Day 1 with the UV2501+220

22 Feb 2016

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As I've previously mentioned, there has been a slow resurgence of 220 use, partially because of the crowded spectrum in larger cities, plus the amount of extraneous noise found in the 2m and 70cm bands. As a response to this, some companies are slowly releasing newer models with 220MHz capabilities. Bridgecom released a dedicated 220 only handheld, and now we have the American company BaofengTech working with the manufacturers in China to release this new BTech UV2501+220, based on their previously released UV2501 dual band 144/440 model. I also understand they may be working on doing the same to their UV5001 based radio as well. BaofengTech was gracious enough to offer up this model for review purposes (at a greatly reduced price), so I will give at least my day 1 initial perspective on it here. Like I've done with other models like the 82HP, I will use it for at least 3-4 weeks of regular and daily use, and then report back with more details and how it feels or works on a regular basis. NOTE: Please do not confuse the American company "BaofengTech" with the corporate Baofeng company (Fujian Nanan Baofeng Electronic Co., Ltd) based on China. They are two entirely different companies. BaofengTech also works with Anytone and other companies for various items and devices, which Baofeng does not do.
I also reached out to Bridgecom but they want people to pay full price plus shipping, and then return it within a certain timeframe (in new resalable condition), after which they will refund the retail price minus shipping both ways. They also offer them for free in exchange for advertising space, but as I want to keep myself unbiased and my site free of the distracting advertisements, I chose not to go that route. I cannot fault them for making their own decisions on how they offer models for review. As of right now I am still up in the air whether or not I am willing to spend that extra $85 for a single band 220 handheld, especially since 220 is still very rarely used in my area.

Initial unboxing 1

Initial opening of box.

Initial unboxing sans manual

Removing the manual you can see the individual parts

First impressions - unboxing

When first opening the box, as in my case I had not seen or used this (or any similar) model before, the first impression is "wow this thing is tiny". All the bits and pieces that come along with it includes the radio, mic, assortment of screws for the included mount, and the 12V power adapter (sometimes called cigarette power plug) for interior connection in the vehicle. As this is a low output power unit with a claimed 25W max transmit power, the interior power connection should be fine, plus it has a 7A fuse (glass cylinder fuse, common type) inline with the positive power wire, and a spare fuse included.

Front panel view

Front view of the 2501+220 with its mic and power connector

Rear panel view

Rear view of the 2501+220 showing the speaker/headphone jack to the left and small fan at center

Looking it over, the first minor issue/annoyance becomes apparent. The front panel appears to have a headphone jack (which is labeled DATA but you need to turn the model just right in the light to see the label). Only after looking through the manual (page 5), it states this front jack is for data/programming, versus the rear jack is "line out". For me, the issue I see is some people will try connecting headphones to the front and then complain it is not working. While I am aware many models have rear headphone jacks, most would would not have one on the front AND back, and if they did have one on the front, it would be for headphones or speaker, not programming. What some people "see" many times takes priority over common sense of reading the manual, so they see the port and they try to use the port for headphones or a speaker. For this reason, I wish they would have swapped the 2 jacks, with the programming DATA port at rear, and headphone at the front. This would allow fitting it into a tight cubby hole and front panel access to the jack for a speaker or headphones.

UV2501 vs UV5R

Here we see the size difference next to a standard UV-5R

UV2501 vs FT2900

This is the 2501 sitting on top of a Yaesu FT2900R

Powered up

For power, I am using a 30A indoor power supply that typically powers my TM-261, HTX-100, and a basic cheap CB. In this case I just disconnected the power and antenna from the 2m TM261 and connected to this 2501+220 unit. Upon turning it on (short press of POW button on the front), I quickly learned the volume knob is very sensitive. The sound output ramps up quickly with very little turn of the knob on the front right side. The front left side knob is the same as the UP/DOWN in the mic, used for changing VFO frequency (by the steps set in the menu) up or down, changing channels up/down, or previous/next menu item. Despite the external display being that of a Baofeng, the internals are definitely different. This 2501+220 model has 2W speaker output, by comparison Baofeng handhelds have 0.7 to 1W, and my Yaesu FT2900R has 3W output. For a small lower power unit, 2W should be more than enough on the noisy roadways. As it is a small unit, the speaker is also very small meaning the output sound quality leaves a lot to be desired, but the others speaking can easily be easily understood.
The first thing I notice is the display being the familiar Baofeng display. I tuned into a few local repeater frequencies, and one thing I noticed is when typing in a 220 based frequency is when the last digit is pressed, I hear a small "click". This makes me believe they use a secondary board specifically for 220 use. The other major difference is unlike the Baofeng handhelds of always "full bars" on even the weakest signals, this display actually shows the real signal strength received like a typical meter should. With a local repeater 6 miles away, it comes in full bars, but a more distant 70cm repeater comes back around 3-5 bars.
For turning it off, you need to hold down the POW button several seconds before it powers down. If the unit is sitting loose on a desk, you will need to hold it in place as the buttons are firm and need some pressure to be pressed in.


