Quansheng UV-K5 Handheld Explored

Quansheng UV-K5(8)On this page, we look at the Quansheng UV-K5(8) handheld radio, which as of the second half of 2023 is getting a lot of interest from the ham radio community. We’ve bought one to give it a try.

This page is a work-in-progress while we review it and update with findings.

What does the Quansheng UV-K5 offer?

  • Low-price entry-level radio (From £10!)
  • Transmits on 2m and 70cm up to 5 watts
  • Receives FM broadcast and airband
  • Dual watch / scan
  • Charges from USB (in an emergency)
  • PC programmable
  • Modifications possible – this is what’s creating a buzz – see below!

Supplied with: base charger (with EU lead in my case), antenna, belt clip, manual.

Links: Buy a Quansheng UV-K5

Buying the radio

I was encouraged to buy one of these following a discussion on our group’s weekly net. The Chinese site AliExpress is selling these at around £10, which makes buying one something of a no-brainer. The UV-K5(8) version (orange screen, not blue screen) appears to be the one to go for, as this is a slightly better radio than earlier variants.

I’ve never bought from AliExpress before, but after others on the weekly net reported a smooth purchase, I ordered one, and it was delivered Royal Mail 5 days later – For £10.67 (including shipping)… crazy. I was advised to pay via PayPal. which offers better protection than a straight credit card.

AliExpress Purchase
Copy of the AliExpress Purchase

Initial Impressions

The Quansheng UV-K5 is slightly larger than the famous (infamous?) Baofeng UV-5R and is a comfy hold – there are no obvious issues with construction, and on firing up the radio, it’s immediately familiar with a Baofeng-like menu structure. The larger screen is a bonus though, both in terms of size and readability.

Quansheng UV-K5 vs Baofeng UV-5RA
Quansheng UV-K5 vs Baofeng UV-5RA

Performance-wise, it’s nothing special, and it’s never going to out-perform more expensive rigs from the bigger names, but for a tenner, it’s a bargain, even just as a backup radio or for testing.

Where it gets fun, is that you can re-flash the radio’s firmware, which was the first thing I dived into…

Flash that Firmware

It seems that some enterprising radio enthusiasts have found out that the radio’s firmware can be updated to unlock some potential goodies. Having now done the flashing, I’d caution that the existing firmware out of the box is potentially easier to use and matches the manual. If you want a basic radio without the extras, don’t flash the radio (at least, not yet). for those keen to try, read on!

To flash, you’ll need a programming lead (some of the AliExpress and Ebay radios come with a lead, or they can be bought separately. On advice from one of our net regulars, this radio works with a Baofeng programming lead, which I already had.

Everyone’s suggesting the EGZUMER firmware is the one to go with (thanks to Andrew S for the pointer) – The firmware is available from here: egzumer uv-k5 firmware on github.com

I tried it, and had no luck first time around. For me,  the fixes were 1) the lead needs a bit of a push to make the connection, and 2) the Chrome browser is the one to go with.

To flash from a Chrome browser: 1) connect the USB lead to the radio, 2) hold down the PTT and switch on the radio (the torch comes on and the screen is blank), 3) From the browser, select the USB icon and select the correct USB port, and 4) press “Flash Firmware”.

Flashing the Quansheng UV-K5 firmware
Flashing the Quansheng UV-K5 firmware

What you then get is a new user interface, with access to quite a lot more features – notably:

  • Access to a much wider range of frequencies – 18 MHz to 660 MHz, and 840 to 1.3 GHz
  • Selectable FM, AM and SSB
  • Better meters (mic bar) and signal reporting (S points)
  • Improved AM reception for airband – a weakness in the off-the-shelf UV-K5
  • Battery percentage
  • Better squelch (wider range)
  • Longer backlight time
  • Spectrum analyser

For me, the Spectrum Analyser was the fun discovery. Tune to the start frequency, then press F (Function) and then 5. You can see almost the whole of the 2m band:

Quansheng Spectrum Analyser
Quansheng Spectrum Analyser screen

You can change just about every aspect of the view – range, bandwidth, step, dB value, squelch and modulation type. You can also exclude frequencies. I’m not convinced it was very accurate, and it was picking up some household noise, but out in the field it may be handy, and it’s a nifty feature for a £10 handheld.

The detailed notes for the firmware also show that there’s a hidden menu to allow transmit on some non-amateur bands. There are some strong disclaimers warning against doing this, for obvious reasons.

It looks like the developer has been doing some interesting tinkering, with 20 releases of firmware appearing between Sept and Nov 2023. Hopefully the improvements will keep on coming – although the developer does highlight that this a low-end radio with a lot of limitations.

Other observations

Typing these in as I find them:

  • Charges from USB C – The radio charges from a mains-powered base unit (delivering 8.4V at 500mA), but it can also be charged via USB C – however the manual says “USB type C charging is only used for emergency charging. Use a charging base for normal charging”
  • Programming – The radio can be programmed using Chirp and a Baofeng programming lead. When I tried, it didn’t work, and the radio screen had an odd flicker. I need to try this again with the new firmware and some sleep.

 

More updates to follow – if you have any thoughts on this radio, let me know in the comments below:

27 Comments

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