Ever since I got this radio I have wanted to do a Baofeng BF-888s radio review because I found the radio fascinating. I have to admit I have always been very nervous about trying these cheap Chinese radios. My first HTs were a Radio Shack HTX-202 and a HTX-404. From there I went to a top of the line Kenwood, and then to my current excellent Yaesu models.
What made me try the Baofeng BF-888s
My wife and I are both licensed amateur radio operators and we are also both MINI drivers. What car we drive matters because we participate in a lot of MINI organized drives where FRS radios are used. Since the Baofeng BF-888s could not only be programmed for the ham bands but also for the FRS bands (receive only of course) this made a really nice single package that was easy to use and very inexpensive.
I was originally looking for a small easy to use (turn on, go to channel x, press button to transmit) since my wife has her license, but honestly has not used it in years and was never really that into it. The FRS receive was just icing on the cake.
Looking at the prices online I found a two pack of the BaoFeng BF-888s on Amazon for around $25. At about $12.50 per radio including the drop in charger I did not see how these could be too bad. Even if they were horrible, they were cheap enough I could just throw away and chalk it up to a lesson learned.
I have to admit I was impressed with the BaoFeng BF-888s almost immediately out of the box. It was exactly what I was looking for. Small enough to carry in a pocket, large enough to fit my hand, and it felt substantially sturdier than I had hoped. As well built as my Yaesu radios? Not even in the same galaxy, but for a $12 radio it was exceptional.
The clip attacked very firmly with two screws to the rear and the antenna seemed to attach snugly with no wobble.
Both knobs on the top operate smoothly and firmly. The little voice that announces the channel number could be a little easier to understand but it isn’t too bad and is typical of these inexpensive Chinese radios.
The audio out of the main speaker of the Baofeng BF-888s is a little quiet and tinny, turning up the volume too much distorts pretty heavily. These are nitpicks however as the audio quality and volume are both quite good for a radio at this price.
Battery life is very good and charging time is about average. I love the fact that it comes with a drop in charger.
Of course I needed to get the programming cable and use CHIRP to program for Baofeng BF-888s programming. They come programmed with a mixup of frequencies covering commercial, public service, and GMRS which makes them illegal to use as they come from the factory for almost everyone.
If you have programmed any radios with CHIRP before, these offer no surprises. For my use I cleared everything and put in nine 70cm simplex frequencies for my wife and I to use followed by three FRS channels. Setting the duplex setting to None on the FRS channels makes it to where the radio will receive on those frequencies but will not transmit, keeping them perfectly legal.
If you are interested, we have a detailed how-to article on programming the Baofeng BF-888s.
Unlike when programming the BaoFeng UV-5R radios you do not need to have the volume up all the way and they seem to program much faster with far fewer issues. One example is that there are so many wildly different and semi-compatible versions of the UV-5R it is very hard to just clone from one radio to the next unless they were all bought at roughly the same time from the same vendor. This is not the case with the Baofeng BF-888s.
Layout and controls
Taking a close look at the Baofeng BF-888s we see that the controls are easy to find, well laid out, and work well. The left side has three buttons as shown below:
The top button (left in the image above) is of course the press to talk button is is labeled above it PTT. The next button down is the monitor button that when pressed opens the squelch so that you can hear what is going on on that channel that you may not be able to hear otherwise. Lastly is a button for the light on the top of the radio; press to turn on the light, press again to make it blink, and press a third time to turn off the light.
On the top left of the Baofeng BF-888s you have the removable antenna, clockwise tightens and counter-clockwise loosens. To the right and down is the LED light. The left most knob is the channel selector. This selector has nice little clicks as it falls into each channel to let you know where it is, but unfortunately there are no markings that you can really read to see which channel it is on. If you left the default voice enabled however, you can simply turn the dial one click and then back to see what channel you are on.
The right knob of the Baofeng BF-888s is the power on/off and volume knob. It works as you would expect with all the way counter-clockwise having a click to the off position, then a slight turn clockwise will click again to turn on, turning further clockwise increases the volume.
The right side of the Baofeng BF-888s has a rubber cover that when lifted shows the speaker output (top jack, on the far right in the image above) and the microphone jack (larger bottom jack, to the left of the speaker jack in the image above). These are also used by the programming cable so you will need to know where these are even if you do not plan on using an external speaker or mic.
On the bottom is a latch for the Baofeng BF-888s battery, move the latch towards the front of the radio to release the battery. You can also see the two silver terminals on the battery in the image above that are used for by the Baofeng BF-888s charger.
Overall I really like these little radios. I found that their small size and light weight really made me not hesitate to carry the radio around more often that I would have the heavier radios I own.
I also really liked the idea that if I lost it, broke it, or got caught in the rain with it, the Baofeng BF-888s was cheap enough to drop in the trash can without worry.