Optional Feature window will present you with options that you can also find using the radio’s onboard menu. The field labels are very easy to understand and straightforward.
The radio is also programmable using its Bluetooth feature when paired to an Android phone. The Radioddity GS-5B app is available through Radioddity's website. Personally, I find the app to be very user friendly, and I was able to grasp and understand it very quickly. The app will allow users to program channels, choose a frequency mode between the A and B VFOs, and the typical optional features that can also be found through the radio’s onboard menu. The app also saves your codeplug to your phone so you can refer to it in the future when needed. I find the Bluetooth programming feature to be an extremely huge advantage, and it is a feature many users wanted to see.
7. Battery Life
The battery life on the GS-5B, when using the provided battery, in my opinion is one of the backdraws on this radio. From my personal experience, the battery will only last 8 to 10 hours when the radio is on standby. Here is a chart of my experience with the GS-5B’s battery life:
- Fully charged, power-save mode is on, display is set to auto-off, Bluetooth is off, no transmissions/QSOs: 8 to 10 hours
- Fully charged, power-save mode is on, display is set to auto-off, Bluetooth is off, with "ragchewing" QSOs lasting anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes: 5 to 6 ½ hours
- Fully charged, power-save mode is off, display stays on, Bluetooth is off, no transmissions/QSOs: 6 to 7 hours
- Fully charged, power-save mode is off, display stays on, Bluetooth is off, with "ragchewing" QSOs lasting anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes: 4 to 5 hours
I believe this may be an isolated case with a possibility of my battery being defective. My other handheld radios with a similar battery capacity usually can stay in listening/standby mode for 24-36 hours without any transmissions made.
8. Transmit Power
The GS-5B is a dual power, dual band radio that has a maximum transmit power of 5 watts. Using my Surecom SW-102 SWR/watt meter, 2 feet of RG-58 jumper coax, and a MFJ-261 dry dummy load, I got the following readings:
VHF, High Power (146.520 MHz) – 4.2 to 4.7 Watts
VHF, Low Power (146.520 MHz) – 0.9 to 1.1 Watts
UHF, High Power (440.000 MHz) – 4.1 to 4.5 Watts
UHF, Low Power (440.000 MHz) – 0.8 to 1.0 Watts
Tests are ran with a fully charged battery, and the power readings are acceptable for a handheld radio. While with the radio being on low power hits the target of the 1 watt range, the high power falls just under 5 watts. This can be due to my testing equipment, quality of coax used, etc. since these readings can fluctuate depending on the equipment used. To get a much accurate watt/power reading, one should use an oscilloscope. Unfortunately, I do not own one.
When it comes to distance, the radio performs just like any other 5 watt handheld. I am able to key up to a VHF repeater, within line-of-sight, that is approximately 15-20 miles away with the stock antenna on high power. The same when keying a UHF repeater on high power. When switch out the stock antenna to an aftermarket antenna, I noticed no difference. The aftermarket antennas I used was the Nagoya NA-771, Diamond SRJ77CA, and a Signal Stick. When the stock antenna performs just as well with these other antennas, this comes to a huge advantage for the user. Unlike the stock antenna that comes with Baofengs, the user that uses the GS-5B will not need to upgrade their antenna.
9. Transmit and Receive Audio Quality
Once again, on a Radioddity branded radio, the GS-5B has superb audio reports when transmitting. Here are my testing conditions:
- Transmitting to repeater (VHF and UHF), both approximately 15 miles away line of sight
- Simplex transmission (VHF 146.520 MHz) to a station that is 10 miles away line of sight
- High Power
When transmitting through a repeater, I got reports stating that I was clearly audible, clear to understand, and full quieting (no background noise). When doing a simplex transmission, I was still clearly audible, clear to understand, and a little hiss in the background.
I also did this test with 3 other radios (Anytone 868, Baofeng UV-5x3, Yaesu FT65R). The GS-5B compared to these 3 radios did very well, and the audio reports of the GS-5B were similar to the Anytone and Yaesu radios.
The internal speaker on the GS-5B is also very loud and crisp, and is easy to comprehend when outdoors with a lot of environmental white noise. The air acoustic earpiece that came with the radio had superb results as well with clear receive audio, and very clear transmission audio unlike the earpieces that come with the Baofeng radios.
10. Pros and Cons:
- Rugged and waterproof form factor
- Attractive orange color making it easy to find
- A much improved full color display that features a S-meter
- Excellent audio quality and reports
- Using a cell phone and Bluetooth to program radio using Radioddity’s app
- Improved flashlight design that makes it practical to use
- Stock antenna performs just as well as the leading aftermarket brands
- Flexible methods of battery charging
- Battery life (again, this could just be an isolated case)
Overall, the Radioddity GS-5B is an excellent radio. I used this radio as my daily driver for the past 3-4 weeks and have been extremely pleased with it. The way the radio feels and the way it looks is amazing, and it is a pleasure doing QSOs on this radio. I see where some in the amateur radio community, through online forums, say that the GS-5B is overpriced with the $99.99 price point since it is a Chinese radio. I completely disagree. Even though this is a Chinese radio, the way it operates is on par with the Japanese-made radios such as Icom, Kenwood, and Yaesu. The build quality, transmission quality, features, Bluetooth, and programming platform options makes this radio easily price pointed for $99.99. One can find a Japanese-made radio with these similar features, but can expect to pay $75-100 more than the GS-5B.
In my opinion, this radio is a definite buy and would make a great addition to a ham station and/or emergency go-kit.