The Baofeng Mystery

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BF-F9 V2+ (left) and BF-F8HP (right)

Update: I have since taken the BF-F8 HP completely apart and the backing appears to be painted aluminum, not plastic, and have updated this article accordingly.

I’ve gotten into amateur radio recently and therefore have been looking into a lot of different handheld radios. Within the amateur radio market, Baofeng is generally the cheapest and is a good bang for the buck, however there’s a lot of question over what the “real” radios are as Baofeng is a Chinese manufacturer. Specifically, the two largest resellers of Baofeng radios are Baofeng Tech and Foscam (i.e., baofengradio.us). First, to settle the fact that they are both authorized resellers as Baofeng, in a recent press release explaining their renaming to Pofung, referred to both companies as “authorized distributors,” and therefore they both sell “official” Baofeng radios (Foscam as mentioned as “baofengradio.us”).

The two specific radios that seem to be the source of all this talk is Baofeng Tech’s BF-F8HP and Foscam’s BF-F9 V2+; they both use the same radio internally however they have different casings, of which Foscam’s is the same case as the UV-5R V2+. The BF-F8HP also comes with a higher capacity battery, a better antenna, and a better manual, however I’m more concerned with the actual quality of the radio.

Now on to the fun part. I’ve purchased and thoroughly looked at both radios, and I’ve made the following findings/conclusions:

  • The BF-F8HP does not have the word “Baofeng” anywhere on the device, and the only places on the radio that mentions “Baofeng” or “Pofung” at all are the sticker on the front (yes that’s a sticker). “Baofeng” appears engraved or printed on the BF-F9 V2+:
    • The faceplate
    • Between the light and battery release
    • The backplate
    • The back of the battery
    • The belt clip
  • The BF-F8HP is not FCC Part 90 certified while the BF-F9 V2+ is. While this doesn’t really matter for amateur radio, it does show that Baofeng (i.e., the real Chinese company, not a distributor) sanctions this model as a “real” Baofeng radio.
  • The BF-F9 V2+ has a metal backplate, while the BF-F8HP has a plastic painted backplate. As far as I know, this doesn’t affect the functionality or performance of the radio, however the original UV-5R also had a metal backplate and, in my opinion, replacing that with plastic makes it look more “cheap”. Additionally, the screws holding the BF-F8HP together are coarse-thread screws (being that the backplate is plastic) vs. the fine-thread screws holding the BF-F9 V2+ together (as the backplate is metal).
  • The battery supplied with the BF-F8HP was a higher capacity (2100mAh vs the normal 1800mAh), however the polarity markers on the back of the battery are swapped! While the battery still operates normal and is actually the correct polarity, this is a huge oversight and really shows the “quality” of the BF-F8HP. Lastly, the battery also does not say “Baofeng” or “Pofung” anywhere on it, and the “Baofeng” engraving on the back of the battery is not there, indicating that it is not an official Baofeng battery.
  • The manual of the BF-F8HP is made by Baofeng Tech, not Baofeng. It is, however, a more detailed manual than what comes with any other Baofeng radio.
  • The BF-F8HP comes with the better antenna that originally came on the UV-82, whereas the BF-F9 V2+ comes with the original UV-5R antenna which isn’t that great. The new antenna, however, is one of the better (if not the best) short sma-female antennas.
  • The battery on the BF-F9 V2+ doesn’t want to go in all the way with the belt clip.
  • Both require wide programming cables to be shaved down to fit properly in the speaker/microphone cutout.

In short, while the BF-F8HP comes with better accessories (i.e., the antenna, manual, and battery), the BF-F9 V2+ seems like a better radio. Everything that makes the BF-F9 V2+ worse than the BF-F8HP can be replaced, whereas what’s wrong with the BF-F8HP is the radio itself. I hope this clears up any confusion that anyone might have with Baofeng Tech and Foscam, and that anyone reading this doesn’t fall down the rabbit hole with them like I did.

Lastly Baofeng Tech is the company that claims Foscam is a “scam” made from older remanufactured parts; this claim is made nowhere else except those that are citing Baofeng Tech’s website. Meanwhile, Foscam is maintaining their its integrity by not getting into this fight. As stated at the beginning of this article, they are both authorized resellers/distributors of Baofeng radios cited by Baofeng themselves.

The following are the pictures I took of both radios.

IMG_0559 IMG_0566 IMG_0567 IMG_0561 IMG_0562 IMG_0563 IMG_0564 IMG_0565 IMG_0568

24 thoughts on “The Baofeng Mystery”

    1. The firmware version for the BF-F9 V2+ is N5R3401, and the firmware version for the BF-F8 HP is F5R3407. The only difference I could see is they may have turned the bars next to the antenna icon into some kind of S-meter, though it doesn’t seem to be that helpful. As far as I can tell, they’re otherwise the same though the BF-F8 HP may be slightly newer.

      1. I bought a couple of each and don’t notice much different in functionality. BF-F8 HP’s firmware is listed as F5R340A on mine, so not sure of the exact version. I think at this point, any BF will come with firmware that works properly, so probably a non-issue.
        Aesthetically, I think the BF-F9 V2 looks better and more refined, and I do like the antenna that it comes with a little better as it seems a little more forgiving on the FRS channels. Unfortunately the nice screen is not protected and is already scuffed up quite a bit, and glare is a factor. The BF-F8 HP has the screen inset a little and should remain scuff free. I do like that it comes with a bigger battery and all things being equal, that puts it just slightly ahead of the BF-F9 V2, but it’s really a wash. I think at the end of the day, they will both work identically, and most of this “mystery” is likely just FUD created by the distributer in an effort to discredit a competitor.