Programming this 2501+220 has certain steps similar to Baofeng handhelds, but is different enough that the manual is helpful when doing it manually. The other option is buying the programming cable from BaofengTech which plugs into the front panel jack "DATA" (remember front jack is DATA for programming, rear jack is for headphone or external speaker). Luckily the manual that comes with it has been laid out with help from American resources like the man behind so we get a nicely laid out and easy to follow manual, instead of the poorly translated "chinglish" manuals so common with most of the other similar models and Chinese-based handhelds. Page 18 lays out the programming process in a step by step format making it easy to follow.
This brings up the second issue/annoyance, as I started to program the first repeater, I accidentally held down the EXIT/AB button instead of the MENU button several times, which sends the unit into "alarm mode". My unit by default was set to "BOTH" which transmits the audible alarm and ID code over the air on whichever frequency or channel is displayed. What I made sure I did to prevent this was go into the menu, item 25 (EMC-TP), and set it to ALARM, which means it will turn on the audible alarm sound without transmitting it over the air. To be safe I also set menu item 26 (EMC-CH) to CH-199 which I will set to 000.000 to prevent it from ever transmitting the alarm over the air (as I hope to never actually need it).
My first time following through the instructions on programming a repeater into the 2501+220, I ran into the issue where I would enter the frequency, but it would change it to something else. In my case I enter 146.730 and it automatically changed it to 146.731(25). As I am familiar with Baofeng handhelds, I knew to go into the menu and change the STEP to something else like 5.0K (default on this unit is 2.5K). After changing to 5.0K, it fixes this minor annoyance. My first repeater has been programmed, I am able to talk out and get the squelch tail back (the usual repeater users are on after work and I tested during the day). I also programmed in another repeater that needs the receive tone, so I added that R-CTCS (Menu 11) after entering the T-CTCS. I tested it and it is working. For transmit only tones, it only displays the little "CT" on the display when transmitting or set to reverse. For those with both Tx and Rx tone, CT appears on both. Some may ask why the need for a receive tone, in my case there are 8 Yaesu Fusion repeaters in my county, and they're setup where the repeater transmits out the tone in analog mode, but no tone in digital mode. This means without that R-CTCS entered, I would hear the digital signal every time. With that R-CTCS, the squelch is never tripped and I don't hear it.
In my case I would need to be entering around 25 frequencies for the local repeaters, which going step by step, one by one would obviously be a time consuming and tedious task. Especially if you want to add names to the individual channels. I plan to just add 3 or 4 more commonly used frequencies/repeaters and then program it via software at a later time. Luckily there is the programming cable available for sale and software available (although I actually built my own based on a USB CP2101 adapter). At the time of writing this (late Feb. 2016), Chirp does not support these 2501/5001 models yet, but they are working on adding support for them in the near future. NOTE: As of mid 2016 (I forget when), Chirp now supports the 2501+220, as well as the 2001 and 50X3.
Something else worth mentioning that would be issue/annoyance 3, which actually coincides with what I mentioned earlier: anytime there is a 220 based frequency entered into the memory channels, then you press scan (hold down */SCAN for a few seconds), as it goes through the channel scanning, you get that audible "click" every single time it gets to that 220 channel. With only 5 or 6 channels, this means it sounds like a blinker (directional) in a car with the "click pause click pause click pause click". Another addition to this, lets call it issue/annoyance 3A: if you have a 220 frequency/channel on A, and a 144/440 frequency/channel on B, then enable Menu 0 TDR, you will hear the fast paced "click click click click" as it continuously switches between monitoring the 2 frequencies. Granted this is a minor annoyance BUT for people that tend to have their radios on scan mode or TDR for longer periods of time, it makes me wonder how long that clicking switch inside the unit will last. Also for people with more sensitive ears in a quiet room, that clicking would likely become annoying very quickly. It only happens with 220 frequencies, does not happen with 144/440 based frequencies. You can have a 2m repeater channel in A, and a 70cm repeater in B, then enable TDR and you would not hear the clicking.

Early testing

I hooked up my basic SWR/Power meter with analog needle meter in order to check the power. This is connected to my homemade 2m resonant tuned ground plane antenna, it is resonant at 147.000 since all of my local repeaters are at the upper half of the band 146.7-147.975). Remember that forward power measured into an antenna can display different readings versus connection into a dummy load. These recorded readings can only be compared to each other, not other people's recorded readings into a dummy load or other antennas. This could essentially be measured as "forward power".

2m VHF

SWR ranged from 1.8:1 @ 144.1 to 1.1:1 at 147.000, and was below 1.2:1 in the range of 146.100-148.000.

High power (25W) 144.100 145.000 146.000 147.000 147.990
2m VHF 35W 35W 35W 40W 38W
Low power (10W)
2m VHF 15W 15W 17W 19W 21W
70cm UHF

The SWR for 70cm on the same antenna as above was a bit off, as high as 10:1 @ 421.0 MHz, and as low as 2:1 in the 437.0-450.0 range (since the resonant 147 x 3 = 441). This is fine for me since all the local 70cm repeaters (8 within 30 miles) are in the 443-445 MHz range.

High power (25W) 421.000 430.000 440.000 449.900
70cm UHF 20W 28W 35W 35W
Low power (10W)
70cm UHF 10W 12W 16W 17W
1.25m VHF

For the 1.25m 220band, I have a simple ground plane I made directly onto a SO-239 connector. It still needs a little adjustment but for a temporary setup, it seems to work well for testing. I saw 220 power levels at 20W on high, and 9W on low. Well within the specs given for this 2501+220. I didn't want to get into too much 220 testing as I know my antenna is not exactly resonant and do not want to mess up the 220 finals before I can really put it to use.

On a separate note, my dummy load decided to give me problems so I was not able to do any further testing to get more direct power readings. I have plans to assemble a paint can dummy load in the near future, just need to pick up a few parts from the local Ace Hardware.

Power draw

When I connected it to my voltage/power meter set to 12.8VDC out (I typically run most of my equipment around 12.8-13VDC), the highest draw I found was 4.2A when used on 220 band, full/high power, transmitting for 5-10 seconds when the little fan kicks on. Without that fan, it draws almost right at 4A on all 3 bands, so the included 7A fuse should be more than good enough for power protection. Increasing the power to 13.5V (similar to the voltage seen when hooked up in a car), the highest power draw I saw was 3.8A. I suspect at 12.0V, it may see closer to 5A draw in order to keep the power levels consistent.

Day 1 Final impression

Then comes along issue #4, and I think this is much more of a problematic issue than an annoyance. With many incoming signals, it appears their default squelch settings are far too strict (high). Even with squelch set to 1, many stronger signals still cut out far too often. On other higher quality models, there is a simple squelch knob to adjust it, and the higher quality software based models still have much looser squelch setting, and even with Baofeng handhelds, Chirp has the capacity to adjust the squelch level settings due to similar problems. I think this is a case where they're aware of the lack of front end filtering (especially due to being such a small radio) so they set the squelch levels a bit higher than they should have to prevent intermod and unneeded interference. While this may be desirable in larger cities, in smaller towns or more remote areas, it is a major hindrance. Lets hope once it is supported by Chirp, they will allow us to adjust it as we do the Baofeng handhelds.
After "playing" with it for several hours, this is definitely a budget level unit, but the tiny size means you should be able to place it almost anywhere you want in your shack or vehicle. It also means you can use the included 12V plug instead of the 50W+ units requiring it to be directly connected to the battery due to the higher power draw. While testing, the only time I found the tiny fan (on the rear) kicking on was when testing 220, otherwise on the 144/440 bands, I never heard it come on once. As I typically use 10 or 30W setting on my Yaesu FT2900, the 25W from this unit is sufficient power to reach all the same repeaters and simplex use. I do have a few trips coming up and plan to put this in my vehicle during those trips, instead of what I have done in the past using a 4 or 8W Baofeng handheld (sometimes my Anytone OBLTR-8R) connected to an external magnet mount antenna (primarily because my wife does not want any permanent antennas on the car).

2501 bottom label showing Part15 compliance

Here we see the FCC Part 15 sticker showing this model line has been tested and found to be in compliance

Side Note

Another aspect worth mentioning is there are a few people claiming it fails the FCC specifications. As it has been for sale on amazon for exactly two weeks as of this article, I seriously doubt their quality control went to crap so fast. I see there is a much more heinous reason behind it. What I've found is they use some terminology to make it appear as if they're qualified to be testing it, but as soon as someone with experience in the field takes a look at their testing methods, equipment used, and a complete lack of regard towards proper setup or commercial verification of their equipment, what we see is people with an obvious bias against anything coming out of China. They are adjusting the the dynamic sensitivity so any spur is 10 to 40dB higher than what the official FCC equipment found during their testing. Instead of setting the peak signal at 0dB, and testing in an environment with the baseline noise level at -70dB, they are increasing attenuation and not filtering out any environmental noise or signal bounces off hard walls, causing their baseline to start at -40 dB plus through dynamic attenuation increasing most resonant spurs an additional 20dB. This brings several spurs to within 30dB of the VHF primary. The best suggestion for reviews and people like that is to flat out ignore them. They are the types that tamper with their equipment in order to purposely make certain units fail, and then turn around and show ZERO spurs on their brand of choice, which is impossible with properly calibrated test equipment. Even the best high end commercial and amateur based units all have at least minimal spurs 1-5dB above the -70dB baseline.

So for day 1, despite the annoyances and minor issues, I find this little 2501+220 to be worth the price as a backup or occasional use unit. It is far from perfect but for a tri band mobile under $150, the little issues can be over looked.

Hopefully this helps and feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.

73 de K4ISR