  1. I ordered a BF-F9 V2+ and came upon the debate about the FCC part 90 compliance after the fact. Glad I found your article. I can relax knowing I didn’t buy a legally unusable piece of crap, right? I’m new to HAM, and I’m studying for my technicians license. I know I can’t transmit until after passing the exams and so forth, but I thought it would be good to get a radio and familiarize myself with programming and listening to NOAA stations since I don’t have cable, and cellular networks are spotty here.

    1. You need not worry about Part 90. Part 90 is only for those who intend to use radios for public safety and commercial purposes.

      1. That’s correct, you do not need to worry about Part 90 compliance in regards to being able to use the radio on ham frequencies. I merely used this in the article to legitimize the BF-F9 V2+ model from Foscam (baofengradio.us) as Baofeng Tech (an American distributor, NOT Baofeng themselves) has reportedly said this is not a “real” model.

  2. Thank you Ryan just the clarification I needed.

    Wow it’s confusing. All the Baofengs on Amazon link to Baofeng Tech at top of page and many say Foscam in the description even though it says sold by another company entirely above this description. Like this one: link removed

    I may give Foscam a try now. Wish Baofeng/Anytone tech would clean up their act. Their almost-GMRS-legal Termn-8r debacle left me with a very bad impression. Nice manuals though.

      1. Oh how I hope so…but those all look like 2015 dates. And from what I can see only the MURS frequencies have been approved. (the March 2015 GMRS was revoked I think)
        Don’t see any Obltr-8rs and Termn-8rs on Amazon yet. If you do, let let me know.

        …and crossing fingers 95A appears in the OET database soon.
        https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/eas/reports/GenericSearch.cfm

        2 results were found that match the search criteria:
        Grantee Code: T4K Product Code: -8RSERIES Rule Part Exact Match: Selected First Rule Part: 95J

        There are no applications on file that match the search criteria specified:
        Grantee Code: T4K Product Code: -8RSERIES Rule Part Exact Match: Selected First Rule Part: 95A

  3. Hi Ryan, I ran into your site while searching for information about my recently bought device. I’m an Italian HAM and recently bought what I thought was a tri-power Baofeng. Here is the pic

    I’m still wondering what kind of clone that is (look at the unrealistic battery mA!!). It actually outputs 8w in vhf but I wonder if I ended up buying one of those transceivers with faulty (or easy to burn) finals. What’s your opinion about it? Can this be associated with one of those you talk in your article?
    Thank you
    Michele

    Edit by Ryan: Inlined image

    1. I’m not sure who sells that one specifically, however it’s not Baofeng Tech or baofengradio.us. That said, Baofeng will apparently make radios to your specification if there’s enough volume so it’s probably just a high-ish volume reseller that wanted to sell that design.

      1. Funny because I wrote and email to support at baofengtech.com to enquire and they said they don’t sell or support the TX-8W.
        So the question is: do they do that unofficially to later deny it, or is someone else making copies of their work?

        1. BaofengTech.com is a USA-based reseller of Baofeng radios; they like to imply that they are the “official” or “real” Baofeng and that they are the only authorized distributor, however they are not. The “real” Baofeng corporate website is http://www.baofengradio.com and there are many official distributors, including baofengradio.us (which does not sell the model you have, either).

          1. Thanks for clearing that up. So my next stop is baofengradio.com and see what they can tell me. Thank you so much.

  4. Hell Ryan, nice review. I am very new to Ham radios, and considering purchasing the BF-F9 v2, and also to purchase the female attena from the BF-F8 HD separately from Amazon since they’re relatively modestly priced. . Quick questions:
    What sort of license will I need to aquire to operate this hand held ham radio. And, is getting a baofeng radio better than say the wouxan 5 watt two way radios with its one or two repeaters built in better than these radios you reviewed?

    1. Arthur,

      That’s great that you’re getting in amateur radio. To use this radio legally, you’ll need a Technician license which is the “entry-level” license. You should be able to find a testing session near you using the ARRL’s exam session finder.

      As far as the Wouxun radios, they seem like great radios however I’ve never owned one and therefore can’t really give you an opinion on them. That said, if you’re near a Ham Radio Outlet, they sell a few different models of those so you could stop by to look at them.

  5. I owned a BF-F8 for just under a year and the on/off volume control went bad. I purchased through amazon prime baofeng-tech which showed a one year warranty. I contacted baofeng tech and provided my receipt showing my purchase was through them and have not had a reply for over two weeks. Unfortunately, because of the issue I had with the volume control I could not adjust the volume loud enough and had to have the radio near my head on my boat to hear it. During an annual Christmas light boat parade the radio popped loose from my mounting and dropped in the drink. I hope I have made the right choice by buying what I thought was the upgraded version of the BF-F8 and getting the BF-F9V2 from foscam.

  6. Some of this is not actually fake but a rebranded OEM… here in asia… its quite common for a manufacturer to sell un-marked radio so they can rebrand it and resell it on different name… i think this is what btech is doing…

    73

  7. I am New to Ham Radio and I chose the BaoFeng BF-F9V2+ and ordered it from BaoFeng Radio’s site Direct. Their Warehouse is located in Houston, Texas. I ordered my Radio late on a Thursday night and it was Delivered to me via FEDEX on the following Saturday. I am Impressed since Nobody Delivers on Saturday due to the very high Cost of Saturday Delivery but BaoFeng Radio Did. I have had my Radio for about a week and can only Monitor, but you can Scan Both Bands and Listening to conversations is quite Entertaining until I receive my License. I passed my Technicians Test on Saturday so I can’t wait to get on the Air. BaoFeng Radio’s website is: https://baofengradio.us

  8. Wow! I was looking all over the web trying to understand the difference. Thanks for clearing it up!
    Do you have a recommendation for a good, but not too long antenna for the BF-F9 V2+?
    Thanks

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